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.

 

Cedar Hill State Park

Cedar Hill State Park is located twenty minutes southwest of Dallas. If the location sounds familiar, it is located within minutes of Cedar Ridge Preserve, Cedar Mountain Trail and the Dogwood Audubon Center. The park has many different activities to do like fishing, boating and camping but I am here for the trails. I have hiked on these trails almost as many times as Cedar Ridge Preserve. The park has six hiking trails covering twenty six miles. I have hiked and trail run on five of the six multiple times and the scenery seems to be a bit different each time. The park is in the middle of a restoration project so one of my favorite trails has been closed for over a year. They recently opened two other trails that were closed but the maintenance on one has been a bit shoddy. The DORBA trails are always great but overly protected. If it rains just a little, they are immediately shut down. When open, the trails are awesome. The trails give you a bit of every type of habitat. I have hiked the DORBA medium and short trails but not the long yet. The DORBA medium takes you through forest type areas then beach type areas and prairie lands and also hilly vistas all in a six plus mile hike. At one point, in a grassland opening on top of a small hill I could get a picture of both AT&T Stadium and Texas Stadium in the same frame. The park also features Joe Pool Lake and the Joe Pool Lake Dam.

I will start with the recently reopened Duck Pond Trail and Plum Valley Trail. The Duck Pond Trail leads to the Duck Pond and by a small stream and bridge. Plum Valley Trail Trail connects the trails to an overlook. Plum Valley has good elevation change but is not always well groomed. 20170303_135951.jpg20170303_140224.jpg20170303_140620.jpg20170303_144025.jpg

The DORBA medium and short trails are really nice. The scenery is ever changing and the views are nice. There are not any big elevation changes but there are plenty of elevation changes along with switchbacks. Plus the randomness of the wildlife is amazing. I have seen snakes, turtles, roadrunners, bobcats and armadillos. The trails go by Joe Pool Lake and hearing the waves is peaceful. The lake is not the clearest but it is nice.20170127_145736.jpg2011-07-29_18-56-03_15.jpg20170424_151115.jpg2011-07-31_19-27-33_43.jpg2011-07-31_19-35-31_769.jpg

It is funny that I have been here so much that I take the park for granted. I do not have many pictures and it was not one of my first blogs. When I started the 52 Hike Challenge, I did not hike this park until the fifth or sixth hike. I also ran my first five miler here and they found some hills I missed. I usually do not do many road races but this was the exception.

I am almost caught up with all my hikes so the blog will slow down. I recently headed back down to the Texas country for the summer and had a great time hiking in places I have never heard of before.

Marion Sansom Park

I was on a hunt for waterfalls in my local area and I heard about Marion Sansom Park and the waterfall that is in the park. The park is on the northwest side of Fort Worth overlooking Lake Worth. I tried to go on a day after some rain but in Texas you never know what the weather is going to be at any given moment. The rain never arrived but I did get lucky with some cool temperatures in the morning. The park also has miles of nice trails but none are marked. At least I did not find any marked trails. I basically had to remember how I got to the waterfalls and back to the trailhead. I was lucky to have Dade with me this morning. I thought there would be one waterfall but there were two waterfalls and both were flowing pretty good that day.

The first waterfall we went to was the smaller of two waterfalls but still nice. The trails were well groomed until we got close to the falls. The trails had a bunch of trash around and they got harder to follow. The park itself seemed clean but some people just do not respect the nature area and trash it because they are too lazy to do the right thing. It just makes me mad to see stuff like that. The waterfall area was cleaner than the trail but still frustratingly trashy. 20170314_103435.jpg20170314_103924.jpg20170314_103451.jpg20170314_103513.jpg20170314_104054.jpg

The second waterfall was the bigger of the two waterfalls and it was flowing pretty good. We got a chance to get on top of the waterfall which I like to do and we also got some good angles of the falls. 20170314_105017.jpg20170314_105223.jpg20170314_102155.jpg20170314_102147.jpg20170314_102751.jpg

The park did offer other sites besides the waterfalls and the hike was crazy steep on the way to the trailhead.  It had a nice overlook over Lake Worth and the dam. We also got to hear the jets from the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base. 20170314_100203.jpg20170314_110450.jpg20170314_100208.jpg

Bonus picture of the food we got on the way home at a great hole in the wall Mexican food place.20170314_113347.jpg

I do believe I will be back in Dallas for the next blog then back on the road again.

Cedar Ridge Preserve

Cedar Ridge Preserve is located about twenty minutes southwest of Dallas. The preserve is also the highest point in Dallas County. The location from my home makes it a convenient hiking location for me. I have been hiking here on and off for about eight years and the last two years I have been trail running on the trails. Hiking the perimeter of the preserve will get you over six miles of good hiking. The views are great and the trails range from difficult to easy. There are six distinct overlooks at the preserve and they have great vantage points of the surrounding area. The overlooks on Cattail Pond and Bluebonnet Trails are large wooden stair structures. They help when looking over the trees. The overlooks on Red Oak and Fossil Valley Trails are my favorite. The area they overlook includes Joe Pool Lake and the Dam, Cedar Hill State Park, Cedar Mountain and the Dogwood Canyon Audubon. The preserve is ever changing and depending on the time and season, the scenery can be drastically different. The preserve includes a pond, a small waterfall, several bridge crossings and numerous creeks and streams. 20151126_09164720151215_14481820160218_16302720160218_16470420160218_17061620160917_19064320160917_18461720161124_090542

This is my favorite place to hike and the place I have hiked the most. It is also my favorite place to trail run. The elevation changes are great and I can mix in steep inclines with long inclines that are not as steep. It is like having the Texas Hill Country in my backyard. It say this is the best hiking area in the DFW metroplex.

Next blog is back in Fort Worth. This was a wild and unexpectedly difficult hike and as usual I get lost for awhile and find a steep incline to the end.