Friday, January 27, 2012

San Angelo SP: January 23, 2012

With rain and cooler weather forecast for our area for the next 2 days, we decided we had better take a hike before things got muddy. It may be a while before our next hike. As a side note, we did get almost 2 inches of rain the 2 days following this hike. That's great, but not nearly enough to replenish area lakes.

Up to this time, all of our hikes had originated from the southern section of the park. San Angelo State Park has two sides. The southern gate is just outside the western city limits of San Angelo. In fact, a housing subdivision known as Highland Range backs up to this section of the park. The northern gate is located just west of the community of Grape Creek, which lies north of San Angelo along US Highway 87, which goes to Big Spring, Lubbock, Amarillo, and points beyond.

We have just about covered all the trails in the southern section of the park, so this time we journeyed to the north section and started our hike at Bell's Trailhead. The northern section of the park has facilities for horses, including pens for holding them for overnight camping. As a result, this part of the park is used much more by horses, so it pays to watch your step.

Bell's Trailhead in the north part of San Angelo State Park
Our hike today consisted of numerous trails and a variety of scenery. We began at Bell's Trailhead, where we hopped on the Dinosaur Trail. This trail forms a large loop to the west. The trailhead is located very near the North Concho River, so numerous large trees, such as oaks and pecans, are in that area. The Dinosaur Trail quickly led us away from these trees, though, and we found ourselves in typical West Texas open country. About halfway along this trail, we crossed a creek, which had sporadic pools of water, probably from rains earlier in the month.Our first landmark was just beyond this creek at a small rest area.

Rest area on the Dinosaur Trail; note water trough for horses. Lots of prickly pear.
Our hike then began looping back to the Big Hill. The trail splits at the bottom, allowing you to bypass the hill if you do not want to undergo the climb, but since we like views, we decided to take the trail up the hill. One thing I've always appreciated about hiking is coming across things you don't expect. It might be a babbling brook you did not expect to find, or a stand of old growth trees that loggers never discovered. Sometimes the objects are man made. On this trip, we discovered a cross atop Big Hill.

Old Rugged Cross atop Big Hill
Stone marker at base of Old Rugged Cross

The marker for the cross indicated a connection with Loyd Bell. The Bell name occurs often in this area. We started our hike at Bell's Trailhead, for example, and there is a lookout on another trail in the park called Bell's Point, with a marker with similar contents. In San Angelo, there is Bell Street in the eastern part of town. I'd like to learn more about the Bell family, or at least Loyd Bell.

The next stretch of the trail was typical West Texas scenery, for the most part. We journeyed along the Badlands Trail for a while. There is a stretch through a dry creek area that looks like the badlands, so it is easy to see how the trail got its name. We then took the River Bend Trail, all the while hiking south.

Donna and I have hiked for several years. There are times when I begin a hike that I feel great, but after a couple of miles, I just don't seem to have the energy to hike very far. At other times, I start sluggish and dread the hike, but after a mile or two, I get my hiking legs and then really enjoy the hike. On this day, I started slow and never got better. After about 3 miles or so, I was ready to turn around and head home.

We soon reached a trail that turned east and headed towards a junction with other trails which would take us back to the trailhead. We came to an area called Ghost Camp. As with other areas of the park I've documented before, Ghost Camp is simply a collection of abandoned picnic tables and other facilities from the days when water actually backed up this far from O.C. Fisher Lake.

Abandoned boat ramp near Ghost Camp
At Ghost Camp, we turned back north to a site called River Bend Park. We decided this was a good place to stop. There are old picnic tables here, but they are still used from time to time by hikers, bikers, and equestrians. There is also a primitive toilet here. We snacked on cheese and crackers for a while and rested a bit. A couple of bikers came by heading north. They had probably started at Burkett Trailhead in the south part of the park and were heading to Bell's Trailhead. If so, they were making a round-trip journey of 17 miles, something I hope to do soon on my bike.

After leaving our rest area, we headed north along Slick Rock Trail, then took the Scenic Loop Trail. Just as we were entering the Scenic Loop Trail, our bike riders came by on their way back. They were making excellent time. Oh, to be young again!

The entire Scenic Loop area is dotted with native pecan trees. Along the trail, we spotted another unexpected site, a deer carcass.

Deer carcass on Scenic Loop Trail
We then took Shady Trail, which follows the North Concho River, back to the trailhead. Overall, our hike was probably about 6 or 7 miles.

This is a good trail for summer hikes because of the tree growth along the river. However, the river is really low these days, with no constant flow. Sometimes, there are only pools of water.

Pool of water in North Concho riverbed along Shady Trail

We need to do another 2 hikes or so in this section of the park, and then we will have covered just about the entire park.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Keith & Donna, I'm here to represent my Dad, Loyd Bell. We just found this blog and he would love to visit with you and get to know you as well. Please email me at
    and we can make some plans for that. It sounds as if you have a lot of common interests and he is looking forward to meeting with you. Thanks, Gayle Bell Harding