Stone Oak Park, like other parks in this fast-growing area of San Antonio, is not a real wilderness, but it's still wild. It's a way to reconnect around the edges of the Hill Country with what's been lost and thank those who've managed to retain some of it.
The park, among other representations, represents the bipolar environment of San Antonio that cycles between wet and dry. To shield downstream communities from Mud Creek when rains cause it to swell, a huge earthen flood control dam serves. No water flows into the creek most of the time. Every drop is precious in dry times. One justification for setting aside the 245-acre park was to safeguard two caves on the property where underground water flows and replenishes the Edwards Aquifer, the most important source of drinking water for San Antonio. There are hundreds of caves in Bexar County, but most are on private land. People tell me that concrete or other materials have filled in several of them.
The caves that remain soak in the rainwater that ultimately flows to our taps, along with smaller sinkholes, gaps, and crevices. The San Antonio Water System is the first stop on its famous Rain-To-Drain tour at Stone Oak Park, where they demonstrate how the aquifer is recharged by water. Bear Cave and Cub Cave are only a two-minute walk from the parking lot, some of the only publicly accessible caves left around here, where you can stand on the edge and peek into the darkness below. The deeper of the two is Bear Cave, a yawning hole in the rock named after a bear's bones found inside. The opening is surrounded by an impenetrable metal gate, preventing anyone from accessing the cave. The cave takes in water that passes through the grille in extreme floods, leaving large branches behind. The gap is much wider and shallower for Cub Cave, more like an overhang than a cave mouth. Parks authorities have posted signs advising tourists not to enter the cave, but it is clear that it has been hiked in by people. From his period as an illegal rock-climbing place, metal bolts remain on its sloping ceiling, although some of them look like they're about to fall out. The Trailist recommends climbing at permitted locations only and hopes to have at least one of them in the future in San Antonio.
There is a short main trail in the park leaving the caves and making a loop through a brushy area full of juniper Ashe. The asphalt trail has many features, all crowded on top of each other, at just 1.3 miles. With a series of fitness routines, informative plaques about the local wildlife, and a collection of nature-inspired sculptures, there is a steel challenge course. But you're in luck if you want to do a few rounds of pullups, read about wild turkeys, and enjoy the fine arts all at once. A double-track dirt path parallels Mud Creek near the dam, and you can walk it up to the line of land. The grasslands give way to stands of oak and cedar elm as you go higher up the canyon, providing a change of scenery. As with Crownridge Canyon Park, about 10 miles to the west, Stone Oak Park is almost entirely surrounded by a circle of houses. The clanging and back-up beeping of machines that level the ground and the whir and buzz of drills and saws are never far from the sounds of building.
Here, in what was recently part of the endless pasturelands that once characterized the American West, some people have found their promised land. Today, with Southwest-modern mansions and others that look like Mediterranean villas, fixed with cupolas and domes, the blufftops are hanging up. Their presence was often made clear by smaller animals. Among the tree branches, the cardinals and the black-crested titmouse darted, some with red and gold leaves. This fall, maybe because of the cool, rainy weather earlier in November, the trees appear especially vibrant. It was just a ten-minute walk to the parking lot from there, and back to your own world.
When you visit Canyon Springs Golf Club, located in beautiful San Antonio, Texas, make sure you check out the following hidden gems:
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