Saturday, February 2, 2013

Hiking Bastrop State Park, January 26, 2013

During our stay at Bastrop State Park, we attempted to hike the same route we had hiked back in May, 2010. That was not possible, though, for the fire had closed some trails and rerouted others. You can find a review of that 6+ mile hike on my website, Living the Good Life.

The park has 2 maps online: the Map of Park and the Lost Pines Hiking Trail Map. Neither map has been revised since the fire. As you enter the park, staff members will give you one of these maps with hand drawn color-coded lines reflecting updates. The colors match signs you will see along the trails. Also note that the trail east of Harmon Road is, as I understand, closed to all visitors.

As in May 2010, our hike today began at our trailer in the Piney Hill Campground. We descended the slope towards Copperas Creek. Near the bottom of the slope, a fence rail appears that veers hikers left away from the old trail.

Although the fence is relatively new, it has already been damaged by falling trees. The sections of the trees blocking the trail have been removed, but the remainder of the trees lie where they fell.

A major trail junction soon appears along the creek bottom where two new bridges have been constructed. A new trail runs northeast from this junction, eventually coming out at the parking area on Park Road 1A just north of the Copperas Creek Campground (see map).

New bridges along Copperas Creek

At the parking area, we turned south along the road for a short walk before veering off east on the Lost Pines Trail. A short distance in, we came to the Scout Camping Area.

Signs suffered in the fire, too.

At a trail junction, we decided to take the right fork to visit Fehr's Overlook Shelter. On our previous hike, we had taken the left fork. Much of this trail was a respectable ascent picking our way through fallen trees. The shelter had suffered damage. The bottom of the shelter, made of stone, survived the fire, but the roof has been recently replaced. The view is good.

Fehr's Overlook Shelter sporting its new roof

View from the shelter. Note Highway 71 in the distance.

After our climb to the shelter, we returned downhill and took Roosevelt's Cutoff to the north. On our previous hike, we had journeyed farther east, to Harmon Road. However, I wanted to see the pond on Roosevelt's Cutoff. The pond has traditionally provided a home for the endangered Houston Toad, and I wanted to get a glimpse of it.

Pond on Roosevelt's Cutoff

At the junction of Roosevelt's Cutoff and the north loop of the Lost Pines Trail, we headed back west. After a short walk, we crossed park road 1A and visited the scenic overlook. As with Fehr's Overlook Shelter, this structure also sports a new wood roof. In the past, the Scenic Overlook Trail descended directly from the shelter over a series of short switchbacks with a rail fence. Now, however, the trailhead is next to the road in the parking area for the shelter. It gently descends the slope of the hill until it reaches the bottom and rejoins the old trail.

Trail head at Scenic Overlook parking lot. This once was the Scenic Overlook Trail, but it may now be called the Bracken Fern Trace Trail. I'm just not sure.
From this point, we followed the trail back towards our campground, eventually turning off on the Pine Warbler Trail to come out near the Group Barracks near the pool. The trail along Copperas Creek has many new bridges. They are sturdy and are built to last.

One of my favorite bridges in the park. Notice the stone work leading up to the bridge.
Yeah, the area is sort of a waste land now, but this is still an enjoyable hike. I'd like to return in 2 or 3 years to see how much the area has recovered. And I'm happy to report that a lot of people are on the trails. During our hike in May 2010, we encountered only 1 man, a jogger near Roosevelt's Cutoff. On our hike in January 2013, we probably encountered at least 20 people. This is a great opportunity to watch a burned area return to life.

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