Monday, January 9, 2012

San Angelo SP: January 5, 2012

Temps were expected to reach upper 60s today, and that is good hiking weather. Donna and I headed back to the state park for another hike. We've really come to appreciate the hiking trails in this park. Not only are there lots of them (50 miles or more), but they are very well defined and maintained. I don't like trails that are overgrown because snakes can be hidden in the grass and brush, but SASP has very clear trails.

Each time we go out, we try to extend our hike and we try to walk trails we've not been on before. We are still trying to regain our hiking legs. We used to hike good distances, but we fell out of hiking when I became the caretaker to my father prior to his death. We've simply not gotten back into the "hiking rhythm" since then. Sure, we've been on many hikes since then, but we often allow lots of time to elapse between hikes. So, we still aren't able to hike the distances we once did -- and we are a bit older, too -- so we are taking it slow and easy as we regain our hiking legs.

This time we parked atop Pulliam Ridge (the Highland Range Scenic Overlook on the park map) to get us farther north. From there, we traveled over a bit of the Potts Creek Trail we hiked a few days earlier and used a dual-track road to connect to the Armadillo Ridge Trail. At this point, we took the Playground Trail, which wove along a ridge to Bell's Point.

Looking along our back trail from a slope up Armadillo Ridge. Our Tundra is parked on the high point in upper-left portion of picture. We are about 1 mile from the truck.
Animal blinds such as this are located throughout the SASP trail system.

Our first destination is a place called Bell's Point. It is simply a point on a ridge that affords a good view of the surrounding countryside. There are a few facilities at this location, such as a table and benches, and there are 2 water spigots. I do not know if the water is potable, but it can certainly be used for watering horses as these trails are used by equestrians.

Rest area at Bell's Point. Notice bike racks. This is a multi-use trail.
Marker at Bell's Point.
Star at Bell's Point.
If you use Google Earth, you can enter the following location and you should be able to see the star.

  • 31°29'10.13" N 100°32'21.65" W
In fact, if you zoom in close enough, you can see most of the single track trails Donna and I have been hiking the past week or so; you can certainly see the roads within the park.

From Bell's Point, we continued traveling north, still on the Playground Trail. The first part of this trail wound down through a wet-weather creek bottom, and for a while it looked as if we were returning in the same direction we had just come. But once we got below the Bell's Point overlook, the trail then turned back north. It was about this time that we looked behind us and noticed a female jogger quickly catching up. We stepped off the trail to allow her to pass. What a jog! We were at least 2, maybe 3 miles from where we parked, and most people who use the trails in this area park at Burkett Trail Head, which was an additional half mile farther away.  We would not see this lady again, so she was really putting away some miles. I wish I could do that.

We soon crossed another park road. There are lots of these roads in this park from the days when it was a Corps of Engineers park. We have not hiked any of them yet as we prefer the single track trails, which give us more of a sense of true hiking. But as we extend our hikes farther out, we will probably use some of these tracks as they are straighter and smoother, thus allowing us more mileage while requiring less energy. Once we crossed this road, we were officially on the Flintstone Trail.

Soon we were at a major trail junction. On some maps, it is marked simply as "Rest Area." Several trails merge at this location. It also has a water spigot, water trough for horses, and a map of the trail system.

Rest Area. Note bike racks; behind them, water spigot and trough. Map of trail system is directly above Donna's head.
This trail area is roughly the northernmost area of the south side of the park (that is not to say it is the halfway point between the 2 sides, though). There is a dirt surfaced road running north and south, and several trails meet here: both Turkey Creek Trails, Flintstone Trail, and another lesser dual track. SASP has an interesting trail system, and it became apparent to us here. As we prepared to turn back south, we wanted to take the Turkey Creek Trail, a long trail that parallels FM 2288 for about 2 miles or more. However, there are 2 Turkey Creek Trails -- one for bikers and hikers, and the second for horses and hikers. I like this.

Trail etiquette "suggests" that hikers yield to horses, and bikers yield to both hikers and horses. In reality, I've found this not to be the practice, though. I've done some mountain biking myself, so I don't mean to disparage bikers, but I find 90% or more of them to be dangerous on the trail. Most of them are on the trails for the thrill of zooming down hills and over rises. We've had some come close to hitting us without so much as an apology. They can be a terror as they suddenly fly over a hill heading straight for you. With this in mind, we decided to take the trail intended for horses and hikers.
Trail sign indicating the 2 Turkey Trails. This picture was taken at the southern terminus of the Turkey Trail, not at the northern terminus where we picked up the trail.

The trail back was rather uneventful. There was a dip through Turkey Creek that provided some tree cover; otherwise, the scenery was much like everything else we've seen in the park.

Turkey Creek Trail: not much out there.
At the southern end of the Turkey Trail, we crossed a crumbling paved road. As we were about to get back on the trail, a bike rider came bounding around the curve. He was not going fast and did not pose a danger, but he also did not yield to us; instead, we moved off the trail. Every once in a while, I consider sticking my hiking pole in their spokes, but that is just a thought that pleasures me; it is not something I would seriously consider doing.

At this point, we were back on the trail system we hiked on January 1. From here, it was a short 30 or 40 minute hike to the car along Armadillo Ridge and down through a mesquite flat. The worst part of the hike was the final quarter mile, which climbed up Pulliam Ridge to our truck.

I'm just about to post this item on a Monday morning. The rain has been falling since about midnight, and so far we've had about .6 inches of rain. This is our first rainfall of 2012, and we need so much more. It will be a few days before we get out for more hiking.

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