On my map, it looks like a Blue Gecko stuck to the earth drinking out of the Guadalupe River. Canyon Lake is a reservoir in the Hill Country, of blue and green opal water, in Comal County, just outside of New Braunfels. I have no idea why we haven’t ventured out here before, it’s so close, but it’s like that with everything, isn’t it?
As soon as we turned onto highway 306 westbound, we dropped into the valley like a minecart, wheelin’ around twists and turns, drops and bends until we made it to 2673 and the S Access Road. We missed the Corps of Engineers Rd, which was a blessing because we were able to drive right by the tall, grassy dam and find a parking area that led down to a fishing pier by the hydroelectric generator. We read the large wooden sign from the River Authority. I was especially pleased with one of the inscriptions: “IT IS FOR PUBLIC USE 24 HOURS A DAY, OPEN TO ALL MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC WITHOUT DISCRIMINATION.” I love proclamations, especially those that proclaim: ‘Come one, come all.’
We parked and hiked down the big hill and I got that hiking itch, real bad. When we reached the bottom, the Cypress trees stood before us like giants on stilts along the river. Young boys were fishing, casting their lines with red and white bobbers that swayed in the air, while other children walked along the rocks and tree roots trying to keep their balance. The hydro turbine hissed, churning water into the Guadalupe River, and we strolled around a bit, soothed by the cool air and cascades, but couldn’t find any trails so we climbed the stairs back to the car.
When we turned onto the Corps of Engineers Rd, cars lined both sides. Swimmers and families walked up and down the street, shuffling in flip-flops and with their towels around their waists. We came here on the fly without planning any hikes so we weren’t sure what to expect, or where to go, for that matter. We were just happy to be out of the house. I knew if we had taken any longer, we wouldn’t have come, so we just jumped in the car. We found a parking space by the turnaround at the end of the road, and it looked like the main entrance to the South access of the beach. We stepped out, suited up, and I walked up to the dedication monuments and historical marker. I was really taken by the last sentence of the marker which commemorated the German emigration to this part of the Hill Country. Written in 1968, it read: “Farmers and artisans, scholars and scientists, they triumphed over epidemic and privation to help build Texas and the West.”
Like most parks we visit, it’s pretty darn busy. Always reminds me of an ant mound full of people marching in and out, carrying coolers and fold-out chairs. We tried to keep our distance, so I hopped the wooden fence right by the entrance, and I could tell by the bend of that wood, and the creaking, whereabout I was tipping the scales. I can only imagine passers-by stopping on their way to the car, dumbfounded by the sight of a fat man with a hiking stick and Texas Tech mask, scaling a fence right by an open entrance.
We joined the pathway down to the beach, but it was crowded, and by this time we were ready to hike. As usual, my wife, the pathfinder, noticed a trail and we quickly took it. We continued down a rocky path and noticed several more offshoots. We took one that went straight down the hillside to the beach. It was getting hot, and the silver sun shimmered on the water. There was no shade and we noticed red and blue tents on the shoreline, the youth reclining, blasting speakers. A couple of wake boats carved figure-eights around the lake, the wakeboarders just behind them, rolling over the waves. We also had become overrun with ‘candy corn’ butterflies, or so we thought, fluttering in a frenzy about us, but we were mistaken. I think they were snout-nosed moths migrating to the South, and they swirled around us like flurries in a snowglobe.
We took another trail that quickly brought us out of the woods, and came upon a lovely family, the father and sons in white shirts and suspenders, the mother and daughter in teal dresses with flowers, taking family pictures in front of a photographer who gave them posing instructions. We rushed past them onto another trail and hiked down to the beach again. We covered our eyes from the glaring sun with our hands, the light a melted silver on the mirror glass lake.
We spotted the walkway on the top of the dam, and since we didn’t know of any nearby trails, we decided to hike up and give it a go. The sun had begun to set, and I had no reason to turn down a stroll overlooking what was now a purple horizon.
We passed by many seniors walking across the dam for exercise, and our hearts were gladdened by their smiles and warmth. We estimated the distance to be about a mile one way. When we reached the end, my wife noticed a clearing by a cliff overhang and suggested there was a trail to it. I didn’t think so, but she was right. We were able to scramble behind the trees and enjoy a couple of overlooks to the great grassy slopes of the dam and the changing colors of the horizon over the lake.
When I looked down, I noticed the park ranger below on the S Access Rd, sirens flashing, the loudspeaker alerting everyone that the “SUN HAS SET” and the park was now closed. Our hearts fluttered because we knew the gates had locks, so we sprinted back to the walkway and headed back to the entrance. He drove up to the dam, and we heard him behind us in his truck on the walkway, the siren blaring in blips, warning visitors over the bullhorn that it was now time to go. He drove up to us and politely asked us where we were parked. He drove further down and talked to some young men who I believe were missionaries. They were visiting and laughing, and we, as well, were of good cheer, the breeze and soft hues in the sky soothing and calming us still.
We stopped to take a picture of a single-engine plane suspended high up in the pomegranate sky, and headed back home, stopping only once, at dusk, to let a deer trot across the highway.