August 18th, 2013
Hike: Richards Loop, Sam Houston National Forest near Richards, TX
Weather: Sunny, warm, upper 80s
Hikers: Ian, Court
Left Navasota early Sunday morning and drove through several small east Texas towns (Anderson, Richards) to reach the trail head. Court forgot the daypack so we were stuck with my Dell computer backpack, but we made do.
The trail was mostly flat, only dipping a couple of times to cross the dry creek bed. Some parts were fairly overgrown, to Court’s chagrin. I told her to watch for snakes, which didn’t help matters. We saw 2 or 3 other hikers, but pretty much had the forest to ourselves. There wasn’t much wildlife, though we did hear some woodpeckers (endangered Red-Cockaded) hammering away at the Loblolly Pines as the sun came up early in the hike.
Despite the dry creek, we did pass a couple of ponds along the way. It was a pretty cool feeling being completely surrounded by dense forest and listening to the silence. All in all, a nice easy hike around 6.5 miles total. Hopefully we remember the backpack next time.
July 20th, 2013
Weather: Sunny, hot, low 90s
Hikers: Ian, Court, Biff, CV
We got to the trail head around 8am, but there was a sign saying the trail was closed. We had already driven all the way there and the trail looked ok, so we continued on anyway. This trail was an interesting mix of terrain, alternating between open, hilly fields and shaded woods.
In the first quarter mile in the woods we saw our first wildlife (not including the thousands of grasshoppers that scattered to the sides every step we took): a small cottontail rabbit. I tried to get a quick photo, but Biff scared him off. A little further in we crossed a wide gravel road and the trail was cut off by a low fence (the kind found in construction zones). It seemed like we had found why the trail was closed. We could have easily stepped over the fence and continued, but we were unfamiliar with what lay ahead and we also knew that there was another trail head at the other end. We turned around and headed back to the car. On the way we encountered another couple heading in and told them about the fence, but they pressed on. When we got back to the parking lot there was a group of bikers getting ready to head down the trail also. Apparently “closed” is just a suggestion at this trail. But we decided to continue to the other trail head and got in the car.
The other trail head was just a couple of miles away and a little more secluded. The beginning meandered through some tall brush on both sides of us. It felt a bit swampy almost. The trail then wound through the woods and emerged into some open hills covered in grass. Just out of the woods we saw another rabbit and I got a decent picture this time, but he was well camouflaged.
We walked about two miles in, but the sun was beating down pretty hard and the dogs were getting tired so we decided to turn back. This was and out-and-back trail, not a loop, so the farther we went in, the farther we had to come back. We stopped several times on the way back in the shade to give the dogs water and I had to dodge a huge spider in the middle of the path at one point. Court claims it was just a banana spider, but I say it was going to kill us all. Biff decided he was going to lie down for a rest, but we got him to continue and we got back to the car ok. Overall, we hiked a little over 4 miles, so it was a bit shorter than we had anticipated. We are going to try and go back this fall and do the whole thing, roughly 10 miles.
June 29th, 2013
Hike: McKinney Falls State Park, Austin, TX
Weather: sunny, hot, low-mid 90s
Hikers: Ian, Court, Greg, Biff, CV, Sam
We woke up early to beat the heat and got out to the park at 8am. Met up with Greg and started at the Lower Falls and hiked the Homestead Trail. I forgot the camera, so no pics. Even with some decent rain lately, the water was very low. Sam was a wild man and had to wear his doggy shoes to start the trail so he didn’t rip his paws up, which he did anyway.
After walking over the mostly dry falls, we went to the beginning of the Homestead Trail (2.8 miles). The trail was pretty flat and wound through the woods until the last half mile or so where we slightly gained elevation and twice came out next to civilization (a Texas Parks and Wildlife building and an office park). CV and Biff both did well, but we forgot their water bowl so Court had to use her hands for CV to drink.
We saw only a couple of spiny black caterpillars and a small rabbit on this short trip. I’m sure the dogs kept most other wildlife away. We got back to the falls and let the dogs cools off in the water for a bit before heading back to the car. Would like to come back and spend longer and do a couple of other trails at some point.
June 22nd, 2013
Weather: Sunny, hot, slight breeze, mid-low 90s
Hikers: Ian and Court
We got up early Saturday morning in Dallas and drove the 1.5 hours to the park, arriving right at opening, 8am. Aside from the overnight campers, we were the first ones on the trail. First, we went to the main dinosaur track site. I think we found one or two, but without a guide or park ranger it’s a bit difficult to tell.
After a quick look for dinosaur tracks, we headed over to the main trail head. There are some advantages to being first on the trail: solitude, lower temperatures, quiet. But there are some decided disadvantages as well. On this trip: SPIDERS. We quickly found that the local spider population had very effectively woven a tapestry of webs overnight, criss-crossing the trail at every possible place. Aside from spiders being one of my least favorite creatures on earth, getting a face full of web every six feet is not a good feeling. Each of us found walking sticks that were truly “spider sticks”, used to clear our path of the ever-present webs. However, after about 45 minutes, we came upon wider paths and the spiders, who had slowed our progress significantly, became fewer and fewer.
Today, I had taken a backpack to get used to hiking with some weight, in preparation for future hikes and overnights. However, all I had was my Dell computer backpack, not exactly meant for outdoor recreation. I purposely overpacked, trying to get used to a decently heavy load. I soon realized that the lack of a hip belt to take a lot of the load off my shoulders made for a pretty uncomfortable hike. Nothing unbearable, but suffice it to say, I can’t wait to get a real hiking backpack.
We first headed south along the White and Blue trails, battling the spiders and clearing the way for future hikers. We circled back north, came down Denio Creek, and then, barring a slight loss of bearings that led to a backtracking of about .5 mile, headed northwest along the Blue trail along the Paluxy River. (see map)
This last loop on the Blue trail was the best part of the hike. We stayed alongside the river on fairly level ground at first, shaded underneath the trees. We came to a wooden bridge and turned north to loop back. Here we gained quite a bit of elevation and were treated to a couple of nice overlooks of the park at the top.
Wildlife was pretty abundant. A lot of lizards that were lightning quick once they’d spotted us and one small, black snake about 1.5″ in diameter that was equally as quick to vacate the path as the lizards. We also saw a couple of Cardinals, but none of the Golden-Cheeked Warblers or Black-Capped Vireos that the park is known for.
All in all, we hiked about 5.5 miles in 4 hours. We were done by noon, just as the heat of the day was starting to creep in. My shoes and socks held up well, as well as my synthetic sleeveless tee. Cotton has no place in the outdoors, however. We are going to start slowly buying equipment for our more intense hikes and overnights in the coming years.
May 5th, 2013
Weather: Mid 80s, sunny, breezy, warm
Hikers: Ian, Court, Greg, Cat
Drove to Cannon Beach from Portland and arrived at noon. The original intent was to hike the Clatsop Loop, but this trail was great. It wound through the forest, out to overlooks, along the cliff faces, and finally down to Indian Beach, with many changes in elevation. The views of the Pacific were amazing. We could see the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, aka “Terrible Tilly” in the distance, along with various other rock formations. Total distance covered round trip was about 3.5 miles, but the terrain was somewhat challenging at points.
The beach was amazing, albeit somewhat crowded. There was a freshwater stream about 15 feet wide that came down from the forest and cut across the beach straight into the ocean. The sand was fine and gray. Around the rocks were many tide pools fed by the very cold water of the Pacific. Our feet were numb after a few minutes wading. In the tide pools were many creatures: purple and orange starfish as big as your hand, anemones (blue and green), urchins, mussels (Court was amazed at the size of some), and tons of barnacles, all clinging to the dark black rocks. The beach was very wide, probably 200 yards from water to the forest cliffs.
We made our way back using a slight shortcut we found further down the beach. The temperature change within the forest compared to the beach was awesome. We didn’t encounter much wildlife, but I saw a small centipede of some kind and also got a great (and lucky) photo of a white butterfly in mid-flight.
Once back to the car, we headed into town for supplies and went further down Cannon Beach for a picnic and views of Haystack Rock and surrounding area.
May 4th, 2013
Hike: Marquam Trail to Council Crest, Portland, OR
Weather: Low 80s, sunny, breezy
Hikers: Ian, Court, Greg, Cat
This was Ian and Court’s second trip to Marquam, Greg and Cat’s first. Trail wasn’t too crowded and a bit drier than the first time. Breeze felt great under the shade of the trees. We made the roughly 3.2 mile loop in about 2 hours.
The summit was gorgeous. There was a group of people wrapping a Maypole at the top. We had clear views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams (St. Helens too, I think). On the way back down we saw a black snake on the trail, but it got away before we could identify it. Ian also broke in his new hiking shoes on this trail.
“At 1,071 ft above sea level, Council Crest is the highest point in the Tualatin Mountains (West Hills) that run parallel to the Willamette River in Portland.” – Wikipedia
February 23rd, 2013
Hike: Enchanted Rock, Fredericksburg, TX
Weather: clear blue skies, sunny, low-mid 70s
Hikers: Ian, Courtney
Got to the park around 10:15am. Had to wait in line, as cars were backed up onto the main road to get in. Made our own trail up to summit of Little Rock. Steep ascent at the beginning. Main rock too crowded. Court saw a squirrel and we came across a lizard on the way down that blended in perfectly with the granite. Court also got scratched by a cactus spine at some point.
“Enchanted Rock is an enormous pink granite pluton rock formation located in the Llano Uplift approximately 15 miles north of Fredericksburg. The rock rises 425 feet above the surrounding terrain to an elevation of 1,825 feet above sea level. It is the largest such granite formation in the US and was designated a Texas Historic Landmark in 1936. The rock is roughly 1 billion years old, with evidence of human visitation going back at least 11,000 years.” – Wikipedia
Vegetation on the rock includes lots of grasses, prickly pear cactus and other small shrubs. Lots of lichens as well. We could see for miles around from the top. I forgot my hat, so the sun was a little harsh. Overall, a pretty short hike, but good exercise and Courtney’s first time to the rock.
So I’ve decided to start a blog to get a digital record of our hiking adventures. I’ve been keeping my hiking log on paper, but will now transcribe them here, along with pictures. I’m not looking for followers necessarily, but really I just want a place to store our adventures. Plus, my handwriting is getting continually worse as time progresses.
I’ll see how this goes and maybe eventually I’ll get deeper into it and post some videos, gear lists, and other stories from the trail.