My first trail run of 2017 was in Hitchcock, TX at Jack Brooks Park. The race was the Horseshoe Trail Run 5K. Hitchcock is about forty five minutes south southeast of Houston. The race was put on by Trail Racing Over Texas which does many races all across the state. The course was not in good shape and it was basically a mud run. It was raining most of the previous day and then poured all night. The day of the race it did not rain and was really nice and sunny the rest of the day. The morning of the race while running was humid and misty. I have not done many trail races before but I do all my road running training on trails. I was not ready for what this course had to offer. Mud hills in which a human chain was made just to get up to the top, water up to my knees and having to hold onto trees just to get up other mud hills. I am really not interested in OCR or mud runs so this was not one of my favorite runs while running. After the race I was excited to finish and I kind of liked the race. My finishing time was over 1 hour and 30 minutes but that is a true anomaly of a finishing time. I also had my son with me and he also had a good time at the race and his time was about fifteen minutes slower than his usual time on a trail 5K.
My socks were white when I started and the bottom of my shorts are wet due to running in high water.
The next trail race was the most unique trail race I have ever done and will do.
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.
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.
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.
I will get to the recurring themes, first I have never heard of this park until I signed up for the trail race. Secondly, this is the second of many state parks that I have and will do trail races. Stephen F. Austin State Park is located in San Felipe, TX, which is about and hour west of Houston. I will start by saying the features of the park are not as scenic or extravagant as some other parks. I can easily say the best thing about this park are the people that work in the park. The park staff is by far the best group of people you will ever meet. They are passionate about their park and the people who visit. They are extremely friendly and helpful. They are just a great group of people. As for the park, do not get me wrong, the place is nice. The Brazos River runs along the park boundary. There is a golf course in the park which was the first time I have seen that at a park. The trees are tall and full of moss. The moss was an interesting sight. I have never seen anything like it. I really do not like to touch the plants around but the moss captured my eye. It was soft to the touch even though most plants in Texas that look like moss are rough to the touch.
The trails were very well maintained and well marked. The trail map was accurate and easy to follow. The trail did have one little block though.
The hike to the river overlook was nice and an off shoot trail that lead down to the river was also a nice surprise. The trails were relatively flat with not much elevation change but enjoyable nonetheless. The park was really different to the previous parks I have visited. I could see the difference in the parks located in North Texas, West Texas and the Hill Country.
The video depicts how high the overlook is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWeKRUxhhAY
Lastly, I stayed at a screened shelter at the park and the weather was hit or miss with what I thought was just heavy rain. I heard sirens and I was thinking well this is not going to be good. The park ranger informed those who could possibly be affected by the weather that we were under a tornado warning. As I scrambled to get my phone to find out which was worse a tornado watch or warning I realized I did not have cell service. I survived the scare and we did not get a drop of water. I enjoyed my time at the park and if I am in the area I will definitely return.
Next up is my first trip to east Texas. I had an amazing time at the next park. It was surprisingly one of my favorite parks so far.