Elm Fork Trail 10/20/13

October 20th, 2013

Hike: Elm Fork Trail, near Denton, TX

Weather: clear, 60’s, sunny

Hikers: Ian, Court, Biff

Length: 6.14 miles

It was a bit chilly this morning.  Fall has officially hit Texas.  We hit the trail a little after 9:30am.  This was Biff’s first hike with his new backpack and he did really well.  The trail head is at the Old Alton Bridge, which is an iron bridge built in 1884.  It was decommissioned in 2001, but is still open to foot and horse traffic.

Old Alton Bridge
Old Alton Bridge

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The full trail is about 12 miles out and back, but we only hiked about half of it today.  The first mile was pretty flat and bordered a horse pasture before turning towards Lake Lewisville and getting deeper into the woods.

Court and Biff on trail
Court and Biff on trail
Biff's new backpack
Biff’s new backpack

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The morning was cool and damp, as it had rained for most of the week before.  A bit muddy, but the trail was in good shape.  There were two water crossings, but both were shallow.

Water crossing 1
Water crossing 1
Water crossing 2
Water crossing 2

As we got further along, we started to gain more elevation and the trail got a little more wild.  We crossed under a highway and then bordered the lake for the rest of the trail until we turned around at the 3 mile mark and another bridge.

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Lake Lewisville tributary
Lake Lewisville tributary
Court on the bridge at the turnaround point
Court on the bridge at the turnaround point

Biff was off leash for the first half, but on the way back we spotted a coyote just 20 yards off the trail and Biff was on leash for the rest of the journey.  Court picked up a coyote stick to protect us, despite my laughing.  Shortly after, we noticed quite a few animal remains that must have been the coyote’s leftovers.  We labeled this section the Trail of Death.  There was a crow skull, a pile of bird feathers, parts of an armadillo, and a fresh possum carcass.  The coyote must have been eating well.

Court looking fierce with her coyote stick
Court looking fierce with her coyote stick
Coyote leftovers
Coyote leftovers
Trail sign
Trail sign

The rest of the trail was uneventful, but very pretty, winding through the forest and staying in the shade.  The round trip took a little over 2.5 hours.  We ran into a few other hikers with dogs and also two horseback riders.  We are planning on coming back to do the full 12 mile trail plus the Pilot Knoll Trail, which runs south from the trail head for another 14 mile out and back.

Elm Fork route Elm Fork elevation profile

Knob Hill Trail 9/22/13

September 22nd, 2013

Hike: Knob Hill Trail, Flower Mound (DFW), TX

Weather: cool, upper-mid 70s, sunny

Hikers: Court, Ian

Length: about 10 miles

This was our longest hike to date.  We started out around 9:30am on a beautiful, cool morning.  It had rained for two days prior, so the trail was slightly muddy, but the temperature was great, especially compared to our last hike on this trail in July.

When we arrived the parking lot was pretty full, but we only saw a few bikers and one trail running couple.  Also one father/son hiking combo.  We got all the way to the other trail head and actually overshot it a bit.  Near the turnaround we came across a group of horseback riders.  Probably 7-9 total.  Court thought it was funny that the smallest rider had the largest horse.  Again, we forgot the camera, so my cracked iPhone had to suffice.  I’m going to just keep my camera in the backpack at all times from now on.

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Court overlooking the creek. My thumb covering the lens.

There wasn’t much wildlife today.  Just one squirrel that scurried across the path as we approached.  Also several turtles in the creek below the trail, near the beginning.  Glad we got to do this trail completely and our feet held out well.  I like this trail, as it has a lot of different environments.  It starts under the shade of the forest, then becomes a bit sandy, then gains elevation up to Knob Hill and has more rocks and cacti, before delving back into forest and a shallow river bottom with tall, woody plants outlining the trail.

Knob Hill?
Knob Hill?

Overall, a nice 10 mile out and back that isn’t too challenging, but is nice to get out of the city and experience nature around Dallas.

Roughly 10 miles, out and back, starting at left
Roughly 10 miles, out and back, starting at left

Elevation Profile

Inga’s Trail 9/15/13

September 15th, 2013

Hike: Inga’s Trail (Bull Creek South), Austin, TX

Weather: cool, mid-high 70s, overcast, a bit wet

Hikers: Court, Ian, Doc, CV, Biff, Cray, Indy

Length: just over 4 miles

It rained the night before which made this hike quite pleasant.  We set out on the trail around 8am.  Doc’s dogs (Cray and Indy) did very well on leash.  Biff was off leash and CV, just a week shy of his 18th birthday, did very well despite getting a little tired on the first leg.

The trail more or less followed Bull Creek along Highway 360, which it crossed twice.  The creek was pretty dry, but did have a couple of good swimming holes for the dogs.  (Please excuse the crappy iPhone photos)

Court and CV at the edge of one of the swimming holes
Court and CV at the edge of one of the swimming holes
Bull Creek Biff 9_15_13
Biff checking out the water

We started on the south end at Lakewood Drive and hiked 2 miles north to the other end at Spicewood Springs.  We saw a couple of cotton tails, but not much else.  There were quite a few other hikers and bikers enjoying the cool weather as well.  Ian tried out his new trail app about halfway into the hike and it turned out great (see below).  All in all, a nice morning hike in Austin.

Our route (out and back, starting on south end)
Our route (out and back, starting on south end)
Elevation Profile
Elevation Profile

 

Richards Loop 8/18/13

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.

Trail head
Trail head

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.

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Trail was a bit hard to find at times
Trail was a bit hard to find at times

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.

Surrounded by forest
Surrounded by forest
Burned out tree
Burned out tree

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Log across the dry creek bed
Log across the dry creek bed
Court lacks balance
Court lacks balance
One of the small ponds
One of the small ponds
Finished!
Finished!

Knob Hill Trail 7/20/13

July 20th, 2013

Hike: Knob Hill Trail, Flower Mound (DFW), TX

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.

Court and CV
Court and CV

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.

Rabbit
Rabbit

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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.

Ian and Biff
Ian and Biff
Biff exploring
Biff exploring

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Tired puppies
Tired puppies

McKinney Falls State Park 6/29/13

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.

Dinosaur Valley State Park 6/22/13

June 22nd, 2013

Hike: Dinosaur Valley State Park, Glen Rose, TX

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.

dino track?
dino track?

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.

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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)

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Crossing the Paluxy River
Crossing the Paluxy River
Looking upstream
Looking upstream
Ian with spider stick
Ian with spider stick.  Small waterfall in the background coming off the overhang.
Going up the rocky trail
Going up the rocky trail
Prickly Pear
Prickly Pear

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.

Overlooking the park
Bridge on the Blue Trail
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Overlooking the park

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.

Colorful lizard
Colorful lizard

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.

At the top!
At the top!
Map at the trail head
Map at the trail head