I really thought I’d be farther along my quest to hike in all 50 US states by now. I awoke to a new year and realized I had only crossed off 12 states – at this rate I’d never finish! So, after a costly move to a weekend without thunderstorms, flooding, and tornado warnings, I flew into Dallas and headed off in my rental car (which was a lower model of the same car I own, so this was going to be easy).
I needed to keep the driving to a minimum so I’d have time to hike. There aren’t mountains or a lot of national parks or forests, so my plans were all state parks. I hit up Tyler SP for a short hike in the woods near a lake – not many people around at all, then Martin Creek Lake SP for a small hike around the island I camped on for the night. Texas State Parks are well maintained with friendly, accessible staff. The premises are clean and I felt safe. I saw new-to-me butterflies and my first glow bugs twinkling as the sun went down and brilliant red cardinals singing sweetly the next morning and armadillos… as roadkill, sadly. The camp was oddly near a large industrial plant that made noise all night, but otherwise it was only my noisy neighbors that kept me up. I was in the middle of a cold, so I was blowing my nose raw the entire time and pretty tired.
Day 2 was driving to Louisiana to hike and walk around Lake Bistineau State Park. This lake had a decidedly “bayou” feel with quiet waters made into a maze by trees with their thick trunks and roots hiding the views. There was no staff and the trails were seemingly unused: overgrown tick factories. I still managed to have a good time, though not a single other person seemed to hike despite a full campground on Memorial Day weekend. I did see tadpoles and wee frogs in wet divots and a lot of dragonflies. Have I mentioned it’s upper 80s to low 90s with high humidity the entire trip? I am pretty sweaty!
I then drove to Arkansas where I stopped at the stunning Cossatot SP: rushing waters, hilly forests, world-class visitors center with staff reciprocating my excitement for things found… I did a few miles on the fantastic Harris Creek Trail, again with NO ONE even in the parking lot and all campgrounds full to bursting. What was everyone doing? I have realized by now that all parks and recreation areas revolve around fishing or boating, but… really? No one is hiking? Anyhow, after a great opening in a dark shale pit (mined for road material) where there was quite the flower display above the black shard, the trail wound up under a forest canopy to various lovely views of rivers below winding through green hills. I found a legless lizard, more butterflies, more flowers, and, for the first time this trip, my joy of hiking. This was the trip highlight! After returning to the vistors center just before closing to use the toilet & ask about things seen, then did a small hike down the hill to the waterfront and back. Since campsites were totally full, and only Texas had online reservations, I found a hotel in dumpy De Queen.
The next morning I realized I was ahead of schedule… I was supposed to hike one state per day and now it’s day 3 and I still had 2 days to go and only 1 state left. So I wasted some time in the morning going to Pond Creek National Nature Refuge. I am not sure what I expected… probably better organization. I got lonely gravel roads and no maps (I had a GPS unit), though eventually happened upon a planked walkway (the roads are lined with waterways) that led to a couple signs (map included!) in an overgrown crossroads. Nearby were two “nature walks” – I tried the wee 1/4 mile one first thinking to try the longer one next but these trails are COMPLETELY overgrown, nearly non-existent. I was only able to follow the small trek because there were white signs visible between some barely discernible worn areas. At the trailhead sign, in 2 foot grasses, I decided to walk back to the car for deet application due to biting horseflies and swarms of mosquitoes. I head back in and I swear within 20 paces I felt in total isolation: the forest is DENSE and I had barely noticed the slow, brown waters nearby when an alligator noisy jumped back in from the opposite bank. Yikes! I told myself “it’s only a quarter mile, suck it up” and continued to find the next white marker, each telling about beavers, alligators, bobcats, and plants, all the while waving my arms frantically to keep bugs off my face and trying to keep an eye on the water for ‘gaters I apparently cannot even see in the murky water. I am not taking many photos of the spooky place, with tree roots jutting out like stalagmites from the still water and sounds I cannot place. I rush past snake holes though tall grasses and am glad when there is sun ahead meaning I am nearly out of this dark, lonely, frightening pit. LOL! Later I’d found a female lone star tick attached to me, but I still decided to drive around a bit more: many large white birds flew away at my approach, once with a fish or something in it’s beak; deer ran across the roads, quickly disappearing into the dark forest; the ‘campgrounds’ I found were nothing more than parking areas near water, so they are clearly meant for RVs, not tents. I saw NO people and only a couple cars. Weird place!
For a totally different story, I arrived at Beavers Bend SP (after driving around the Broken Bow/Hochatown area a while) and I am in a tourist zoo. I cannot believe how many people there are. I do find some pleasant hikes here: after a walk along the campsites that line the milky blue waters of Mountain Fork River where multi-colored kayaks lazily enjoyed the day, layered shale rising from the opposite wall, I found a small, nearly unused (again) trail where a large black snake moved up and looked at me, more new-to-me butterflies, and generally a pleasant walk. Later I find a proper trail. Well, it started out as a walk near families playing in the gentle waters of a stream that fell over more broken shale, until I just kept going. I haven’t mentioned this, but I NEVER used my backpack in this trip. I didn’t even carry water – these treks were just not long enough for me, despite the heat, to carry anything but my camera and a bunch of tissues for my raw nose. I questioned my judgement to leave the easy blue trail markers for the red ones that went up hill, but I had also learned I would be hard pressed to find a trail that was longer than 3 miles in this part of the US. So up I went, and it felt a trial proper – a mild climb under a green canopy. It found a the creek again before a final climb then popping out down the road for a short walk back to the car. Nice day! Everyone else was on the water, but there were some hikers on this trail for a change.
That’s it! 4 states hiked in 3 days – that is 16 so a shocking 34 states left. ug! Anyhow, I found a hotel for the night then drove to Dallas for the final day where I did absolutely nothing. I even had pizza delivered instead of going out. My flight was at 6am and that meant a very early rise and I was to head straight to work upon the 10a arrival… by pacific time standards that meant I woke up at 1:45a and got into work at 11a already exhausted to the point of alternating between crying and delirious laughter. I was on some OTC drugs by this point, trying to keep my nasal passages manageable, but they flight was doable despite ear pain on descent and I was home and done with quite the adventure. (-: