Sunday, January 22, 2012

San Angelo SP: January 20, 2012

The weather forecast for Friday was sunny and warm, with highs reaching the low 80s. Sounded like a good time for a winter hike.

Donna and I drove out to nearby San Angelo State Park, the location for most of our recent hikes. Our goal is to hike all the trails out there. I had recently stated that there were 50 miles of trails in the park, but a feature story in this morning's newspaper stated that there are actually over 70 miles. That's a lot of hiking.

Donna and I have almost hiked all the trails easily accessible from the southern part of the park. There are a few trails near the main gate we have yet to hike and then some north of our previous hikes. We decided to hike that area today.

We recently upgraded our hiking packs. We opted for packs with built-in hydration systems. Although we don't require as much water during winter hikes, now is a good time to test new equipment. We filled the packs with water and then set out. Today we would park in the day use area on Pulliam Ridge (noted on park maps as Highland Range Scenic Lookout), and set out from there. In order to get as much distance as possible, we used the available dirt roads to cover the areas we had already explored. Hiking these roads is much easier than the trail system, which normally follows ridge lines and has numerous ups and downs. The roads are usually straight and smooth, so we are able to hike at a speed of about 3 mph or more on them as compared to 2 mph or less on the trails.

We quickly hiked more than 2 miles to the rest area which was the turn around point on our last hike in the park (see "San Angelo SP: January 5, 2012"). This was our "jumping off" point into the section of the park we had not been before.

We set off down Flintstone Trail. All along the trail, we pondered why the trail was named that, so we were anxious to arrive at the point on the trail called Flintstone Village.

Donna beside a sign indicating the trail. The covered structure atop the hill in the background is our destination, Cougar Outlook.
Unusual cactus along trail near Flintstone Village. I don't know much about cactus, but I believe this is some type of barrel cactus cluster.
Source of name for the trail; table and seats like you might find Fred, Wilma, Betty, and Barney using.

Our destination for the day was a place designated on our map as Cougar Outlook. It is located on a bluff just beyond Flintstone Village. Facilities provided there include 2 covered picnic tables, trail map, bike rack, and 2 hitching racks for horses.

Cougar Lookout

We stopped here for lunch and enjoyed cheese, sausage, and crackers. The view from this bluff was interesting. Obviously, at one time the lake backed up this far, but that was long, long ago. There are all sorts of "skeletons" in this area of a time when there was much more water here.

Abandoned boat ramp near Flintstone Village
In better times, this stairway would have led to water; now it leads only to prickly pear.

Sign of the times

These roofless picnic tables dot the area like ghosts.

Once upon a time, all of this to the horizon was covered with water.

North Concho River, the main waterway feeding Lake O. C. Fisher. There is actually some water in the river, and it  curves right. The dry bed below the water is a creek feeding into the river.

San Angelo State Park is built around O. C. Fisher Lake. If you look at a state road map, the lake looks quite large; in reality, it remains very low, currently at less than 1% capacity.

After lunch, Donna and I took the most direct route back to our vehicle we could. Among the numerous trails in the park, the one designated as a multi-use trail is the most direct route connecting the two sections of the park. We hiked this route back from Couger Outlook. Actually, most of the trail is a dirt road. It is 8.5 miles from the trailheads at the north and south sections. Since that is a 17 mile round trip, it is too far to walk; however, we hope to take our bikes out soon to make the round trip. I wanted to hike part of the trail to see what condition it is in as we are not good bikers, and it looks good for a bike trip.

I really enjoy hiking this park. Now, once it gets hot and there is little shade, I may feel differently, but during the winter when temps are mild and snakes are not prevalent, this is a good place to spend several hours.

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