…. Atop the Belly of the Earth

Enchanted Rock is billed as one of the best geological formations in Texas, and this is no exaggeration. It’s mammoth, superbly accessible to hikers of all skill levels, and so very unusual.

The technical description would probably be that it is a large phaneritic granite batholith, with multiple elongated plutons emergent from the southeast corner. The layperson’s version: a gigantic large-grained belly of granite sticking out of the earth – 425 feet higher than the ground surrounding it. The belly is part of a larger granite “hunk” that is as big as the island of Manhattan!

We hiked the summit trail to the top, and even though it was steep and there were no steps or paths, our traction was great because the surface is rough enough to grab the treads of any hiker’s shoes. Very good footing and a consistently rounded curvature to the rock body made it easy to reach the summit in 25 minutes. And except for the gale force winds at the top of the earth’s belly (what it feels like you are standing on), it was magnificent to observe the surrounding landscape and the vernal pools that have formed from erosion at the summit.

Nature is endlessly fascinating. There is a species of fairy shrimp that only exists in these vernal pools. Their ecology is very fragile, which is why no dogs are allowed at the summit. Low lying shrubs, prickly pear cactus and the sparkling pools make it a magical place at the top. The indigenous peoples who first lived around Enchanted Rock said they heard singing from the rock (likely the groaning and cracking of the rock as it cooled in the night from the day’s high heat), and saw flashing lights (the moon’s reflection off the vernal pools). Thus, the name Enchanted Rock.

We were captivated by the experience – the closest thing we may ever see that resembles Ayers Rock in Australia, and able to be easily scaled (although the brochures and signs tell you it’s a strenuous hike) in a half hour. What a treat!

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