Lake Catherine State Park

I signed up for the Race the Base 4 Miler Run in Arkansas. I looked at some of the local parks in the area of the run to hike. The two obvious ones were Pinnacle Mountain State Park where the run was taking place and Hot Springs National Park. Petit Jean and Lake Ouachita State Parks are also close but not close enough to highway I-30 for a quick trip home. I stumbled upon Lake Catherine State Park and it had a waterfall. Lake Catherine State Park is located twelve miles southeast of Hot Springs, AR. I can never pass up a waterfall. The pictures on the website were great and I decided to go to this park at least twice while I stayed in Arkansas. The park has four trails but I was only interested in three trails. The trail that led to the waterfall was my top choice of the trails and the other two were mountain trails. I was hoping the waterfall would be flowing because it rained during the week. The time of year could not be better also. The leaves were falling and the trees were all different colors. I was so excited for the weekend of hikes and of course a waterfall hike.

I started on Falls Branch Trail on my way to the waterfall. The trailhead sign says three trails three adventures. One of the adventures was closed for hunting. The two trails that I most wanted to hike were open. Falls Branch trail had some good elevation changes and was very picturesque. The term obstructed view came to light many times on this and the other trails in Arkansas. The trees are what make this trail great but also are in the way of the views. There was a small creek with water flowing through it so I was pumped to get to the waterfall. I finally get to the waterfall and was massively disappointed. The waterfall was nothing but a trickle. I could not believe it. A nice hike with good views but the shining point of the trail is dull. I did like the view of Lake Catherine and the swinging bridge was also cool. I will post my walk across the bridge on youtube.20171110_161710.jpg20171110_152655.jpg20171110_152810.jpg20171110_155141.jpg20171110_155418.jpg20171110_155421.jpg20171110_155751.jpg20171110_160052.jpg20171110_160837.jpg

I liked this hike even though it had obstructed views and a water trickle. The bridge and the views of the lake partially made up for it. The trees and falling leaves also make for a great back drop.

The next hike is a long awaited summit hike.

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.

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.

Marion Sansom Park

I was on a hunt for waterfalls in my local area and I heard about Marion Sansom Park and the waterfall that is in the park. The park is on the northwest side of Fort Worth overlooking Lake Worth. I tried to go on a day after some rain but in Texas you never know what the weather is going to be at any given moment. The rain never arrived but I did get lucky with some cool temperatures in the morning. The park also has miles of nice trails but none are marked. At least I did not find any marked trails. I basically had to remember how I got to the waterfalls and back to the trailhead. I was lucky to have Dade with me this morning. I thought there would be one waterfall but there were two waterfalls and both were flowing pretty good that day.

The first waterfall we went to was the smaller of two waterfalls but still nice. The trails were well groomed until we got close to the falls. The trails had a bunch of trash around and they got harder to follow. The park itself seemed clean but some people just do not respect the nature area and trash it because they are too lazy to do the right thing. It just makes me mad to see stuff like that. The waterfall area was cleaner than the trail but still frustratingly trashy. 20170314_103435.jpg20170314_103924.jpg20170314_103451.jpg20170314_103513.jpg20170314_104054.jpg

The second waterfall was the bigger of the two waterfalls and it was flowing pretty good. We got a chance to get on top of the waterfall which I like to do and we also got some good angles of the falls. 20170314_105017.jpg20170314_105223.jpg20170314_102155.jpg20170314_102147.jpg20170314_102751.jpg

The park did offer other sites besides the waterfalls and the hike was crazy steep on the way to the trailhead.  It had a nice overlook over Lake Worth and the dam. We also got to hear the jets from the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base. 20170314_100203.jpg20170314_110450.jpg20170314_100208.jpg

Bonus picture of the food we got on the way home at a great hole in the wall Mexican food place.20170314_113347.jpg

I do believe I will be back in Dallas for the next blog then back on the road again.

Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge

I finally made it to the Fort Worth Nature Center. I have wanted to hike here for years. It is located on the the far northwest part of Fort Worth, TX. I also have wanted to do a 5K out here and run with the bison. The bison herd was one of the major reasons I wanted to hike at the nature center. The good thing about trail running and doing the 52 Hike Challenge is that it gets me to places I have wanted to go. They also have a prairie dog town. I was very disappointed that I did not see any bison or prairie dogs the day I hiked. I did see some bison chips that were huge but I will not blog about that crap. The hike was relatively flat with some steep areas if you are looking for some elevation change. I had to find the trails that had some overlooks and the views were amazing. I found that most of the trails were flat and by the Trinity River and Lake Worth.

I started my hike in the area between the Bison range and prairie dog town on the Prairie Trail. It was well marked and aptly named because it ran through the flat prairie part of the refuge.20170621_155328.jpg20170621_150234.jpg20170621_150518.jpg

The trail lead to the Hardwicke Interpretive Visitor Center which was much needed because I lost my map and was lost for awhile. I replaced my map then had some nice views overlooking the refuge on the Caprock Trail. I liked this trail for the change of elevation and the views.20170621_151220.jpg20170621_151242.jpg20170621_153804.jpg20170621_153802.jpg20170621_154241.jpg

I then ventured on the Riverbottom and Deer Mouse Trails and literally ran into some deer. What I missed seeing bison and prairie dogs, the deer crossing made up for it. The trails ran along side of the Trinity River then back up to the prairie lands. 20170621_152125.jpg20170621_151805.jpg20170621_153549.jpg

I finished my day on the Greer Island/Margaret Parker Memorial Trails. I found this trail interesting due to the fact that it was a land trail to an island. The trail is about six to eight feet wide with Lake Worth on either side of the trail. It is like a natural boardwalk leading to large body of land. 20170621_162140.jpg20170621_163856.jpg20170621_162005.jpg20170621_163258.jpg20170621_163228.jpg20170621_163804_001.jpg

I had a good time on my short trip to the Fort Worth Nature Center. The trails were diverse and I saw very few people so it was peaceful. I hope the next time I am out there I get a chance to see some bison and prairie dogs.

My next blog I will make a long five minute trip across the street with a new hiking partner. Let the silliness begin.

Lake Mineral Wells State Park

Lake Mineral Wells State Park is located about an hour and a half west of the DFW metroplex. It is well worth the drive. This CCC park has many different things to do and see that you will not get bored looking for adventure. I have already been here twice so I will blog about both trips at once. The first time out it was rainy and the guided tour was cancelled but my son and I stayed anyway to have some fun. We did not hike far but we stayed for hours and the heavy rain never arrived. The second trip, I was hiking alone and covered some other areas of the park I did not get to the first time around. I also repeated some parts because it was hot and dry and I was able to get to different places without worrying about slick surfaces.

The CCC structures are prominent at the trailheads where we started. There are benches, tables, ovens and the famous overlook are all CCC structures.20170304_135240.jpg20170304_134439.jpg20170304_151913.jpg

Even though it was lightly raining there were still people rock climbing and rappelling on the huge rocks everywhere. It is like an adventure park within the state park. Plus there is Lake Mineral Wells for boating and a canoe trail and it also has a sand beach. On the trails it was interesting walking between the large rocks and looking up at how high they were at 90 degree angles from the ground. Also the trees that are growing between the rocks were amazing. The CCC steps to get to the top of the overlook were also  something else. 20170304_135309.jpg20170304_140619.jpg20170304_140444.jpg20170304_143609.jpg20170304_142612.jpg20170304_144234.jpg20170304_144112.jpg

On the warm sunny day I did more of a hike around the lake on the Red Waterfront Trail. The trees were green and the lake was beautiful on the clear day. It was like a whole different park. I did get lost several times in the same place as last time. Going north of the overlook the trail map does not have any marked trails and the trails that are there come and go. I guess we were not to go that far north on the east side of the lake. There are trails on the northwest side of the lake that go to the far north part of the park. I have not been to those trails yet but I need to see more of the park. Maybe next time I will get to that part.20170608_124718.jpg20170608_133718.jpg20170608_132434.jpg20170608_133247.jpg20170608_133237.jpg

I am surprised at all the activities at this park. I am looking forward to going to the others trails I did not get to the first two times. I hope they do the guided tour again because it was supposed to go to places only a park guide can take people.

Next up a Fort Worth hike where I literally come face to face with nature.