Lake Mineral Wells State Park

Lake Mineral Wells State Park is located about an hour and a half west of the DFW metroplex. It is well worth the drive. This CCC park has many different things to do and see that you will not get bored looking for adventure. I have already been here twice so I will blog about both trips at once. The first time out it was rainy and the guided tour was cancelled but my son and I stayed anyway to have some fun. We did not hike far but we stayed for hours and the heavy rain never arrived. The second trip, I was hiking alone and covered some other areas of the park I did not get to the first time around. I also repeated some parts because it was hot and dry and I was able to get to different places without worrying about slick surfaces.

The CCC structures are prominent at the trailheads where we started. There are benches, tables, ovens and the famous overlook are all CCC structures.20170304_135240.jpg20170304_134439.jpg20170304_151913.jpg

Even though it was lightly raining there were still people rock climbing and rappelling on the huge rocks everywhere. It is like an adventure park within the state park. Plus there is Lake Mineral Wells for boating and a canoe trail and it also has a sand beach. On the trails it was interesting walking between the large rocks and looking up at how high they were at 90 degree angles from the ground. Also the trees that are growing between the rocks were amazing. The CCC steps to get to the top of the overlook were also  something else. 20170304_135309.jpg20170304_140619.jpg20170304_140444.jpg20170304_143609.jpg20170304_142612.jpg20170304_144234.jpg20170304_144112.jpg

On the warm sunny day I did more of a hike around the lake on the Red Waterfront Trail. The trees were green and the lake was beautiful on the clear day. It was like a whole different park. I did get lost several times in the same place as last time. Going north of the overlook the trail map does not have any marked trails and the trails that are there come and go. I guess we were not to go that far north on the east side of the lake. There are trails on the northwest side of the lake that go to the far north part of the park. I have not been to those trails yet but I need to see more of the park. Maybe next time I will get to that part.20170608_124718.jpg20170608_133718.jpg20170608_132434.jpg20170608_133247.jpg20170608_133237.jpg

I am surprised at all the activities at this park. I am looking forward to going to the others trails I did not get to the first two times. I hope they do the guided tour again because it was supposed to go to places only a park guide can take people.

Next up a Fort Worth hike where I literally come face to face with nature.

McKinney Falls State Park

Tucked away in the southeast corner of Austin, TX, there is a state park that has a bit of hill country mixed with a bit of east Texas. Mckinney Falls has both the unique hill country rock formations and the long relatively flat winding trails of east Texas. As the name suggest is also has some great waterfalls. McKinney Falls State Park has a little something for everybody. If you want to see waterfalls but do not want to hike far, this is the park. If you want to be adventurous and jump off rocks into water, this is the park. If you want to hike relatively flat trails for miles and miles, this is the park. I say relatively flat because you will not be hiking up the side of hills at a very steep incline. You will have some elevation change that will gradually wear on your legs depending how far you hike. The best and worst thing about getting to the falls is that they are very close to the trailhead. The lower falls are so close you can hear them from the parking lot and it is about fifty yards from the trailhead if that far. Plus the lower falls are north of the upper falls. Geographically backwards.

My son and I came here on our way back from the Natural Bridge Caverns in which we ran a 5K that started in the belly of the caverns. I never heard of the park until I saw it on TV about hidden swim spots. The hike was to the Lower Falls and then on to the Homestead Trail.20170205_122610.jpg20170205_132139.jpg20170205_122820.jpg

 

We then did the Picnic Trail and the Rock Shelter Trail. The Rock Shelter Trail had some steep inclines and we ventured a little off trail get to some other sights and had a good adventure on these two short trails.20170205_134121.jpg20170205_134505.jpg20170205_134510.jpg20170205_134555.jpg

We finished this trip with another short hike on the Onion Creek Trail to the Upper Falls. This was quite a surprise. The hike was on dark limestone that looked other worldly. We got by the falls and the water was clear and you could hear the falls in the background. The falls were awesome. We had rain the night before and some of the creek crossings were treacherous but it helped the falls. Both sets of falls are not very high but both are steep and among rock structures that people like to jump off. I really enjoyed the Upper Falls and the surrounding area.20170205_140713.jpg20170205_140539.jpg20170205_140910.jpg20170205_141025.jpg20170205_141154.jpg20170205_141712.jpg20170205_142306.jpg20170205_142626.jpg20170205_142649.jpg

I need to get back to McKinney Falls State Park to finish up some hiking and get better pictures of the scenery.

I think the next couple of blog post brings me back to the Dallas metroplex before heading down to the southern hill country to more places I have never heard but wish I knew about when I was living in San Antonio.

Pedernales Falls State Park Part 2

I was happy to be back at Pedernales Falls State Park. I like a good hike to see waterfalls. The first set was magnificent and I could not wait to see Twin Falls. I was expecting to see a mini version of Gorman Falls by the description and pictures but I wanted to see it in person. The problem with this park is that the trail maps are not accurate. There are many diverging trails not on the trail map and if you follow a trail it might be the one on the map. I had this problem the first trip and again this trip. One of the rangers gave me good directions to the trailhead but once I started to hike the map was useless. The strange thing was that I found Trammell’s Crossing which on the map should be in the sight line of Twin Falls. The good thing about this park is that even if you get lost the park is so picturesque that it does not matter.

I started down the Twin Falls Nature Trail which was less than a half mile long. I quickly realized that this trail was steep in places and had plenty of obstacles, especially if you are tall. I got to Trammell’s Crossing which was under water. I went after a good rain a few days before because I knew I was to see waterfalls for two days. I knew it was Trammell’s Crossing because the water was very clear and you could see the path under the water.20170406_122535.jpg20170406_123016.jpg20170406_123239.jpg20170406_124134.jpg

I looked around for awhile at what I thought was still the trail but it was not I am guessing. I go back the other direction and find that the Pedernales River is flowing good and the sights drew me away from my original destination. I was easily distracted by flowing water. I saw some other unmarked trails and a beach.20170406_124604.jpg20170406_124725.jpg20170406_125346.jpg20170406_125802.jpg20170406_131314.jpg

I did not get to Twin Falls but I had a great hike up and down the Pedernales River. I did have to find a the trail I came down on and that was a problem. I was on some jeep trail and I was guessing where I needed to go back up. I eventually made back up to the trailhead and saw a sign that might have helped out prior to my hike.20170406_133341.jpg

I did not discover the falls but I discover some other amazing views of the Pedernales River. I now need a third visit so I can see Twin Falls.

I think the next blog I will get out of the Austin area and actually go into Austin.

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area Part 2

Enchanted Rock won the first round but I was back for redemption. The wind kept me from starting and getting to the summit of Enchanted Rock. Now, I was too solely focused on summiting Enchanted Rock and I was as not prepared with the knowledge of everything else the park had to offer. The park has a cave system that goes through Enchanted Rock. Moss Lake has a great view to Enchanted Rock. I did get great views of Little Rock and Turkey Peak. I am actually afraid of heights so the descent was scariest part of the summit. The steep decline was something I never had experienced before the summit. I had to convince myself that even though I could see over the edge that there was still ground where I could not see ground. I really liked the hike, the views and a sense of accomplishment. 20170406_092657.jpg20170406_093640.jpg20170406_093719.jpg20170406_094022.jpg20170406_094027.jpg20170406_095152.jpg20170406_094445.jpg

I was hoping for a sign or something that I could pose with to say I made it to the summit. I walked around for awhile and did not find one but I found something better. I found some of the best views from the top of the rock. I took a different path down and I got a better view of how steep the incline was going up the rock.20170406_093216.jpg20170406_093306.jpg

The park is also known for rock climbing and bouldering.  Lastly, I got some good views of Turkey Peak.20170406_100955.jpg20170406_100610.jpg20170406_100907.jpg

Now I know on my third visit I will need to go to Moss Lake, Echo Canyon Trail and Turkey Pass Trail. I have seen so much of the park but there is still so much more of the park I missed. I cannot wait for the part 3 of Enchanted Rock SNA.

The next blog will be the last in the part 2 series and getting lost but in a good way. I seem to get lost a lot.

Inks Lake State Park Part 2

I am back at Inks Lake SP and I have a good game plan this time. I was focused on where I was going and what I wanted to see. I now have experience at this park. I missed the Devil’s Waterhole on my first trip. I made this hike my priority this time. The hike had many surprises and more attractions that were not noted on the trail map. The rock formations and overlooks were very nice. The clear water and waterfalls were a nice scenic surprise. I also had another great stay at the cabins in the state park. 20170405_181737.jpg20170405_181437.jpg20170405_182646.jpg20170405_182427.jpg20170405_183321.jpg20170405_183152.jpg20170405_184923.jpg20170405_183831.jpg20170405_185505.jpg

I really like this park and will visit again. The location is perfect for visiting the state parks and other destinations in the Texas hill country. I will continue with the part 2 theme in my next blog.

Colorado Bend State Park

Colorado Bend State Park is the home of Gorman Falls. The park is located in Bend, TX which is about an hour and forty five minutes northwest of Austin. I have been to five different parks with waterfalls and then I heard about Gorman Falls. A seventy foot multilevel waterfall that will take your breath away. The last large waterfall I tried to go see was dry. Pedernales Falls were very impressive but not as high or as steep as a Gorman type waterfall. I had to go to this waterfall so I planned a two day four park return trip to the Texas hill country. Gorman Falls is not the only grandiose feature of this park. This place has everything from waterfalls, scenic overlooks, caves with bats, vistas, canyons, rock bowls and many other natural features. I could easily spend two days at this park and still not get to every point of interest. I still cannot believe I missed this park in my first visit to the region. The good thing is that I am definitely planning on making a third and fourth visit to the area.

I kept my first trip to Colorado Bend SP fairly simple. I went down to the Colorado River to see the sights from below first.20170405_124148.jpg20170405_124721.jpg

I hiked the Tie Slide Trail and the Gorman Falls Trail. The trails are both fairly challenging trails but both are worth every step. I started with the Tie Slide Trail and the views down into the Colorado River valley were spectacular. There were a few days of rain before the trip so the river had a good flow and the plants were blooming. The detour trail off of this trail leads you to the River Overlook. It was amazing. Here is a not so great video. 20170405_134550.jpg20170405_134311.jpg20170405_134726.jpg20170405_134757.jpg

I could see the top of Gorman Falls from the overlook and I was energized to go down and see the waterfalls. The hike was more technical and very steep in places especially as I got closer to the falls. I could hear the falls and see the tops as I was hiking down into the canyon. The canyon walls were overflowing with water. I cannot explain how the springs were just flowing out of rocks. It was an visually unique natural phenomenon. My pictures did not do it justice and neither did another video.    20170405_142810.jpg20170405_142815.jpg20170405_142859.jpg

I eventually made it to the bottom of Gorman Falls and it was everything I could image and then some. I know there are more spectacular falls in the country but in Texas finding something like this is rare. The falls are so expansive and they seem to be everywhere and the more I looked the more I saw that I did not see minutes prior. I loved the roar of the falls and not many people were there so it was also quite peaceful. My favorite Gorman Falls video. 20170405_143131.jpg20170405_143225.jpg20170405_143220.jpg20170405_143213.jpg20170405_143431.jpg20170405_143358.jpg20170405_144133.jpg

The hike back to the trailhead was a tiring trek mostly all uphill. I was still seeing things I missed on the way down. It is a different view going the opposite direction. I do not always like out and backs but this one was not too bad. I finally saw some people hiking down and when I got to the parking lot it was full.

The next time I visit Colorado Bend SP, I want to hike Spicewood Springs Trail and Spicewood Canyon Trail. I eventually want to go to the bat caves and Tinaja.

Next up is my second trip to Inks Lake SP and I was more prepared.

Huntsville State Park

I finally made it to Huntsville State Park. The park is located about an hour and fifteen minutes due north of Houston, TX. I have been in and through Huntsville several times due to working as part of the Texas Criminal Justice System. I never knew there was a state park in the city. The city is the main hub of Texas’ prison system and there is plenty of wilderness surrounding the city and the prison units. The city is also the location of the Texas Prison Museum and the Sam Houston National Forest. This park is very similar to Tyler State Park. They both have large pine and loblolly trees, a lake in the middle, sand trails and trails that are flat and long not too steep trails. The biggest difference besides Huntsville SP is not a CCC park is that this park has alligators. 19225247_1197364920369444_8649442819603695297_n.jpg

The signs also warn to keep pets close and also small children. I was travelling alone so I just would need to save myself. As for the trails, there are over twenty miles of trails that lead all over the park. I decided to hike the 5K I would be running the next day. The 5K covered several trails including Dogwood Trail, Chinquapin Trail and another no name trail. The trees were tall and the terrain was diverse. I could not believe how green the park was at a dry time of year. 20170617_161700.jpg20170617_163154.jpg20170617_164931.jpg20170617_165139.jpg

I also got a rainforest feel at the park. The trails are along the arms of Lake Raven and even though they do not cross the lake they are close enough to create fauna diversity.20170617_165431.jpg20170617_165320.jpg20170617_165840.jpg20170617_165133.jpg

I had a good time hiking this park and I even came in 3rd in my age group in the 5K. I did not see an alligator but I did get a scare which I caught on video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5TugoKXCXsc

My blogs will be a return to the central Hill Country of Texas. I get a chance to hike four parks in two days and I made the most of my time.