Earlier this spring, both Kris and I made a short trip out to Bastrop for a hike at the state park of the same name. We had a wonderful time during that hike and due to my extensive research (I visited the Texas State Parks and Wildlife website…) I found another state park just a short 15 minute jaunt down the same road where we could hike about 8-10 more miles in a similar landscape.
As many of you may already know, in 2011 there were some devastatingly destructive wildfires in this part of Central Texas. The wildfires raged that entire summer and when it was said and done there were over 35,000 acres of devastation. Later it would be learned that the cause of the fires were due to faulty power lines. Buescher State Park would lose about half of the parks 1,000+ acreage to fire damage in addition to the loss of some of the trail system and pedestrian bridges.
Having said that, when we visited Bastrop State Park this past spring we had an idea what we would be seeing, but were impressed with the bounce back the forest/park was experiencing. We were excited to see how Buescher State Park was faring as it was truly amazing to hike through this landscape only a decade later and to see all the new growth erupting from the charred remains of the forest.
With that said, we began our trip like so many others by loading up the van in the early morning with our packs, poles and copious amounts of water. The weather for the day was to begin quite crisp at about 55 degrees (Fahrenheit) turning warmer over the late morning and into the afternoon to a high of about 80 degrees. I really enjoy the cool air in the morning when you first step out of the van and onto the trail. I don’t know about you, but I get a sense that everything is right with the world and I am right where I am supposed to be. Maybe it is a “Zen” thing, I don’t know. The only detectable difference from so many other morning hikes was the heavy scent of pine.
Maybe it is the familiarity of that scent from growing up in New Hampshire, or all the fond memories of wandering around in the woods under tall pine trees as a child, but when I close my eyes I can sometimes catch that old familiar scent. So now, standing at the trailhead to the 1.5 mile “Winding Woodland Trail,” I could catch traces of the scent and was looking forward to being enveloped by it for the rest of the day.
As far as the “Winding Woodland Trail,” it was wonderful. The trail had many signposts and markers discussing the native plants and wildlife. There is something about an interpretive trail that the nature nerd in me just adores. After reading a placard about every twenty steps, and wandering around snapping photos of everything and anything, I went into “hiking mode” and took off along the gently sloping wooded terrain. After a short while, Kris and I popped out of the trail at a scenic overlook of the farmland and meadow below and it was absolutely beautiful.
From this scenic overlook there is the second trail-head in the park for the “Pine Gulch Trail.” This trail is a 3.5 mile trail with a small .5 mile cutoff that allows one to turn the trail into a loop. My preference in these parks is to do as little retread as possible and to do loops whenever I can. The terrain on the beginning of this trail introduced us to a lot of Junipers and Loblolly Pine trees. I swear it was kind of like wandering around in a Christmas tree lot for the first half mile.
Finding my groove in this coniferous wonderland, I followed the trail down into the gulch to the sounds of chickadees and warblers until the growth was so dense one couldn’t see more than a few feet into the surrounding woodland. Eventually when we reached the “Roosevelt Cutoff,” we went down a steep descent into a dry creek bed only to find a steeper ascent along the other side. Apparently this connector trail was blazed by the Civilian Conservation Corp (which president Theodore Roosevelt created) years ago. I am not particularly sure why the president created this connector trail, but I’m just going to pretend it was to provide a loop opportunity for hikers and also to offer some photo ops of the pine forest beyond.
Having looped around and found our way back to the overlook and “Winding Woodland Trail,” we sat and enjoyed a light snack before the final couple miles back to the van. During the snack-break some mountain bikers came by to the enjoy the overlook and shortly after a father and daughter came strolling up the path and joined us all. It was really nice to be around people out in nature. I was especially glad to have the trails to ourselves in the morning, but in the afternoon it was nice to see other people out and enjoying nature and the fresh air.
Thanks for taking the time to read my experience on this day-hike. If you enjoyed the post, please drop a like or leave a comment.