#hike37 - Lake Mineral Wells State Park & Trailway

Location: Lake Mineral Wells State Park Date: 9/16/17

Distance: 6.62 miles

Trails: Primitive Camping Trail; Cross Timber Orange, Green, Yellow, Maroon, and Black

Here's a trail map for reference: Lake Mineral Wells Trail Map

We - Eric, Nikki, and myself - arrived around 8:30 am. We set off without a real plan, but knew we wanted to get back to the large elm tree near the end of the yellow trail. We started on the purple route, which gives great views of the lake and then takes you through the woods to the mixed use equestrian trails. We eventually made our way around to the yellow trail. We came to the old elm and it appeared to have died, I'm currently looking into the situation. From there, we took the orange trail back to the purple/green/black trail overlap and encountered a lot of sand. At one river crossing, we spotted three water snakes and they started coming our direction, so we booked it out of there to avoid any confrontation. After miles of breaking through spider webs as the first to hit the trail, we finally passed packs of people heading out as we came in - perfect timing and worth the webs. Enjoy some photos, below!

#hike35 - Eagle Mountain Park

*It's not a real mountain, but the trail does offer a few good views of the lake. Location: Eagle Mountain Park on Eagle Mountain Lake (NW Fort Worth, TX)

Date: 9/4/17

Distance: 8.17 miles

Trails: All of them

Eagle Mountain Lake has some grand homes on the west side and this nice park tucked in on the east side.  The park has about 8 miles of trails, give or take a few, and they're quite nice.  There are many hills, expansive views, and the trails are generally well maintained.  The paths are marked with color coded posts and there are plenty of maps throughout to guide you through.  I got there early, thankfully, because as I was wrapping up everyone and their brother was unloading and starting their day.  I found many quiet spots, cleared my head, and got some good exercise too.  The Shoreline trail is very peaceful with the sounds of wind through leaves and waves gently hitting the land.  Starting before 8 AM, I found most areas to be well shaded until about 9-10 AM.

#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.

#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!

#hike7 - Northern Minnesota

Date: February 17-20, 2017 Place: Northern Minnesota

Distance: 6+ miles

This "hike" was more than a hike - it was a vacation to the wilderness during winter.  My good friend and I left Texas, drove to Duluth, MN.  His aunt lives there, so we stayed there for the night, caught up, and got some rest.  She has a cabin she lets us use near the Canadian border, close to Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness, that is off the grid and secluded.  A couple of our Michigan friends met us in Duluth and we set off for this wonderfully disconnected cabin.  This was my fifth trip to the cabin, and the first in the winter.  It was the most adventurous trip yet.


Day 1:  We hiked the 1.25 miles down an unused road, across a frozen lake, and up the side of a tall hill to the cabin.  The lake required snowshoes, though once at the hill it was quite difficult as the snow was knee high so it was more climbing.  We each pulled a sled with supplies for the 4 day adventure, some more heavy than others.  It was nearly dark once we reached the cabin, so that was all the adventure for one day.  Along the way, we saw wolf tracks and scat as well as moose tracks.

Day 2:  Awoke, trekked down the hill to see our path and scope out the morning.  Fixed breakfast and then hiked to the top of the peak behind the cabin.  The snow was mostly hip-deep in the woods, and it required a few trail beers once at the top.  This hike is normally moderate in the summer, so it was a bit more challenging with the snow.  Following the hike back, we dug out the fire pit and benches used in summer and made a winter fire.  We got to joking around, and made bets on the thickness of the ice on the lake.  My friend was the lucky one to auger a hole.  Ice was 17.5" near where the dock normally would be, which was reassuring.

Day 3:  We got up, after a late night, and hiked a few miles down to one of the lakes included in the Boundary Waters.  The hike didn't require snowshoes, as it had been warmer than usual and the snow was crusty on top, and took most of the midday.  We trekked about 2 miles each way.  Once to Pine Lake, we relaxed.  We found moose tracks and scat, as well as plenty of wolf tracks along the way.  There was open water, but nothing we couldn't skirt around.  On this final night, we heard the wolves howling the loudest and that is a sound I will never forget.

Day 4: This was our final day, and we had to hustle and clean up the cabin and shut it back up for the rest of winter.  Rain was looming, as temps had hovered around 50 all weekend, so we were trying to get going quickly.  The hike back to the truck didn't seem as brutal as the way to the cabin and we avoided the rain by about 10 minutes.  I used my snowshoes on the way back, while the other guys didn't.  I didn't break through the top crust of snow at all, really.


I'm counting the whole weekend as Hike #7.  This was the most strenuous, adventurous, and beautiful of all the hikes in 2017 to date - and it'll be hard to beat.


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)

Ozark National Forest - Preview Hike

It's almost December and I have the next year of hikes on my brain.  Over the weekend, my better half and I went to the Ozark National Forest to get a hike in and get some fresh air.  A few takeaways from this trip were:

  1. Planning ahead is essential.  Basic concept that is easily overlooked.  I didn't quite investigate the hiking terrain or comments about the particular hike we were going to do and it is just very clear that I should learn a bit more about spots on the schedule for 2017.
  2. Proper attire and footwear is the most important.  Again, a basic concept that I overlooked because I did not investigate the trail enough.  For some reason, I had it in my head that it was a paved path or at least a dirt path and that my street shoes would do the trick...no such luck.
  3. Having an offline map or physical map is highly recommended.  I was fortunate enough to have the trail on my phone, so we could ensure we were on the correct path (as there were splits in the woods) going forward.  In the future, I will probably use AllTrails or some other app or print a map if it is available online.
  4. Hydration is key to feeling good.  I planned ahead with water, but didn't research the trail enough to know I should have taken it with us.  All was well, luckily.
  5. I learned how to hike with my dog.  Chewy the dog has been in the woods and on trails before, but never like this.  He was a champ and let me know what he was okay with and what he was capable of handling.  For a dog afraid of bridges and stairs, sometimes, he was certainly not afraid of cliff-like rock edges.  Go figure.
  6. I've come to terms with the fact that I will be driving anywhere from 1-8 hours to go hiking and I may not spend an equal amount of time in the woods/on the trails.


Friday morning we decided to go somewhere for the weekend and get outside.  We contemplated going to Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Ozark National Forest, or maybe a park near San Antonio.  We decided on the forest because we wanted cool weather and crisp air.  I had read about a waterfall called Glory Hole Falls, I giggled too, and thought it looked quite neat.  Of course, every photo I found was probably taken in the peak of spring water flow or something, so the reality was a bit different but equally beautiful.  The trail is about 1.8 miles each way with a 430 ft elevation change.  The air smelled of fall, the leaves were on the ground, it was sunny, and the temperature was hovering around 50 degrees.  Here are a few photos:


Hopefully a few more "preview" hikes to come, as I schedule the first month.


Happy hiking! -Mike