In 2018, I completed a race at every possible distance from 5K to 50K. I also hiked some of the most scenic places I have ever seen. So what am going to do to top 2018? I dug deep into my imagination and found some crazy places. I am heading back down to the Texas Hill country to hike a park I have never been to yet. I am headed back to Arkansas to hike another mountain but this time from the more difficult side. I have a race in east Texas that took my legs last year. I signed up up for to prove to myself I can beat this course. I will once again will run the Huaco Cuatro Series in Waco, TX but this time I am going to try to get my times much lower. I am doing this all in the first two months of 2019. I want to get back to Oklahoma in March and also a second possible 50K in Kansas. I will get my mini travel camper in April so I can travel in style. My big hikes this year will be to hike to the highest points in Arkansas (I have already done it once), Oklahoma and Texas. My big run this year will be to buckle up with a 100K also in Kansas. I am looking forward to getting out and running and hiking all around America.
Bluff Creek Ranch is a private ranch located in Warda, TX which is about 45 minutes southeast of Austin. Even though the location would suggest the Texas hill country, the ranch had a real east Texas feel. There were not many hills but plenty of pine trees. The oil derrick would suggest a more north west Texas location but nope it is on the outskirts of the Texas hill country. This is place where I became an ultra runner by completing my first 50K trail run. I did not expect this place to be this scenic. I wish I could have gotten a picture of the sunrise but I was too busing running. There are several ponds located throughout the ranch. There was not one big destination on the ranch but plenty of different things to see that caught my eye. The rolling hills and creeks mixed in with the pine trees and open fields made this a great hike.
It was a crazy day and I am glad I got to be able to hike a private ranch and also run a 50K. This is hike 42 in my 52 Hike Challenge Explorer Series.
I will get back on track the next blog with my continuing adventures in Arkansas.
I have been wanting to run this race for almost two years. Last year I did not have a team so I just waited for this year asking anybody if they were going to run Ragnar this year. North Texas Trail Runners stepped up and put together three teams. I was on the regular team since I am nowhere near being in shape to do a Ragnar Ultra. The race took place in Comfort, TX which is north west of San Antonio. It was on a private ranch which was nice. The race comprises of 8 runners and 3 distances repeated until all 8 runners complete all 3 distances. I like the fact that we ran loops unlike the road Ragnar which is a point to point race. The weather during the race was perfect. The problem was the weeks of rain prior to the race. The camp area was a mud pit. The course held up fairly well in most places. I decided not to go down early and stay the night to avoid the rain the night before. I was also lucky to pick which leg I wanted to run. I choose leg 6 for two reasons. I knew I would only have to run one leg in the dark and also I would run the longest distance first and the shortest distance last. The first leg was 7.5 miles and it was awesome. The only slow down was a cow on the course. There were plenty of cows around the ranch but this one decided to stop right in front of me. I looped around it and kept on going. The cool temperature offset the wet course and I had a really good first leg and felt great after the run. The second leg was 5 miles of misery. I could not find my brightest headlamp. The temperature was still cool but the humidity rose. My glasses kept fogging up. Plus this was the leg I was running at night. This leg also had the most falls and people getting hurt. I did not fall but I stubbed my toe really bad. I was limping with no glasses in the dark with a dim light. I really struggled with that leg. I survived the night run but I was tired and needed rest. I got two hours of sleep and I was up ready for my final leg. I had about three hours to wait but I could not get back to sleep. The last leg was 3 miles and not too technical. I was physically tired and wanted to take it easy. I started off slow but felt good and finished fast. I finished and felt good and kept on running. My team was awesome and it included my sister. I had a great time with a great group of people. I also had some time with other running groups like the Dallas Dirt Runners, Waco Striders Running Club and Cedar Hill Running Club. These are the three loops with the elevation profile.The trails and views from the trail.The mud fest that was the camping area.
This was one of my bucket list runs. I have done a few bucket list items this calendar year. This race has definitely moved to the top of my favorite races list.
I get back on the hiking trails next and I ramp up my training for the 50K.
Dinosaur Valley State Park is located in Glen Rose, TX which is an hour south west of Dallas. I have been here five times before for hiking, camping and trail running. The park is so big that I have not hiked or been on the entire park’s trail system. I decided to hike the part of the park I have done a trail race on but never hiked in the area. The inclines were just as hard hiking as they were running. The park has many amazing views and some distinct rock formations. The park borders on the hill country part of Texas. It has many limestone ridges that rise over the Paluxy River. The elevation gains come early and often and are very steep. The dinosaur tracks are always nice to see but I am more interested in the other scenic views. I got to see some very cool rock formations that produce valleys in the middle of the park.
This was hike 37 in my 52 Hike Challenge Explorer Series. I really like this state park. This will definitely not be my last visit. I had a great 4 plus mile hike.
My next blog is back on trail running.
This, unbeknownst to me, is a very popular spot in Austin. The trail is a 15 mile out and back depending on where you start. It could also be a 15 mile loop. I did an out and back section between the Mopac Hwy Trailhead and the Hill of Life Trailhead. The hike was a total of 6.6 miles of overlooks, hills, waterfalls, rock climbing and people lots of people. I got there in the middle of the day and middle of the week hoping people would still be at work. Apparently, people do not work in Austin. I had never seen so many cars at a trailhead before. I walked about a third of a mile before even getting to the trail. The trail itself was very nice. Well groomed with little to no trash. The biggest issue was trying to get pictures without random people in the background. There were two main waterfalls in the section I hiked but they were filled with people so I did not get pictures. I chose the section because of the waterfalls and they were very nice but way too many people. The other section leading to Zilker Park had more of the rock climbing cliffs. I did see some people rock climbing on this section. The highlight of the hike was the climb up the Hill of Life. It was a leg busting experience. It was a long steadily climbing hill that was not too steep but long.
I really like this trail. I will try to get back here and do the Zilker Park section and this section again when there are less people. This was hike 31 in my 52 Hike Challenge Explorer Series.
Next a park with not many people but a lot of dogs.
Buescher State Park is located in Smithville, TX which is about forty minutes east of Austin. The park is a smallish park and besides camping, I do not know the park’s main attraction. The park has no distinct look. It could be in east Texas and not stand out. It could be in north Texas and fit in with the other parks. It even could be a central Texas park and not be out of place. I think that is why this park is kind of special. The trails did not hold up too well because of the rain. They still had spots of thick mud and standing water but other parts were bone dry. The park also is still displaying the damage of its own floods and fires. The park is restoring well just like Bastrop SP. Due to the size I got to hike the entire park during my time in the park. The fog had burned off and the sun was shining. The temperature rose very quick but it was still a nice day. The trails were easy with not too much elevation change. There were some good views and plenty of scenery.
I was surprised that I did not see any wildlife at the park. There were birds but that was it. A nice park for a quick day hike. This was hike 25 in my 52 Hike Challenge Explorer Series.
Next up a park I had never heard of went to a park I could not miss out on.
I have finally made it to Bastrop State Park. I have been to seven Austin area state parks but never had a chance to go to Bastrop State Park. The timing has not made it possible to visit this park. I found a trail race near the park and I was not going to miss my chance to hike Bastrop State Park. The park is located in Bastrop, Texas about thirty minutes east of Austin. The park in recent years has been devastated by floods and fires. The majority of the park was burned down and then a couple of years later flooded and left about half of the park under water. I am visiting the park three years after the last major natural disaster and the park is rebuilding itself. I was told it would take about 80 years for full restoration.
I arrived early in the morning and it was cool and very foggy. I did not think I would get good pictures in this type of fog but I was told to go through with the hike. The person described the park in this fog as “majestic” and “enchanting.” He was spot on. The park was beautiful in the fog. The views were incredible and even though you can still tell that the park had be through natural disasters it still was spectacular. The different tree colors, the red dirt, the elevation changes and the regrowth of smaller plants made this park a must see. The park for me lived up to all of me expectations and more. This park also had some interesting CCC features.
This was hike 24 in my 52 Hike Challenge Explorer Series. It will definitely go down as one the best and most memorable hike. Of course, I got lost in the fog. It was a good built in excuse. I would have gotten lost on a bright and sunny day. I added an extra mile and a half to the hike and it was well worth it.
The next park was a quick ten minute drive down the road.