Devil’s Den State Park – Arkansas 5/26/18

 

Saturday, May 26, 2018

 

Devil’s Den State Park – various trails – near Fayetteville, AR

Warm, sunny, clear, mid 80s

Ian, Court, Biff, Finn

 

We had quite the adventure this Memorial Day Weekend.  The original plan was to go camp on the Buffalo National River in northern Arkansas.  The issue is that all of the campsites are first come, first serve.  Supposedly, the “check in” time for those sites is 1pm.  Well, we found out the hard way that check in is not enforced.

We drove halfway from Austin the night before, staying at a La Quinta in Durant, Oklahoma.  Lovely.  We then woke up at 6am and drove to the Buffalo National River through the Ozarks, arriving at the first campsite around noon.  It was PACKED.  We called the ranger station and it quickly became apparent that there were no sites to be had.  After a short freak out session and driving through the mountains aimlessly, we settled on going to Fayetteville and getting a hotel and doing some day hiking at nearby state parks.  This actually turned out to be a lot of fun.

On the way to Fayetteville the sky ahead got really dark and ominous.  We pulled into a Walmart (like you do in Arkansas) and waited out a pretty intense storm in the parking lot for an hour or so.  We made lunch in the car and were thankful that we weren’t out in this weather on the river.

We checked into the hotel with the pups and then went out to explore a bit of Fayetteville.  It’s actually a pretty nice little college town.

The next morning we headed south to Devil’s Den State Park.  When we arrived at the Visitor Center, a CCC-era building, I went inside to pay for my permit, like I always do in Texas.  I came to find out that all state parks in Arkansas are free!  The funding apparently built into their taxes.  Take note Texas.

We started exploring and took the short main trail from the Visitor Center that winds up through the rocky hills and the many caves and crevices that give the park its name.  The rock formations were spectacular.

Into the Dwimorberg!
Devil’s Den

Giant chair

 

We then went down to the dam (also CCC-era) that created Lake Devil.

The day was still young, so we headed to a different part of the park and hiked a lesser traveled path that followed Lee Creek and allowed for some water fun for the dogs as well.  The water was cold and refreshing.

Turtle on trail!
Nice path through the woods

A very brittle shale (I think) lined the creek bed and would crunch as it broke when you walked on it.  It was fascinating.

After getting a bit lost, we headed back to the car and then ate lunch by the creek while families celebrated Memorial Weekend in the water.

Which way?

After lunch, we pushed on to Lake Fort Smith State Park, continued on the next entry.

Lake Somerville – Nails Creek State Park 5/19/18

 

Saturday, May 19, 2018

 

Lake Somerville – Nails Creek State Park – near Brenham, TX

Partly cloudy, warm, pleasant, upper 70s

Ian, Biff, Finn

5.6 miles

 

Another new State Park!  We went to Navasota for the weekend and I went hiking with the dogs while Court drove up to Tyler with her mom for work stuff.

Trail head

I left early to make the hour drive to Lake Somerville and got to the trail just before the park headquarters opened at 8am.  The Texas heat is starting to hit and that means the hikes have to be early, especially if the dogs are coming along.  The Lake Somerville Trailway is a hiking/equestrian trail that actually goes 13 miles (one way) around the lake, but due to some recent flooding, horses aren’t allowed right now.  I would also find out, the hard way, that the trail I had chosen today was cut short due to this same flood damage.

 

I started out doing the short Nails Creek Trail loop which goes along the lakeshore and is very sandy with a lot of flowers.  There were a lot of flowers in general on this hike, which was a nice surprise, especially this late in the spring.

Sandy trail

Lake view in the morning

 

After that I hit the main trailway.  It is a wide track for horses, but is still very pretty.  I only saw two other hikers the whole day.  A couple of miles in I got to a bridge and that was to be my turnaround point for the day, due to the unexpected closure.

Perhaps the real reason for the trail closure? That pesky Nedry shutting off the power again.

As we backtracked, Biff decided it was time for a break.

I used Finn’s new leash which attaches to a hip belt so it made hiking with two dogs much easier, as I had one hand free most of the time.  When we got back to the car we had a quick water and snack break.  I was going to do another short loop by the lake, but about 5 minutes down the trail Biff gave me the look that it was time to call it a day so we got back to the car and blasted the AC.

Snack time

Map: https://www.gaiagps.com/public/DSqnU5sTLqjIY4x342ozq5ci?embed=True

Steiner Ranch Trail System – Bear Creek Trail 5/6/18

 

Sunday, May 6, 2018

 

Steiner Ranch Trail System – Bear Creek Trail

Sunny and humid, but nice

Ian, Court, Biff, Finn

1.6 miles

 

We once again headed out to Steiner Ranch to do a quick hike with the pups.  We ended up doing part of the trail that we never had done before and it was really nice.  Felt very Oregon-y at points.  Very forested and a nice creek running through.

Bear Creek was the name of this short trail and we followed it down into the woods and then back up to the neighborhood.  Small loop, but nice when you are short on time.  Court’s parents should have their house out in Steiner in the next year, so I’m sure we’ll eventually become connoisseurs of this whole system.

All in all, a nice spring hike in Texas.  The heat is about to officially hit though, meaning morning hikes only for a few months.  We have a quick trip to Seattle and Mount Rainier this summer and also a big international trip this fall though!

Map Link: https://www.gaiagps.com/public/M7esUuQaLrxFjXzTU6Xc0nnH?embed=True

Guadalupe River State Park 4/29/18

 

Sunday, April 29, 2018

 

Guadalupe River State Park, near Boerne, TX

Ian, Court, Biff, Finn

Warm, partly cloudy, low 80s

3.5 miles give or take

 

Another new state park for us!  We have been wanting to get out to this park for a while and I’m glad we finally made it.  We started off at the “Discovery Center” and then combined a few trails for about 3 miles total.  The dogs were very happy and are both such good hikers.  The prickly pears and other cacti were blooming nicely.  There was a nice view of the river from above as well.

Discovery Center

Happy Biff

River View

 

We then headed down to the river to cool off and eat lunch.  There were a ton of people enjoying the river, including some not well-behaved dogs, so we went pretty far down the river trail to find a spot.  The first spot I chose ended up harboring a bee hive, which sent me into flashbacks of when I was a little kid in Pennsylvania and got stung about 100 times.  Luckily I wasn’t allergic.  I made an immediate u-turn and went back up the river trail in the opposite direction before finding a semi-quiet spot to put our feet in the water and eat.  It’s amazing how good food tastes after even a short hike in decent heat.  I can’t even imagine the hunger and then satiation that thru-hikers experience.

Finn begging for sandwich
Rejected (they both got some though)
Lunch View

 

After the river, we took another short trail a half mile or so more through the moss-covered oaks and then headed back to the car.  On the way home we stopped at Sonic and got a slush and a limeade to cap off the warm day.

Mossy trees

Grelle Recreation Area 4/8/18

 

Sunday, April 8, 2018

 

Grelle Recreation Area 

Cloudy, 50s-60s, giving way to sun and 70s

Ian, Court, Biff, Finn

3.8 miles

 

Another new trail for us.  It turns out there are a lot of trails within the LCRA parks that aren’t well known or traversed.  Grelle Recreation Area is right near Muleshoe Bend, which we hiked a few weeks ago, but I liked this trail much better.  It was a true hiking trail (not a mountain bike trail) and had lots of ups and downs that made for a semi-challenging experience, especially with our relative lack of hiking, and therefore fitness, as of late.

The original plan was to hike on Saturday morning, but a random cold front came through on Friday night and temperatures went from the 70s on Friday to the low 40s all day Saturday, so we pushed the hike until Sunday when things got a little closer to normal.

We drove out in Courtney’s new car, a Tesla Model 3, which is certainly not a normal car to take out to the trail, but we figured it would hold up on gravel roads and save us gas money.  Moreover, there is just something about taking an electric car to go hiking that seems right.

The trail started as your typical rocky Texas trail, but eventually gave way to more traditional tread and even soft dirt in some places along the ridge, which challenged our ankle strength.  The dogs did great for the most part, though Biff pulled a fake injury at one point, causing me to carry him for a couple hundred yards until he miraculously recovered.  What a goof.

As we climbed up the ridge and hit the Mustang Ridge trail, the sun decided to show itself and the temperatures rose, which was a welcome occurrence and made us shed our jackets and stow them away in the pack.  Towards the end of the hike, the sky was clear blue and the trees showed their normal Texas spring time selves.

What a great day to get out and enjoy the trail and life in general.

I generally don’t like it when blogs have all the text first and all the photos second, but that’s how I did this one.  Deal with it.

Finn and cairns
Climbing up in the cold

First trail marker

Lake is a little low
Blue skies starting to break through

Spring in Texas
Donquita

South Llano River State Park – 3/24/18-3/25/18

Saturday and Sunday, March 24-25, 2018

South Llano River State Park – Fawn Trail and Golden Cheeked Warbler Trail Combo + River Trail

Upper 60s, partly cloudy, perfect

Ian, Court, Biff, Finn

Around 7 miles total

 

 

Oh, look at that.  I still have a blog!  That’s right.  Gotta remember to update this thing more often.

Honestly, we just didn’t do much hiking the past couple of months.  Family stuff and life stuff got in the way.  There was maybe one short hike in there that I didn’t bother blogging, but finally here’s one I wanted to document.

We are trying to hit the state parks in Texas that we haven’t done already.  South Llano River fits the bill.  It is about a 3 hour drive from Austin, right near Junction, Texas on I-10.  So kinda the middle of nowhere.  I’m going to throw it in the Other Texas category.  It’s more or less on the border of the hill country and the desert, so the plants and wildlife are interesting.  Very spiky.

Claret Cup cactus

 

We headed out with the pups on Saturday morning and stopped in Fredericksburg on the way for lunch at a place called Woerner Warehouse.  We got sandwiches to go and they were HUGE.  Great call on that and we will be going back there next time we go to F’burg.

Headed on to Junction and drove by Texas Tech University at Junction (who knew?) before making our way to the park.  There were only a few spots left, as the Cub Scouts had moved in the night before, like they always do.  I guess it’s good that they are getting out in nature, but it does make it difficult for us adults who have to work on Fridays to get decent camping spots.

We did end up getting a semi-secluded site and each site has a covered table, which is unique to this park, in my experience anyway.

Covered table pavilion

 

We set up camp quickly.  We realized this is the first time since our trip to Sequoia back in September of 2016 that we have actually used our backpacking tent.  We did bring the larger car camping tent in case Finn didn’t fit our sleeping arrangements, but it worked out fine.

 

After setting up camp we decided to head down to the river trail, but soon found out that the area by the river is closed after 3pm in March because it is a wild turkey roost area, so we headed back and spent the rest of the evening playing trivial pursuit and reading.  The sunset was nice and the stars were out soon after.  South Llano River State Park is a dark sky park so the stars were brilliant.

Jet trails
My reading material

We woke up with the sun and Court made wonderful breakfast tacos with egg whites and veggie sausage.  This was also the first time we used the skillet we bought way back when we first started purchasing gear.  Lots of firsts this trip.  After breakfast we packed everything up before hitting the trails.

The trails out here are pretty much all old jeep tracks, as this was a ranch back in the day.  They are more for function and less for aesthetics, but they do the job.  They are your typical Texas rocky trails that are ubiquitous throughout the hill country.  We took the Fawn trail and then connected with the Golden-Cheeked Warbler trail to make a nice loop a little over 5 miles long.

Windmill from the old ranch days

When we finished the loop we went down to the River Trail that we had attempted to hike the day before.  We did actually catch a glimpse of a wild turkey and the river and lake views were pretty as well.

South Llano River

 

After a total of around 7 miles the pups were pooped and we drove back home.  On the way back they got some good naps.

Commons Ford Ranch 1/15/18

 

Monday, January 15, 2018

 

Hike: Commons Ford Ranch

Weather: partly cloudy, pleasant, mid 60s

Hikers: Ian, Court, Biff, Finn

Length: 2.1 miles

 

New trail today!  We went out to Commons Ford Park, which apparently used to be a ranch, and did a short hike up to the waterfall.  Today is MLK day and we both had the day off work, so we took the opportunity to get the first hike of the year in.  The weather was amazing.  It felt like spring, but there is a winter storm blowing in tonight, so even better that we got to enjoy the day.

This was a nice little trail along a creek that feeds into the Colorado River.  The trail is your typical Texas Hill Country trail: rocky and surrounded by cedars.  Just a half mile in or so, we came to the waterfall, which is the main highlight of this trail, but it wasn’t flowing very much.  Still pretty though.

After passing the waterfall, we climbed up and along a ridge.

Climbing up to the ridge

 

Someone had set up a lean-to just off the trail, but it didn’t look like it had been used in a while, if ever.

We came down off the ridge and found a restored prairie that led down to the river.

 

There was a boathouse and dock at the water’s edge which we scouted out and then headed back up the creek towards the car.

On the way we saw the foundation of an old house that I’d like to think was from the old ranch as well.

Court especially liked this trail and I hope to hike it again when the water is flowing better.