Every spring I hike Enchanted Rock outside Fredericksburg. It is about a two hour drive from where I live but it is a beautiful ride over the Devil’s Backbone and across the hill country. Spring in central Texas is always green and lush with fog in the morning and a bright sun in the afternoon followed by cool, purple evenings. Everyone is outside before the summer comes to bake the landscape. I know most people will hit the river. But I like the rock.
It’s called Enchanted Rock because of all the superstitions the Indians had about it. There is something rather other-worldly about it. The rock is just a giant dome, looking like a bald man’s head sticking out of the ground. There are ghost stories that go back centuries with rumors of human sacrifices. Jack Hays, the famed Texas ranger, fought his way out of a Comanche ambush there, too. And at dusk the rock glows, giving it a cool and haunting aura.
It might be warm when you begin the hike but by the time you reach the peak you’re cool and soothed by winds. It can be hell on the calves so you might want to try walking backwards. It might sound silly but trust me. It works.
The breeze is strong at the top and you should sit and enjoy it—don’t listen to the music on your iPod. There are caves you can explore but be careful. It is easy to bang your head if you’re not wearing a helmet. And it can be pretty tight in there. Not for the claustrophobic. I like to hike around and near the caves on the rocks and around the patches of prickly pear that dot the terrain.
Every now and again someone takes a nasty spill. Usually it isn’t too bad. Just a scraped knee and a bruised ego. One time I saw a woman in her early twenties trip as she was trekking back. She smacked onto the granite wall with all her weight. She didn’t have time to brace herself. Her face bounced off the rock and fell again. The woman’s boyfriend rushed to her. He helped her up. The woman’s mouth was a red snarl of meat. She cried but didn’t whimper. I didn’t get a good enough look to tell if she’d lost a tooth. The boyfriend held her as he guided her to the bottom and to their car. Everybody watched, wanting to help but not having anything to offer. As I descended I came to the spot where the woman collapsed. Across the grey and pink granite was a messy, bloody kiss—a modern sacrifice for ancient Gods.
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Writer living in Central Texas.