Inspired by this trip reporter and a friend who told me the beargrass was peaking in this area, I decided I should visit Bandera. Trouble was, I had a full schedule for the next several weekends, and I couldn't dip out of work for a during-the-week hike.
Solution: A (very) early morning hike!
Figuring backwards, I set my alarm for 3 20; the latest I could get out of bed and still get to work at 9. Surprisingly, I was relatively awake when my alarm went off, and I hopped out of bed, got myself ready to go and was out the door by 4am. I got started hiking at 5 15, knowing I'd need to turn around at 6 15 in order to make it back in time for work.
I really wanted to make the summit, so I chugged up the trail at a pretty fast pace (for me, anyway). But around 5 45 I realized I wasn't going to hit even the false (little Bandera) summit. That was fine; there was no view at all, and I'd come for the beargrass anyway, so I figured I'd get to the junction, then go a little ways up the Bandera Mountain trail and sit down to enjoy the flowers.
Meanwhile, I took a bunch of pictures of the beargrass in the fog. It was so pretty, and I had the bonus of seeing lupine, paintbrush, cinquefoil (or maybe dogwood -- still can't reliably identify it) and thimbleberry flowers!
I found a rock to perch on at at the "top" and listened to the birds singing. Without a view, it was much easier to focus on the flowers and the wildlife.
Because I was worried about getting caught in morning commute traffic, I tried a little trail running on the way down, and I can say the Ira Spring Trail is a great bet for beginning trail runners! The section from the junction with the Bandera Mountain trail is a little rocky, but the last 1.3 miles before getting to the car is wide and flat and makes for nice running. I ran bits of both sections, and made it back to the car at 7am; 25 minutes earlier than I thought I would!
Traffic was even in my favor. I got back to my place 15 minutes before I expected to. Just enough time to get a coffee before heading into work.
Sadly, no skittles were consumed on this hike. But I did have some salted peanuts on the way back.