#hike28 - Santa Fe National Forest

Location: Holy Ghost Campground & trail area - Santa Fe National Forest Distance: ~2-3 miles

Date: July 15, 2017

Info via USFS website

On a whim, we decided that Santa Fe National Forest was the place to go for the weekend.  We (my other half and I) had been toying with the idea of going somewhere to escape the annoying Texas heat, but had no concrete plans until Friday night.  We went to Target and bought supplies, pulled the gear out of the closet, packed the car, and took a nap.  Waking around midnight, I packed the cooler and we were off towards New Mexico!

We arrived around 10 am to the area, with a campground arrival around 10:30.  We took the last open spot, met our neighbors, and set up camp.  The site was open, sunny, and protected on the west side by a hill and tall trees.  The campground was in a valley of sorts with tall firs and a mountain creek that could be heard from the tent.

There are two trails - Trail 283-A and 283.  We attempted 283-A, but only went about a mile overall in and out.  It was steep and we were exhausted from driving through the night.  We napped.  Later that evening, we walked down the road a bit and eventually made our way up to the group camping site and the trailhead for 283.  We took that, crossed the creek, and it was a very promising trail until the rain got heavier.  We eventually turned around and headed back to the site.  We got back to the tent just in time for heavy rains that lasted the next hour.

This wasn't the longest hike, but it was bits and pieces of greatness.  I will be back to explore this place further.  Hike #28 lived up to the ideas behind this challenge - to get out, to hike, to clear my head, and to enjoy life.  There are a number of trails and campgrounds throughout the Santa Fe National Forest, and surrounding forests, that I feel I could go here once a month and see something new for a long time.

#hike27 - Trail of Blue Ice, Chugach National Forest

Location: Portage Glacier area, Chugach National Forest Distance: 4.75 miles

I got bored one evening, around 6 or 7 o'clock local time and decided I needed to fit in another hike.  I left our campground and headed east on the US Forest Service trail that follows Portage Glacier Road and eventually turns into various campgrounds.  It winds through the woods and valley providing scenic views and plenty of alone time.

The trail was easy, but it was still raining.  Here are some photos!

#hike26 - Byron Glacier Trail, Chugach National Forest

It was a rainy, rainy day but we decided to go see another glacier because when in Alaska it's what ya do. Location: Portage Glacier area, Chugach National Forest

Distance: ~2 miles

This was another easy hike, with a maintained trail.  As mentioned, it was very rainy and a little windy.  The sky was gray, the trees were green, and the glacier glowed with blue spots.

#hike12 - Caprock Canyons State Park & Trailway

Date: March 25-26, 2017 Time: morning and midday

Place: Caprock Canyons State Park & Trailway

Distance: 14 +/- miles

Trail Map

The new thing we do is this: I'll come home Friday from work, pack, sleep, and then we'll head out in the middle of the night (technically Saturday 1-4am) and go somewhere for a morning hike with the intention of camping for the night.

Early Saturday morning, we left around 3:15 and headed towards Caprock Canyons State Park.  It was a relatively short drive, at just under five hours, and we were there just after sunrise. The first thing you're greeted with at this park is the herd of bison (read about the bison herd here).  Once through that natural slow down, you check in and go on your way.  We went to the Canyon Rim trail first, figuring we'd get some good views and start the day on an easy-moderate level.  The first thing we noticed, after the bison, were the lack of people!  The park wasn't crowded - how nice!  We set off on the trail, getting our views and energizing our bodies for the day.  It was mostly flat at first, winding along above the canyon but at the halfway point we started descending.  It was the perfect time for a change of pace and scenery.  We made it to the crossroads of the Wild Horse trail and made our way pack to where we started.

From there, we talked to a park ranger and learned we could check in before 2pm, which was news to us.  We went, got our camping permit and assignment, and set up camp.  From there we hiked the Eagle Point trail, which is two miles each way.  The trail has expansive views, goes through the middle of the park, and is very exposed - no shade.  We went up and down minor hills, and wound through the desert landscape.  We found a natural bridge, some dried stream beds, and only passed a few people.

Sunday, we woke up and cleaned/packed the camp and headed to our last trail of the weekend.  The Canyon Loop trail is only about 1.3 miles, but connects to several other trails.  We were going to take it and connect to the Upper Canyon trail and go as far as Fern Cave.  We got about .75 miles in and our sunburns from the previous day and the sluggish pace from Chewy the dog indicated we shouldn't go too much further.  We manged another .75 miles but had to turn around.  Chewy the dog was thirsty, tired, and had reached his limit for the weekend.  I was impressed and thankful for his stamina throughout the entire weekend.

Major takeaways:

  • Will need to revisit to go to Fern Cave and a few other trails - maybe in the fall/winter.
  • Need to get a backpack with a water bladder for me alone, plus the other water for Chewy
  • Need to get a collapsible water dish for Chewy - carrying around a conventional one is just extra bulk in the day pack
  • Have to remember more sunscreen & to reapply often
  • Need to remember my adventure hat with a wide, surrounding brim

#hike10 - Cooper Lake State Park

Date: March 12, 2017 Time: 9:10 AM

Place: Cooper Lake State Park - South Sulphur Unit

Distance: 4.9 miles

I left a little later than I wanted this morning, but the drive went quickly.  I was flying solo again today, so I was singing and dancing along embarrassingly to all my favorite jams.  I made it there in less time than expected, as no one is out on a Sunday morning.  I saw the sun peek through the clouds on the horizon, and knew it was going to be a good day.

I started off with a stop to Gulls Bluff Day Use Area to see the lake and look at a map.  From there, I found parking and made my way to the Coyote Run trail head.It started off flat, with small trees and quickly wound back into the forest.  Old trees, ravines, new trees, quite a mix.  The air smelled of spring soil - if that makes sense.  It rained all weekend, so it smelled of spring soil and that smell after the rain.  The tiny leaves were opening, flowers in bloom, and birds very active.  I saw two whitetail deer as well as some squirrels.  This trail reminded me of trails in Ozarks or in Michigan - I didn't feel like I was in Texas at all.  The sky was cloudy and the wind cold at the beginning, but the sun came out and it completely changed the way the forest looked.  Light beaming down through leaves and flowers and casting shadows made all the difference.  I went from extremely relaxed and peaceful to even more so but also giddy with joy.  It was one of the best mental experiences of my hikes so far.  Here are a few photos!  Happy hiking!

#hike4 - Dinosaur Valley State Park

Date: January 28, 2017 Time: 11 am

Place: Dinosaur Valley State Park - Glen Rose, TX

Distance: 4.5+/- miles

This hike was, by far, the best hike of the year so far.  I know, there have really only been 4, but it was just what I needed at this time.  This hike included my aunt and my better half, which definitely didn't hurt as well as the first appearance of Chewy the Dog on a #52hikechallenge hike.  The setting is rural, just outside of town and the park is large enough that once on the trails we didn't hear a thing from the main gate.

The trails we chose were the Cedar Ridge trail with parts of the Cedar Brake trail and the Buckeye trail.  To begin, you park in a small lot near the campground entrance.  From there you make your way down to the river and you must cross.  The water was gentle and relatively low, so we made it without any major wet feet.  From there, the elevation climbs and you begin hiking the ridge overlooking the river.  The trail meanders through junipers and over the rock formations.  Along the way you'll find hike-in campsites, which look appealing for a potential camping trip this year!

This hike was far away from the DFW metro area and that was the selling point.  The woods was quiet - I could hear the wind through the trees, critters stirring, birds in the bushes, and the ground beneath me feet as I trekked forward.  I didn't hear cars driving, horns honking, too many other people in general, or anything else annoying.  The land was clean, free of trash, and it smelled fresh.  All in all, it was just a wonderful day at peace with nature.  I'm attaching some photos and highly recommending this place for anyone that wants a relaxing, yet adequately challenging hike.

Happy hiking!

A little list. (updated 4 Jan 2017)

This is a working list of locations I'm considering for the 52 Hike Challenge.  As it stands, I know there will be weekends that I will not be able to leave too far out of town and thus I'm sure some of the local areas will get reused.  I'm hoping to take advantage of holiday weekends and my vacations to Alaska, Minnesota, and Michigan that are already on the calendar for 2017.  If I could teleport, this would be so much easier.  If anyone in DFW is interested in going to any of these locations, get in touch somehow.  

Hiking Ideas for 52 Hikes with Mike – 2017

  1. Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge - Texas
  2. Lake Murray State Park – Oklahoma
  3. Tyler State Park – Texas
  4. Davey Crockett National Forest – Texas
  5. Cleburne State Park – Texas
  6. Dinosaur Valley State Park – Texas
  7. Cedar Hill State Park – Texas
  8. Garner State Park – Texas
  9. Lake Mineral Wells State Park & Trailway – Texas
  10. Possum Kingdom Lake State Park – Texas
  11. Caprock Canyons State Park – Texas
  12. Palo Duro Canyon State Park – Texas
  13. Monahans Sandhills State Park – Texas
  14. Guadalupe Mountains National Park – Texas
  15. Carlsbad Caverns National Park – New Mexico
  16. Big Bend National Park – Texas
  17. Big Bend Ranch State Park – Texas
  18. Enchanted Rock State Park – Texas
  19. Garner State Park – Texas
  20. Lost Maples State Natural Area – Texas
  21. Padre Island National Seashore – Texas
  22. Pedernales Falls State Park – Texas
  23. Angelina National Forest – Texas
  24. Herman Vogler Conservation Area – Michigan
  25. Lake Tawakoni State Park – Texas
  26. Daingerfield State Park – Texas
  27. Besser Natural Area – Michigan
  28. Tahquamenon Falls State Park – Michigan
  29. McFarland Lake – Minnesota
  30. Denali State & National Parks – Alaska
  31. Chugach National Forest – Alaska
  32. Ozark National Forest – Arkansas
  33. Eagle Mountain Park - Texas
  34. Bandelier National Monument - New Mexico
  35. Guadalupe River State Park - Texas (dog friendly)
  36. Hill Country Natural Area - Texas (dog friendly)
  37. Cedar Ridge Preserve - Texas (dog friendly)
  38. Grapevine Lake - Texas (dog friendly)
  39. Inks Lake State Park - Texas (dog friendly)
  40. Franklin Mountains State Park - Texas (dog friendly)