Note: Journal by me, M (age 70). R is my husband (age 65) C is my sister, S & J are her daughter and son-in-law who live within shuttle range of the LSHT. G and B are their daughters. Reference to leg pain: A year ago I had a herniated lumber disc, surgery, and still have nerve pain which has been very slow to heal. This is our first hike since the surgery.
R and M, February 28-March 6, 2021
Yesterday (Saturday) no exercise, driving coffee, 2 Tylenol for leg pain while driving, 6 oz. wine at S & J’s, a bit of chocolate in cookies. So of course needed medicine to sleep, especially since we were indoors. This morning, visiting, preparing for the trail. C & S are working on the bathroom tiling project. Nice to get to visit in person again. G and I went to Torchy’s and got tacos for everyone for lunch. Early afternoon, R and I were all organized for our hike, so we opted to go earlier in the afternoon than originally planned. J and B drove us out to Richards, TH #1. We took pictures and started hiking about 2:30 p.m.
7:00 p.m. Came 7 miles to the Hiker Camp by the closed dirt road. Warm weather. We both removed extra layers pretty quick. Warmer than the forecast. No rain after all. Forest quiet. Lots of freeze damage—ferns and some of the yaupon all brown. Pleasant walking. The big pond at mile ~2, lots of turtles on a log. Some little purple flowers here and there. Look like actual violets.
Lots of mud, especially in the Little Lake Creek Wilderness area. The boardwalks seem to have been partly rebuilt. We were tired by the time we camped about 6. I had A2I (2 aspirin, 1 ibuprofen) ~4 p.m. or so. Helped a little. R still coldy but felt better after supper. Supper was polenta pesto stuff. Good. The ground is loose sand and we’ve already lost one Toaks stake. Try to find it in the morning. Tall pine trees, one creaking in the wind. Woodpeckers, owls, coyotes in the distance. A few mosquitoes, not many. So glad to be back out in the forest. Sore leg and all. The theme of my thoughts all afternoon—soooo good to be hiking on the trail again at last. Almost euphoric.
Pretty good hike today. Lots of forest. Overnight, weather went from muggy and clammy warm, to cold rain. Breakfast in the tent. Rain suits. Poles definitely needed in the slippery mud. Light rain on and off most of the day. Mud and water-filled trail in low areas. But still glad to be out. Leg getting sore in the afternoon, but avoided pain medicine. So not that bad. Shoes and socks soaked. Little brown birds flitting across the trail. Sandy creeks with steep banks. Palmettos. Some boardwalks. Full-on swamp to walk through near the lake shore.
Got to Stubblefield Campground about 4:00 p.m. Rain forecast through midday tomorrow, then not really sunny but at least dry for the rest of the week. J is set to come drive us around the not-a-bridge-anymore in the morning. Haven 2 w/net tent is failing—another broken zipper, and the floor is taking on water from beneath. It is an excellent shelter and has lasted us 9 years of heavy use.
3/2/21 Tuesday. Awoke to cloudy and wet. Rained a bunch more during the night. But soon the sky started to clear. Cold. Sun coming out felt good. Message from J sent last night arrived this morning (spotty signal). He is coming around 8:45. Made eggs & vegetables. Soaking overnight helped a lot—no crunchy dried vegetables. The pooled-up water on the campsite tent pad subsided, and fortunately never ran underneath the tent. I hung the sleeping bags on the lantern post to air out. The tent floor leaks a lot. Packed up. Walked over to see the bridge construction. J and his mom arrived about 9:15 and we all had a nice visit while they drove us all the way around and back in, to the other end of the bridge. Bright sunny morning. Right away, we made a wrong turn—went straight instead of left, and made it about 1/2 mile down the lake shore in the pretty forest before we discovered our error and backtracked. I got to muse about how things always look different going the other way. Back on track, several miles of more pretty forest. Pine, hardwood, palmetto. About 5 miles to the road walk. We brought tap water from Stubblefield. At around miles 22-23, lots of branches were trimmed from the trail, and a flagged re-route around a washed-out creek crossing. Later we met Mo and D going the other way with loppers, clearing branches. We thanked them for helping keep the trail maintained. Morning snack at 11:30. (We started hiking at 10:00, were on the real trail by 10:20, so snack stop was just after crossing FM 1374.) Finished the road walk about 2:30. R was getting hungry and tired but we didn’t want to picnic along the roadside. Lunch picnic just before the pond/hiker camp. Hiking again about 3:30. R spent some time at lunch taping his feet. We mostly finished the cheese and sausage. GPS was a little off, as to where the pond and camp were, but we found a comfy spot under the trees on soft pine duff, no mud. Lots of the trail has been muddy and ankle deep with rainwater. Other stretches are high and dry. R spotted a huge tree—hardwood, no leaves yet, so not sure what kind.
After lunch, 3 miles to that Elkins Lake subdivision with the lake and the dam with the spillway. (No geese there this time.) A man at the first house offered us water. He said he plans on putting a sign out inviting hikers to get water at his tap. We talked about how that would make him a “trail angel.” He liked that. But we already had all the water we needed and wanted to carry. Some little kids were at the lake by the spillway to fish. The spillway was flowing fast but not deep. It was very slippery. R crossed first, slowly. I crossed by sliding each foot forward in turn instead of picking up my steps. We got across fine.
The woods afterward, for the day’s last mile and a half, were soaked everywhere. We got to that crossing of Alligator Branch with the cable. I think that’s the spot where C and I camped before. But the flat space after the creek was more grown over and the ground looked too swampy for camping this time so we went on, looking for a spot. Water everywhere. Finally, R found a drier space back some way from the trail in some pine duff. I got our supper water from a little puddle of standing rainwater—puddles were everywhere—right near the tent. So handy! Clear, not muddy like the water in the creek, just tannin colored. Supper water gets boiled. We can filter tomorrow’s water supply in the morning. At dusk, owls, frogs, other animal sounds. Also could hear I-45 traffic. To bed about 7:30, but then I got up again ~8:30 to write. Kind of sore. 14 miles today after our shuttle. Lentil soup and crackers for supper. Needed a little medicine to sleep but no pain meds during the day.
3/3/21 Wednesday. Up pretty early ~6:15 after a fitful, cold, achy night. For all the exercise I’ve done for months, I am still not as fit as I was a year or two ago. But we were both up, to a cold, clear, morning. R was cold during the night too. Granola breakfast. Coffee water from the clear rainwater puddle by camp. The water in the puddle was lower this morning—it is slowly soaking in. We left camp ~8:15 but still needed to filter hiking water at Alligator Branch. Lots of interesting animal tracks in the sand on the creek bank. The Trailshot filter worked fine, but it is slow.
On the trail by 9:00. Cruising in the pretty morning until we got to the I-45 crossing. The whole interchange is a torn up construction site, being rebuilt! There is a huge hole in the ground with a coffer dam and trucks and cranes and everything! We tried cutting through to Park Rd. 40 on the west side, bushwhacking through the woods, but that way is blocked by a deep, deep ravine just before the park road. Bushwhacked back again. We ended up walking on the freeway shoulder (ack!) over the overpass and down the south embankment where Park Rd. 40 goes through. We lost about 45 minutes on that misadventure.
After all that, there was the road walk and then a really peaceful pleasant hike through the woods again. Creeks, more flooded trail but not as generally swampy. Some ups and downs even. Morning snack right after we regained the woods about 10:45. Lunch about 1:45 near mile 42 before the next road walk. The long highway and Four Notch Rd. walk, total 3 miles, felt like a trudge. R’s toes are sore and blistering again. We taped them but the dressings come off in the wet. Finally to the Four Notch trail. We took a rest there. Then the last 3 miles to Boswell Creek and camp. Beautiful peaceful forest, quiet, pines and hardwoods. We passed the first couple of small magnolias. Frogs in the distance. We got to Boswell Cr. (1/2 way!) just before 6:00. Another wet crossing. Looked kind of deep, but not wide. We didn’t want to stress about the crossing when all tired, so we camped in the woods before the creek. We got water there before backtracking to camp. We can figure it out in the morning when we are rested. We saw one other hiker today, a day hiker. She was going west.
Cold last night! No meds. I woke about 5:15 a.m. and put on my rain suit for one more layer of warmth. I thought I wouldn’t be able to sleep any more but then woke up at about 7:30. So we were up a bit late. What with all the chores, we weren’t on the trail until 9:30. Crossed Boswell Cr. with ease—things do look different after a night’s sleep. Nice hike, pretty forest, wide trail mostly—often used. Passed the second loop junction. Ravines with water. Almost got off track when ran into a 4-wheeler road. Noticed in time and backtracked. Morning snack break just before hitting the FS 200 road walk. At that big pond. I think C and I took a break there too. Photos in the morning light. R’s toes are rubbing raw. He has been bandaging them twice a day. My right foot has a sore on the inside between the arch and the ball. I think I adjusted that shoe too snug. Loosening the ribbon/lace helped. Not so soggy in this area but our feet still got wet sometimes.
The FS roads, 2.7 miles, were gravel and pleasant enough. When we got to Big Woods section I was looking forward to seeing it not all burnt. And, they burned it again this year! Not so fresh as to be still smoldering like in 2016, but definitely burned quite recently! The whole section. Lunch was in a small unburned patch, about 2:15-3:00. Then we walked about another 6 1/2 miles of burn. A few unburned spots but not much. Stopped for overnight water at that off-trail pond with the directions. The one that plugged C’s platy filter. The Trailshot is working OK but not what I had hoped. Need to experiment with other filters. R retaped his toes. Then 4 more miles of burn. We didn’t have to go all the way to the parking lot like before—we found a small green patch a ways off the trail to camp. Very tired. My leg sore the last 2-3 hours of hiking. No meds. The back of my left knee got sore on and off. Tightening my hamstring and glute seemed to relieve it somewhat. Pasta and sauce for supper. Remembered to pre-soak the sauce at lunch. Beautiful orange sunset.
More stars than in the city. Not so cold tonight. Heard woodpeckers this afternoon. We’ve been seeing lots of robins in open areas. Crows calling. Tiny skinks in the leaves on the trail. Lots of little spiders in the leaves around camp. One was carrying a big white egg sac. About midday, we passed a man hiking west who said the East Fork of the San Jacinto River is high and fast, too dangerous to ford. He scooted across that big log but said he was very nervous about it. High risk and high consequence. His wife took the detour. We are thinking we will need to do that too. So we’ll need to get up on time and hustle in the morning.
We did get up earlier! 6:30. On the trail by 8:00. Proud of ourselves.
Out of the burn, onto the gravel roads and the small highway and then the FM road through Evergreen. Farm and ranch houses, pastures. Water from the spigot at Evergreen Baptist Church. The roadwalk went smoothly. Only some dodging of cars, walking on the verge. Some bigger ranches. Finally, the trail again. We made good time because roadwalking is quicker, if hard on the feet. R retaping his toes. Back into the woods, nice walk along a creek. Snack about 11:00 just before FS 2126, where we turned off onto the SJ River Detour. Gravel. Then Butch Arthur Rd is a small country lane, paved but not busy, and not unpleasant to walk. Lots of yard dogs, including a yard full of collies and another yard full of pits. All fenced. We crossed the river and a tributary on road bridges. High water for sure. Probably we made the best decision, to detour. The day was not sunny anymore, overcast all day. Forecast for rain but it didn’t. The bushwhack part of the detour was all flagged and trodden, so it was pretty easy to follow. (Thank you volunteers!) We were back on the Trail sooner than expected. Lunch after FM 2025, at around mile 74. Nice leafy spot under some small yaupon trees. Another hiker wandered by—she was taking nature pictures. Then past Double Lake and on into Big Creek section. We were a little ahead so we decided to go on through the restricted area before camping. We got water at that little stream where C and I camped, just before entering the scenic area. The valley opened up with views of the beautiful meandering bayou below. We took the White Oak spur trail across because it looked interesting. No point in walking extra just to tag a parking lot. White Oak trail goes up and over a couple of ridges, above the bayou area, through tall trees and dense forest along the hillsides. Then we were back on the main trail for the last mile or so to camp.
We are camped in the pine plantation, on an open area with sparse trees but lots of soft leaves and duff. Frogs across the way. Woodpeckers. Other observations during the day—a trilling sound from the woods along the detour, R saw deer prints in the sandy mud, and this morning I found a raccoon track. I sent J a text that we should arrive on time at Winters Bayou tomorrow afternoon.
Up at 6:15 in the open pine forest, chilly, all crunchy leaves.
Had our last egg breakfast. I wasn’t quite quick enough adding the eggs after pouring the oil into the hot pan, and the oil flamed up! That was exciting. We were packed up and ready at 8:00. Good start! Last night it sprinkled late, for a few minutes, but all was dry in the morning. Going out in the dark with my headlamp—all around tiny reflections from spider eyes twinkling in the dry leaves! Lots of forest and bayou today. Yaupon high in many areas, a green tunnel. Other areas, open forest. A few muddy places in Tarkington.
Morning snack about 10:45. Filtered water. Just before leaving Tarkington Bayou. I felt pretty good this morning, stronger. Lunch about 1/2 mile into Winters Bayou section, about 2:00. Right after the long railroad bed. More hikers today, some backpacking, most day hiking. It’s Saturday. Later, I was getting very sore in my leg, which made it kind of a trudge, through the prettiest part of Winters Bayou. We found the Louisiana palmettos with the trunks.
Lots of swamp, only some of it on the trail. Wet feet again. Beautiful though. R tripped on a root and cut his finger so we needed to patch that up. We finished all the food including almost all the snacks and water. Good planning! Only some coffee/cream/sugar left. I am writing this last entry at the Winters Bayou trailhead parking lot waiting for J and S to arrive.
P.S. They were a little later than expected—it’s a long drive. And they brought our car too. It turned out J was called onto another contract job starting Sunday, and G turned out to have plans with friends, so we wouldn’t be able to do our Sunday brunch in Houston plan after all. So they figured without that, we would prefer to head on home instead of staying over again. Which is why they brought our car. Nice. So we did drive home Saturday evening. Crummy fast food (no ketchup!) on the road, after Conroe. Home about 9:30. R drove on the way home. I still needed a pain pill to sit in the car that long.