Lone Star Hiking Trail! The Houston Trail Runners had a planned excursion to the trail and I thought it might be fun to both run a new trail and meet some new trail runners!
Unfortunately, my morning didn't go exactly according to plan. Heading out 149, I missed a turn which would have kept me on 149 and ended up in the middle of lost. I would not say that I have a very good sense of direction, in fact, I am the first to admit, if I don't park in the same place at the grocery store, my car gets lost. However, I do seem to know right away when I am not going the right way...usually.
I came to a dead end and turned left. I knew instantly that this could not be right as I felt like I should be heading the opposite direction. I turned the car around and decided to plug into the GPS the town of Richards, Texas, to help at least get me in the right town.
Garmin, (Freida, as we affectionately call her), was spot on getting me back onto 149 and eventually to the correct parking area. The group was meeting at PA #3. I was late in getting there so I missed the start of the run. I considered just heading home since these trails were unfamiliar to me, but I have a new mantra since OT 50...trust the trail, trust yourself. So, with map, hydration, and a few extra prayers, I headed off on my run. The plan was for 13 miles along the Little Lake Creek Loop.
I had hoped to take my Blackberry with me so that I could take some pictures, but while on my way to the trail, I realized that my water bottle had leaked onto the phone and it was literally drowning. Not only was I lost and late, I was without a phone! I left it in the car, dismantled and hoping that it would dry out and not be damaged.
It was hard to relax as I ran the trails as I kept feeling like I was still lost. I was following the map, but something just didn't feel right. As well, I kept having to remove spider webs from my face and this was an indicator to me that the group must have gone in a different direction otherwise, I would not be the one removing the webs. I supposed that they must have gone into the trail from the opposite direction and that if this was true, I would meet them about half way and then run back in with them.
I happened upon a sign for the North Wilderness Loop approximately 1 mile into the trail. I knew that there was a good chance that the group could have taken that route to get more mileage in, but I was not going for big miles today. I stayed on the LLCL. Another half mile or so down the trail, I came upon the Pole Creek Trail. I could not find this on my map anywhere and figured I was truly lost only 1.5 miles into the trail. I continued on planning to complete and out and back instead of a loop and began to take note of memorable landmarks so that I would be sure to find my way back.
There were several creek crossings, however, most of them were dry. What appeared to be the largest crossing had very little water in it. There was also a bridge that was down, but because the creek was so low, it was not difficult to cross.
There has been obvious controlled burns going on very recently. I saw some areas that were still smoldering. I am always amazed at how quickly green life returns to a burned area. What was an added bonus for me today was that I was sure that I was on the trail most all the time because of the burn pattern.
At one point I did come upon an "entrance" to the LLCL. This was somewhat confusing to me as I could not figure out how I would have come to the PA #4 that quickly. It never dawned on me that I was on the opposite end of the trail. I was reading the top of the map as if that is where I was, but in fact, I was on the southern portion of the trail, I later learned.
I continued on for a few more miles to yet another PA. This one was not on my map and it was for certain that I was lost. Not the kind of lost that I couldn't find my way back, the type of lost that one just doesn't know which part of the trail she is on. Nothing serious.
Running through this new parking area, I crossed a fairly open field for about a mile and eventually hit a fork in the trail. I could have gone left or right, but not knowing where I would end up, I decided it was a better bet to head back in the direction I had come. I was at about 5.5 miles at this point.
At the parking area, there is a sign in box. I looked into it to see if it would give me some information. Lo and behold, a friend of mine had taken her family to the trail in March and their card was the first one I pulled out. Knowing she is a stickler for details, I read her card which stated that they were entering the trail from PA #2. Hmmm... It was confirmed. I was off the trail I had planned to run and made the right choice to head back in.
The rest of the run was fairly uneventful with the exception of the HUGE snake, which I believe now was a water moccasin, who had taken up residence across the entire single-track trail. He was probably 6 feet long and didn't care to move out of my way. So, I trudged through some brush, hoped that no other snakes were awaiting me under the debris, and avoided the snake vs runner battle of which I surely would have lost.
I was glad that I had made mental notes regarding landmarks on the way out as they helped keep me reassured that I was heading in the right direction. I should mention that the trail was marked, but the markings were all plain metal, silver in color. I had read that the trail I was on was supposed to be orange, but I never saw any orange. I also had read that the North Wilderness loop was marked with red, and I did see a few red markings along the way.
After I passed by the Pole Creek area again, another fork appeared. I did not recall a fork heading out, so this began to make me rethink everything. I was praying and hoping for some sort of indicator that I was heading in the right direction. I made a gut decision to stay left on the trail.
I began to experience a lot of self-doubt at this point which was wreaking havoc on my running. I started tripping over everything and stubbing my still-battered toes on the roots. I decided to walk for a bit to gain my composure, and out of no where I hear, "Karen?" As I turned around, I was greeted by the ladies from HTREX and I was never so happy!
We ran the last 1.5 miles in together and it was so nice to have company. At the parking area, Mariela was kind enough to show me where the other trail entrance was and which part of the trail I had ACTUALLY run. It turns out that I ran the southern portion of the LLCL and a portion of the North Wilderness Loop.
The ladies headed back onto the trail for a few more miles as I headed back home. The mileage to the house was 38 miles compared to the 53 I drove TO the trail.
It was a great day for a run, and an even better day to decide that I definitely need a map skills and compass class!
Overall, my body felt pretty good. My feet are still healing so I think I will keep my runs a bit shorter for a few weeks. I was able to log 11.2 miles today at a whopping 13:40/min pace. Knowing the trails will most probably help me to run faster next time I give the LSHT a go.