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.

Elk Mountain Wichita Mountains

This was definitely one of my favorites hikes of the year. I had a second chance to hike Elk Mountain and I made the most of it. The summit of Elk Mountain was spectacular. It was a freezing morning when I started hiking but warmed up near the top. It was great to have the summit to myself.  The chance to take in my surroundings in peace was awesome. The views from the top were incredible. It was cold and windy but that did not bother me at all, just being at the summit was enjoyable. After several minutes of picture taking and wandering around the summit I headed back down to the trail head. The biggest problem is that the trail is not marked so I got lost on the way down several times. I was blessed to find a hiking buddy with a GPS app that was working on the way down but we still got off trail twice. The trip down was an extra three quarters of a mile of pleasant views. This is a good starter summit hike for hikers. It is definitely not easy but not too hard. You will have to do some bouldering but nothing too difficult. It was a nice hike on a cold clear day.20171209_082322.jpg20171209_083039.jpg20171209_085244.jpg20171209_085830.jpg20171209_085622.jpg20171209_090924.jpg20171209_090817.jpg

I absolutely loved this hike and will definitely do it again. The entire wildlife refuge is beautiful and the summit of Elk Mountain gives a great view of some of it.

The next blog is my last hike in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge and a waterfall hike.

The Mammoth 10K

 

The Mammoth 5K was my first trail race last year. I had a great time camping and hiking  at Dinosaur Valley SP and running the race the next morning. I decided not to camp out this year and run the 10K. The course was tough. I knew from last year the course would be difficult but the 10K course was more than twice as hard. The course climbed the steep trail that leads to the summit of the park. I ran this trail at my last race here but that was part of a 5K and the rest of that race was downhill. This time after the hill the race was only a quarter the done. The course then went down and back up to the second highest point in the park. The course seemed longer than 10K but it had some very serene parts. The long scenic parts allowed me to get a steady pace for awhile. My time of 1:32:07 put me in the top half overall but only in the top two thirds of all males. IMG_21571.jpg22791979_723111514560647_1938614310425051603_o.jpgIMG_21591.jpg22712615_723111544560644_6197470883484751293_o.jpgIMG_21601.jpg

I will be doing the 15K next year. I really like being at this park for both hiking and running. This was also my last trail 10K this year. I have two more trail runs left this year.

My next next race is the final race of the Huaco Cuatro.

Jurassic 5K Trail Run

This is my third Xterra trail race and my third third place finish. This is also my third trip to Dinosaur Valley SP. It is also my second of three night trail races sort of. I will get to that in a future blog. The pattern of three was interesting but just a sidebar. I had done a few road 10Ks prior to this run. The distance did not bother me but the course was brutal. This is my second race here and this course was more difficult and it took me five minutes longer than my first trail 5K at the park. This course lead the runners to the top of park and on the steepest trail in the park. The first mile was basically straight up hill with a few flat breaks. We were literally going uphill with hands on the ground. The rest of the course was downhill but very technical and very dark.  The single track downhill was also on the side of cliffs, so falling off of one of those kept my pace slower than normal. My time of 47:04 was not too bad considering the conditions. It was also a hot and humid Texas July night.20170708_194715(0).jpg20170708_195321.jpg20170708_195234.jpg20170708_213652.jpg19748616_1216874245085178_9067091331563840417_n.jpg

At this point, I did not realize I do not like running at night. I ran two more times at night and now I will not do it anymore. I say so but it might happen again in a special circumstance.

My next trail run is at my favorite place to trail run. Plus it is just five minutes from home.

Lake Catherine State Park Part 2

I returned to Lake Catherine State Park to hike to the highest point of this park. Once again the trails were well maintained and clearly marked. Also the trees were great to see but blocked most of the good views. I really liked this hike because it was a simple summit. I did not want to be challenged to much after all the hiking and trail running I had done the previous two days.

Horseshoe Mountain Trail was the last trail at the state park I would hike. I am glad I got the chance to hike this trail. It had some amazing views and was quiet and peaceful. There was nothing special on the trail but it was a summit type trail since it climbed to the highest point in the park. It was steep most of the way with a little flat section before the final incline.20171112_122348.jpg20171112_122839.jpg20171112_123001.jpg20171112_123835.jpg20171112_131020.jpg

I was a little disappointed of no waterfall but I did enjoy my time at this park. Maybe next time the waterfall will be flowing and Dam Mountain Trail will be open.

Next trail is in a national park with one spectacular view and a challenge completed.

Pinnacle Mountain State Park

 

I really need a good camera. I had another day of not great sun light. I digress, this is almost a part two of my first trip to Pinnacle Mountain State Park. I wanted to hike/climb to the summit at that time. I did not get a chance because of the crazy heat. The state park is located on the west side of Little Rock, AR. The mountain has four trails that go around and up and down the mountain. The rest of the park also has about four trails in which I had already hiked on my first trip. The summit trail is what I wanted to do and finally completed. I bonus on this trip is that I got to do a trail race on one of the trails around the base of the mountain. I will blog on that race later.

I had two options on trails to the summit. I took the relatively less difficult summit trail but they both looked equally strenuous.20171111_133406.jpg

I quickly found out that hiking in Arkansas is easy to follow but heed the warnings. I hiked the entire weekend without trail maps. I have a tendency to get lost but the trails are clearly marked and they have signs at every split in the trail.20171111_133633.jpg

As a bonus, they have trail markers that tell you where you are on the trail. It was nice to have the peace of mind not ever being lost. I was making decisions on what path to take depending on what I wanted to see. 20171111_144642.jpg

The hike itself was very strenuous and I had a great time getting to the summit. The only thing I did not like was that the trail was very crowded. This was the first time I had hiked on a trail that was this crowded. I usually see around ten people or less per hike. I saw around 100 people on this hike. It was hard to get pictures with all those people. I could not get a good one without people in the shot. I got to the summit and had such a feeling of accomplishment. I just wanted to yell but I would have scared the other twenty plus people already on the summit. I just soaked in the view took many pictures and headed back down the trail.20171111_141337.jpg20171111_135205.jpg20171111_141713.jpg

The pictures from the summit were nice but seeing it live was much better. I also got a little surprise on my way down the trail with a wish stump.20171111_145050.jpg

The hike was awesome and I need to get back to Arkansas and hike to some more summits.

The next blog is back at Lake Catherine SP for another summit.

 

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.