Cedar Hill State Park – Red Trail 5/17/14

May 17th, 2014

Hike: Cedar Hill State Park – Red Trail

Weather: sunny, clear, mid-70s

Hikers: Ian and Court

Length: 11.37 miles

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Court's new shoes and her gaiters
Court’s new shoes and her gaiters

This may be our last Dallas area hike before we move back to Austin in July, so I’m very happy we got to do the entire 12 mile loop.  We got out to the trail head just before 8am and hiked for almost 5 hours.  The wildlife was abundant to say the least.  We saw 5 rabbits, two hawks, a lizard, a road runner, and two snakes!  The snakes were crazy.  More on that later.

When we hit the trail it was actually closed due to wet conditions, but when we finished they had opened it up.  The trail was pretty much dry as a bone.  We only saw three groups of bikers and one other group of hikers.  This was our longest hike together and we both did very well, barring a little sore feet towards the end.  The weather was great and we were very lucky to get this trail in before the real summer heat hits.

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bunny
bunny
trail snacks
trail snacks
vertebrae that Court found
vertebrae that Court found
Joe Pool lake
Joe Pool lake
big mushroom
big mushroom

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cow skull with bike helmet, of course
cow skull with bike helmet, of course
halfway point
halfway point

As I said, we saw two snakes.  The first was across the trail getting some sun and we gave it a wide berth and went around.  I’m pretty sure it was just a rat snake.  He was very long and thin and once we started to go around, he got a little scared and started up a tree in the middle of the trail.

rat snake?
rat snake?
back end
back end

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The second snake, which I didn’t get a picture of because I didn’t want to mess with it, was a big rattlesnake.  We both stepped right over his head and didn’t realize it until we were pretty much past him.  The weird thing was he didn’t rattle at all and didn’t seem phased by us in the least.  Court was in the lead and saw him just as she was stepping over him and as soon as she said “snake” I was stepping over him as well.  He was lying in the tall grass with his head right on the side of the trail.  He wasn’t coiled or anything, just laying out perpendicular to the trail.  I went back to double check and sure enough, it was a rattler.  Yikes.

The trail was very green and there were a lot of wildflowers, mainly Firewheels and Texas Stars, throughout.  Most of the Bluebonnets are gone for the year unfortunately.  Towards the end of the hike Court found a tick on her neck, but luckily it hadn’t bitten her yet.  Then we found three more on our gaiters when we got back to the car!  Yuck.

firewheel
firewheel
field of firewheels
field of firewheels
prickly pear in bloom
prickly pear in bloom

Hopefully the next hike I log will be in the Hill Country.  We’ve hiked pretty much all the good trails in the Dallas area and it’s time to get back to our true home.

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finished!
finished!

map elevation profile

Ink’s Lake Overnight 5/2/14

May 2, 2014

First Overnight!

Location: Ink’s Lake State Park, near Burnet, TX

People: Ian, Court, Greg, Cat, CV, Biff, and Sam

Weather: day – low 80s, night – low 50s; clear

 

We went out to Ink’s Lake on Friday afternoon and Greg and Cat met us there.  We intended to do some of the Pecan Flats trail, but we ended up actually not even leaving the campsite.  We didn’t have too much time out there and had to leave relatively early the next morning, but we had a blast nonetheless.  Our campsite was great and backed by a large granite outcropping that made it feel kind of like an amphitheater.

This was our first time to use several pieces of gear, including our Coleman tent and our MSR Windpro II backpacking stove.  I bought a Thermarest Z Lite sleeping pad (thru hiking standard) to use and we borrowed another sleeping pad (self-inflating) and two sleeping bags from my mom.  One sleeping bag was the old, heavy Coleman that I grew up camping with and the other was a newer Northface mummy bag.  I also snagged a free groundsheet (painter’s plastic) from the construction workers at my office.

unpacking
unpacking
dogs excited at the beginning
dogs excited at the beginning
sun behind the clouds while going down
sun behind the clouds while going down
our campsite, #328
our campsite, #328

It became quite apparent that CV was not having a great time.  He stayed in the tent or in his bed by the fire for the majority of the night.  But we were glad we at least let him experience it.  Biff and Sam had a blast.  It was also Cat’s first overnight and she had a great time.  We brought sausages from Whole Foods and cooked them over the open fire for sausage wraps and we all imbibed a little too much and partied into the night around the campfire.

CV in the tent
CV in the tent
setting up camp
setting up camp
Biff posing
Biff posing
Greg setting up kindling
Greg setting up kindling

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sitting around the fire as the sun went down with some crazy particulates on the lens
sitting around the fire as the sun went down with some crazy particulates on the lens

It got down to the low 50s at night and I woke up around 3am for a restroom trip, upon which, I saw the Milky Way for the first time in real life.  It was stunning.  I was using my Thermarest and the mummy bag, while Court had the self-inflating and Coleman combo.  She definitely had the better night sleep.  I think the mummy was too confining for me, as I’m not used to staying in one position all night.  It was warm though.  We slept with the rain fly off and could see some of the stars through our roof.

The next morning we woke up with the sun and cooked breakfast on the Windpro II.  This was the first real test of this stove and it worked great.  We made coffee and breakfast tacos with scrambled eggs, cheese, and the leftover sausage from dinner.  We just brought a pot and pan from home and it worked great.  I can’t wait to finish out our kitchen gear and make some backpacking meals on the trail.

looking down on the site
looking down on the site
morning sun hitting the campsite
morning sun hitting the campsite
boiling water for coffee on the Windpro II
boiling water for coffee on the Windpro II
Court tending the fire
Court tending the fire

 

We had to break down camp right after breakfast and get back to town, but we are definitely going to come back at some point and do the Pecan Flats trail system, which is around 7 miles total.  This trip was very successful, despite no hiking, and we all had a really good time.

 

Turkey Creek Trail 4/13/14

April 13th, 2014

Hike: Turkey Creek Trail, Emma Long Metropolitan Park, Austin, TX

Weather: Overcast, humid, mid 70s

Hikers: Ian, Court, Biff

Length: about 3 miles

 

Our first hike in over a month!  Almost forgot how to do it.  This was also Biff’s first hike since his back surgery and he did really well.  We had to carry him up and down stairs and big rocks and over one of the creek crossings, as he’s still not allowed to make big jumps due to his back.  He was very happy though and was completely worn out afterwards.

Trail head and Biff's harness leash
Trail head and Biff’s harness leash
First creek crossing
First creek crossing

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Lamenting the dry creek
Lamenting the dry creek
But still some water further upstream
But still some water further upstream

There was some water in the creek, but way lower and slower flowing than the last time we did this trail back in December.  The trail was very green and had a lot of bluebonnets at the higher elevations as well.  There were also a lot of other dogs on the trail, most off leash, but Biff stayed on leash and got along well with all of them, although one pit bull mix puppy was a bit aggressive and was packing with about five other dogs.  Other than that, we all enjoyed the hike immensely.  We got to the Fern Wall at the far point of the loop and even though the ferns weren’t all the way out yet, it was very beautiful.  It’s so nice to have this little trail so close to home.

Red flowers along the trail
Red flowers along the trail
Carrying Biff on the big jumps
Carrying Biff on the big jumps

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Fern wall
Fern wall
Fern wall close up
Fern wall close up

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Court also tried out her new Patagonia hiking shoes that we picked up with our REI dividend the day before, but is going to return them for some Brooks with better arch support.  We are also planning on our first overnight (just car camping though, no true backpacking yet) on May 2nd at either Inks Lake or Blanco State Park.  We will be using the tent that Court’s brother gave us for Christmas and borrowing a couple of sleeping bags and pads from my mom.  This will be my first overnight since I was a kid and am very much looking forward to it.

 

 

Cedar Hill State Park – DORBA Trail (Green) and Talala Trail combo 3/1/14

March 1, 2014

Hike: DORBA Trail (Green) and Talala Trail combo, Cedar Hill State Park, Cedar Hill, TX

Weather: warm, upper 70s, sunny

Hikers: Ian and Court

Length: 3.92 miles combined

We got out to the trail a little after noon because Court had to get up early and go to her surgery rotation that morning.  She was supposed to be done by 9, but they kept her there till almost 11, so we had to adjust the hike a bit.  This was ok because she was a tired girl.

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Court putting on her gaiters
Court putting on her gaiters

We ended up doing the 3 mile loop of the DORBA trail, the green loop, and then a quick 1 mile out and back on the Talala Trail to an overlook of Joe Pool Lake.  The weather was great, especially considering it would get down to the teens the next night.  Early spring in Texas has crazy weather.

The trail was a little greener than the last time I hiked it, but the trees were all still bare.  Hoping to come back later this spring or summer and get the whole 12 mile loop in.

heading up the Talala Trail
heading up the Talala Trail
break time
break time
The Barrels sign that only bikers get to see.  This time I knew where the trail went though.
The Barrels sign that only bikers get to see. This time I knew where the trail went though.
map DORBA
DORBA green trail

elevation profile DORBA

Talala Trail
Talala Trail

elevation profile Talala

Elm Fork Trail 2/17/14

February 17, 2014

Hike: Elm Fork Trail, near Denton, TX

Weather: sunny, upper 60s-lower 70s, breezy, beautiful

Hikers: Ian

Length: 10.8 miles

I went for another solo hike on this President’s Day.  Court was a little sicky and stayed home, though I think she could have made it.  Biff is still recovering from spinal surgery and his hiking days unfortunately might be over.  But we’ll see.

I went back out to Elm Fork and did all of it this time.  I didn’t hit the trail until about 10am, but there was only one other car at the trail head when I started.  It was a beautiful day and one of the first days of the year where the weather felt like spring.  It even got a little warm, but I will take that over cold any day.  I only saw one other person on the trail today.  It was nice having it all to myself.

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One of two water crossings
One of two water crossings

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overlooking Lake Lewisville
overlooking a tributary of  Lake Lewisville

I got all the way to Sycamore Bend Park, which is the official end of the trail, and stopped to have lunch overlooking the lake.  It was very peaceful and nice to have that as a halfway point.

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Sycamore Bend park.  End of the trail.
Sycamore Bend park. End of the trail.

My feet did pretty well, considering this is the longest distance I’ve gone so far.  I got one tiny blister on the inside of my heel, but nothing to complain about.  I also got to rock my new Dirty Girl gaiters today.  These are super light and certainly do their job, along with having some awesome designs.  Of course I went for skulls.

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cool fire pit by the lake that one of the residents has built
cool fire pit by the lake that one of the residents has built

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I told Court she has to come out on the next hike.  While solo hiking is fun, I would much rather have her out there to share it with me.  I wanted to end this post with a quote from John Muir regarding the word “hike” that I tried to emulate today as much as possible.

“I don’t like either the word or the thing.  People ought to ‘saunter’ in the mountains – not hike!” – John Muir

 

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Cedar Hills State Park – DORBA Trail (blue) 1/20/14

January 20, 2014

Hike: Cedar Hills State Park – DORBA Trail, Cedar Hills, TX

Weather: cool, mid 50s, sunny

Hikers: Ian

Length: 7.97 miles

This was my first solo hike.  It is MLK Day and Court had to go to work, but I was off, so I decided to get a hike in.  Hiking solo is definitely a different experience.  You are out there alone with nature and your thoughts.  My pace was quite a bit quicker too, roughly 3mph average, compared to our usual 2mph.  I still prefer to hike with Court though.  This trail was very pretty in January and I’m betting will be much better in the summer, but a lot hotter as well.

Trail Head
Trail Head

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The trail winds through the woods and along Joe Pool Lake.  It is also a bike trail, but it wasn’t too busy today.  I saw 5 or 6 bikers, but no other hikers.  It is very well marked, even though there are some silly signs along the way like Rattlesnake Alley and Poison Ivy Gulch that made me think of the old west town at Six Flags.  I started at 9am with blue skies and the sun warmed me up pretty well about an hour into the hike.  It was nice to do a loop trail, as the last few hikes have been out-and-backs.  I prefer loops much more because everything you see is new.

Overlooking Joe Pool Lake
Overlooking Joe Pool Lake

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At one point there were two orange barrels on the trail which I found out were supposed to actually show you where the trail turned, but there was another trail right next to them, and if you’re coming from the hiking direction (going against the biker traffic) there is no signage, so I got off trail for a quarter mile or so, but figured out my error and got back on track.

blue skies
blue skies
Some green on the trail in January
Some green on the trail in January
Barrels.  This is the signage on the bike side.  None on the hiking side.
Barrels. This is the signage on the bike side. None on the hiking side.

There wasn’t too much wildlife, but the end of the trail provided quite the encounter.  Earlier on, I saw a quick cottontail and something reddish scampering away from the trail.  I’m going to say it was a fox, because I want it to be a fox.  About 50 feet from the trail head, at the very end of the hike, I was stopped dead in my tracks by a 4 foot long snake in the middle of the trail.  I think it was just a rat snake (EDIT: upon further research, it looks like a Copperhead!  Good thing I didn’t mess with him!), but it was quite startling.  I went around him and he didn’t seem to mind.  I guess he was just trying to get some warmth from the sun on a cool January day.  Court would not have dealt with that real well.  I am going to bring her out here next time though and maybe do the 12 mile trail.

Snake!
Snake!
After passing safely
After passing safely

Map elevation profile

Pilot Knoll Trail 1/12/14

January 12, 2014

Hike: Pilot Knoll Trail, near Denton, TX

Weather: low 50s, warming to low 70s, breezy, sunny

Hikers: Ian, Court, Biff

Length: about 8 miles

starting off from the bridge
starting off from the bridge
official trail head
official trail head
Biff not cooperating
Biff not cooperating

We couldn’t have asked for better weather for the first hike of 2014.  It was somewhat chilly to start the hike, but it quickly warmed and ended up being extremely pleasant.  This is the sister trail to the Elm Fork Trail that we did back in October.  Starting at the same place, Old Alton Bridge, we went south across the bridge for this hike.  It was muddy in the morning and we had to stop regularly to scrape our shoes so the mud didn’t build up too much and add pounds to our feet!  We also tried out the new camelback water bladder that Brian got us for Christmas and it worked great.  I think I will stick to water bottles, but Court really liked the camelback.

The trail started off parallel to the road for a while, but eventually turned into the woods.  The ground became sandy rather than muddy about a mile in and was much easier to traverse.  One of the big differences from the Elm Fork route is there is much more horse traffic on this trail.  We ran into a really friendly horse named Casey that wanted to stop and say hi instead of moving on down the trail.  A few nose rubs later he went on his way.  Biff was a bit nervous.  He doesn’t like horses for some reason.

heading down the trail
heading down the trail
hopping over a log
hopping over a log
splash of color on the trail in winter
splash of color on the trail in winter
Hickory Creek from the trail, which feeds into Lake Lewisville
Hickory Creek from the trail, which feeds into Lake Lewisville
horse farm along the trail
horse farm along the trail
Casey is the white horse behind this one.  Super friendly horse.  Biff did not approve.
Casey is the white horse behind this one. Super friendly horse. Biff did not approve.

We didn’t see much wildlife on this trail either.  I think the horse traffic probably kept a lot of animals away.  At one point, the trail went alongside a horse farm and we saw a few horses actually fighting!   One young black horse kept messing with another horse and had to be reprimanded by one of the older horses.  Court got some video of it and it was quite the sight.  Edit – Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WF4hOKOEUq8&feature=youtu.be

tunnel under a road along the trail
tunnel under a road along the trail

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Lake Lewisville
Lake Lewisville
Biff taking the lead
Biff taking the lead

The trail eventually led down to the lake and ran alongside it for a while.  We turned back just past the 4 mile mark and headed back to the car.  The app claims we only went 7.73 miles, but it really should have been slightly over 8 if we turned around at 4, so that’s what I am recording.  This trail wasn’t as wild as its sister, but still very pretty and a good hike for the DFW area.

Map elevation profile