Saturday, January 17, 2015

A Brief Escape from Winter

It's been an unpleasant winter so far. We've had colder temps than we normally get here, and they seem to last longer. We've had several days when the highs stayed below freezing, and that just isn't the norm for this part of the country. And we've had lots of overcast days, and several periods of light icing. Overall, it's just been unpleasant, and we just haven't wanted to get out. The nice thing about being retired is that you can stay home when the weather is bad. But that also causes cabin fever, and I've had a bad case of it lately.

Yesterday was a pretty day, so I went out to our local state park - San Angelo State Park - to do a short hike. I've reported our hikes out there numerous times before. To review any of these, just go to our web site Living the Good Life and you'll find many of our hikes listed there.

For this hike, I put together a short loop trail of about 5 miles. I've not done any serious hiking all winter, and even my regular 3 mile walks have been very irregular, so I didn't want to push things. I started the hike heading west on the Tasajilla Flats Trail for just a short distance before turning onto the Horny Toad Trail. At a road crossing the Horny Toad Trail became the Nature Trail, which I followed more or less in a northerly direction. At another road crossing, I took the Lanky Lackey Trail northwest to Burkett Trail Head, the half-way point of the hike where I would start looping back. From there, I followed the Winding Snake Trail almost due east until returning in a southerly direction to my truck on the Chaparral Trail.

Below is my route for the day. You can view the area by using Google Maps and setting the coordinates at 31°28'24.68" N 100°30'35.60" W. If you zoom in close enough, the trails and even some trail names appear.

My route, starting at bottom right and moving in a clockwise direction.
This is a fairly easy hike. It was 45 degrees when I started and 65 when I finished. The sun was bright and the wind light. The route involves numerous minor ups and downs of 50 or 60 feet, more or less. Basically, you have an empty lake bed, and the trail winds from ridge tops into the long dry lake bed and back up the next ridge. Along the ridges, views are good for long distances. There is little brush along the ridges. Down in the lake bed, though, cactus and mesquite are often thick. Trails up to and down from the ridges are rocky. They aren't a real problem, but at my current age I take them slowly and make sure I have good footing. I like to use a single hiking pole on these trails for extra support on the slopes. Trails along the bottoms are on packed dirt, so that is easy walking.

There are no really outstanding landmarks. Near the Burkett Trail Head at the halfway point of the hike, there is a small pond out of sight to your south. I suppose there is a seep or spring there, and water trickles down from there. On the return trip, you pass the runoff from the seep again, where reeds and cattails proliferate, and a small pond appears next to the trail. Not far past the pond is an abandoned day use area from the days when the park was maintained by the Corp of Engineers.

Otherwise, it's just a walk through some West Texas terrain with plenty of fresh air. I did not see a single person along the trail, so I had the place to myself.

Here are some pictures:

Typical West Texas scenery, with mesas in the background. If you look at center left at the low lying ridge, you may be able to make out some picnic tables. That is the area where the return trail is located. Center right is what remains of the old Red Dam.

This is typical of trails along the ridges. Little vegetation, good vistas, and a light, rocky surface.
In the bottoms, trails are packed earth, and this makes for pretty easy walking. Lots of mesquites in most of the bottoms.
Trails up and down slopes more or less look like this. Loose rocks can cause slips and twisted ankles if you aren't careful.
I was thankful when Burkett Trail Head came into view. The trail begins its loop back here, and I was already tired at this point. Note mesas in the background and Pulliam Ridge jutting out from the top left.
Lots of vegetation around the seep. Brush on left has been beaten down by animals that drink from the seep.
Seep forms a little pond along the return trail. If you zoom in close on the Google Map coordinates I supplied above, you can see this pond; a larger pond is visible to the south/southwest of this one on the map but not from the trail.
When I first sighted these old picnic tables, they almost looked like burial platforms from an Indian burial ground.

And what would a West Texas hike be without cactus?

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