Natural Bridge Caverns Trail Run

The race takes place at the Natural Bridge Caverns in New Braunfels, Tx which is about twenty minutes north of San Antonio. The race is touted as the only trail race in the world to start in a cave. The caverns are the largest series of caverns in the state of Texas. The race is a Redemption Race Production and they mostly do triathlons but also a few trail runs. We did the 5K with sights of moving up distances later in the year. Since they start the race below ground they had several corrals and also a staggered start. My biggest problem with corrals is that people lie or they do not know there trail mile pace. My son went to the first corral which was the seven to nine minute pace runners. I passed a few of the people in that corral. I went to the front of the eleven to thirteen minute per mile corral. I had too many walkers in my corral, I am not fast but I have a sense of competition. I want to run the the best time I can possibly run without being caught behind walkers. This is not a usual problem with trail runs but roadrunners are notorious for this. The course was odd but very cool. Starting in a cavern was visually impressive. I liked the staggered start because it gives you time take in the sights and spreads out the different paces. The odd part of the course was it was uphill for two miles of the three point one miles. Starting under ground I understand that you must climb uphill just to get to the surface but once you hit sun light you run up another hill. The course flattens a bit then another long hill. The last mile is all downhill. The course was not technical and was on jeep trail and gravel. There was not many turns and it was a simple course. Dade won his age group and was the third overall male. I was fifth in my age group with a time of 37:55. I was surprised at my relatively fast time and I felt good running. My road running time for a 5K at the time was right around 30 flat. The after party was nice also. We had breakfast sausage tacos and cookies and chips. The shirt and medal were nice also. The finishing medal was unique geode slice.20170205_082356.jpg20170205_082406.jpgDade in the cave.jpg20170205_082507.jpgDade braceless.jpgStill uphill.jpgSmiling in the cave.jpg20170205_095127.jpgDade award.jpg

I really enjoyed this 5K. It was a really fun event and a must do again. I would like to see what the longer courses look like because they are suppose to be more technical with another crazy hill thrown in.

The next trail race was in west Texas. This is also a place I got to do some hiking before the race. I got to do this four times this year so far.

Horseshoe Trail Run

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.20170121_074241.jpg16300031_1921559558078668_3801646537308089467_o.jpg16423090_1921558534745437_1719000361527940919_o.jpg20170121_092811

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

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.

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.

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.

Stephen F. Austin State Park

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.20170324_174715.jpg20170324_175317.jpg20170324_175924.jpg

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.20170324_173405.jpg20170324_172730.jpg20170324_180055.jpg

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. 20170324_175027.jpg20170324_175109.jpg20170324_175049.jpg20170324_175850.jpg

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.

 

San Angelo State Park

I never heard of this park until a few months prior to hiking here my daughter had a softball tournament in San Angelo. At the time I wanted to go hiking through the park but the way the games were set up I never got a chance. The area and parts of the city made me want to go back to the park and see what it had to offer. I then saw a 5K trail run taking place inside the park and I signed up. I could now see the park and also get a trail race. San Angelo is about four and a half hours west south west of the DFW metroplex. The park boast longhorns, rattlesnakes and mountain views. I got to see two of the three thankfully the less poisonous of the three. The trail map does not do the park justice and the entire park is a scenic vista. The park is also located on O.C. Fisher Lake. My hike started at the scenic overlook on the south side of the park and then on to Burket Trail.20170310_165558.jpg20170310_181956.jpg20170310_154105.jpg

On the Burket Trail you get a good view of cactus and the red dirt trails. The trail has a several different surfaces which makes it a visually spectacular hike.20170310_173131.jpg20170310_172921.jpg20170310_171052.jpg20170310_173628.jpg

I had some daylight left so I hiked one more trail. I went to the Tasajillo Flats Trail and saw a wonderful sunset over the west Texas desert and mountains. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CVQxPI_1py8&t=28s20170310_183710.jpg20170310_184114.jpg20170310_183921.jpg

I had a great time hiking in the evening and then had an early morning 5K trail run. I had my best time of the year and got another view of the park from the north side. The pictures at that part of the park did not come out but trust me there are some pictures of a mountain range in the distance.

The next park is in the Houston area and it was used as a camping area for another trail race I had the next day. The park follows the trends of I have never heard of the park before and a park I have a trail run.