Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

I heard about this place on a random search for a place to run a trail race. I did not find a trail race but did find a quarter marathon race. I signed up for the race and did some research on the area around Lawton, OK. I found that the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge was minutes away and has some great hiking. I did not realize is that I was doing a 10K trail race the day before the quarter marathon race. My schedule was to wake up early Saturday and run a 10K trail race then drive three and half hours to Lawton, OK and hike in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. On Sunday, wake up early again and run a quarter marathon and then hike the Wichita Wildlife Refuge again and then make the return drive back home. I packed in a bunch of miles in one weekend. A total of 13 miles running and eight miles of hiking.

I love this place. I got to see bison and longhorns. Bison are the biggest animals I have ever seen. The mountains are beautiful and there are so many places to see and trails to hike. I had seven trails I wanted to hike. I settled on completing two and partial hiking two others. I got to summit a small mountain and walk across a dam. I did some bouldering and saw many small and large waterfalls. I hiked on grasslands and forest like areas. I met many friendly people and a copperhead snake.

On Saturday, I hiked the Kite Trail and Little Baldy Mountain. I saw the bison on this day on the way between the trails. Kite Trail ran along Lost Lake and large creek. I did most of my bouldering and waterfall watching on this trail.20170930_163839.jpg20170930_164242.jpg20170930_165904.jpg20170930_164500.jpg20170930_170451.jpg20170930_170058.jpg20170930_170617.jpg20170930_180254.jpg

There were so many more pictures but these were the ones I chose. The next hike was the summit of Little Baldy Mountain and a walk across a dam. This was the shortest of the four hikes but had the most elevation change. I also got lost several times on this hike and the previous hike. The trails were not marked at all as I found out. I had to talk to many people just to get to and stay on the correct trail.20170930_181958.jpg20170930_181900.jpg20170930_182743.jpg20170930_182311.jpg20170930_183749.jpg20170930_183746.jpg20170930_185522.jpg20170930_185648.jpg

I saw some cool balancing rock formations on both of these hikes. I wanted to get another hike in that day but I ran out of sunlight.

I will continue my Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge blog next with the second day of running and more hiking.

Garner State Park

Garner State Park was the park I looking forward the most to do some hiking. I had such a good time at the other two parks, this park did not get as much time as I planned. The park is located about an hour and a half west of San Antonio. This park is the gem of the south Texas hill country. Garner State Park is the most visited park in the state of Texas. It has so many different activities that it puts hiking on somewhat of the backburner. I even spent more time in the Frio River than on the trails. There are places in the park that are visually spectacular. The river is great and Old Baldy was very nice to see. I did not make it to Crystal Cave but the Painted Rock Overlook was awesome. I had about an hour and a half the entire vacation to hike this park so I had to decide what I wanted to see the most. The problem with trying to see everything is that I saw nothing. The nothing I saw was special nothing but not as much as I wanted.

I decided to hike to the Painted Rock Overlook and Crystal Cave and skip the summit hike on Old Baldy. I also had to pass up all of the backcountry trails. I did get to the Painted Rock Overlook but made a bad decision to back track instead of finishing the loop to Crystal Cave. I tried to go a different direction and ran out of daylight.20170712_183146.jpg20170712_183759.jpg20170712_183637.jpg20170710_121849.jpg20170710_153039.jpg20170710_121853.jpg

I do not think that I had enough time at the park. I know there is much more to the park in the area of hiking. I put family time first and it was worth every second but next time we will do more exploring.

Next time is a revisit to Lost Maples SNA. We took a scenic drive that was terrifying.

Hill Country State Natural Area

The park is huge. The park is located about 45 minutes west of San Antonio. Hill Country SNA has over 40 miles of hiking trails. The funny thing is that there are not many activities to be had at the park. The trails more than make up for the lack of diversity within the park. I truly had one of my most challenging and enjoyable hikes. We got to the summit of the west peak of the Twin Peaks. My hiking partner was my son Dade. I got him up early and interrupted his vacation to do this hike. We had a very good time and he enjoyed the hard work it took to get to the summit. The views were exceptional and breathtaking. Once again, I did not know anything about this park and I wish I more days to see the other parts. There are two more areas in the park I want to hike.

We started on the Merrick Mile Trail and then went straight up on the West Peak Overlook Trail. The West Peak Overlook Trail, is a trail I will recommend to everybody who has a chance to hike in the Texas hill country,20170712_084118.jpg20170712_084204.jpg20170712_084517.jpg

The above peak on the left is where we finished this summit hike. The hike was also very scenic as it lead us on the side of the west peak. 20170712_090743.jpg20170712_085950.jpg20170712_091230.jpg20170712_091619.jpg20170712_091348.jpg20170712_092218.jpg20170712_092155.jpg20170712_081658.jpg

We had a great hike. I know they have some trail races out here and I am going to do one just to see more of this park.

The next park is a park I did the most research on and was really excited to hike. My hike there was cut short because the park was overcrowded and I decided to go back to Lost Maples for a second hike.

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area Part 2

Enchanted Rock won the first round but I was back for redemption. The wind kept me from starting and getting to the summit of Enchanted Rock. Now, I was too solely focused on summiting Enchanted Rock and I was as not prepared with the knowledge of everything else the park had to offer. The park has a cave system that goes through Enchanted Rock. Moss Lake has a great view to Enchanted Rock. I did get great views of Little Rock and Turkey Peak. I am actually afraid of heights so the descent was scariest part of the summit. The steep decline was something I never had experienced before the summit. I had to convince myself that even though I could see over the edge that there was still ground where I could not see ground. I really liked the hike, the views and a sense of accomplishment. 20170406_092657.jpg20170406_093640.jpg20170406_093719.jpg20170406_094022.jpg20170406_094027.jpg20170406_095152.jpg20170406_094445.jpg

I was hoping for a sign or something that I could pose with to say I made it to the summit. I walked around for awhile and did not find one but I found something better. I found some of the best views from the top of the rock. I took a different path down and I got a better view of how steep the incline was going up the rock.20170406_093216.jpg20170406_093306.jpg

The park is also known for rock climbing and bouldering.  Lastly, I got some good views of Turkey Peak.20170406_100955.jpg20170406_100610.jpg20170406_100907.jpg

Now I know on my third visit I will need to go to Moss Lake, Echo Canyon Trail and Turkey Pass Trail. I have seen so much of the park but there is still so much more of the park I missed. I cannot wait for the part 3 of Enchanted Rock SNA.

The next blog will be the last in the part 2 series and getting lost but in a good way. I seem to get lost a lot.