|Posted by douggoodman on March 9, 2017 at 10:20 PM||comments (0)|
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…
Often I find that my writing and my hiking mirror each other. Recently, this seems very true. I have four books in various stages of editing, two for release and two of them books that I can’t seem to finish. On the other hand, last week in New Mexico I hiked two trails, but finished neither (for two very different reasons)…
I was doing outreach work in Albuquerque, so I of course wanted to take the opportunity to hike a few trails as part of my 42 Trails goal this year. I decided the best time to do this was my first day in Albuquerque. I’m sure I was a sight on the airline, dressed in a dirty old pair of hiking boots, worn out blue jeans, and one of my hiking t-shirts. After some internal debate, I decided on the Sandia Crest trail first. It was up in the mountains rising above Albuquerque. Now, I know it is cliché to call mountain views breathtaking and awe-inspiring. But there’s a reason for that. The Sandia Crest trail is a short, beautiful trail with awe-inspiring vistas of the desert floor beneath the mountains. Since that morning I woke up at 0-feet sea level and was now hiking around at ~10,500 feet above sea level, let me assure IT WAS BREATHTAKING. Sandia Crest made a great number 36. What made it even more exciting was the discovery of snow and ice at Sandia Crest! When I set out almost a year ago to hike 42 trails, I never thought hiking in snow would be in the works. Beaches, hills, swamps, and forests, sure. But snow? Not for this Houston boy…
When they named this trail the “Sandia Crest,” they weren’t mincing words. The half-mile loop teeters at the very edge of the Sandia mountains. And if that weren’t exhilarating enough, in winter, the trail is covered in ice that slopes out and away…and off the mountain. In parts, a brick ledge would save you from being flung over the mountainside, but in other parts, nothing more than a chain link fence (without a bottom rail, I might add) and the grace of God keeps you on top of the mountain. It is definitely a crampon-and-sticks trail, which I was not equipped for. Using the STOP method that I had discussed with Cub Scouts the previous week (Stop, Think, Observe, and Plan), I decided the best route for my safety was to turn around and head back to the car…
By the Way, the road to the Sandia Crest is worth the trip alone, even if you don’t get out at the top of the mountain. It’s a winding, twisting corridor of beauty. So my heart was not heavy as I drove through this mesermizing, transplanted landscape. Picture it: in the middle of a desert, I was driving through blowing snow in the pines. Like I was in a winter Range Rover commercial, except I was driving a little Hyundai Sonata. What a wonderful place New Mexico is! I was slightly exhausted, but mostly thrilled with the little adventure I’d just had. So I drove back into the desert and visited the Petroglyphs National Monument in Albuquerque. I wanted to hike through one of the canyons and see the petroglyphs. Like a good hiker, though, first I checked in at the visitor center. There, the rangers advised me NOT to complete the trail. I thought they were crazy, but I listened. They suggested hiking the far side of the looped trail because it was closer to the canyon’s escarpment, a.k.a., the petroglyphs. They then suggested turning around at the end of the canyon, walking back up the trail the way I’d come. If I did that, I would see even more petroglyphs! (I did.) The rest of the loop crossed open grassland, which would have taken me away from the glyphs!
So two trails, two incompletes, but two of the best trails I’ve hiked in the past year. Once again, I’m reminded that each trail is an adventure with something new to see, whether it is snow over the desert or ancient Pueblo arts.
Now if I can just get a book out…
|Posted by douggoodman on December 11, 2016 at 6:15 PM||comments (0)|
Wow. I’ve done it. 21 hikes on 21 trails. That’s only half-way there, but it’s got to count for something, right? So, I've been hiking for roughly seven and a half months now, and I've just completed my 21st hike. I've just been looking over the hikes, and I'm pretty happy with what I'm seeing. Throughout Texas, I've visited mountains, forests, our lovely brown coast, and the hill country. I find it interesting (probably because I’ve hung around too many engineers) that of the four major “sections” of Texas (west, east, central, and south), the only section of Texas I have not hiked in is South Texas. If you consider North Texas as part of your map, then I've also hiked in North Texas. If you see a difference between El Paso and the Panhandle (and I do), then I've yet to hike in the Panhandle, though I plan to remedy that in March.
Although most of my hikes have been in the state parks (shout-out to the Texas State Parks Pass, get yours now), the National Parks System has provided me with two hiking opportunities that I've made use of, and local parks have been under my feet for five different trails. All this and I've never gotten lost or been eaten by wild squirrels!
Some of my numbers: 44 miles and 24 hours. Yes, that's right. I've been walking for over a day. And my feet couldn't thank me enough. (I think they’re giving me the "Grumpy Cat" glare...)
Some of the things I've encountered:
One friendly stray puppy
Amazing, have-to-see-it-yourself waterfalls (seriously, go see the waterfalls in Texas!)
Ruins (the not-scary kind)
Giant basketball-sized balls of spiders
…and the list goes on.
I don’t want to say yet which trail was my favorite. I’m not sure I have one yet, but I will say that starting this year of hiking at Pedernales Falls and the Franklin Mountains really helped motivate me. I’m not sure I could have kept with this plan had I not had those trails to fall back on.
Part of why I did this, though, was to try to gain some newfound wisdom or insight about the meaning of life. This is a work in progress. I’m learning and I’m watching and I’m taking everything in, but so far the biggest thing I’ve found is that I enjoy the trails more with my family than I do alone. I think that may be all the insight I need.
Also, I’ve developed a keen interest in the adventure available through the parks system. I am still blown away by how each trail is new and different. Believe me, once the trails started to center around the Houston area, I got concerned. I wondered if I would get bored. But I have yet to hike a “ho-hum” trail. Whether it was the addition of hiking with the Scouts, the accompaniment of my family, or the companionship of a puppy to the trail, I’ve never been bored and I’ve always come away really pleased with the result. There are no boring trails, just people not looking for the adventure!
I have some idea of where I’m going from here. There are arrangements to hike Palo Duro, and fingers crossed for Enchanted Rock and Garner State Park. I’ve only barely begun to explore Brazos Bend State Park’s trail system, so I hope to go back there, soon. And like I said, the only part of Texas I haven’t hiked is South Texas. So there is definitely a lot to look forward to. I haven’t done “winter hiking” in Texas yet, and I might get the chance to hike some caves and try some new and crazy things. So, as I am learning, there are lots of adventures that I’m already looking forward to.
|Posted by douggoodman on December 4, 2016 at 1:05 PM||comments (0)|
Just a note: I've moved 42 Trails to Instagram. I think it clicks a lot better using photo descriptions rather than the blog format. The photos are under #42trails. I reserve the chance to place some wackiness here, but for the most part, the mayhem will continue on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/42trails/" target="_blank">here.
|Posted by douggoodman on October 16, 2016 at 8:30 AM||comments (0)|
15. Kemah Berm Trail
September 23, 2016
Distance: 1.1 Miles
Time to Hike: 25 minutes
The Kemah Bern is an easy little trail. The "path" is a loop at the top of a berm, which local history tells me was made from dredging out the canal for the Kemah Boardwalk. The loop was semi-covered in asphalt. Except for mowing, the path is unmaintained. Inside the loop are several different environments, from marsh to prairie to scrub forest, all within a 1 mile block, which is pretty interesting, but not as interesting as what happened before and after the trail
Every trail I've walked has been unique and interesting. I thought with the berm, I had finally found a boring trail. Not true. Every trail is an adventure.
So, like I do every time, I put together my equipment (a MULE Camelback with some tame SAR gear and random bits of food like a cup of applesauce and a protein bar from 2012). I walked out to the berm, but as I was getting close, I heard that sound that drives neighborhood runners and walkers crazy: dog barking from the front yard. Now, I've encountered many dogs, a few of which actually approached, and only one that gave me the drive-by/"I'm going to bite you next time" feel. Usually an owner is nearby who calls the dog off.
I've been looking elsewhere and not noticed the dogs. Yes, dogs. The first one is a true blue heeler. She is sitting in the bed of a trailer that has been parked at a house two doors down from me. She is barking from the very edge of the trailer, but will go no further. The fence is being worked on. I suspect she belongs to the construction crew, who is out on lunch. The second dog is much closer, only one house away from me. He is barking like crazy and charging toward me, but he is small. Then he rears up on his back legs, and I can see clearly that he is all-ears and all-paws. The puppy lands with his front paws down on the concrete, his little butt wiggling up in the air. In dog speak, he might as well have been yelling "YOU ARE THE COOLEST THING EVER AND I WANT TO PLAY!!!"
The little hound dog ran up to me wiggling, so I petted him, told him to go home, and kept walking. I passed the blue heeler, which just eye-balled me like a suspicious mom who doesn't like the look of somebody at the local playground. Like a runner being followed by a dog on Wuhu Island (go play a Nintendo Wii or Wii U if you don't know what I'm talking about), I suddenly had a little dog that had decided to follow me on the trail. While I was happy to have made a friend and to have his company, this was September, it was hot, and I didn't want the dog to overdo it. So I was happy when, about a quarter ways down the trail, he suddenly decided he really needed to get home. I finished the trail and was getting hot myself.
I thought my adventure was over, but I was wrong. I had to pass by the house on the way back, and this time the little puppy decided to follow me all the way home. I tried encouraging him to go back. Nothing doing, he was with me. So I set out some water for him at home (he'd looked pretty drained when I came out of the park and was just a yellow pancake spilled out over the road). Then I put him in the car and drove him home. This time, the blue heeler, who had barked at me every time I passed, just watched and waited. Once her little brother came out of the car, she nervously checked him out to make sure he was okay. She looked like a wreck. Poor thing. I felt bad for her. She was just doing her job and her life was miserable because nobody else did what they were supposed to do. I kept walking, and the puppy kept following. But I was happy to reunite them, and I was tired, and it was time to go home.
But not. Like the cat coming back the very next day, the puppy ran after me driving away. Another walker tried to call the puppy back, but the puppy was bound and determined to follow me. Well, it was hot, cars were starting to frequent the road, and I had other things I needed to do besides deal with a possible puppy roadkill event. So back in the car the puppy went. I took him home and put him in one of our kennels. I left a sign on the garage door of the owners. (Clearly, this was not a dog belonging to the construction crew but to the owners.) Then I went about my business.
A funny thing happened when Douglas came home. I told him that the puppy was here just until the owners came for it. Well, my son is a child. All he was concerned about was seeing the puppy, playing with the puppy, and asking what would happen if the owners didn't come for it. (Yeah, we're not keeping it.)
He ran through a bunch of scenarios. The little lawyer was trying to find a scenario in which we would keep the puppy, or an argument that these were really horrible people and we should keep the puppy for them. I was beginning to get nervous that we would have to get a puppy, when we decided to let the puppy into the backyard to go to the bathroom. We had to switch dogs into kennels (mainly Ryder). From the kennel, Ryder went nuts, barking sharply at the little stranger in our house. Well, the hound dog puppy barked back. He was a hound dog, after all, and he had a voice! Soon enough, my problem was solved before it became a problem. Douglas was covering his ears and ready for the puppy to go. It was too loud for him!
To cut the story short, the owners came about a half hour later and picked up the puppy. Douglas was happy to see it go, and we don't have a new dog in the house, so it was a win-win for everyone!
|Posted by douggoodman on September 4, 2016 at 7:45 PM||comments (0)|
14. Galveston Island State Park Pond Trail
September 4, 2016
Distance: .5 Miles (Out and Back)
Time to Hike: 15 minutes
I ended the day with the Pond Trail. This is a short trail that cuts from inside the Prairie Trail and connects with the Pond Loop. Of the three trails, I thought this one had the best views, though I took the fewest photos. Like the other two trails I covered today, the path was mowed through the prairie grass. I saw lots of signs of life here, like fishbones and raccoon tracks. (Gee, I wonder what was going on there? :))
The Pond Trail connects with the Pond Loop at two points, almost 30 meters apart. They go around a palm tree, but the photo refuses to cooperate with my web interface, so you will have to trust me, or check out the photos on the Instagram I set up especially for 42 Trails (42trails).
All told, I covered 2.8 miles of hiking today. If you are not interested in trying to cover all parts of the trail and just want a "choice cuts" version, I would recommend using the Pond Trail, connecting to the northern trail (which is closer to Galveston Bay and goes away from the San Luis Pass). I saw more birds along this side of the Pond Trail. Do this in the evening or early morning. The path will take you back to the Priarie Trail, which you can then take back out. Now get outdoors and go hiking!!!
|Posted by douggoodman on September 4, 2016 at 7:30 PM||comments (0)|
13. Galveston Island State Park Freshwater Pond Loop
September 4, 2016
Distance: .7 Miles
Time to Hike: 22 minutes
The Freshwater Pond Loop begins at the end of the Prairie Trail Loop, so while this trail is only .7 miles, keep in mind that you have a 1.6 mile hike (out and back) to get to this point, which makes for a 2.3 mile hike. While I liked this trail, I will say that what bugged me about it (besides the mosquitos, amiright?) was the proximity to the San Luis Pass. There is a lot of traffic there, and so you can't quite get that peaceful, easy feeling the Eagles sang about like you can on the trails closer to the bay. That doesn't mean that there isn't a lot of good things to hear. If found ducks, egrets, and herons while I was out here, and that was close to the middle of the day. I suspect if you show up at dawn or dusk, there is even more to listen to. When I was hiking the Clapper Rail Trail here on the other side of summer, I was surprised, if not a little overwhelmed at times, by all the bird calls and bird sightings. I imagine a lot of those birds, while they may hunt among the marshes for crabs, are probably stopping here at the freshwater pond to drink.
Rubber duckie, you're the one...
I was looking down into the marsh as I came upon this stand of trees, and I wasn't looking up. So I only saw the herons flying off. (There is a little one still in the tree here.)
This is the view of the pond from the side closer to the San Luis Pass.
And of course, the trail map:
|Posted by douggoodman on September 4, 2016 at 7:00 PM||comments (0)|
Okay, so it is Labor Day weekend, and some of that summer heat is finally starting to cool off. It has been almost two months since I last did a trail. Can you believe that? The last time I was hiking a trail, we were all still wondering how Suicide Squad would turn out. Well, now that that's over (it turned out "meh"), it is time to get back to my goal of 42 trails in a year. And what better way to jumpstart it than to hike THREE trails in a single outing? Yes, that's right. Crazy Doug hiked three trails today, all at Galveston Island State Park where the temperature was somewhere around 90 degrees and the humidity felt about the same. So here is the first trail...
12. Galveston Island State Park Prairie Trail
July 9, 2016
Distance: 1.6 Miles (Out and Back)
Time to Hike: 27 minutes
The Prairie Trail is a fast out and back. Like all the other trails at the state park, there is about three feet of elevation, which is negligible. I wanted to hike this trail because a. it is the longest trail at GISP so I can now say I have hiked the longest trail at GISP, and b. because it connects to two other Freshwater Pond trails.
The Prairie Trail cuts through grass and cattails, which was pretty interesting because I usually think of swamps, not beaches, for cattails. But that shows you how diverse the ecosystems are here. the cattails need the freshwater marsh, and yet a few hundred yards in either direction you get salt water. It makes me wonder about the damage that a hurricane can wreck on small freshwater systems like these. If a hurricane dumps salt water here, that would remove (at least for a while) freshwater resources for migratory birds and other species.
Look at that sky! The last time I was here, it was very dramatic. This time, it is so peaceful. It's a Simpsons sky!
And finally, here is a map of the trail so that you can see what it looks like.
|Posted by douggoodman on July 30, 2016 at 10:30 PM||comments (0)|
Try this. I recorded it in early July while we were camping at Onion Creek. It is simply my camera positioned right next to the creek, just beyond McKinney's Lower Falls. Imagine you are there, the creek bubbling over the stones on a nice summer evening. Not too hot. You are relaxing under the cover of some impressive cypress. Bugs are buzzing in the breeze. I was reading a book and enjoying my time. I hope you enjoy this one. Use it to relax, help you sleep (my son passed out in twenty seconds after turning this on), whatever you want. Texas summer chill.
|Posted by douggoodman on July 30, 2016 at 10:20 PM||comments (0)|
11. Armand Bayou Nature Center Ladybird Trail
July 9, 2016
Distance: 1.7 Miles
Time to Hike: 42 minutes
Armand Bayou Nature Center is an urban nature preserve in my neck of the woods, or better stated, my side of the bayou. Unlike every other park I’ve visited so far, Armand Bayou Nature Center (ABNC) is not connected to a government parks department. It is owned and operated by a nonprofit group. On July 9, my son’s Cub Scout pack had the opportunity to hike one of ABNC’s three major trails, the Ladybird Trail.
The trail is a fast loop that shows off the prairies and wetlands of the bayou area. We took this trail at 9am on a Saturday morning. Outside, it was already as hot and wet as the devil’s armpit. For a lot of people, this is the worst time to live in Houston. It is a time of ozone and heat warnings, when the added humidity tips the scales toward heat exhaustion. For all this, the scouts had a fun time. Their little legs moved quickly, and they were full of an excitement and enthusiasm that even some parents could not meet. What I mean is, this trail was full of spiders (mostly large banana) and snakes that made parents wave their arms and jump away while the scouts oohed and ahhed. Three different snakes were spotted on the trail. I photographed the hogshead, but I did not see the two copperheads that were reported.
The kids loved it.
This is why we do these things, right? My son was not enthusiastic about hiking. In his defense, he had just spent the past week hiking with his dad. But once he got there, he was a different person and loved every minute of it. Parks like ABNC do such a great service to the community, providing these urban preserves so that people like me and my son can enjoy the nature of our backyard.
But what did this trail teach me? The Ladybird Trail was a great complement to the past week’s trails. By hiking this trail, I could see the difference between the bayou area and Central Texas. Some things were the same, such as similar wildflowers, elms, and oaks. But unlike the limestone of McKinney Falls and Dinosaur Valley, Armand Bayou is a mix of black and red clays. It is also dotted with palmettos, which are an indicator plant, meaning that they only survive in a very specific area (one with high flooding). Compare that to the prickly pears and ocotillos I saw in the other parks.
The Ray Roberts Greenbelt trail is probably closest to the Ladybird Trail because both are East Texas trails along bodies of water. But as one of the many bayous feeding Galveston Bay, ABNC presents a very different challenge than Ray Roberts, being the increased humidity. It traps you, much like the cicada caught in the giant web of a banana spider, a web that, poignantly, was at the end of our trail.
For all my Houston friends, have you walked these trails? How many snakes and spiders did you find?
|Posted by douggoodman on July 9, 2016 at 6:55 PM||comments (0)|
7. Ray Roberts State Park Greenbelt Corridor, Elm Fork Trail
June 29, 2016
Distance: 6.4 Miles (Total out and back trail is 22 miles)
Time to Hike: 2 hours, 46 minutes
This was a brutal, brutal trail. The first .9 miles have some tree cover, but the rest of the trail (at least as far as I was willing to go) is uncovered. I think that is why I turned around at Mile 3. I felt frustrated because I had to turn around. When I started this adventure back in April, my goal was not to try trails, but to finish trails. Do or do not, right? Well, today, I did not, and I feel guilt-ridden about it. I bit off more than I could chew. The summer Texas weather was too intense, and time was creeping on me. I needed to get back to the motel in time to pick my daughter up from TWU, so I couldn’t hike the full trail, but still, I feel like I have unfinished business with this trail. The question is, do I want to go back?
Listen, I think every trail has something that stands out about it, that something that makes it worth traversing. Whether that is the rugged beauty of the Franklin mountains, the water crossings of central Texas, or the sonorous vistas of Galveston full of bird calls; every park, and every trail for that matter, has something. What this trail had was cut hay. It was incongruous, like wandering into an autumn carnival in the middle of summer. The trail smells like October. I found myself wondering, do I really want to walk one more mile for hay on one side and a line of elk and cypress on the other? I could hear the river that I was walking along, but I never saw it after the initial crossing. I saw some red squirrels and two cardinals, but again, these I see everywhere. Ragweed, Black-Eyed Susans, and wilting Indian Paintbrush. For me, this trail just didn’t hold anything. Even the trail itself was hard-packed and tough on my feet.
Elm Tree Fork Trinity River. This is from the first few steps preceding the trail. It is also the only view of the river.
This is a much more typical view of the trail. Lots of cut hay, and a tree line to the east.
The giant head was not happy at Mile 2. One more mile, and I was D-O-N-E !!!
I tried thinking about Conan the Barbarian, which was written in central Texas. Was this a version of Cymmeria that I was walking through, brutal and hot and covered with black-barked trees? As I thought on this, something else was coming to my mind, though. I was thinking of a quote from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It’s a great little movie starring Ben Stiller. At one point, he is crossing the Himalayas, and he is on the phone, and he says he has to hang up. He has to make oxygen choices. I didn’t have any substantial elevation changes at the Elm Trail, but I did have to make heat choices. (Of note, the Franklin Mountains in El Paso did not feel this brutal, but then again "that was a dry heat"). The choice was to turn around at Mile 3. I will see if I regret this choice later.