The mysteries that surround Enchanted Rock in central Texas have drawn thousands of visitors over the millennia, presently drawing more than 250,000 visitors annually. Archeological artifacts found there date back over 12,000 years. What makes this bare expanse of stone so enchanting? Is it the lights visitors see at night? Is it the mysterious moaning in its depths? Neither of these is what draws our granddaughter, Cassandra, here. For her, it’s the memory of a birthday spent hiking a couple of years ago, and the thrilling surprise of a wedding proposal at it’s summit.
While in Texas this spring, we decided to join her and her husband, Logan, for a hike to the summit. It seemed appropriate that we went on mine and Ron’s anniversary. Good friend, Donna, accompanied us, but did not attempt the hike, electing instead to enjoy the shade of a shelter house where she could watch our progress.
Viewed from the base, the hike looks deceptively easy. In an area dominated by limestone, the distinctive granite dome rises 1825 feet above sea level, with very little vegetation on its surface. Although there are a few steps laid out, most of the hike is left to the discretion of the individual. We chose to climb it in a switchback manner, so as to reduce the steepness.
Once of the largest of its kind (exfoliation dome) in the United States, it is shorter than Georgia’s Stone Mountain, and larger than Wyoming’s Independence Rock. Although the crest is only 425 feet above the surrounding terrain, the granite descends for miles beneath the surface. The type of granite is known as Town Mountain Granite, highly prized for architecture, and is the same type granite as was used to build the impressive state capital building in Austin.
Although most of the surface has an eerie, almost lunar appearance, there are delightful discoveries of little pools of water and green vegetation.
The top is smooth and much larger than appears from the bottom.
On the summit is a geographical marker, making an excellent location for a fun photo, proving you made it to the top.
We concluded our visit with a fun picnic.
The unchanging dome is truly unique, a monument to centuries of history. Considered a giant archaeological site, found artifacts such as spear tips and pottery shards indicate inhabitants in the area over 10,000 years ago. The surrounding area in the state park contains close to 100 other archeological sites. By the 18th century, the Tonkawa tribe were here, but the Apache conquered the area. Later, the Comanche displaced the Apache and were still in the area in 1840 when Germans established nearby Fredericksburg.
And the legends of spirit inhabitation? The stories would have been passed down through the ages, but were lent credence by two physical attributes. The lights seen in the moonlight at night, often spotted after rains, are thought to be reflected light from the pools of water left by rain or from the imbedded feldspar, which glitters when wet. The groans are believed to be the rock expanding and contracting from temperature changes.
For our granddaughter and her husband, they know what makes the area enchanted, and will return often to experience that special day.