Devil’s Den State Park Part 1

Devil’s Den State Park is located 30 minutes south of Fayetteville. AR. The park is located in the Ozark Mountains but right outside of the Ozark National Forest. I missed the leaves color change by two weeks and most of the leaves have already fallen off the trees. The area was still full of fall colors and leaves falling and branches too. The time of the trip coincided with a 30 degree average drop in temperature. The hike on the Yellow Rock Trail was in freezing temperatures. The temperature was about 29 degrees at the start and the temperature only rose about five degrees. The trails were marked great like all Arkansas SP trails. I took the three mile loop and turned it into a five mile lollipop.  The yellow rock overlook was amazing. The views were spectacular but I could not get great pictures. I was the only one on the trails at the time but the sun was affecting my camera. The fog was cool to see but also affects my pictures. The fog was mostly created by the difference in the air temperature and water temperature. This is also a CCC park and the hike to the lookout had a nice CCC pavilion at the top.  This trail also had some great rock formations lining the trail.20181126_091711.jpg20181126_091942.jpg20181126_095148.jpg20181126_102459.jpgDSC01353.JPG20181126_102916.jpg

This was hike 43 in my 52 Hike Challenge Explorer Series. It was the typical beautiful Arkansas hike that are nothing typical anywhere else.

I realized after writing this I missed hike 42 at Bluff Creek Ranch so I will go in reverse next blog.

Abilene State Park

The main reason I went to this park was to sleep in a yurt. I got a few more surprises. The park is located about 20 minutes south of Abilene. This is a CCC park but I only saw one CCC structure. I did not see the pavilion which is the main CCC attraction. My first surprise was when I was driving my Jeep doing jeep things I was hit by a tree. No worries the tree was not hurt. My Jeep on the other hand did not fair so well.20180817_175252.jpgIt is much worse than it looks in my eyes. The trails were mainly flat and the small pond was not very attractive. A tree was down and blocking a trail so I had to double back. This lead me to surprise number two. I got a great picture of a deer. It just stood there looking at me. They usually run and never get a good picture but this guy wanted his picture taken.20180817_192047.jpgI thought the park would be much more picturesque. Driving to the park from all different directions there are nice views all around the park. I might just have missed to good parts. I did like the red river flowing through the park and the vultures on the water tower. The third surprise was a hog rooting was too close to me. I paused it looked up and snorted. I truly thought I was in huge danger. I have always heard these wild hogs were aggressive and fast. The hog looked about 400 pounds. I was lucky that the hog ran the other way very fast. It was a scary situation.20180817_175603.jpg20180817_193809.jpgDSC01187.JPGDSC01191.JPGDSC01189.JPG

The yurt was nice but that was about it. My west Texas trip is halfway over. Two more state parks to visit. I am excited about the next two. This was hike 35 in my 52 Hike Challenge Explorer Series.

Next up a lake park in the middle of nowhere.

Mount Nebo State Park

This is my third trip back to Arkansas and it was awesome. My first stop was at Mount Nebo State Park. The park is located in Dardanelle, AR which is northwest of Little Rock. The first thing about this park that caught my attention was how steep the road is to get into the park. Hwy 155 is a notable road that is known in the area but not to me. It has several switchbacks but the steepness is what really stood out. I also did not have this park as a must visit park. I was in the area so I decided to check it out. I made the right decision.

I got a map and hiked the Rim Trail. The trail had plenty of great views. I also did a little venture on the Gum Springs Trail. The two of many highlights on the trail were Sunset Point and Lover’s Leap. The views from these overlooks were absolutely spectacular. The other overlooks were great but these two stuck out most for me. The hike was not difficult but scary at times. I was on a thin trail with a cliff on one side and a mountain wall on the other. Plus the thermals on the east side of the mountain were blowing. It was tough to keep balance and fight the wind. I got to see eagles use the thermals to dive and rise through the air. Watching the birds use the thermals was another highlight. 20180511_194340.jpg20180511_185024.jpg20180511_181132.jpgDSC00911.JPGDSC00951.JPGDSC00966.JPG

This was the beginning of an amazing three day trip in Arkansas. I was not too surprised of the beauty of the state parks. I liked seeing a different part of the state. This was also hike 28 of my 52 Hike Challenge Explorer Series.  The start of these 52 hikes have been amazing so far.

Next up is another Arkansas mountain.

Blanco State Park

I was looking at a map of my trip from one state park to another and Blanco State Park pops up as a park I could visit. The park was not out of the way but off the beaten path just a bit. It is located in Blanco, TX which is about an hour north of San Antonio. I was lucky enough to get to drive on HWY 290, 281 and FM 32. I mention these roads because these have some of the most scenic spring time views Texas has to offer. The blooming flowers on 290, the ranch land and small towns on 281 and the canyon views on FM 32. In addition to the three scenic roads previously mentioned, I also drove through Luckenbach and Farm Rd 1623 follows the Blanco River all the way to the park. It was a nice view of the river for miles before going to the park of its namesake.

The park itself is one of the smaller state parks. The trails were well marked and easy to find and follow. They were both out and back trails that stayed along the river. The park seemed like a city park that was converted into a state park by adding cabins. This is a CCC park so the buildings were a pleasure to look at with the rock designs. The park main attraction was a man made damn that doubled as a cool waterfall. I did not get any good pictures because there were always too many people in that area. The hike was easy with few elevation changes. 20180330_115406.jpg20180330_115812.jpgDSC00609.JPGDSC00626.JPGDSC00641.JPGDSC00630.JPGDSC00618.JPG

The whole park experience was a good time. The drive to and from the park and the park itself made the visit worth the travel. This was also hike 22 in my 52 Hike Challenge Explorer Series.

Next up is the BBQ capitol of Texas where I order pizza.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park Day 2

I had an early morning start to day two of my adventures to the Texas canyons. It was 25 degrees when I started my second hike in Palo Duro Canyon. I do believe this was the coldest hike I have done all year. I chose the Lighthouse Trail for this hike. I wanted to see the famous Lighthouse hoodoo in the park. I did not know that there were other trails the also get a good view of the Lighthouse hoodoo and to get a really good up close view of this particular hoodoo I would have to break a rule. The hike was relatively easy and at the time I started I was the only one out on the trail. I do like when the trails are not busy. I get a chance to take all the pictures I want without other people wandering in them and also waiting for other people to take the picture I want to take. It might be selfish but I am OK with it. On the way back I saw a dozen or so people on their way out on the trail. This hike might have been a disappointment if there was not so many picturesque views on the way to the end of the trail.20171220_085511.jpg

As you can see there is more trail behind the “End Of Trail” sign. I really wanted to keep going but the sign must have been there for a reason so I stopped and went back. Little did I know is that if I continued on the trail I would been able to get to the base of the Lighthouse hoodoo. I did end up finding an additional mile of hiking off trail on the way back in a dried up creek bed. The part that made up for the lack of closeness to the Lighthouse hoodoo was how close I could get to the other rock formations and the bright colors of those rocks. I liked being in the canyon as much as being on the rim of the canyon. This place is truly awesome and is one of my favorite places I have ever been. 20171220_092341.jpg20171220_090021.jpg20171220_094854.jpg20171220_095939.jpg20171220_080332.jpg20171220_100138.jpg20171220_081334.jpg

I could spend an entire week here and still not get to all the parts of this park. I do plan on going to the Grand Canyon and if it is more spectacular than this then I will be absolutely amazed.

The next hike is at Caprock Canyon. Another Texas canyon with great sights and maybe some buffalo.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park Day 1

Palo Duro Canyon State Park is located in the Panhandle Region of Texas. It is about thirty minutes south of Amarillo. The Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon in the United States and is a gorgeous sight to see. I loved this place the minute I stepped out of the car. I have never seen anything like this in my life. I love that it has been a year of going to Texas state parks and I can still say I am seeing things that I have never seen previously. We have wanted to go here before as a family but the cabins have always been booked. I finally got a cabin at the park and I could not pass it up. I booked it and off I went. It had been raining most of the drive to the park but I was lucky that most of the rain was out of the park the day before I got there and it did not rain the day I was there. I was hoping for clear skies and cool weather. I was blessed with both on the two days I was hiking. It was a six hour drive with one stop and some of the drive was boring but other parts were scenic. I like going through the small towns I have heard about through high school sports. I hear about a six man football  powerhouse or a 1A basketball team that is undefeated and then I drive through that city, for me it is pretty cool. OK back to Palo Duro Canyon State Park, I did the CCC Trail on this day. The trail goes around the rim of the north end of the canyon and down to the amphitheater and back. I wanted to get started early but I was delayed getting to my cabin and plus the electricity was out at the cabin. I had a portable charger and a flashlight so that would not be a problem but I was not prepared for temperatures in the teens. I knew the cabin had a heater but with no electricity it was going to be cold. Eventually the power was fixed and I did not freeze. The hike was awesome and seeing all the colors of the canyon was mind blowing.  I was so amazed at the layers of rock and how brilliant the colors projected. 20171219_161533.jpg20171219_144219.jpg20171219_172527.jpg20171219_170708.jpg20171219_170359.jpg20171219_162912.jpg20171219_152414.jpg

Once I saw these pictures I knew I needed a better camera than my phone camera. I have a great camera on my phone but I am not good at taking pictures so I need a better point and shoot camera.

This also hike 4 in my 52 Hike Challenge Explorer Series. The first three hikes were in my previous blogs on my second trip to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.

My next blog is day two at Palo Duro Canyon State Park.

2017 My Top 10 Places Hiked

My last blog of the year is a review of the best places I have hiked this year. I was going to do a list of top ten hikes but I could not narrow it down to a good twenty. Plus the order would change as I was thinking about which hike should be placed on the list. I decided on places because it was easier but not easy. The top ten was not too difficult but the order was very hard. I did about 60 hikes this calendar year and they were spread out the entire twelve months. I had to compare the recent fresh in my mind place with a place that was hiked ten to eleven months ago. The ten places I have chosen, I have or will hike multiple times. Two places I have hiked but not blogged about yet. The ten places cover three states, a national park and a wildlife refuge.

10. Cedar Ridge Preserve-Minutes away from home and is one of the most scenic areas in Dallas County. hike2220171124_121348.jpg

9. Hot Springs National Park-This quaint cozy park has some great views. 20171112_103833.jpg20171112_103709.jpg

8. Pedernales Falls State Park-The Texas hill country is all over this list.20170406_131314.jpg20170122_130731.jpg

7. Pinnacle Mountain State Park-The second Arkansas park and a summit hike.20171111_141701.jpg20171111_082716.jpg

6. Enchanted Rock SNA-The park is more than The Rock. Hidden gems everywhere.20170406_092524.jpg20170122_102656.jpg

5. Lost Maples SNA-A nature made amphitheater with great trees, waterfalls and views.20170711_182026.jpg20170712_160931.jpg

4. Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge-This place has everything. Summits and waterfalls.20171208_162255.jpg20171001_111717.jpg

3. Caprock Canyon State Park-Home of the official bison herd of Texas. Plus canyon views.20171220_124508.jpg20171220_122602.jpg

2. Colorado Bend State Park-Gorman Falls is amazing but that is just the start.20170405_143431.jpg20170405_134311.jpg

1. Palo Duro Canyon State Park-The second largest canyon in the USA.20171220_082257.jpg20171219_144321.jpg

These top ten places that I have hiked in 2017 maed this a memorable and fantastic year. Next year I hope to have a totally different list of places.