Thursday, January 2, 2014

Our First Day Hike

Donna and I went out to San Angelo State Park yesterday to enjoy a "first day hike." We did not go on the ranger-led hike since it was following a trail we had hiked only a few days before; instead, we took another trail.

We parked at the Burkett trailhead (see map referenced below) of the park and basically did the same hike I recorded about 2 years ago in San Angelo SP: December 30, 2011. However, this time we did the hike in reverse. If you've ever done much hiking you know that the very same trail can look considerably different when hiked from the opposite direction.

On a side note, I could not get my camera to work on the hike, but you can reference the earlier article for pictures.

Should you visit the park, ask for a trail map. The official park map does not show all of the trails available in the park. Actually, there are two additional maps. One is a free paper handout. I have a copy of a trail map done by the Friends of San Angelo State Park that is quite nice and has good trail detail. It is laminated and cost $3 at the time I purchased it.

We followed the Winding Snake Trail from Burkett into a bottom area that was quite damp. A large number of reeds, cattails, and other water loving plants grew pretty thick. The trail itself was damp even though we've had no noticeable rain for about a week. Soon we could see a trickle of water moving through the reeds, eventually forming a small pond.

Past the pond, the trail climbed a bit, passing a few old covered picnic tables from the days when the park was managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  After passing through a thicket of mesquites, the trail then broke into a clearing and the dam of O. C. Fisher Reservoir was visible. Near this point, the trail split; it doesn't matter which trail you follow as they converge at Isabelle Harte Park soon. The trail emerged onto a dirt road, which soon crossed a paved road. At this point, the trail becomes the Chaparral Trail.

More picnic tables and other structures from the old park days are visible here. We remained on the trail until we came to a no-longer used paved road we had hiked before. We followed it due west until it merged with the same paved road we crossed earlier and farther east at Isabelle Harte. At this point, we hit the Lanky Lackey Trail and began heading back to our car.

We crossed an old dirt road along this trail. Looking down the road to the northeast, we could see a restroom from the old days. There are a number of no longer used structures in the park from the old days. When the lake was first formed, heave rains almost immediately filled the lake and gave a false impression of the shoreline. As a result, structures were built along this false shoreline. Now that West Texas reality and drought have set in, these structures are always away from the water -- if there is, indeed, any water at all in the lake -- and they are crumbling with time. Coming upon these in the back country is like coming across a ghost town.

Just after crossing the dirt road, we emerged on a slope that provided a really good view of the area to the northwest. We could even see the Burkett trailhead and our car from this vantage point. The trail then dips down into a lower area where we once again encountered reeds and other growth. We crossed a small rivulet, undoubtedly the same one we had seen near the start of our hike. As we began climbing again, we could see the small pond along the main park road. This pond was constructed only in the last 2 years or so. I guess it is spring fed as it always appears full. Runoff from this pond feeds the little rivulet.

It was a good hike, probably about 4 miles or so. We are grossly out of shape, so we did not want to go too far. We've not even been doing our regular neighborhood walks lately. Since this was "first day", we encountered a number of bikers on the trail. All we very polite and cautious as they moved past us on the trail. Lots of folks were all over the park.

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