Thursday, January 5, 2012

San Angelo SP: January 1, 2012

Donna and I had so much fun hiking at San Angelo State Park last Friday that we decided to go again. The hike we took today was even more enjoyable.

Today, we parked at the Burkett Trail Head (see map) and headed west from there. If you read the previous post on hiking in SASP, then you will know this is where we turned around on that hike. My goal is to cover new territory each time we hike in this park until we've hiked all the trails.

The first stretch of the trail was on a dual track trail along high ground. As I mentioned in the previous post, when hiking along high ground in this park, you are usually hiking in rocky terrain among shorter vegetation.

Burkett Trail, near trail head. Hill on left is Highland Range Scenic Overlook, which is called Pulliam Point on most topographic  maps.

It was a cool day, and being on high ground with no trees left us exposed to the biting wind. We had dressed appropriately, but the wind still hit our exposed faces and made things a bit uncomfortable. The first part of the Burkett Trail heads due west for Pulliam Point, the hill where the Highland Range Scenic Overlook is located (see map). As we approached the hill, we gradually dipped down into some mesquite flats where we were more protected from the cool wind. The trail then wound southwest around the hill where it really grew cool because that part of the trail was in the shade from Pulliam Point.

We crossed a creek in this area. There is a bridge available for crossing the creek during wet weather, but since we are in the middle of a drought, Donna and I just crossed the dry bed.

Low water creek crossing. Note bridge at top right. Also, note shadows from Pulliam Point. It was cool in the shade.
Just after crossing the creek, we hit a trail junction and picked up the Potts Creek Trail. At this point, we were actually on the remains of an old road from the US Corps of Engineers days. The picture below shows the low-water crossing for that road.

Old US Corps of Engineers road at Burkett Trail and Potts Creek Trail junction.

The Potts Creek Trail wound through rather thick stands of mesquites and dipped down through a dry creek bed, where it then began an ascent up the next hill and then ran into the Armadillo Ridge Trail.

Armadillo Ridge Trail marker on rocky slope.We took the left fork.
The trail to the right winds around the hill and picks up other trails that go to the north side of the park. For our next outing, that is the way we will go. For today's hike, though, Donna and I took the left fork and then cut through an old Corps of Engineers park. We picked up a remnant of an old paved road that once led to the lake. It is my understanding that when the lake was first developed, a series of heavy rains fell and filled the lake to capacity almost immediately. This gave the impression that the lake might always be like this, but I don't believe it has been this full since. It currently is at about 1% capacity. As proof of this, see some of my pictures of O.C. Fisher Reservoir taken back in the summer.

Sign of better times. Taken at old park area just off Armadillo Ridge Trail
From the Armadillo Ridge Trail, we picked up Turkey Creek Trail for a short way until it intersected with the Armadillo Ridge Trail again. This next section of the trail is the most scenic we have seen so far in this park as it winds along a ledge overlooking a wet weather creek.

Armadillo Ridge Trail above Potts Creek

Potts Creek; see notes below
The picture immediately above is interesting. In the bottom center, the dry creek bed is visible, and it gives a good idea of the height involved. The trees, while mesquite, are probably 15-20 feet tall, and they are well below our elevation on the ledge above. The straight horizontal item in the upper-center portion of the picture is a bridge (see picture immediately below). The trail is also visible in several parts of the picture, especially the upper-left portion.

As the trail works down into the creek, it becomes the West Potts Creek Trail.

Donna on bridge on West Potts Creek Trail. This is the same bridge seen in the picture above.
The West Potts Creek Trail continued through the mesquite flats until it intersected with the paved road we saw earlier with the low-water crossing. Just as we were approaching that road, we could hear voices in the distance, but were unable to locate anyone. We crossed the road and picked up the Roller Coaster Trail, which climbs up to the Highland Range Scenic Overlook (Pulliam Point). From this high point, we were able to look back to the Armadillo Ridge Trail across the valley and see 2 equestrians on the opposite hill. It must have been their voices we heard earlier.

2 equestrians on hill to the west of Highland Range Scenic Overlook hill.

Roller Coaster Trail deserves its name as it winds up and down and around. We met 2 bikers on this stretch of the trail, and both were pushing their bikes up a very steep and rocky section of the trail. There was one particularly challenging section on a downhill slope where Donna slipped just a bit. However, she was taking it slowly using her pole, and she just ended up sitting down more or less with no damage done.

Fortunately, we were almost to the truck, so that was a good time to quit the trail.

I enjoyed this hike much better than the one we took 2 days earlier (see "San Angelo SP: December 30, 2011"). The hike on the ledge above Potts Creek was pretty scenic, and the vistas were a bit better from this area of the park. The 2 hills we climbed today are higher than anything we were on 2 days ago, and this certainly helped provide better vistas. However, we were fairly close to FM 2288 (the highway that connects the 2 parts of the park) for much of the hike today, and the traffic noise does take away from the spirit of isolation we enjoy. We even had several sightings of that highway.

Next time, we hope to hike the trail farther in the direction of the north side. We may even go to the north side and hike south. We'll see.

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