Lost Maples State Park offers escape in the Texas Hill Country. 

Photo Credit: Courtesy Photo | Daily Texan Staff

Red and orange leaves set the normal vegetation ablaze. The vibrant hues of the maples cannot be seen anywhere in the southern United States but here. These “lost maples” attract nature enthusiasts from around the world to hike the trails crisscrossing the Texas Hill Country. Lost Maples State Natural Area is home to rare maple trees usually only found in the northern United States and Canada. 

“The park is gorgeous,” UT biology alumnus Lane Smith said. “Definitely one of the prettiest in this area of Texas. We went in October, right as the maple leaves were starting to change their colors to brilliant hues of orange and red. We took trails on the perimeter of the park, but some of the best trails are right at the beginning.”

These serene 2,174.2 acres offer an escape from city life. Visitors can expect to see some distinct Texas wildlife like the species of endangered birds, the golden-cheek warbler and the black-capped vireo, who call the park home. Fishing is allowed in the numerous ponds, and primitive camping sites can be found throughout the park. 

Though the park is three hours from the Austin, travelers can stop in distinctly Texas towns like Fredericksburg and Bandera along the way. Lost Maples is also only 30 minutes from Garner State Park and the Frio River. Garner draws on the best of Texas culture and history with Saturday night summer dances to the tubing the Frio River.

“Lost Maples is a great showcase of Texas geography and flora,” Smith said. “As far as culture, the trip to Lost Maples is full of it.”

Walking into the visitor center at Lost Maples, a single room filled with hiking memorabilia, the small-town feel is overwhelming. The rangers make small talk about the local rodeo, and visitors ask questions about the best swimming holes. During the slower parts of the year, the trails are largely unoccupied, and the park offers a serene retreat for locals. But come October, the maples begin to change. 

Jennifer Manis, Lost Maples assistant office manager, said in the fall visitors must book a year in advance, a month in advance during spring and only a week in advance during the off-season. According to Manis, at the end of October and beginning of November, nearly 1,500 guests visit the park daily, but UT RecSports Adventure Trips offer students the chance to visit Lost Maples when the park is at capacity.

Smith first discovered the park on a trip organized by UT RecSports. Each fall, the RecSports Adventure Trips program braves the swarms of tourists and treks to Lost Maples to see the trees. These trips offer students an affordable opportunity to explore Texas. 

Because of Austin’s proximity to parks like Lost Maples, these excursions stay inexpensive. Next fall, RecSports plans to offer Guide School Outdoor Leadership and Training Program for students hoping to become trip guides. 

“Well, honestly, our geography has everything to do with the trips we offer,” Chris Burnett, senior assistant director of RecSports outdoor recreation and community outreach, said. “Travel expenses are the most expensive cost for a trip, so the majority of our day and weekend trips are between one to five hour drive, with some of our extended trips in Big Bend and Grand Canyon taking one to two days to drive.” 

While Lost Maples may be too far for an overnight getaway, it provides enough trails and sights for a weekend in the country. Whether traveling with the RecSports Program or venturing out alone, the park’s proximity to Hill Country havens allows visitors to make the most of a long trip.

Members of the UT community begin the 3rd Annual Longhorn Run on campus Saturday. Photo courtesy of Mark Tway. 

With the firing of Smokey the Cannon by London Olympic silver medalist and UT alumnus Trey Hardee, members of the UT community endured a run of two miles or 10K for a campus fundraising event.

More than 2,100 people registered for the 3rd Annual Longhorn Run, with about 80 percent being UT students or alumni, according to Jennifer Speer, associate director of RecSports.

Speer said this year’s event focused on UT traditions with more student organizations becoming involved — including Texas Blazers, Orange Jackets, Texas Cowboys and Texas Soccer Club — compared to last year.

“We incorporated different spirit and tradition groups along the route,” Speer said. “Last year, we had Longhorn Band and Smokey, which was great, but we really wanted to enhance that to give a very UT event, not something you would find in the city of Austin.”

For Saturday’s event, UT spokeswoman Cynthia Posey said UTPD did not have any reports that were filed. Last year, members of the Make UT Sweatshop-Free Coalition protested for the University to agree to join the Worker’s Rights Consortium, an organization that monitors the working conditions of appeal manufactures in foreign factories. UT joined the consortium on July 18, 2012.

Student Government and RecSports co-sponsored the event, and Nike helped organize it. All proceeds of the run go to the Student Government Excellence Fund, which goes out to student organizations to put on social equality and social justice events, according to Speer. She said the amount of money raised will not be known until June because the organizers still have to pay invoices, but last year’s run brought in $30,000.

Angga Pratama, civil engineering honors senior and student chairman of Longhorn Run, said the event has multiple parts to its purpose.

“This is a run that we wanted to do both to give back to students and the University where everybody’s active,” Pratama said. “This is the case, on campus, to run around and be active.”

Accounting junior Simi Mathur said her interest in running and her professor Brent Iverson — chemistry and biochemistry department chairman — inspired her to run the race.

“I really like running and I think it is great to get everyone out and join in on this run,” Mathur said. “Even though you can make it as serious or as fun as you want, it is kind of more like uniting us together to do something that is really good for us.”

Top male runner in the 10K run was Scott Rantall of Cedar Park with a time of 32:25. Jessie-Raye Bodenhamer finished first as the top female in the 10K race at 35:27. Christopher Ramirez was the top male in the two mile run at 10:02 and Corey Timmerman of Austin completed the race as the top woman with a time of 12:04.

Some of the race prizes included custom boots, a belt buckle and Nike FuelBands. Pratama said he hopes that the Longhorn Run becomes a staple for the spring semester.

“When people look through their calendars for the spring semester,” Pratama said, “We want Longhorn Run to be something that they check and be like ‘I need to save that day for the Longhorn Run because it’s something I look forward to in the spring time.’”