Enchanted Rock State Natural Area Part 2

Enchanted Rock won the first round but I was back for redemption. The wind kept me from starting and getting to the summit of Enchanted Rock. Now, I was too solely focused on summiting Enchanted Rock and I was as not prepared with the knowledge of everything else the park had to offer. The park has a cave system that goes through Enchanted Rock. Moss Lake has a great view to Enchanted Rock. I did get great views of Little Rock and Turkey Peak. I am actually afraid of heights so the descent was scariest part of the summit. The steep decline was something I never had experienced before the summit. I had to convince myself that even though I could see over the edge that there was still ground where I could not see ground. I really liked the hike, the views and a sense of accomplishment. 20170406_092657.jpg20170406_093640.jpg20170406_093719.jpg20170406_094022.jpg20170406_094027.jpg20170406_095152.jpg20170406_094445.jpg

I was hoping for a sign or something that I could pose with to say I made it to the summit. I walked around for awhile and did not find one but I found something better. I found some of the best views from the top of the rock. I took a different path down and I got a better view of how steep the incline was going up the rock.20170406_093216.jpg20170406_093306.jpg

The park is also known for rock climbing and bouldering.  Lastly, I got some good views of Turkey Peak.20170406_100955.jpg20170406_100610.jpg20170406_100907.jpg

Now I know on my third visit I will need to go to Moss Lake, Echo Canyon Trail and Turkey Pass Trail. I have seen so much of the park but there is still so much more of the park I missed. I cannot wait for the part 3 of Enchanted Rock SNA.

The next blog will be the last in the part 2 series and getting lost but in a good way. I seem to get lost a lot.

Inks Lake State Park Part 2

I am back at Inks Lake SP and I have a good game plan this time. I was focused on where I was going and what I wanted to see. I now have experience at this park. I missed the Devil’s Waterhole on my first trip. I made this hike my priority this time. The hike had many surprises and more attractions that were not noted on the trail map. The rock formations and overlooks were very nice. The clear water and waterfalls were a nice scenic surprise. I also had another great stay at the cabins in the state park. 20170405_181737.jpg20170405_181437.jpg20170405_182646.jpg20170405_182427.jpg20170405_183321.jpg20170405_183152.jpg20170405_184923.jpg20170405_183831.jpg20170405_185505.jpg

I really like this park and will visit again. The location is perfect for visiting the state parks and other destinations in the Texas hill country. I will continue with the part 2 theme in my next blog.

Colorado Bend State Park

Colorado Bend State Park is the home of Gorman Falls. The park is located in Bend, TX which is about an hour and forty five minutes northwest of Austin. I have been to five different parks with waterfalls and then I heard about Gorman Falls. A seventy foot multilevel waterfall that will take your breath away. The last large waterfall I tried to go see was dry. Pedernales Falls were very impressive but not as high or as steep as a Gorman type waterfall. I had to go to this waterfall so I planned a two day four park return trip to the Texas hill country. Gorman Falls is not the only grandiose feature of this park. This place has everything from waterfalls, scenic overlooks, caves with bats, vistas, canyons, rock bowls and many other natural features. I could easily spend two days at this park and still not get to every point of interest. I still cannot believe I missed this park in my first visit to the region. The good thing is that I am definitely planning on making a third and fourth visit to the area.

I kept my first trip to Colorado Bend SP fairly simple. I went down to the Colorado River to see the sights from below first.20170405_124148.jpg20170405_124721.jpg

I hiked the Tie Slide Trail and the Gorman Falls Trail. The trails are both fairly challenging trails but both are worth every step. I started with the Tie Slide Trail and the views down into the Colorado River valley were spectacular. There were a few days of rain before the trip so the river had a good flow and the plants were blooming. The detour trail off of this trail leads you to the River Overlook. It was amazing. Here is a not so great video. 20170405_134550.jpg20170405_134311.jpg20170405_134726.jpg20170405_134757.jpg

I could see the top of Gorman Falls from the overlook and I was energized to go down and see the waterfalls. The hike was more technical and very steep in places especially as I got closer to the falls. I could hear the falls and see the tops as I was hiking down into the canyon. The canyon walls were overflowing with water. I cannot explain how the springs were just flowing out of rocks. It was an visually unique natural phenomenon. My pictures did not do it justice and neither did another video.    20170405_142810.jpg20170405_142815.jpg20170405_142859.jpg

I eventually made it to the bottom of Gorman Falls and it was everything I could image and then some. I know there are more spectacular falls in the country but in Texas finding something like this is rare. The falls are so expansive and they seem to be everywhere and the more I looked the more I saw that I did not see minutes prior. I loved the roar of the falls and not many people were there so it was also quite peaceful. My favorite Gorman Falls video. 20170405_143131.jpg20170405_143225.jpg20170405_143220.jpg20170405_143213.jpg20170405_143431.jpg20170405_143358.jpg20170405_144133.jpg

The hike back to the trailhead was a tiring trek mostly all uphill. I was still seeing things I missed on the way down. It is a different view going the opposite direction. I do not always like out and backs but this one was not too bad. I finally saw some people hiking down and when I got to the parking lot it was full.

The next time I visit Colorado Bend SP, I want to hike Spicewood Springs Trail and Spicewood Canyon Trail. I eventually want to go to the bat caves and Tinaja.

Next up is my second trip to Inks Lake SP and I was more prepared.

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.

Fairfield Lake, Fort Boggy and Fort Parker State Parks

I have decided to put these three state parks in one post. As a hiker, I see these parks as all the same. I know there are other things to do in these parks but for me it is hiking only. The other activities to do on the lakes might set these parks apart or the size of each park or even the historical relevance of each park might make a big difference but the hikes were all very similar. These are all part of the east Texas parks I mentioned in the Tyler State Park blog. The trails were well marked and clearly defined. Fort Parker even had mile markers on the the trail I hiked. Fairfield Lake was the most difficult due to the lack of markings because once you are on the trail it is the only trail around. Fort Boggy park is so small the trail was easy to navigate because you can see across the park.

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I will start with Fairfield Lake State Park located in Fairfield. TX which is located about an hour and a half south southeast of Dallas. The park partially surrounds Fairfield Lake on the south side. I hiked the Nature Trail and the Scenic Loop, basically because of the names. I knew nothing about this park and was on the way to a different park so I just decided to stop by and get a hike. The hike lead me to the lake and through multiple types of trees and plants. I also hiked over sand and red dirt. I am finding that many east Texas parks have sand in the middle parts of the park.20170618_131435.jpg20170618_131832.jpg20170618_133523.jpg20170618_133924.jpg20170618_135217.jpg20170618_132000.jpg

The trails were mostly flat with a few quick up and downs. It was an easy hike. The biggest difficulty was getting away from all the bugs on the hot and humid day. It was a very relaxing stress free hike overlooking a lake and under tall trees.20170618_111809.jpg

Next up is Fort Boggy State Park, it is a very small park. The park is located in Centerville, TX which is about two hours south southeast of Dallas. The park surrounds a 15 acre lake and is nestled up against I45. You can hear cars and trucks roll by on the highway. The park only has 3.5 miles of trails but they made the most of them. Lake Trail circles the lake and the other trail goes around the untouched nature part of the park. I had a good talk with the park ranger. The park has been opened then closed several times over the past ten years and now with cabins it has a steady income to stay open. I took the Lake Trail but had a problem because it was flooded and impassable.  I had to backtrack after almost completing the trail. I found it hard to believe it was flooded because we had not had much rain the past few weeks. The park will be a great place to stay if you are driving across Texas and need a peaceful break. Lastly even though it was not mentioned as a CCC park it did have a rock pavilion.20170618_113649.jpg20170618_113728.jpg20170618_114614.jpg20170618_114951.jpg20170618_115425.jpg

The park is a really nice little park. It is another park I had never heard of but it was along the highway and I decided to swing by for the pleasant surprise. I give credit to 52 Hike Challenge for me visiting these three parks. I want to get all my hikes in this year and the bonus is going places that I would not normally go.20170617_115441.jpg

Last but not least, is Fort Parker State Park. The park is located in Mexia, TX which is about an hour and half due south of Dallas. This is the park that is rich in history. As the park title might suggest, it was a site of a fort for settlers on the area. They have a replica of Fort Parker near the the park but I was here to get to the scenic overlook. Once again the trails were well marked but I had to find the trail first. The trail I hiked starts inside the park but you have to drive back outside of the park to get to the trailhead. I chose Baines Creek Trail for two reasons. The first is that it was the most difficult trail relatively speaking. Secondly it had a scenic overlook in the middle. I also had never heard of this park but it was on the way to a park destination. Plus it was near the previous two parks and I could get some hiking in before my last park destination. I was a little disappointed at the scenic overlook but I found a rock overhang that made up for the overlook. I also had to fight off the bugs as it was another hot and humid day.20170617_123904.jpg20170617_124545.jpg20170617_125109.jpg20170617_130444.jpg20170617_131033.jpg20170617_130230.jpg

I think this park has much more to it because it was packed when I visited unlike the other two parks. Fort Parker Lake has a paddling trail and is also a CCC park. The part of the park I missed was the limestone bluffs on the north side of the park. I will have to return to see those bluffs. I did get a video of the cave and why I think a little rain would have made this trail better.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHLGIS-BjmI

I referred to a park I was going to when I made the detour to these parks. I will get to that park in the next blog. I will give you a hint of where I went-alligators, prison and running.

Tyler State Park

I had heard good things about Tyler State Park before my first visit. I did not think much about the park before the visit but some friends said it is a great park and a must see in east Texas. It is located in Tyler, TX which about and hour and forty minutes due east of Dallas. East Texas is known for huge pine trees and Tyler State Park did not disappoint. The trees are about 100 feet tall but they look much taller from where I was standing. Walking through this park is just mesmerizing, one of the pictures I took is actually my start up screen on my computer. This is also a CCC park so there also rock structures mixed in with all the natural beauty. This is my favorite east Texas park of the five I have been to so far. The gem of the park in my opinion is the Whispering Pines Trail. It is only two thirds of a mile long but it has everything the park is about in this short distance. The trail has spectacular tree views, water features and a good change of elevation. The park also surrounds a lake and the attached pond. My first trip here I hiked the aforementioned Whispering Pine Trail and the Lakeshore Trail. Neither trail had significant elevation change but I knew that parts of the park must have some trails with challenging elevation changes since the paved roads in the park had dramatic elevation changes. I will get to those later. You can see the CCC workmanship on the Whispering Pine Trail early as you will pass either the children’s wading pool or the rock waterfall depending on which way you start the loop.20170222_105439.jpg20170222_102818.jpg20170222_103440.jpg20170222_104429.jpg20170222_105636.jpg20170222_105032.jpg20170222_104314.jpg20170222_103257.jpg

Hiking on the Whispering Pines Trail I also crossed over creeks on small bridges that were fed by the natural spring called Beauchamp Springs. Beauchamp Springs also feeds the rock waterfall. I had my hiking partner, Dade, with me that day also. 20170222_105420.jpg20170222_103702.jpg

The Lakeshore Trail was another relatively flat trail with more picturesque views of the trees and the lake. A beaver dam separates the lake from the pond, appropriately named Beaver Pond.20170222_111427.jpg20170222_111543.jpg20170222_113553.jpg20170222_111533.jpg

The trails were clearly marked and there were plenty of tree and plant description signs so you know what you are looking at. The park map and trail map are clear and precise so it is hard to get lost. You will know the difference between the loblolly pine and shortleaf pine just by reading the plaques by each tree.

I had a wonderful time here and for a long time wanted to come back and see the other parts of the park. I was lucky enough to find two trail runs that the park was hosting. I did the Pineywoods Ultra 10K yesterday. At this run I found out that this park has trails with elevation changes that are lung busting. The hills were not too steep but they went on, for what seems like miles. I did get a few pictures after the run but nothing like the first trip. The drive out here was great with the low lying fog hovering over the grasslands and lakes. It was very surreal looking at the fields at times that I have only seen on TV. I get another chance in January to visit the park as I have another trial run. I should get to do some hiking before the run next time.

I think I will stay in east Texas for the next four state parks.

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.