Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Hike Report: Multi-Trail Hike in the South Section of San Angelo State Park

A few days ago, the weather was sunny and warm, so Donna and I set out for a short hike in the south section of San Angelo State Park. As I stated in my previous post, we've hiked all the trails in the park, so to keep things fresh, we now combine different trails and try to go in different directions than we have previously gone.

We parked our car in the parking lot at Red Arroyo Camping Area, next to the playground. (See official park map.) We set out in a southwesterly direction on the Tasajillo Flats Trail through dense patches of prickly pear and mesquites and other desert type vegetation.

Donna at the Tasajillo Flats Trailhead.
After a quarter mile or so, we veered off in a more westerly direction on the Horny Toad Trail. This trail topped out on ridge with good views before descending into an arroyo abounding with mesquite thickets.

View from ridge on the Horny Toad Trail affords a good look at the nearby Highland Range Subdivision, which backs up to the southwestern boundary of the park.
Trail winds through mesquites and prickly pear. In the summer, the mesquites in the lower arroyos will provide a bit of shade from the sun, but in winter, they are barren of any leaves.
The Horny Toad Trail is pretty typical of most trails in the park. It winds up and down slopes, through mesquite thickets and prickly pears, and the trail is sometimes soft dirt and other times loose rock.

After winding through the arroyo, the Horny Toad Trail then skirts back up a slope, eventually topping out on a ridge with good views in several directions.

View from a ridge on the Horny Toad Trail. Looking north, the O.C. Fisher Lake Dam is visible, as well as a line of hills stretching west.
At the top of the ridge, the trail is intersected by the shorter Talley Valley Trail coming in from the north. From this point, the trail skirts a switchback and works down to a paved roadway where the Horny Toad Trail ends and the Nature Trail begins.

The Nature Trail starts out pretty straight on a surface of red dirt. Mesquite trees cluster about the trail.

Red dirt trail cuts a straight path through the mesquites on the Nature Trail.
After a quarter to half mile, the Tasajillo Flats Trail intersects from the north. About 150 yards or so past that, the Nature Trail takes a sharp turn to the northeast. However, we continued straight on the old Nature Loop Trail, which is not marked on any of my maps. This trail hit the paved park road at the entrance to the Isabelle Harte Park. (see official park map)

Entrance to Isabelle Harte Park, which is a part of the larger San Angelo State Park.
At this point, we followed the paved road leading into Isabelle Hart. Just before reaching the picnic tables, we turned right on the Winding Snake Trail (or it could be the Chaparral Trail). This trail began the return to our vehicle, and headed in a southerly direction. After about a third or more of a mile, it crossed a decaying paved road no longer available to traffic. At this point, the trail is certainly the Chaparral Trail. The remains of the old Red Dam are visible at this point to the north.

Red Dam (right center), with O.C. Fisher Dam in the background.

Looking across Red Arroyo from Isabelle Harte Park to Red Arroyo Camping Area. The buffalo in the center of the picture are not real, but metal silhouettes that look pretty authentic. A pavilion is at far right center. Note RVs in upper left. This is the campground where we used to camp.
All in all, I'd say we covered about 4 miles, give or take a little. It was a pleasant hike with perfect temps, though the wind did blow pretty hard at times -- but then, the wind always blows pretty hard in West Texas.

One of the great things about this park is that there are so many trails, which allows hikers to put together trail combinations to get a distance they are comfortable with. None of the trails are really strenuous, and there are really no steep ups and downs though there are some climbs throughout the park.

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