An enormous pink granite batholith that rises 450 feet out of the Texas Hill Country, north of Fredericksburg. Only the tip of the rock (640 acres) is exposed; the rest spans almost 90 subterranean square miles. It's the second-largest such formation in the United States. It was privately owned for many years, but was bought by the Nature Conservancy in 1978 and then acquired by the State of Texas in 1984. It's now a State Natural Area.

The previous owners, the Moss family, operated a park there for many years. While it was privately owned, prospecting for quartz crystals, garnets and other gems was typical and allowed. (This is no longer the case! Removing rocks is now against the law.) See the note at the end for my personal story about this.

The rock has always been a point of interest to people in the area. Comanche and Tonkawa people are said to have placed sacrifices at its base, in a mixture of fear and reverence. Several different legends hold that it is haunted by ghosts. These legends may have gotten their start because the rock makes a variety of creaking and groaning noises on cool nights after warm days.

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area has facilities for camping, picnicking, hiking, and backpacking. The rock also boasts the best beginning to advanced rock climbing and bouldering in central Texas.

OK, now for my story: When I was about 7 or 8 years old, my family went to Enchanted Rock for a day outing. My parents were interested in nature, and family activities included birdwatching, learning about plants and wildlife and geology. My dad had a geology pick and was looking for quartz crystals. He had found some and was using the pick to dislodge them. I felt a sting, and put my hand behind my back. Soon, horrified, my dad ran over to me. I had blood all over my back. He was worried I had been hit in the back, but we figured out that it was just a spot at the base of my left index finger. A piece of something had flown off in my direction and, apparently, grazed my finger. It was deep, and still bleeding, so we packed up our stuff and went looking for medical attention. I remember the doctor first shot my finger full of anaesthetic, and then stitched me up.

A couple of years later, a friend of mine slammed my left hand in a car door. Swelling, discoloration and a trip to the emergency room ensued. X-rays revealed one bone fracture, and something curious: A small x-ray-opaque blob between the knuckles of the index and middle fingers. It could be a piece of my dad's geology pick, but I like to think it's a piece of Enchanted Rock. More than 30 years later, it's still there.

Speaking as a frequent visitor, Enchanted Rock is in fact one of the coolest places on the whole damn planet. Big rocks are simply very cool, so an INCREDIBLY, UNBELIEVABLY, LARGE rock is exponentially cooler.

In addition to hiking to to the top of the rock itself, which is quite invigorating, there are miles and miles of trails through the surrounding wilderness. Also, at the top of the rock is a medium length cave (actually a very large fissure) that you can spelunk through if you so desire.

If you decide to do so, I recommend you bring at least two flashlights, and be VERY alert for snakes. While encountering poisonous snakes is rare, they are out there, and you do not want to screw with them. Imagine finding a snake in your bedroom in the middle of the night. That is how a snake feels when you come lumbering through his subterranean abode. Remember kids, when you play games with venomous serpents, NO ONE WINS!

For some real fun, I recommend hiking around to the backside of the dome, and climbing the rock from the rear face. This is a much more strenuous climb (and more dangerous; if you are unsure of your abilities, or afraid of heights, I do not recommend it), but much more rewarding when you reach the summit.

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