Arbor Hills Nature Preserve

This park is located on the west side of the city of Plano, TX. Arbor Hills Nature Preserve is a very nice city park. The park is clean and the the trails are well maintained. There is a mix of concrete and natural trails. I always prefer the nature trails. The park has a little of everything. There is an overlook in the middle of the park, a large creeks and two ponds. Most of the trails have good elevation change and good views. This has been one of my favorite city parks. I hiked on the Outer Loop Trail, Pond Trail and Prairie Trail along with two other trails on the north side of the park. The park is surrounded by houses and apartments and that is abundantly clear when hiking the perimeter but it still does not take away from the serenity of the park. There are several creek crossings on nice bridges. The park has a seperate mountain bike area which is nice when the bikers and hikers/walkers are not mixed. This will be a good to trail run or road run depending on if rain washes out the trails. DSC00202.JPGDSC00203.JPGDSC00226.JPGDSC00229.JPGDSC00210.JPGDSC00205.JPG

I really like this park and will definitely be back for a run or another hike. Along with Cedar Ridge Preserve, I would definitely recommend Arbor Hills Nature Preserve for a day hike if you are in the area. This was hike 12 in the 52 Hike Challenge Explorer Series.

I have one more city park before the four state parks I have my eyes on.

Hot Springs National Park

Hot Springs National Park located in Hot Springs, AR. I have heard good and bad about this park. I saw both while at the park. It was weird going to a national park in the downtown of a midsize city.  I did not like the heavy city traffic and their was no easy way to get to the visitor center. The parking situation was interesting at best. The best entrance I found was at the Gulpha Gorge campground. It was also where I parked because of a road closure and I did not want to park in the city. The trails were great and clearly marked. As previously stated, it would be hard to get lost on these Arkansas trails. They are more clearly marked than the state park trails. The signs on the trails give you distance and direction. This was also a special hike since it was my 52nd hike of the 52 Hike Challenge. It might not have been a summit or a waterfall hike but it some majestic views.

The majority of my hike was on Goat Rock Trail and Hot Springs Mountain Trail. The trails have a good bit of elevation change and good views. As it has been noted in my previous blogs about this trip, the trees that make the hike great also create obstructed views. 20171112_102748.jpg20171112_101958.jpg20171112_110836.jpg20171112_112144.jpg20171112_103931.jpg20171112_103831.jpg

I am going to have to reblog this hike as a picture only hike soon. I am having technical difficulties. Nevermind I got it down.

I am going back to trail running for the next blog.

 

 

Possum Kingdom State Park

Possum Kingdom State Park is located about two and a half hours west of Dallas. This is another CCC park as it is displayed with the rock entrance sign. I have heard so many great things about Possum Kingdom Lake so I thought all the scenic areas could be accessed through the park. I hate to say that the so called best parts of the lake are not part of the state park and those areas are privately owned or at other parks. Most of the parks activities are centered around the lake and rightfully so. But I am here for the hiking, so I did not partake in the lake activities. This park is not as big as the average state park but trails had some very challenging spots. The park only has three somewhat marked trails for a total of two and a quarter mile. Of course I got lost because of the somewhat to the not so marked trail and added almost an extra mile and half. I also had to do some backtracking on another trail. The trails might be lacking in length but they make up for it in difficulty. Two of three trails are rated challenging. The trails have some steep inclines. There are three overlooks but only two are on the trail map.

I started at the Chaparral Ridge Trail which lead to the first overlook after a steep up hill hike. I was on and off this trail for quite awhile due to the lack of trail markings. I then went to the Lakeview Trail and onto to the Longhorn Trail. The Longhorn Trail also had an overlook of the lake. I backtracked on the Longhorn Trail and reconnected with the Lakeview trail and finished the loop.20170809_120000.jpg20170809_115700.jpg20170809_120004.jpg20170809_122332.jpg20170809_123808.jpg20170809_130211.jpg20170809_130834.jpg20170809_132134.jpg20170809_135112.jpg20170809_132147.jpg

The park is very nice and especially nice if you are a lake person. I am not but still enjoyed myself at the park. I am a fan of steep trails hikes that are hikeable. I am getting use to trails that turn from hikes into rock climbing but here it was just steep hikes.

Next blog takes me out of state on a two day twenty plus mile adventure that tested how far my legs could carry me.

Garner State Park

Garner State Park was the park I looking forward the most to do some hiking. I had such a good time at the other two parks, this park did not get as much time as I planned. The park is located about an hour and a half west of San Antonio. This park is the gem of the south Texas hill country. Garner State Park is the most visited park in the state of Texas. It has so many different activities that it puts hiking on somewhat of the backburner. I even spent more time in the Frio River than on the trails. There are places in the park that are visually spectacular. The river is great and Old Baldy was very nice to see. I did not make it to Crystal Cave but the Painted Rock Overlook was awesome. I had about an hour and a half the entire vacation to hike this park so I had to decide what I wanted to see the most. The problem with trying to see everything is that I saw nothing. The nothing I saw was special nothing but not as much as I wanted.

I decided to hike to the Painted Rock Overlook and Crystal Cave and skip the summit hike on Old Baldy. I also had to pass up all of the backcountry trails. I did get to the Painted Rock Overlook but made a bad decision to back track instead of finishing the loop to Crystal Cave. I tried to go a different direction and ran out of daylight.20170712_183146.jpg20170712_183759.jpg20170712_183637.jpg20170710_121849.jpg20170710_153039.jpg20170710_121853.jpg

I do not think that I had enough time at the park. I know there is much more to the park in the area of hiking. I put family time first and it was worth every second but next time we will do more exploring.

Next time is a revisit to Lost Maples SNA. We took a scenic drive that was terrifying.

Hill Country State Natural Area

The park is huge. The park is located about 45 minutes west of San Antonio. Hill Country SNA has over 40 miles of hiking trails. The funny thing is that there are not many activities to be had at the park. The trails more than make up for the lack of diversity within the park. I truly had one of my most challenging and enjoyable hikes. We got to the summit of the west peak of the Twin Peaks. My hiking partner was my son Dade. I got him up early and interrupted his vacation to do this hike. We had a very good time and he enjoyed the hard work it took to get to the summit. The views were exceptional and breathtaking. Once again, I did not know anything about this park and I wish I more days to see the other parts. There are two more areas in the park I want to hike.

We started on the Merrick Mile Trail and then went straight up on the West Peak Overlook Trail. The West Peak Overlook Trail, is a trail I will recommend to everybody who has a chance to hike in the Texas hill country,20170712_084118.jpg20170712_084204.jpg20170712_084517.jpg

The above peak on the left is where we finished this summit hike. The hike was also very scenic as it lead us on the side of the west peak. 20170712_090743.jpg20170712_085950.jpg20170712_091230.jpg20170712_091619.jpg20170712_091348.jpg20170712_092218.jpg20170712_092155.jpg20170712_081658.jpg

We had a great hike. I know they have some trail races out here and I am going to do one just to see more of this park.

The next park is a park I did the most research on and was really excited to hike. My hike there was cut short because the park was overcrowded and I decided to go back to Lost Maples for a second hike.

Lost Maples State Natural Area

Let me start out by saying wow. Of the three state parks in the area around Utopia, TX, this was the park I had the least interest. Lost Maples State Natural Area is ten minutes north of Utopia in Vanderpool, TX. The park is about an hour and ten minutes west of San Antonio. I took the short drive up Ranch Rd 187 to find the most beautiful park in the state of Texas. It is just my opinion but this place is awesome. I mentioned the road I took because the next time I went back I took the scenic highway. I will get into my fears of scenic highways next time I blog about Lost Maples SNA. Since this was not the main park attraction in the area I did not fully do my research. If I did I would have been at this park the entire vacation. The park has everything a hiker could enjoy. If you like waterfalls. It has them. What about steep climbs with majestic views? This is the place. Also do not miss out on the ponds, rivers and crazy rock formations. Did I mention the trail along the 2200 foot cliff? It is there. The park is a 3 on the Bortle dark sky scale. The scale number and scale is all good but it means you can see the Milky Way on a clear night. Unfortunately, I found this out way too late and when the vacation was over there was a post of the Milky Way from the park the day after I hiked the park. The trees at the park are amazing and the park has a foliage report showing the leaves changing color. Words cannot describe all I saw and want to see more of. The park only has ten miles of trail but it packs a ton of features in those trails.

I did the East-West Trail to the East Trail to the two overlooks and backtracked the East Trail. My plan was also to go to the West Trail but I got Mike Tyson’d. I had a plan until the hike punched me in the mouth in the form of time. I thought I was just going to speed hike most of the trail but there was to many picture moments to pass up.20170711_171927.jpg20170711_170524.jpg20170711_172655.jpg20170711_172418.jpg20170711_174121.jpg20170711_182554.jpg20170711_182026.jpg20170711_184637.jpg20170711_184347.jpg20170711_185123.jpg20170711_185240.jpg20170711_190837.jpg20170711_191308.jpg

I did not realize how many selfies I took on this first trip. I do not take many selfies because the places are more attractive than my mean mug on camera. The park trail map has six points of interest and I only made it to two. The trail map does not have the two sets of two waterfalls as points of interest. It also does not have the pond with crystal clear water as a point of interest. Also met some people on the trail that said the West Trail has at least two more points of interest that are not mentioned on the trail map. I will definitely be back here several more times.

The next blog is about another park I have never heard of but also was surprisingly great.

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.