Don’t get me wrong..I LOVE our national parks.  I’m just not fortunate enough to live in a location where I’m an hour or two away sadly.

http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/top-10/city-escapes-national-parks/

So my question to you…where do you go to escape if you can’t get to a national park?  Where do you go to “escape the concrete”?

 

 

Pretty cool to see the process of what it takes to bring a state park to life!  

Palo Pinto Mountains State Park

After last weeks disaster with the mosquitoes, I decided it was time for a change of scenery. So far I’ve done this Greenbelt trail from FM 380 to FM 428. I decided today would be a good day to start at FM 428 and hike up to FM 455.

You start out at the Greenbelt Park 428 Access. You’ll walk up and over a red iron bridge taking you to the west side of the Trinity River. For pretty much 3 miles, you’re hiking on that edge where forest meets meadow. The grass was as tall if not taller than me in some places!

Pretty good hike. We’ve been really lucky here in North Texas in that we had another rain event which has cooled things off considerably.

About 3 miles in you finally come to the southern boundary of Lake Ray Roberts. The last mile or so you’ll be hiking in woods. This was my chance to test out my grand experiment!

I can now confirm that Off Deep Woods Sportsman II with 30% Deet is effective against the damn bloody mosquitoes. You can thank me later for putting my body to the test for science to keep you all safe out there.

I even stopped at one point to see what would happen. I had about 40 of the blood thirsty suckers surrounding me….but they never would land. Keep in mind that this go around I even had on shorts so I had even more skin I needed to cover. The Deep Woods worked! If you’re looking for this specific Off product, be aware that you probably can’t just traipse into your local WallyWorld or Target and find it. Those stores tend to carry the 10% variety and when it comes to Deep Woods these buggers laugh at 10%. I ended up ordering 4 cans of the stuff off of Amazon.com; damn well worth it.

I took a break at the park at FM 455. Here you’re just on the other side of the Lake Ray Roberts dam. I grabbed a map to see where I could go next. As luck would have it, at the north east corner of the parking lot, the Equestrian Trail continues toward Isle du Bois. So far most of this “hiking” has been even trails…however this trail doesn’t disappoint. I saw a small deer; probably not even a year old yet. She was the only deer I saw today.

The trail from here toward the lake is fun and challenging in that lots of ups and downs, rocks, and deep deep sand. About a mile and a half past the 455 park you’ll come to an aquaduct that takes you under the road. I went in another 1/2 a mile and decided I’d have to leave the rest of this trail for another day. I headed back.

Since I was hiking through shifting sand and wet grass needless to say my feet were slipping every which a way. I could tell I had some nasty blisters building.

I stopped off at the 455 park for another quick break. This park is much like the one off of FM 428 in that they have proper clean restrooms. Be sure and read about the area before you cross the bridge…the Aubrey Clovis tribes were found to frequent this area nearly 11,500 years ago. Cool stuff.

As I headed back, I realized my feet were getting worse and worse. Despite my hiking boots, I could feel every rock, pebble, and grain of sand through the boots. I didn’t dare stop and take my boots off because I know I’d never get them back on. Luckily I got distracted by a couple of snakes. I don’t know what it is with me and snakes…guess since my Chinese Calendar says I was born in the year of the Snake they just naturally gravitate to me. I saw a green snake and a baby rat snake.

The last two miles were the hardest and longest I’ve hiked. I could feel the various blisters popping. I could barely walk. I continue to hobble along although at a much slower pace.

Once I got back to the truck, I immediately took off my boots and socks and confirmed the damage. I switched over to my crocks and looked forward to getting home and off my feet for the rest of the day. Guess I’ll be taking a couple of days off!

I’ll update this later with pictures. My camera is in my backpack and I really don’t want to get up and walk to get it…yeah…the feet are that painful. Ah well, this’ll continue to tough them up!

Worst F’ing Hike Ever!

So…I used to hike a lot when I was younger.  Probably the worst hike to date was getting trapped up on a ridge just below Flat Top Mountain in Colorado in a freak spring ice storm.  That is until yesterday.  Yesterday was the stuff of nightmares.

Let’s set the stage.  It’s the Greenbelt Trail that I usually do on Sundays.  However, lets look at what has transpired about 7 to 10 days ago.  We had a major rain event here in North Texas.

So once again, being intrigued with the Equestrian Trail, I decided to try it again despite the fact they still had it chained off.  I quickly found out why.

About 200 yards into the hike you end up walking along a pond…the entire area was still wet, drenched, and covered with MOSQUITOES!  Now yes…I had sprayed myself with insect repellent; however, I didn’t realize how ignorant I was of the product I was using.  I tried to get past the pond as quickly as possible, but I couldn’t seem to shake them.  I finally got out into the open as the trail take a right and goes through the electrical right away for another 500 yards.  However, with every step, the cloud of mosquitos would rise up and start their feast.  About a mile into the hike I finally came to the railroad right of way and was faced with about 2 feet of water that was too wide for me to try to jump.  I could tell walking through it would simply disturb what ever creatures awaited to devour me.

There was only one way out…to backtrack.

So…back through the mosquito hords….I passed under one power tower that was covered with vultures.  I figured they were waiting for the mosquitoes to kill me so they could finish me off.

I got back to where the trail heads back into the wood and decided at this point to bush whack to find the main trail.  After getting to the trail, I figured now would be a good time to reapply the repellent….

I quickly discovered the repellent was nothing more than laughing gas to these little bastards.  I continued on my hike…but could feel them landing and starting to feed.  At some point I’m sure I looked like the human helicopter waiving my hands and hiking stick trying to kill them.  I tried to out hike them picking up my pace.  Every time I turned around and looked over my shoulder, I could see them keeping pace with my sad 3 miles per hour.

I finally found peace once I hit mile 4 and I was out away from the woods, the wet and out in pure sunshine!

My hope was that it was all behind me and that the mosquitos I had to deal with were left over from my failed traipsing through the woods…how wrong I was.

I started heading back and the minute I hit the woods, here they came again.  By this time I was out of repellent.  I had nothing to protect myself.  As much as I wanted to stop and rest, every time I stopped to take a breath, here they came.  The descended on me like I was the first hunk of food they’d ever seen in their lives.  I was tired and exhausted.  I was nearly in tears.  I was so tired and just wanted to stop and take a break.  It’s not like I could call anyone.  “Oh hey…I’m in mosquito hell, would you mind walking out here and getting me?”  Yeah…that wasn’t go over with anyone.  I had to push with no breaks to make it through the last 3 miles of a 13 mile hike.  What doesn’t kill me will make me stronger.  However, keep all this in mind if I come down with West Nile.

As the end was in sight, along came a family.  It was a dad, mom, a 4 year old son on a bike and a baby in the carriage.  They too were slapping at the bugs…I told them that it wasn’t going to get any better down the trail…in fact it gets worse.  They too commented on the fact that nothing seem to drive them away.  Hopefully they decided to do the right thing and abandon the day…..

…and for the record, I did some research on repellents.  Deet at 30%.  Accept nothing less.  I’ve ordered 4 cans of Off Deep Woods Sportsman II.  I’ll report back next week.

Tail of the tape:

Miles: 13.93

Time: 5:25:29

Min/Mil: 20:41

 

 

Hitting 100!

Nothing like hiking 13+ miles only to come up 0.80 miles short of 100! Grrrrrr!

So despite the temperature being 94 degrees (but “feeling” like 104) I was bound and determine to put some miles in today. I probably ended up setting one of my best times today. I’ve decided my weekday hikes will be about improving my stamina and endurance. I don’t want to run trails or do “ultra-hikes”; but if I can push myself during the week, I think that will get me started in the right direction. Maybe its just my imagination, but my jeans seem to not be fitting as tightly…I hope!

Miles: 3:20

Time: 58:04

Min/Mi: 18:07

Everything I have read about the Ray Roberts Greenbelt trail mentions an overlook.  I’ve seen the overlook from the bottom; but the question that I never could find an answer to is “exactly how do you get to the overlook”?  It seemed like it’s some well-kept secret.  Well, for better or for worse, I’m about to expose the truth!

There is an overlook…and I have found how to get to it…but I’m going to make you suffer through the usual recanting of the day.

My intent was to hike the Equestrian Trail; however we had a pretty big rain event earlier in the week and they had that trail chained off.  Not to be one who is easily deterred, I went around the chain and headed up the trail.  First, one foot sunk, and then the other…I looked up.

Water Logged

Water Logged

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yeah…no.  So I headed back to the original hike/bike trail.

About two and a half miles in, at the sign telling you have about 3.85 miles to FM423, there looked to be another turn off that connects the hike/bike trail back to the Equestrian Trail.  I figured maybe that first section was sloppy and it gets better.  It didn’t get better.

...really...I just need to stop.

…really…I just need to stop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While I did see a ton of interesting tracks, my tracks were slowly becoming a disaster after I tried about 100 feet of this slog.

I'll never be allowed in the house like this.

I’ll never be allowed in the house like this.

 

 

 

 

 

I resigned myself to the fact that I would have to keep to the regular trail and my dreams of hiking the Equestrian Trail will have to wait.  However, I wasn’t disappointed.

this looked like two deers fighting with antlers

this looked like two deers fighting with antlers

 

 

 

 

 

magical leaf floating in thin air

magical leaf floating in thin air

 

 

 

 

 

I finally approached the next sign alerting me to the upcoming FM 423.

FM 423

FM 423

 

 

 

 

 

About 20 paces past this sign, you come to a fork in the trail, with a red dirt trail going off to your right toward the east.  What the hell….the last two trips were a disaster with the soggy conditions, let’s try it again.

I turned right and started heading east.  The trail was a little dryer; still wet, but not as bad as the ponds.  I came up to this sign.

Equestrian Trail

Equestrian Trail

 

 

 

 

 

You can faintly see a trail to the left of this sign…so I decided to go for it.

Road less traveled

Road less traveled

 

 

 

 

 

The trail heads east for a bit and slowly turns north and up.  North and up is a good direction.  There were a few places where you think you may have lost the trail, but looking ahead I could see what looked like a trail.  At the top of the trail I met this girl and her herd.

You lookin' at me?

You lookin’ at me?

 

 

 

 

 

This is where the trail ended…or so it seemed.  I looked to my right.  That headed down and I wanted to go up.  I looked to my left and amongst the tall grass I could see a faint trail….the trail now headed west, but at least it was heading up and there looked to be a sign post that direction.  So up it was.  And what was on the signpost?  Well…a sign of course!

This looks promising

This looks promising

 

 

 

 

 

This is what it was pointing to…you can see a faint trail that heads west and up, but then turns north at the corner of the cow pen.

Scenic overlook trail?

Scenic overlook trail?

 

 

 

 

 

One you get to the corner of the property, it turns north…but then starts going down a ways.  It’s really deceptive.  I figured I’d gotten this far, lets take it as far as I could go.  About 150 feet the trail starts turning back to the west and going up.  Bingo!  I was not disappointed!  I had found the overlook.

Scenic overlook

Scenic overlook

 

 

 

 

Pasture meet forest

Pasture meet forest

 

 

 

 

 

It was really quite amazing up there.  I sat, had a bite to eat and drank my water.  I could have stayed there a lot longer, but figured I’d needed to head back down.  Now from the overlook I found at least two trails directly from the overlook that seemed like they led somewhere, but if they did, I never could see the trail.  At this point, I had tracked and back tracked enough and I was convinced that poison oak or ivy was about to be in my future.

I decided to backtrack back to the sign post with the yellow arrow.  Instead of following the trail back down the cow pasture, I was able to see a new path that actually led up to the spot I was standing.  I decided to follow this trail, and it was indeed a very well marked trail heading back down the hill.

I finally came back out at the very Equestrian Trail sign where I took the first trail up.  Except this trail is about 10 paces to the left of the Equestrian Trail sign….

Seriously, how did I miss this?

Seriously, how did I miss this?

 

 

 

 

 

Anyway…that’s how you get to the scenic overlook…you have two options.  I sort of liked my way….nothing like coming face to face with black Angus on the trail!

Back at the original trail, I knew I was little under 2 miles from restrooms.  After traipsing in mud, and tracking and backtracking, the thought of squatting in the woods just to invite more poison “oak/ivory” was not my idea of a good time.  Screw it…we’re heading to bathrooms.

A quick break and I started back to the trail head.  All in all a really good day.  I found the overlook, so I can knock that off my list.  I still want to hike the Equestrian Trail…it looks like it would be a great challenge!  Luckily I have long hiking pants and long sleeve shirts for that hike as I suspect I’ll be doing a bit of bushwhacking.

Now…before we get to the tape…let me share with you my disappointment.  I had hoped to reach 100 miles on this trip.  But I came up 0.80 miles short.  Seriously?  Crap….  Ah well…the overlook was the crown jewel of the day!

Miles: 13.93

Time: 05:25:29

Min/Mil: 23:22

Luckily I have friends in real life who actually read this and drop me tidbits about hidden gems. This is one of those. My thanks go out to my Work Husband – JP who turned me onto this area!

Who knew that just north of Dallas, is nearly 1500 acres of remaining green! This is all part of Lake Ray Roberts State Park, but man was it worth checking out!

Ray Roberts Lake State Park

Ray Roberts Lake State Park

First…let’s talk directions. If you’re heading north on the Dallas North Tollway, go like you’re going to southern Oklahoma and turn left on Hwy. 380. You’ll effectively be heading into Denton. You’ll pass a ton of stuff such as the Savannah Resort Living Community that looks like it could be the backdrop of your favorite Stepford Wives movie. You’ll eventually see the turn off for Hwy. 377 North to Pilot Point….do not take 377; but instead know that about 2.06 miles later, on your right you’ll see a sign for “Greenbelt Corridor”. You’ll find a parking lot here and some restrooms but that’s it. You’re going to need to pack in plenty of water for this hike as there are no water sources on the trail. Yes…it follows the East Fork of the Trinity…but do you really want to drink that? I didn’t think so.

Anyway…once you park, you pays your money. It’s $7.00. Quick whining…it’s damn well worth it. It’s better than the crappy 6 pack of beer you bought last night…so you will pay your money and you will like it!

As for me…well…I had read it was $3.00…took $5.00 and then felt guilty as I filled out the “honor form” and promised I’d pay more next week for being a dolt. Hopefully someone got a laugh out of that. I did today sign up for the Texas State Parks Pass…so at least I followed through there.

You have two options of trails. One is a caliche trail which all the hikers, runners and bikers use and you have the equestrian trail. I decided to stick with the caliche since I needed to get a lay of the land and this was my first hike and all.

I grabbed my day pack and got everything situated. The hike between 380 and the FM 428 is about 6.5 miles…one way. So little over 12 miles if you do an out and back and that’s what I had my heart set on doing. I started just a little before 7:00am. I made sure to carry about 3 liters of water (damn water is heavy) and an extra bottle of Ozarka for when I stopped for lunch. And we’re off!

Greenbelt Corridor Trail

Tranquility…

I was not disappointed. This is old growth. There are trees here that are so big around, I cannot get my arms around them! The woods are dense, yet alive with all manner of tree frogs and birds as the day was getting started. I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I’ve heard tree frogs like that!

This was the start of the hike…seriously…it just got better from here!

You cross a couple of utility right of ways…the first one for electric and the second one is rail road. I can only imagine what it must sound like to stand under that trestle when the train is going over.

Utility Right of Way

Utility Right of Way

The path is pretty easy it’s just really long. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I don’t listen to music or use ear buds when I’m hiking. There’s too much stuff you miss out on doing that.

For instance, as I was walking, I heard an odd crack of a branch. I stopped and about 100 yards off I saw a young buck just starting to get in his antlers move through the woods….he stopped for a minute and continued on closely followed by a doe.  I realized as I had stopped that while I had put on sunscreen, I had failed to douse myself with inset repellent and the mosquitoes were looking for breakfast and I was prime candidate #1.  So I took off my pack and sprayed myself down.  I was hoping I would out walk them the rest of the way!

A little further something in my “wilderness” sense told me to stop. Glad I did. I was greeted by a deer and her fawn. The deer stood and stared at me a bit. She was about 20 yards from me…she then slowly turned around and continued on her way, very much unconcerned with me. That’s when her fawn wanted to come up and take a look at me and see what all the fuss was about!

Mom

Momma

 

 

 

 

 

Baby

Baby

 

 

 

 

 

Probably one of the best site’s I have found that runs through all the different points on the trail is the one at Trail Map of Greenbelt Corridor in Ray Roberts Lake State Park.

I finally arrived at the Ray Roberts Lake State Park there off of FM 428.  They have great modern restrooms, drinking fountains, and plenty of picnic tables to sit and rest.  I had my lunch glad that I had brought a bottle of Ozarka vs. having to sip water from my hydration pack.  When you’re thirsty like that you just want to guzzle.  I took about a 30 minute break and started on my way back.  I decided to start back on the equestrian trail.  Not sure why…there were TONS of grasshoppers everywhere bouncing off of me…not to mention I was walking through a patch of recently mowed Johnson grass.  As I got to the first tree line I startled another deer.  But this time she had two fawns that she rustled up out of the grass and had them follower her deeper into the woods away from the stranger who had suddenly disrupted their late morning siesta!  I decided then and there that the next time I hike this trail (which will be this weekend) I think I’m going to hike the equestrian trail.  During the hike I saw a hill that must have really great views of the area.  Every map I saw talked about the “scenic overlook” but I’ll be damned if I ever saw the path for it.  However, upon further inspection I realized I could easily get to it via the equestrian trail.

Other than that I saw the usual woodpeckers and cardinals.  I got a quick glimpse of a blue bird and a really big lizard up on a tree.  Tons of dragon flies of all ages.

I finally got back to 380 around 11:45AM.  This time I didn’t pause Runkeeper every time I stopped.  I wasn’t really worried about pace…I really wanted to experience this trail and enjoy this hidden treasure.  Here’s some pictures from the hike and of course the numbers!

Miles: 12.46

Time: 4:16:34

Min/Mil: 20:37

First Bridge

First Bridge

 

 

 

 

 

Scenic Overlook....from the bottom

Scenic Overlook….from the bottom

 

 

 

 

 

Meadow

Meadow

 

 

 

 

 

And finally…probably my favorite picture…I love the sun coming through the tree canopy!

Tree Canopy

Tree Canopy

So yeah…about Saturday being my day to do long hikes…that’s change. We’re now moving those to Sunday for a number of reasons:

1. On Sunday, everyone is at church. Less traffic on the trail!

2. Nature is my “church” so it makes total sense for me to be outside.

3. NCAA College football is on Saturdays…this is important. I could care a less about the NFL; but I’ll be damned if I’m going to be away from a TV for any length of time when football season begins!

4. My partner finishes up her master degree in two weeks. You know what that means? My days of not working on projects comes to an end. She will become the “task master” again and my Saturday’s will be filled with projects. This is bad…she’s even got a project management tool that she’s been using to list out projects and the tasks associated with those projects. As you can see, the “honey do list” isn’t just an abomination heaped upon guys…it happens in every relationship!

5. Last, but certainly not least, Sunday’s was my slack day anyway…so what better way to spend it than to lay down a 10 mile hike, come home, and sleep the rest of the day!

So…since this is Saturday I’ll be running errands….however stay tuned for tomorrow’s post! I’ll be checking out a new hiking spot and will post a review and pics here.

July 9, 2014

When I can’t think of a title I resort to dates.  I know.  It’s lame.

I guess I owe a bit of a catch up.

Currently I’m up to 66 miles total since starting this in June.  My feet hurt, my body hurts….but on the plus side…I’ve got one hell of a tan working at the moment.  Stop.  I don’t even want to hear about how this is going to cause me skin cancer when I get old.  I’m using SPF 50.  I think I could only do better if I basically covered myself in a burka and that ain’t happening.  Number one it’s hot.  Number two, this is Texas.  Someone will shoot me.

I am happy to report that someone apparently does, from time to time, read this blog.  One of my co-workers came up to me yesterday and turned me on to some new hikes in the area!  I’ve very stoked and excited.  No I’m not sharing right now.  I have to give you some reason to come back now don’t I?

I do need to add a page to this blog with the hikes I’ve done.  I also need to get better about describing the hike in better detail.  The problem is when I’m on the trail, I’m very witty.  Trust me.  The problem is when I get home and decompress and I can’t remember shit I was thinking about on the trail.

I am happy to report my boots are holding up quite well.  The Body Glide stuff I’m using for chafing is doing well…except for today.  I have a new blister on a toe that hasn’t been there before.  I’m blaming it on the fact that I had to wear wool synthetic socks since all of my Thorlo socks are in the dirty hamper.  Which brings me to a new system we’re starting at our house.

My partner already has to laundry baskets where I have to separate everything.  No single pile for us…  We have the Whites/Jeans (whites being the “unmentionables”) and we have “Everything Else”.

We’re going to add a third hamper for “V’s Stinky Hiking Crap”.  You see…I’m an odd bird.  I’ll wear the same hiking stuff day after day.  I don’t wear it in “public” or to work or anything.  But the way I figure it, why throw clothes in the hamper when all I’m going to do is put on a clean pair of clothes and trash the hell out of them by hiking in 95+ degree weather sweating like a pig!  I usually peel the stuff off…lay it out somewhere and let it dry for the next day.  Never mind that the cat likes to lay on this stuff and then jump on my partner’s side of the bed and roll around.

However, today, I realized I may be taking this a bit too far and that this Texas weather may be more than the clothes can handle.  I was midway through my hike this evening when I stopped to take a drink and rest in what little shade that exists.  I kept smelling something funky.  Like maybe a sewer had backed up or something….when I suddenly realized that maybe it was me I was smelling!  Hence I came home with the epiphany that maybe my hiking clothes need their own hamper to keep them separated from the general population!

Other than that, I noticed my hiking pole is starting to wear down.  This is not one of those fancy ones where you can stroll into REI (aka: Really Expense, Inc.) and buy replacement tips.  Nope…these are what they are.  The good news is we have three others that I’ll eventually wear down; but if I ever do a real hike, I’m probably going to have to break down and buy new treads.

Let’s have a look at the tape for the last two days (since I was a slacker and didn’t blog yesterday):

July 8, 2014

Miles: 4.39

Time: 01:24:45

Min/Mi: 19:19

July 9, 2014

Miles: 3:17

Time: 01:01:08

Min/Mi: 19:18

I had two goals today as I set out for my “long” hike. One was to hit my 50 mile mark.  The other was to hike a full 10 miles.

We hit the 50 mile mark; although I will admit, I only had 2 miles left to hit that goal.

Unfortunately I missed 10 miles by .20 miles. I walked 9.8 miles.

Really? 9.8?  I even worked in a loop on the trail when I figured out I was going to be short of the 10 miles….but all that work and I still only get 9.8? Is there someone we can call who can officially say “Hey…let’s call it 10 miles and move on to drinking in celebration of your great achievement!”  No?  Well crap.

As I rounded into the last 2 or 3 miles, I could tell my posture had gone to hell in a hand basket. My shoulders ached from leaning too far forward. All I could think of was how good it would be to get home and stretch my shoulders. My feet at this point, were none too happy with me either. And my hips were pissed with me as well. Probably just as well I didn’t make the 10 miles. Who knows what the other parts of my body would have done to me at that point!

Now that I’ve hit thee 50 mile mark, which in all honesty, I never really expected to reach….what’s next? Well….I’m going to keep it simple. Next I’ll shoot for 100 miles. That should be doable right? Another 30 days, 50 miles for a total of 100.

Its also probably time I start branching out on some more and new hikes. So if you’re local and happen to be following, stay tuned.  I’ve already got quite a few in mind!

And for the record, here’s the tale of today’s numbers.

Miles: 9.8

Time: 03:11:56

Min/Mil: 19:14