Saturday, January 9, 2016


Lost Maples: Found

    UTOPIA – Adirondack chairs must have been invented during a time when people had shorter legs and walked in a backward lean. They’re relatively comfortable, but a beast to get out of. I’m planted here until Kay shows up.

    Just as I plopped myself down in this rack, Kay headed out to a flat rock by the creek. She said she was going to sit and read. The creek is at the base of a steep slope about 40 yards from our cabin. The rocky creek (or stream) is one of over 100 tributaries of the Sabinal River. The cabin is one of several in the Lost Maples Retreat in Utopia. Utopia is a dot on a Texas map a few dozen miles west of San Antonio.

    Kay made our reservations back in September. Upon arrival we were the only guests at the retreat, and none have shown since then. Had Kay not made reservations this place would be packed. Kay’s interest in the area had to do with the Lost Maples. Lost in the sense that they’re the only big tooth maples located this far east. An intelligent person said it has something to do with the last Ice Age.

    Kay suggested we see the maples because their foliage is supposed to be gorgeous. I like gorgeous foliage, but I was really drawn more to Utopia. I’ve never experienced Utopia… or Xanadu for that matter.  Turns out, Utopia is small town of about 230 souls. It’s nice and all, but it’s not anything like the Utopia of literature. People have been nice as all get out, but they still charge you for stuff. I thought everything was free in Utopia.   

There is a post office  and several churches and a good café. In fact if anything ever happens to the Lost Maples Café in Utopia, the whole town will be in disaster mode. “Why don’t we eat out tonight?” would become a joke void of humor.

If you want to see the Lost Maples Cafe, but don’t care to drive the distance, just rent the movie “Seven Days in Utopia” which, oddly enough, was filmed in Utopia. It’s a story about golf, and stars Robert Duval and one of the detectives from “NCIS New Orleans.”

By my count, 83 percent of the population of Utopia were extras in the movie. I met Charles Bowman in the Café yesterday, and he told me he was in five scenes. The casting director said that he looked so much like a farmer/rancher guy, that he’d be great. Charles said that he got to talk to Duval for at least 30 minutes between scenes. “Nicest guy you’d ever want to meet.”

Our waitress this morning said she was in five scenes of the movie. “They needed somebody who looked like they had dementia, so they picked me right off,” she said. Then she showed us the look that won her the part. I wept. What a great actress. A lousy waitress, though. – Hey, I jest!

But, let’s get past The Café and the Utopia movie, and get back to the Lost Maples. Kay and I toured the park this morning. It turned out that this was one of the worst seasons for color change in the history of foliage. The reason for that is largely dependent on who you talk to.

One person said that it was caused by the dry summer. Another person said it was due to the fact there was no big cold snap to shock the trees into color mode. All they could do is just wither and turn brown… like mine do.

A co-hiker named Louis Ikerd told me that he heard it had to do with the skies being so cloudy for so long. The leaves apparently lacked enough sunshine. I don’t believe that’s what caused the lack of color, but I didn’t mention it to Louis. He was such a nice guy. Louis and his wife, Diana, are from Harlingen. They visited the Lost Maples State Natural Area, because a friend told Diana about the beautiful foliage… that appears when the Hayters aren’t around.

Kay and I met Louis and Diana when the couple followed us off the trail onto a ledge that skirted the Sabinal River. It looked like an interesting shortcut to me so I took it. I didn’t tell Kay we were off the trail, ‘cause I wouldn’t be allowed off the trail.  The Ikerds were a few yards behind us, so they just followed along like they had good sense.

    Long story short, the river was treacherous my friend. Only the spry, the fleet of foot had any business trying to tiptoe across the jagged rocks sparsely spread across the rapids. Kay and Diana had no problem. At one point, Louis lost his balance causing me to lose mine. We appeared to be wrestling in the middle of the river. I don’t know for sure who saved whom. Louis’ take on the experience will be different from mine.

    By the time we found trail’s end, we had bonded. Like many people do after sharing a life threatening experience. Now, if you talk to Louis, you’ll get a different take on the story, but I’m the only one who kept notes.

    Kay and I were so tired after our hike on The Maple Trail that we decided not to try any of the longer hikes. We missed the Monkey Rock, The Grotto and two scenic overlooks. Oh, and we missed the colorful foliage. I may have mentioned that.

    Even without the colorful leaves, the Lost Maples experience was great… as was everything else we experienced while in and around Utopia. The only downside is the pain in my gut that hit me a few minutes ago. I think I may have herniated myself trying to get out of this stupid chair. Adirondacks? What were they thinking?


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