About eighteen miles north of Fredericksburg, Texas on Ranch Road 965 an enormous pink granite dome rises out of the Texas Hill Country.
Enchanted Rock is the 500 feet high centerpiece of Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. And, it's impressive. You can see it from miles away. It is designated as a National Natural Landmark and is among the oldest exposed rock in North America. Enchanted Rock received it's name from reports of spirit lights and night time noises emanating from the giant rock. The Native Americans had great respect for the huge natural monument, and some would not set foot upon it. Others used it for ceremony or observation and possibly human sacrifice.
I first saw it about 6 years ago when Grandad and Grams were weekending at a Sunday House in Fredericksburg. We had heard our daughter, Katy, and our soon-to-be son-in-law, Travis, talk about hiking at Enchanted Rock so we decided to take a drive out and see it.
As you wind through the hills it suddenly appears in the distance. From the day I first saw it, I wanted to stand on the top. At that time, I weighed in at 300 pounds, making such a climb impossible, or at least highly unlikely. But it became a dream that I tucked away in the back of my mind and my heart.
Three years later, when I was in a San Antonio hospital bed recovering from gastric bypass surgery, I still thought of standing on top of Enchanted Rock. When Katy and Travis visited, I told them of my dream to stand on the summit of Enchanted Rock. They enthusiastically agreed to take me to hike it when I was in good enough shape to make the climb. Thus my dream became a goal.
In the ensuing three years, I have walked many miles in my neighborhood and at the nearby nature trail. I have worked hard to retrain my eating habits and learn to live a healthy lifestyle. On September 27, 2009, I celebrated the three year anniversary of my surgery and the loss of 125 pounds. I knew it was time to tackle my long tucked away dream. We chose a date and I began training in earnest to hike up Enchanted Rock. On Sunday, October 18, we made the drive from San Antonio to Enchanted Rock.
We hiked the Loop Trail to the far side of the Summit, past Moss Lake to Echo Canyon where we began our climb to the Summit up the West side of the dome. The hike around the Loop Trail was beautiful. We saw all kinds of cacti and, even this time of year, there were wildflowers. We took a short side trail to an overlook that gave us a beautiful view out to the West. When we got to Echo Canyon, the hike became challenging. The approach is littered with huge boulders and loose rocks. Traversing this terrain is tough for a novice hiker and climber.
After hiking a few yards into the boulder field where I actually had to begin climbing over boulders and stepping across gaps, I looked at Katy and Travis and asked them a one-word question, "Seriously?!" They both were extremely encouraging and reassuring; they told me I could do it. In fact, not only could I do it, but they were going to make sure I would do it.
As I scrambled, sometimes on hands and knees up and across the boulder field, a family of four came walking along and passed us. Yes, they were just walking briskly along with poles in both hands, upright the entire time, and passing us right up. It occurred to me that perhaps I should follow them; and I did for a short way. But they were headed a different direction, so we made a turn toward the summit.
We cleared the boulder field and began climbing the smoother granite face of the dome. It was steep and challenging. Katy encouraged me to climb at an angle and track back and forth across the hill. I had to stop every 50 yards or so and catch my breath. This was truly challenging. I might have even quit, except I knew that the only way down was up and over. We climbed and climbed. Every time I thought I could see the Summit it turned out to be a lower outcropping. It seemed to take forever. My legs felt like lead and at times I couldn't catch my breath. Travis and Minnie, their Jack Russell Terrier, led the way. Katy stayed right by my side every step of the way.
As we neared the Summit and I realized I was actually going to make it to the top, I was overcome with emotion. I began sobbing aloud and could not catch my breath. I had to sit down. Travis and Minnie climbed back down and joined Katy and me as we took a break. As we shared a Granola bar and an orange, we talked about how far I have come. Just a few years ago, I could not walk through an air conditioned mall without sitting down to catch my breath. Now I was climbing the face of a huge granite dome. After a little rest, we resumed our quest.
When we finally stood on the Summit of Enchanted Rock it felt amazing. The 360 degree view is awe inspiring. Small pools of water are accumulated in the natural indentations on top of the dome. A lone tree grows there. There were also lots of people at the top. We had taken the path less traveled. Most visitors go up the South face of the dome, a much easier climb. We descended that way and were passed up by many, many kids. Apparently this climb is a piece of cake for the kids. They were often running up and down, not even out of breath.
With the help and encouragement of my wonderful daughter and son-in-law, I had reached a major milestone. It was so much more than I expected. Not only did I feel a sense of accomplishment and follow-through, I felt an opening up of possibilities. Dreams can come true if you're willing to put in the work.
Was it worth it? Absolutely! Would I do it again? Positively! I don't have to sit and watch other people any more. I am no longer an observer; now I am an active participant in life. I don't just dream of doing things, I actually do them!
So next time you're driving through the Texas Hill Country and see Enchanted Rock in the distance, don't just think of it as an enormous granite dome ... think of it as a milestone. It was hard ... but Grams made it ... because I can do hard things!