Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

I heard about this place on a random search for a place to run a trail race. I did not find a trail race but did find a quarter marathon race. I signed up for the race and did some research on the area around Lawton, OK. I found that the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge was minutes away and has some great hiking. I did not realize is that I was doing a 10K trail race the day before the quarter marathon race. My schedule was to wake up early Saturday and run a 10K trail race then drive three and half hours to Lawton, OK and hike in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. On Sunday, wake up early again and run a quarter marathon and then hike the Wichita Wildlife Refuge again and then make the return drive back home. I packed in a bunch of miles in one weekend. A total of 13 miles running and eight miles of hiking.

I love this place. I got to see bison and longhorns. Bison are the biggest animals I have ever seen. The mountains are beautiful and there are so many places to see and trails to hike. I had seven trails I wanted to hike. I settled on completing two and partial hiking two others. I got to summit a small mountain and walk across a dam. I did some bouldering and saw many small and large waterfalls. I hiked on grasslands and forest like areas. I met many friendly people and a copperhead snake.

On Saturday, I hiked the Kite Trail and Little Baldy Mountain. I saw the bison on this day on the way between the trails. Kite Trail ran along Lost Lake and large creek. I did most of my bouldering and waterfall watching on this trail.20170930_163839.jpg20170930_164242.jpg20170930_165904.jpg20170930_164500.jpg20170930_170451.jpg20170930_170058.jpg20170930_170617.jpg20170930_180254.jpg

There were so many more pictures but these were the ones I chose. The next hike was the summit of Little Baldy Mountain and a walk across a dam. This was the shortest of the four hikes but had the most elevation change. I also got lost several times on this hike and the previous hike. The trails were not marked at all as I found out. I had to talk to many people just to get to and stay on the correct trail.20170930_181958.jpg20170930_181900.jpg20170930_182743.jpg20170930_182311.jpg20170930_183749.jpg20170930_183746.jpg20170930_185522.jpg20170930_185648.jpg

I saw some cool balancing rock formations on both of these hikes. I wanted to get another hike in that day but I ran out of sunlight.

I will continue my Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge blog next with the second day of running and more hiking.

Possum Kingdom State Park

Possum Kingdom State Park is located about two and a half hours west of Dallas. This is another CCC park as it is displayed with the rock entrance sign. I have heard so many great things about Possum Kingdom Lake so I thought all the scenic areas could be accessed through the park. I hate to say that the so called best parts of the lake are not part of the state park and those areas are privately owned or at other parks. Most of the parks activities are centered around the lake and rightfully so. But I am here for the hiking, so I did not partake in the lake activities. This park is not as big as the average state park but trails had some very challenging spots. The park only has three somewhat marked trails for a total of two and a quarter mile. Of course I got lost because of the somewhat to the not so marked trail and added almost an extra mile and half. I also had to do some backtracking on another trail. The trails might be lacking in length but they make up for it in difficulty. Two of three trails are rated challenging. The trails have some steep inclines. There are three overlooks but only two are on the trail map.

I started at the Chaparral Ridge Trail which lead to the first overlook after a steep up hill hike. I was on and off this trail for quite awhile due to the lack of trail markings. I then went to the Lakeview Trail and onto to the Longhorn Trail. The Longhorn Trail also had an overlook of the lake. I backtracked on the Longhorn Trail and reconnected with the Lakeview trail and finished the loop.20170809_120000.jpg20170809_115700.jpg20170809_120004.jpg20170809_122332.jpg20170809_123808.jpg20170809_130211.jpg20170809_130834.jpg20170809_132134.jpg20170809_135112.jpg20170809_132147.jpg

The park is very nice and especially nice if you are a lake person. I am not but still enjoyed myself at the park. I am a fan of steep trails hikes that are hikeable. I am getting use to trails that turn from hikes into rock climbing but here it was just steep hikes.

Next blog takes me out of state on a two day twenty plus mile adventure that tested how far my legs could carry me.

Lost Maples SNA Part 2

This visit to Lost Maples SNA was not planned. I had the whole family with me and we were going to spend the day at Garner SP but when we got there it was full and would not reopen till later in the day. I had big plans for Garner SP that day but the derailment did not discourage me so we went to Lost Maples SNA. This time I drove on scenic highway 377. The speed limit is 15 miles per hour for a reason. The road has a real Colorado Rocky Mountain feel to it but with guard rails. Steep cliffs are on both sides of the road and the inclines and declines freak me out. I usual have my wife behind the wheel for drives like this but this was an unpleasant surprise for me. Now if you like some of the most special views of the Texas hill country this is the road for you. The views were amazing when I dared to take my eyes off the road. It was a truly incredible drive but I just rather have two feet on the ground.

The good and bad of having the entire family is that we hike at a much slower pace but with the slower pace I can take in what I possibly missed the first time. This was a shorter hike on the East-West Trail and it was flat trail hiking only. I did get to get a better view of the second set of twin waterfalls. 20170712_151218.jpg20170712_151652.jpg20170712_154619.jpg20170712_155505.jpg20170712_160924.jpg20170712_160931.jpg

I also like some of the signs in the state parks in which I find humorous. Some are suppose to funny like the bigfoot crossing sign in Dinosaur Valley SP. Some are informative like the alligator signs in Huntsville SP. The ones I like the most are the obvious ones like getting to close to the edge is dangerous and there is a cliff behind the sign or this where the trail ends sign and there is nothing behind the sign.20170712_160202.jpg20170712_145257.jpg

I was thankful for the warnings but got a laugh out of both the signs. I did do the steep and rugged mile and a half hike the first time. The sign is very accurate and it was a tough hike and then some.

The next blog will about a park back up in the Dallas/Fort Worth area sort of.

Garner State Park

Garner State Park was the park I looking forward the most to do some hiking. I had such a good time at the other two parks, this park did not get as much time as I planned. The park is located about an hour and a half west of San Antonio. This park is the gem of the south Texas hill country. Garner State Park is the most visited park in the state of Texas. It has so many different activities that it puts hiking on somewhat of the backburner. I even spent more time in the Frio River than on the trails. There are places in the park that are visually spectacular. The river is great and Old Baldy was very nice to see. I did not make it to Crystal Cave but the Painted Rock Overlook was awesome. I had about an hour and a half the entire vacation to hike this park so I had to decide what I wanted to see the most. The problem with trying to see everything is that I saw nothing. The nothing I saw was special nothing but not as much as I wanted.

I decided to hike to the Painted Rock Overlook and Crystal Cave and skip the summit hike on Old Baldy. I also had to pass up all of the backcountry trails. I did get to the Painted Rock Overlook but made a bad decision to back track instead of finishing the loop to Crystal Cave. I tried to go a different direction and ran out of daylight.20170712_183146.jpg20170712_183759.jpg20170712_183637.jpg20170710_121849.jpg20170710_153039.jpg20170710_121853.jpg

I do not think that I had enough time at the park. I know there is much more to the park in the area of hiking. I put family time first and it was worth every second but next time we will do more exploring.

Next time is a revisit to Lost Maples SNA. We took a scenic drive that was terrifying.

Hill Country State Natural Area

The park is huge. The park is located about 45 minutes west of San Antonio. Hill Country SNA has over 40 miles of hiking trails. The funny thing is that there are not many activities to be had at the park. The trails more than make up for the lack of diversity within the park. I truly had one of my most challenging and enjoyable hikes. We got to the summit of the west peak of the Twin Peaks. My hiking partner was my son Dade. I got him up early and interrupted his vacation to do this hike. We had a very good time and he enjoyed the hard work it took to get to the summit. The views were exceptional and breathtaking. Once again, I did not know anything about this park and I wish I more days to see the other parts. There are two more areas in the park I want to hike.

We started on the Merrick Mile Trail and then went straight up on the West Peak Overlook Trail. The West Peak Overlook Trail, is a trail I will recommend to everybody who has a chance to hike in the Texas hill country,20170712_084118.jpg20170712_084204.jpg20170712_084517.jpg

The above peak on the left is where we finished this summit hike. The hike was also very scenic as it lead us on the side of the west peak. 20170712_090743.jpg20170712_085950.jpg20170712_091230.jpg20170712_091619.jpg20170712_091348.jpg20170712_092218.jpg20170712_092155.jpg20170712_081658.jpg

We had a great hike. I know they have some trail races out here and I am going to do one just to see more of this park.

The next park is a park I did the most research on and was really excited to hike. My hike there was cut short because the park was overcrowded and I decided to go back to Lost Maples for a second hike.

Lost Maples State Natural Area

Let me start out by saying wow. Of the three state parks in the area around Utopia, TX, this was the park I had the least interest. Lost Maples State Natural Area is ten minutes north of Utopia in Vanderpool, TX. The park is about an hour and ten minutes west of San Antonio. I took the short drive up Ranch Rd 187 to find the most beautiful park in the state of Texas. It is just my opinion but this place is awesome. I mentioned the road I took because the next time I went back I took the scenic highway. I will get into my fears of scenic highways next time I blog about Lost Maples SNA. Since this was not the main park attraction in the area I did not fully do my research. If I did I would have been at this park the entire vacation. The park has everything a hiker could enjoy. If you like waterfalls. It has them. What about steep climbs with majestic views? This is the place. Also do not miss out on the ponds, rivers and crazy rock formations. Did I mention the trail along the 2200 foot cliff? It is there. The park is a 3 on the Bortle dark sky scale. The scale number and scale is all good but it means you can see the Milky Way on a clear night. Unfortunately, I found this out way too late and when the vacation was over there was a post of the Milky Way from the park the day after I hiked the park. The trees at the park are amazing and the park has a foliage report showing the leaves changing color. Words cannot describe all I saw and want to see more of. The park only has ten miles of trail but it packs a ton of features in those trails.

I did the East-West Trail to the East Trail to the two overlooks and backtracked the East Trail. My plan was also to go to the West Trail but I got Mike Tyson’d. I had a plan until the hike punched me in the mouth in the form of time. I thought I was just going to speed hike most of the trail but there was to many picture moments to pass up.20170711_171927.jpg20170711_170524.jpg20170711_172655.jpg20170711_172418.jpg20170711_174121.jpg20170711_182554.jpg20170711_182026.jpg20170711_184637.jpg20170711_184347.jpg20170711_185123.jpg20170711_185240.jpg20170711_190837.jpg20170711_191308.jpg

I did not realize how many selfies I took on this first trip. I do not take many selfies because the places are more attractive than my mean mug on camera. The park trail map has six points of interest and I only made it to two. The trail map does not have the two sets of two waterfalls as points of interest. It also does not have the pond with crystal clear water as a point of interest. Also met some people on the trail that said the West Trail has at least two more points of interest that are not mentioned on the trail map. I will definitely be back here several more times.

The next blog is about another park I have never heard of but also was surprisingly great.

Sabinal River

I was back in the Texas hill country this summer. We had a family vacation in Utopia, TX. The city is located in the center of three state parks and is about an hour west of San Antonio. The central focus of the vacation was relaxing and tubing on the area’s rivers. I could not pass up a chance to do some hill country hiking with three state parks so close. I actually never heard of the three local parks and had no idea what they had to offer. By the end of the vacation, I put all three parks in my top ten favorites. I started with a short hike on the Sabinal River which just happened to be right outside of our cabin. The water was crystal clear and I mean bottled water clear.20170709_163432.jpg20170709_192315.jpg20170709_194206.jpg20170709_194717.jpg20170709_195534.jpg20170709_195700.jpg

I love this area of Texas. The clear water and great hiking spots. The area also features scenic drives and numerous state parks and recreational areas. The Frio River is great for tubing, rafting and canoeing. We were there and it had not rained in a long time and the rivers were still flowing.  Plus I can say I stayed a week in Utopia.20170710_171147.jpg

The next blog post will be about the biggest surprise of the vacation. A state park so beautiful that words cannot do it justice. It is the most unique park in the hill country.