texas

#hike24 - Dinosaur Valley State Park

Date: July 22, 2018

Location: Dinosaur Valley State Park - Glen Rose, TX

Distance: 4.3 miles

Trails: Cedar Brake Outer Loop (partial), Cedar Ridge

See the trail map HERE

Today's hike at Dinosaur Valley did not include wet feet, cool temps, or many interactions with people.  The hike did include nice breezes, solitude, and plenty of sunshine.  I had a late start this morning, due to staying up way too late, and I was ready to call the whole thing off.  Then, I saw some inspiring words on social media, went for it.  It was 7:45 am when I left the house, arriving at the park around 8:30.  The temps were just below 90 at this point, but still tolerable with the breeze and shade.  As I made my way through my familiar trail, it started to warm up and the flies became more aggressive.  By the time I was done, the temp had climbed to nearly 100.

This week I braved the temperature, embraced the sweat, and said screw the bad vibes.  I often get in my own way, mentally speaking, about going out for a hike in the summer.  It is hot, it is buggy, it is dry, and it is excessively sunny.  Today proved that I can survive and adapt, quite easily actually, so it is as if I cleared this road block for future hikes this summer.  No more excuses!  Sweat wicking shirts, hats, ice cubes in my CamelBak, sunscreen, and bug spray are all I need.

I’m looking forward to next week’s hike, wherever it may be.  We are throwing around the idea of going to New Mexico, but the forecast is currently rainy.  If you have a suggestion that’s within 10 hours of Dallas/Fort Worth, hit me up!  Happy trails!

#hike23 - Dinosaur Valley State Park

Crossing the Paluxy River to start our hike.

Date: July 14, 2018

Location: Dinosaur Valley State Park - Glen Rose, TX

Distance: 5 miles

Trails: Cedar Brake Outer Loop (partial), Denio Creek Warbler Trail. Paluxy River Trail

See the trail map HERE

We started early, my aunt and I, and got to the park about 7:00 A.M.  We registered, parked, and started our hike in 79 degree weather with about 79% humidity.  At Dinosaur Valley State Park you have to cross the river to get to the good trails, but the Paluxy was only a trickle so we didn't have to get wet this time.

I like hikes with my aunt, or other close friends/family, because you can have those good talks that I'd classify as quality time.  We talked, bitched about things, laughed, and overall had a very positive ongoing conversation about life.

The sun climbed higher in the sky, and we started to feel the heat increase while simultaneously feeling perfectly acclimated to the temperature.  About halfway through the hike, we encountered some bugs and that was mildly annoying, but no other real issues.  I have one horse fly bite, that I didn't even notice until today.

We finished up after five miles, before the real heat hit with a slightly lower humidity, and made our way back to the parking area.  We avoided most direct sunlight by picking trails that were shaded by the ridges and scrubby trees thus avoiding excessive exposure.  We saw one woman on a mountain bike, but really no one else dared to be out there with us that we could see or hear.  Once we arrived back to the parking lot, there were a few more cars, but nowhere near the normal packed lot I'm used to seeing.

Summer hiking, in Texas, is not my favorite and I'm at least a month behind on my quest to hike 52 times in the year with one per week....but I'm not worried.   Once the fall hits, I'll have no excuse to hike twice per weekend and maybe even twice per day!  I'm longing for the cooler mornings and evenings ahead.  Until next time, happy trails!

#hike22 - Barton Creek Greenbelt

Date: June 30, 2018

Location: Barton Creek Greenbelt - Austin, TX

Distance: 5.75 miles

Trails: From the MoPac to Hill of Life & back

It was a humid hike, but so refreshing regardless.  I started out counting dogs, people, and bikes but gave up after I reached the Hill of Life.  I started at about 7:15 am, with few people and quickly ran into everyone after 8 am at my midpoint.  It was a popular trail, but everyone was very friendly and smiley and I just enjoyed it.  I got a good feeling on this trail - something I've been longing for - and I am doing my best to be that outgoing-smiley person wherever I go.  I know, not every day/every hike/every run/etc is easy or fun, but interacting with people in a positive way can be as simple as smiling, waving, nodding, or saying hello.

The trail was downhill at first, eventually followed along at creek level - which was bone dry, then transitioned into the Hill of Life - which was a LONG, steep hill that should have been called the Hill of Death.  Many people were using the hill for training - either walking, running, or biking - I was simply trying not to pass out.  My legs went jelly about 3/4 of the way up, so I went back down.  On my hike back to my car, I followed a family that was out for a hike together.  Seeing an entire family doing something together was encouraging and something I hope to see more frequently.

I was thankful for shade, a partly cloudy sky, and the humidity melting away as the morning moved forward.  If you're in Austin, check out the various parts of the greenbelt and happy trails.

Recap: Plenty of cute and REALLY cute dogs, nice people, and plenty of shade.

#hike19 - Dinosaur Valley State Park

"The old standby, always there for me when I need a good hike!"

Date: May 27, 2018

Location: Dinosaur Valley State Park - Glen Rose, TX

Distance: 5.0 miles

Trails: Cedar Brake, Paluxy River

I was visiting my family that lives near Glen Rose and decided I needed a morning hike, at least once, this weekend.  I stayed up way too late the night before, but eventually made my way to my cousin's place to pick up her fiancee and we hit the trails.

The parking lot at the entrance was a bit crowded, and the trailhead parking was busy because of group campers but the overall trail experience didn't include seeing more than three people in five miles.

The river was noticeably low and was not too difficult to cross.  We started around 8 am, in order to try and get a few miles in before the temps skyrocketed into uncomfortable territory.  We saw gorgeous flowers in bloom, cactus flowers, yucca flowers, and of course plenty of insects pollinating.  We hiked at a steady pace, had good conversation, and an overall enjoyable morning.  This hike was just what my body needed.

Overall, it was a satisfying hike with a new hiking partner.  On our way out, the line to get in the park was damn near 50 cars long, so I'm glad we got there when we did.  Here's to you, old standby, your views and trails are always worth it to me.  Happy trails!

#hike18 - Colorado Bend State Park

"A must see for Texas State Parks - I will return!"

Date: May 19, 2018

Location: Colorado Bend State Park - Bend, TX

Distance: 6.6

Trails: Tie Slide, Gorman Falls, Spicewood Springs (partial)

I had plans to go to Tyler State Park early Saturday morning, but my friend reached out and said her and her family were going to Colorado Bend State Park and that was more appealing because I had always wanted to go there!  So, I got up and got ready for a 3am departure, leaving at 3:30 because it's me, and arrived to the park just as the sun was coming up.  The parking lot was mostly empty, and the trail was ours.  We started our hike as the sun was peeking over the ridge and it made for an excellent introduction to Colorado Bend.

We took the Tie Slide trail to the Colorado River overlook and the views did not disappoint.  The trail was rocky but the views of the river make up for any hardships encountered by the group.

From there we made plans to head to Gorman Falls, the legendary falls within the park as springs cascade down a rock wall into the Colorado.  The hike was pretty mild until the falls and then it's a steep descent down the rocks (with some handrails to help) to the falls viewing area.

Going down these rocks was a bit slick, from daily use, but the ropes were sturdy and offered a solid point of contact.  I found the climb back to the trail much easier than going down, but I always prefer uphill vs. downhill hiking because I feel more accomplished at the top.  Anyway, it was a fun little stretch to get to the magical and lush Gorman Falls.

The falls start at the top from a spring and trickle down a rock face that is constantly changing shape.  The rock face is covered in moss, ferns and other vegetation.  The view of the waterfall can be somewhat obstructed by the trees growing, so the photos don't do this place any justice.  If you have the means and ability, visit in person and you will not be disappointed.  It's a real treat.

There is a main viewing deck and you can get a glimpse of the falls from the trail on the way down and that's where I chose to take photos.  There are signs saying it's a sensitive ecosystem, designed to keep people out of the water and from disturbing the falls.  I don't care enough about pictures, as it is burned in my memory, so I respected the signs and you should too by staying in designated areas.

From the falls, back to the parking lot, we were surrounded by meadows of wildflowers at every turn.  The cactus flowers were blooming and the bees were buzzing everywhere - busy at work!  What a great day to be alive in Colorado Bend State Park.

I have plans to return, either early in the morning again or this fall/winter season.  I want to hike every trail here, as they all looked like they offered great views and fun challenges.

As always, happy trails and enjoy a few more photos - wildflowers and part of our hiking group.

Me, my friend Amanda, and her niece's friend.

#hike11 - Dinosaur Valley State Park

Date: March 24, 2018

Location: Dinosaur Valley State Park - Glen Rose, TX

Distance: 9.1 miles

Trails: Paluxy River & Cedar Brake Outer Loop (here's the map)

Previous Hike(s): January 2018

I woke up at 5am on a Saturday for a hike because I love to do it THAT much.  Personally, I love to start the day in the dark because as the light comes I feel as though the world is waking up with me.  Other perks about starting early include less traffic, less people, and it opens the day up for more opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.

I got to the park as the sun was coming over the ridge, about 7:30am.  I was shocked to arrive and see a parking lot 75% full of cars, but soon realized it was some special camping event and it was overflow or something.  Other than a lady power walking along the river, I didn't have company on the trail until about mile five, and it was only a few people at first but towards the end there were groups and groups of people crossing the river and starting the trail.

I saw one bunny and more spiders than I can count.  It was nice in the winter, with less spiders, but they are back and webbing across the trails like crazy.  Most spiders I encountered were harmless, but the webs always feel a little weird when you don't see them and walk through.

Takeaways:

  • As I often suggest, start early.  In Texas (and other warm places) it's cooler, less crowded, and often worth it for the sunrise alone.
  • If you're becoming familiar with a place, and it's a small/moderate loop trail, go the opposite way and you may see things differently.

I did my video summary, as usual, but I didn't have the phone mounted.  Enjoy the shaky video and happy trails!

#hike9 - Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge

Date: March 10, 2018

Location: Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge - Fort Worth, TX

Distance: 4.7 miles

Trails: Canyon Ridge Trail

My friend Megan met up with me and we went out to the Nature Center to hike it up on Saturday morning hike number nine.  It was a mild morning with partial sun, and not a huge crowd to start out, which is always a good sign.  I love the Canyon Ridge Trail for the hills and the views, but today it was even better with new leaves and flowers for spring.  We spent the 4.7 miles, there and back, discussing life and reminiscing about recent events - time flew by.  I always enjoy hiking with friends or family, so if anyone wants to connect out on the trail, hit me up!  By the end of our time, it was a pleasant 75 degrees and the sun was shining down.

Things to know about the Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge/Canyon Ridge Trail:

  • Get there early if you'd like to start your hike with fewer people.  If you don't mind crowds, wait it out for a later start.  We started at 8:30 with two cars in the lot and ended with people parking down the road at 10:30-11.
  • There are plenty of other trails, but Canyon Ridge offers a variety of things from old building ruins to views of Lake Worth to minor elevation changes that challenge your legs.
  • It is $5/person to get in, and they DO accept credit/debit cards.

Fun story: We were at this old rest shelter, and saw another one down a trail (probably not Leave No Trace) so we delicately went to check it out...only to find tons of wasps.  I ran so fast away, there was no time for photos or to make sure Megan was okay - she was.  We avoided any bodily harm and had a good laugh about it once we stopped running.

I hope you all got outside this weekend if you wanted, and if not, hopefully soon!  Enjoy your week and happy trails!

#hike8 - Cleburne State Park

Date: March 3, 2018

Location: Cleburne State Park - Cleburne, TX

Distance: 6 ish miles

Trails: Fossil Ridge, Coyote Run, Limestone Ridge, White Tail Hollow, Lake trails 

I was lucky this weekend - my family was camping somewhere and my aunt wanted to hike.  I jump at the chance to hike with someone, so I drove down to Cleburne State Park and we hit the trails Saturday morning.  I had been there before in 2017, but we did a little more than I did my first time and I saw a different side of the of the park.

We decided to do the rim around the park, a series of trails that went along the fence line.  We started out near the entrance and went about a mile up then decided to hike down the shoreline of Cedar Lake and across the old CCC dam to the spillway.  Since my aunt was camping, we walked back to the car along the west side of the spillway and then drove back to the campsite to refresh our water supply.  We walked from the campsite to the Coyote Run trail head and then hiked down the east side of the lake to the scenic lookout, and back to the camp.  This part of the hike was new to me and was surprisingly hilly and shaded, which was nice.  I still managed to get a sunburn on my neck and arms, so always wear your sunscreen.  Near the spillway I spotted a guy across the way and I thought it was a #parkchat/#gearmeout/#hikerchat friend, and sure enough at the bottom of the hill I run into Mr. Gibby himself.  It is a real treat to run into familiar faces and something I hope happens more often.

Some Cleburne State Park takeaways:

  • It is quite hilly, gentle hills, but hilly... be prepared!
  • Walking along the lake is good for refreshing breezes, so keep that in mind
  • If you wait til late spring you'll see tons of flowers

State parks keep me sane here in Texas, and I'm forever thankful for them.  I renewed my annual pass on Saturday so I'm good to go again through 2019 and I highly recommend the annual state park pass here in Texas if you're a frequent visitor or bring a car full of people with you each time.

See you on the trails!

#hike2 - Tyler State Park

I'm experimenting with a post-hike video to kind of summarize the experience. We'll see how this evolves. Enjoy the first installment.

Date: January 13, 2018

Location: Tyler State Park - Tyler, TX

Distance: 8.41 miles

Trails: B, C, and D Loops

This morning was not agreeing with me, and I'm a morning person, but I finally hit the road about 8AM and made it to the park about 10AM.  I parked in the lot where the mountain bikers park, loaded up, and headed out.  To get to Loop B, you start on Loop A which is the designated mountain bike track.  I started down the trails on the east side, which weaves through the woods and takes you back towards the north end of the park.

Loop B felt like the longest trail, it probably was, with Loop C being the shortest.  Loop D was the most interesting as far as terrain, and was somewhere around 2.1 miles.  Loop C had a few issues with trail marking, so I did a little backtracking but eventually made it to the right path.  All paths went through the woods which consisted of mostly pine and oak and weaved through ravines.  There were several creek crossings, all with footbridges or something man-made to assist.

Tyler State Park Tidbits:

  • There are a lot of trails to take on and they're all pretty well marked with Loop C being the only area I had a little difficulty finding any marking or beaten down path
  • The trails I did are for hiking and biking and offer plenty of space to get out of the way of one another.
  • I went on a Saturday morning and I was surprised it wasn't very busy - could have been the colder weather?
  • The pines are gorgeous and regal blanketing the trails helping you stay quieter to take it all in even more.

Walking through the pines made me feel like I was in Michigan.  I found myself stopping, looking up while listening to the wind through the needles the way I would near Lake Huron or Lake Michigan.  The woods was very quiet, with few people and outside noises, making it an ideal hike for pondering things.  If it weren't for the yucca (or whatever it is) that grows in the sunlight, I would have never known I was still in Texas.  Enjoy a few photos from the hike and happy hiking to you!

 

#hike1 - Dinosaur Valley State Park

Date: January 6, 2018

Location: Dinosaur Valley State Park - Glen Rose, TX

Distance: 9.55 miles

Trails: Cedar Brake Outer Loop, Paluxy River

I arrived at the park early, before the staff arrived, and checked in.  I left home in shorts, because it was nearly 40 degrees at home, but it was only 25 at the park so I had to change into the pants I brought along.  I was the only car in the parking lot upon arrive, and was one of ten when I left.  The crowds for this park don't usually show up until about 8-9 am, making early morning hikes fairly quiet and peaceful.  I made it 7.5 miles in before seeing anyone, but then it was more people than I could count.  For the first hike of the year, I wanted to "go big" with a longer hike.  I visited this park four times last year and did the same few trails each visit so this hike was also about exploring a part of the park I hadn't hiked in 2017.  Seeing new-to-me trails and the furthest corners of the park boundaries satisfied the need for a little adventure within.

I spent the majority of this hike reflecting on the hikes of 2017 and warming my hands.  Like an idiot, I didn't really plan well for the temperatures, despite my constant preaching of preparedness.  Halfway through the hike, I remembered having gloves in my pack and that was a great relief.  As I warmed my hands, I pondered what worked well last year and what I need to adjust to make the 2018 hikes even better.  Dinosaur Valley is becoming my new go-to park simply because I love the terrain and proximity to my family's home - can accomplish a visit and get a hike in.  All in all, it was a challenging and robust start to my hikes for 2018.

Dinosaur Valley State Park Tidbits:

  • almost all trails require crossing the Paluxy River - always check trail conditions on the park's Facebook page before heading out
  • the park has varied terrain - be sure to check out the trail map for more information
  • many trails are shaded, thought plenty have sunny portions so always bring enough water and wear sun protection
  • tourist attractions such as dinosaur track viewing areas and other dinosaur related businesses outside park boundaries exist for family fun before or after your hike
  • crowds are limited in cooler months, and earlier in the morning - I always try to get there around 7 am to enjoy some solitude

Here are some photos from the hike, enjoy and happy hiking!