2017 Top Ten Hikes

This list will consist of only hikes I have done this year. I will also bore followers with an all time list at the end of the year because I have one more trip planned this year. Next year I will be doing less hiking and more trail running trying to move up to the 20K and 25K distances at some time next year. This year was my most active year hiking ever. I have hiked over twenty state parks and a handful of other parks. I really want to finish the 52 Hike Challenge within the year and I am on pace to finish early. I have completed 48 hikes this year and I have two months to get four more hikes done. The majority of my hikes have been in Texas but I did get into Oklahoma for a weekend of hiking. I had adventures in the high hills of central Texas. I was blessed to see all different parts of Texas from the piney woods to the hill country and also the west Texas desert and the great plains. I had a difficult time narrowing it down to ten hikes and it might change depending on the day but here it goes:

10. Tyler State Park, Whispering Pines Trail-This really short trail was visually electric.20170222_102938_001.jpg

9. Lake Mineral Wells State Park, Penitentiary Hollow-Not really a trail but it a rock climbers paradise with bouldering and lake views mixed in.20170304_135240.jpg

8. Pedernales Falls State Park, Pedernales Falls Trail System-it is as long as you want it be but you must go down to the falls for a spectacular view of the water.20170122_133632.jpg

7. Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, Kite Trail-bouldering over mini waterfalls, what more can I say.20170930_173833.jpg

6. Enchanted Rock SNA, Summit Trail-I felt very accomplished summiting The Rock.20170406_095152.jpg

5. Inks Lake State Park, Devil’s Waterhole Nature Trail/Valley Spring Creek Trail-This combination of trails is the hidden gem of Texas.20170405_183904.jpg

4. Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, Little Baldy Mountain Trail-Another summit but this one combined hiking and rock climbing.20170930_183728.jpg

3. Lost Maples SNA, East-West Trail/East Trail-one of the toughest uphill hikes I had before #2 on this list but worth every step.20170711_180348.jpg

2. Hill Country SNA, Merrick Mile Trail/West Peak Overlook Trail-this was a great hike with better views. I later found out of a similar hike with even better views, need to see to believe. 20170712_092155.jpg

  1. Colorado Bend State Park, Gorman Falls Trail-I was just so amazed at these falls.20170405_143220.jpg So there is the 2017 top ten as of today. I could have easily expanded to a top twenty. I have enjoyed my hikes this year so far and am looking forward to my next set of hikes and hopefully they can crack this list.

The blog will be about trail running. The trail runs and hikes have gone hand in hand on many occasions. I like going to trail races just to hike the park at times.

Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge

I finally made it to the Fort Worth Nature Center. I have wanted to hike here for years. It is located on the the far northwest part of Fort Worth, TX. I also have wanted to do a 5K out here and run with the bison. The bison herd was one of the major reasons I wanted to hike at the nature center. The good thing about trail running and doing the 52 Hike Challenge is that it gets me to places I have wanted to go. They also have a prairie dog town. I was very disappointed that I did not see any bison or prairie dogs the day I hiked. I did see some bison chips that were huge but I will not blog about that crap. The hike was relatively flat with some steep areas if you are looking for some elevation change. I had to find the trails that had some overlooks and the views were amazing. I found that most of the trails were flat and by the Trinity River and Lake Worth.

I started my hike in the area between the Bison range and prairie dog town on the Prairie Trail. It was well marked and aptly named because it ran through the flat prairie part of the refuge.20170621_155328.jpg20170621_150234.jpg20170621_150518.jpg

The trail lead to the Hardwicke Interpretive Visitor Center which was much needed because I lost my map and was lost for awhile. I replaced my map then had some nice views overlooking the refuge on the Caprock Trail. I liked this trail for the change of elevation and the views.20170621_151220.jpg20170621_151242.jpg20170621_153804.jpg20170621_153802.jpg20170621_154241.jpg

I then ventured on the Riverbottom and Deer Mouse Trails and literally ran into some deer. What I missed seeing bison and prairie dogs, the deer crossing made up for it. The trails ran along side of the Trinity River then back up to the prairie lands. 20170621_152125.jpg20170621_151805.jpg20170621_153549.jpg

I finished my day on the Greer Island/Margaret Parker Memorial Trails. I found this trail interesting due to the fact that it was a land trail to an island. The trail is about six to eight feet wide with Lake Worth on either side of the trail. It is like a natural boardwalk leading to large body of land. 20170621_162140.jpg20170621_163856.jpg20170621_162005.jpg20170621_163258.jpg20170621_163228.jpg20170621_163804_001.jpg

I had a good time on my short trip to the Fort Worth Nature Center. The trails were diverse and I saw very few people so it was peaceful. I hope the next time I am out there I get a chance to see some bison and prairie dogs.

My next blog I will make a long five minute trip across the street with a new hiking partner. Let the silliness begin.

Fairfield Lake, Fort Boggy and Fort Parker State Parks

I have decided to put these three state parks in one post. As a hiker, I see these parks as all the same. I know there are other things to do in these parks but for me it is hiking only. The other activities to do on the lakes might set these parks apart or the size of each park or even the historical relevance of each park might make a big difference but the hikes were all very similar. These are all part of the east Texas parks I mentioned in the Tyler State Park blog. The trails were well marked and clearly defined. Fort Parker even had mile markers on the the trail I hiked. Fairfield Lake was the most difficult due to the lack of markings because once you are on the trail it is the only trail around. Fort Boggy park is so small the trail was easy to navigate because you can see across the park.

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I will start with Fairfield Lake State Park located in Fairfield. TX which is located about an hour and a half south southeast of Dallas. The park partially surrounds Fairfield Lake on the south side. I hiked the Nature Trail and the Scenic Loop, basically because of the names. I knew nothing about this park and was on the way to a different park so I just decided to stop by and get a hike. The hike lead me to the lake and through multiple types of trees and plants. I also hiked over sand and red dirt. I am finding that many east Texas parks have sand in the middle parts of the park.20170618_131435.jpg20170618_131832.jpg20170618_133523.jpg20170618_133924.jpg20170618_135217.jpg20170618_132000.jpg

The trails were mostly flat with a few quick up and downs. It was an easy hike. The biggest difficulty was getting away from all the bugs on the hot and humid day. It was a very relaxing stress free hike overlooking a lake and under tall trees.20170618_111809.jpg

Next up is Fort Boggy State Park, it is a very small park. The park is located in Centerville, TX which is about two hours south southeast of Dallas. The park surrounds a 15 acre lake and is nestled up against I45. You can hear cars and trucks roll by on the highway. The park only has 3.5 miles of trails but they made the most of them. Lake Trail circles the lake and the other trail goes around the untouched nature part of the park. I had a good talk with the park ranger. The park has been opened then closed several times over the past ten years and now with cabins it has a steady income to stay open. I took the Lake Trail but had a problem because it was flooded and impassable.  I had to backtrack after almost completing the trail. I found it hard to believe it was flooded because we had not had much rain the past few weeks. The park will be a great place to stay if you are driving across Texas and need a peaceful break. Lastly even though it was not mentioned as a CCC park it did have a rock pavilion.20170618_113649.jpg20170618_113728.jpg20170618_114614.jpg20170618_114951.jpg20170618_115425.jpg

The park is a really nice little park. It is another park I had never heard of but it was along the highway and I decided to swing by for the pleasant surprise. I give credit to 52 Hike Challenge for me visiting these three parks. I want to get all my hikes in this year and the bonus is going places that I would not normally go.20170617_115441.jpg

Last but not least, is Fort Parker State Park. The park is located in Mexia, TX which is about an hour and half due south of Dallas. This is the park that is rich in history. As the park title might suggest, it was a site of a fort for settlers on the area. They have a replica of Fort Parker near the the park but I was here to get to the scenic overlook. Once again the trails were well marked but I had to find the trail first. The trail I hiked starts inside the park but you have to drive back outside of the park to get to the trailhead. I chose Baines Creek Trail for two reasons. The first is that it was the most difficult trail relatively speaking. Secondly it had a scenic overlook in the middle. I also had never heard of this park but it was on the way to a park destination. Plus it was near the previous two parks and I could get some hiking in before my last park destination. I was a little disappointed at the scenic overlook but I found a rock overhang that made up for the overlook. I also had to fight off the bugs as it was another hot and humid day.20170617_123904.jpg20170617_124545.jpg20170617_125109.jpg20170617_130444.jpg20170617_131033.jpg20170617_130230.jpg

I think this park has much more to it because it was packed when I visited unlike the other two parks. Fort Parker Lake has a paddling trail and is also a CCC park. The part of the park I missed was the limestone bluffs on the north side of the park. I will have to return to see those bluffs. I did get a video of the cave and why I think a little rain would have made this trail better.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHLGIS-BjmI

I referred to a park I was going to when I made the detour to these parks. I will get to that park in the next blog. I will give you a hint of where I went-alligators, prison and running.

Mother Neff State Park

I was suppose to go to this state park for my First Day Hike but it was raining so I thought it was cancelled. The hike went on and it had over 100 people. I was suppose to start my 52 Hike Challenge at this park. The park is located in Moody, TX which is about forty minutes south west of Waco. The park has everything I liked from the previous parks I visited except a waterfall. The park map was not the best but the park is a must visit for Texas State Park lovers. It has wildlife, ponds, CCC structures and some good elevation change trails. The park entrance and headquarters are new and they look good. It is hard to explain why I like this park so much but I just like it. I started out in this prairie land to the first pond. The pond had clear water and a bird watch.20170315_133920.jpg20170315_133941.jpg20170315_132808.jpg

After a long hike in the plains, I get to the rocky single track trail with some elevation change. The trail leads to many of the other scenic spots in the park.20170315_135103.jpg20170315_135515.jpg

This trail lead to the Wash Pond. The pond is small but the glassy top was a pleasant surprise.20170315_135638.jpg20170315_135854.jpg

As I continued on the trail, I knew I was headed to the cave like rock formations in the park. This was also the most challenging part of the hike. The term challenging being relative to this trail. The trail system in the park is mostly flat but as I stated previously it has some good elevation change.20170315_140920.jpg20170315_141224.jpg20170315_140924.jpg20170315_141355.jpg

I just had to backtrack for a while then continued on the trail to another park favorite, the Rock Tower. This is a CCC structure that overlooks the park and surrounding countryside. It is a must for all those that visit to go up those stairs and see the view.20170315_142300.jpg20170315_142135.jpg20170315_142345.jpg20170315_142510.jpg

I thought I was done seeing all the park had to offer so I was heading out. I literally ran into three of the biggest deer I have ever seen and they scared the crap out of me. I tried a different and more creative way back the the parking lot and got lost in the prairie area. It all started to look alike. I got a video of of cow crossing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5k5EHbLxCgY and that was another what the heck moment. Adios till next time.20170315_152010.jpg

Next up is an adventure in the Texas desert.

 

Pedernales Falls State Park

Pedernales Falls State Park is a well known state park in Johnson City, TX which is about forty five minutes to an hour west of Austin. This was a “bucket list” hike for me for the 52 Hike Challenge. I wanted to go to this place ever since I heard about it. This was the destination of the trip I was most excited about. I had very high expectations of this park and it did not disappoint. The only negative was not really a negative but the trails leading to the falls were not marked at all but there were so many ways to get to the falls it was not a problem. It took me about a half of mile to realize that I could get to the falls at any one of the unmarked paths to the falls. Once again the wind was extremely gusty but since the hike was in a valley it did not affect the hike. Another windy video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-WjnGUXxyeg The falls were flowing pretty good even though there was not much rain the prior week. The bottom level had a sandy beach and long narrow falls.20170122_13092720170122_13110720170122_131154

The water was very clear. I was surprised by the clarity of the water. It looked downright drinkable. The clear water exposed the different levels and layers of rocks below the surface.

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I trekked up the next two levels of the falls and found a rock beach and steeper falls and the water was rushing down at a good pace. This part of the falls was awesome, it was so exciting getting up close and personal to the water. The sounds of the roaring waterfalls and the wind was an epic soundtrack to the views.20170122_133637.jpg20170122_133635.jpg20170122_13343320170122_133604

Seeing these falls made this trip well worth the travel.20170122_133632.jpg20170122_133720

This was an awesome two day trip to the hill country. I made plans to return and have already returned for another two day that also included another state park. I was just so impressed of what the Texas State Parks have to offer. I was absolutely speechless after this trip. My next trip was up to the northern part of the hill country at a park I have wanted to see but got rained out the first time around.

 

Lake Whitney State Park

Next up was a guided nature hike at Lake Whitney State Park in Whitney, TX.  Whitney is about and hour south of the DFW metroplex. The hike was early morning and I thought there would be a hand full people like the last two guided hikes. I was wrong. I had never heard of this park prior to going on this hike and I guess not many people know about this park also. On the hike it was the guide, my son and myself. The guided part of the hike was not very interesting. The guide was nice and very knowledgeable but she did not have much to work with at this time of year. She did say that you can hunt at the Texas State Parks which I did not know and you can fish without a permit also.20170211_095228.jpg20170211_102553.jpg20170211_102817.jpg

Yes there were two bridges and a lake but not really anything that was eye popping. The second part of the hike in which we did without the guide was more scenic. We were closer to the lake and walked on a red dirt beach. We saw some deer tracks on the sand beach and about 30 ducks in the lake. This should have been the part of the park that had a guided tour. The park only has two trails and second one had more to offer. I wanted to see and old Native American settlement but of course I misread a map and found a trail but not the settlement. If I am in the area again I will go back to the park and find that settlement and hike around the lake again.20170211_110602.jpg20170211_111751.jpg20170211_111839.jpg

This was the best part of the park. I liked the hike and the beach. The hike was flat but you could tell that there were plenty of deer and other wildlife. I still prefer a hike with elevation change or something new to see. We did go to another park after this one since the hike started early.

 

Meridian State Park

The next hike was at Meridian State Park. I am getting to these parks as part of the 52 Hike Challenge so there are a bunch of parks I would not consider visiting or even heard of before I started the challenge.  I also choose some guided hikes because I did not know much about the parks or the park system. These little known parks are very nice but do not get publicized because they do have the huge destination within the park. This park, by the way, is located in Meridian, TX which is about an hour and forty minutes southwest of the DFW metroplex. I have never heard of this park but it was in close driving distance, had a guided tour and it had a place called Bee Ledge. It is a naturally occurring rock formation lookout shaped like a  sideways halfpipe. I have seen others since this hike but this was my first time seeing something like this rock. I also realized this was a Civilian Conservation Corps park, which is another new thing I learned on this hike. It was a guided hike so I was given a lot of information on the hike. I am not going to go into the history of the CCC but they built stone structures at these CCC parks and the structures lasted for a very long time and have a distinct look.20170128_093332.jpg

This is one of the CCC buildings we saw and the next is a CCC bridge.20170128_100857(0).jpg

The use of the rocks is a recurring feature of CCC parks. I came for the Bee Ledge but seeing the CCC structures were a nice surprise. Also Lake Meridian was a nice picturesque lake.20170128_111637.jpg

The hike was not flat either it had some very steep inclines and rugged terrain that made the hike more challenging.20170128_110038.jpg20170128_110325.jpg

Then you throw in a river crossing or two and you have a complete hike. We also saw wildlife and a tree cut down by a beaver.20170128_105220.jpg20170128_105439.jpg

Now what I came for was not disappointing. The Bee Ledge was an awesome sight and thrown into the mix of sights to see was a tree growing horizontally out of these limestone rock ledges.20170128_102903.jpg20170128_103329.jpg20170128_103344.jpg20170128_104051.jpg

We stayed on the Bosque Hiking Trail for the entire trek but there was another unmarked trail near the dam. The ranger said that they are going to have that trail completed at sometime and it leads to dinosaur tracks and other wildlife viewings.20170128_114851.jpg20170128_114856.jpg

I really enjoyed this hike and will definitely be back when the last trail section is open for hiking. It was a good experience being on a guided hike again. I am finding that the Texas state parks have many guided hikes at the beginning of the year and into spring which is nice but as I hike more the self guided hikes are a bit more fun.