Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Walking at San Angelo State Park

We enjoy hiking at San Angelo State Park. Over the past few years, I've posted numerous entries about hiking the parks 50+ miles of trails. You can see these on my website Living the Good Life in the "Hiking" section. We probably hike at the park once or twice each month, mixing up the trails as best we can to get new experiences.

Sometimes, though, we prefer to walk rather than hike. You might wonder what the difference is. To me, there are several differences between hiking and walking, but in this specific instance the difference largely lies in the surface. When hiking, we stay on natural surface, while when walking we stay on park roads, most of which are paved. Also when walking, we are mainly concerned with fitness, so we walk quickly and without stopping. When hiking, we stop often to "smell the roses" along the trails.

The park is ideal for "road walking." Originally an Army Corps of Engineer park, there are roads all over in various condition. Many of these roads extended into areas that are no longer maintained. As a result, some of these roads are deteriorating. Roads once paved are now breaking apart, with grass growing up in the cracks. Dirt surface roads are now overgrown with grass, weeds, and other plant life.

The two routes we have been taking recently in our walks range from  5.1 miles to 6.3 miles. We've been walking these often in the last few weeks, for we are trying to get in shape for longer hikes. We used to enjoy 10 mile hikes, but lately we just haven't been in shape for that distance. Yeah, we could go that far if we needed to, but we'd be pretty exhausted as the end. For me, my legs and feet wear out, and I think Donna is the same.

For both of these walks, we park at the restrooms next to the playground near the Red Arroyo Campground. The shorter walk is merely a loop that goes southwest to the headquarters, then east along the park road to a lesser used and deteriorating park road that veers northeast. When the crumbling road turns sharply southwest, it then becomes a maintained park road, for it winds briefly through a campground, eventually heading due north. It then turns sharply southwest again, passing through occasional campsites then veering off by the Chaparral Pavilion. From there, we follow another older park road, once again in deteriorating condition, which then intersects with the main park road, taking us southeast to the headquarters and then back to our truck.

This is the 5.1 mile route
The longer route starts from the same location, goes by the park headquarters as in the previous walk, then east along the park road. Instead of turning off as in the previous walk, though, we continue on the park road. Near the O.C. Fisher dam, the road veers suddenly in a north/northeasterly direction. On the left is a colony of prairie dogs that are sometimes scampering about. Most of the dogs in this colony are small, and we rarely see them anymore. There is another colony in the north section of the park with some pretty chubby citizens. We follow the road north along the dam to its very end, then turn around. On the return trip, we veer off on the deteriorating road mentioned in the shorter walk, then come through the campground, eventually back to our truck.

This is the 6.3 mile route
We've had several rains lately, not enough to build our lakes back up at all, but enough to keep things green and wet. Several of the trails are now becoming overgrown, and we prefer not to hike through tall grass, so walking on the roads is a good alternative to this. Also, there are numerous mud holes on the trails during wet weather, and we prefer to avoid those as well.

So for now, we'll continue our walks along the paved park roads, building our legs and endurance for longer hikes on our camping trips.We're lucky to have a state park on the edge of town. It is so much more pleasant to walk there than in town, where traffic and noise make the walks unpleasant. At the park, we can hear the wind and birds and not be bothered by traffic. It's a good way to spend a couple of hours.

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