First Half OK, Second Half Disastrous
By Lone_Star on 4/15/2013
Distance: 20.00 Miles Duration: 7 hours, 20 minutes
WARNING: If you use my track file, only use the part from Kimball Bend Park to Plowman Creek Park (in that direction). Do NOT use the part between Plowman Creek Park and Morgan Lakeside Park or the return route from Plowman Creek Park back to Kimball Bend Park (see the explanatory note below)!
EXPLANATORY NOTE: Disregard the "long straight line" sections of the track file that exist between Plowman Creek Park and Kimball Bend Park. Those are track file "errors" that were created when the batteries on my GPS ran low and the unit powered down and stopped tracking at or around Plowman Creek Park. When I noticed the GPS had turned off about half way between Plowman Creek Park and Kimball Bend Park, I turned it back on and this created new track marks for a short time (before it powered down again) with a "long straight line" in between the points where the unit went off and was turned back on again. I turned the GPS on again when I finished my hike to save the track file and this again created a "long straight line" between the previous tracking point halfway between Plowman Creek Park and Kimball Bend Park and the end of the trail/trailhead. The track file shows a total distance of 17.2 miles, but I've estimated the distance closer to 20 miles after excluding the erroneous "long straight lines".
OK, onto the log:
Some trails are well-maintained and easy to follow.
Some trails have direction signs and distance markers.
Some trails offer breathtaking scenery.
Some trails are a shot of pure adrenalin and joy to hike.
This trail had none of those qualities!!!
OK, maybe I was tired from 3 days of hiking. Maybe I was cranky since it was hot, sunburned and I hadn't had a shower in days. Or, maybe, this was the trail from hell that chewed me up and spit out the bad parts. It's probably a combination of all of the above. :)
My goal for this hike was to test my endurance by hiking from Kimball Bend Park all the way to Morgan Lakeside Park and back, for a total round trip distance of 25 miles. It didn't happen as planned, lol.
The Hopewell Trail trailhead starts across the street (Hwy 174) from Kimball Bend Park. The entire trail is outside of this park so there is no need to enter the park and pay the entrance fee. The park ranger will give you a paper brochure/map for free, however. I should have known something terrible was about to happen, though, when the old man handed me the map and gave me a peculiar grin.
The trail is primarily for horses, but technically it is a multi-use trail if you're up to hiking or biking it. The trail surface was poorly maintained with the grass growing ankle high most of the way. There are no distance markers or direction signs and the trail is hard to follow at certain points because there are various unmarked trails branching off from the main trail with no signs pointing the way. I chalk it up to luck (and my GPS) that I did not make a wrong turn on my way to Plowman Creek Park. The paper brochure/map is worthless.
There were a lot of dead animals along the trail and many vultures flying overhead (another ominous sign, lol). I also saw a snake, which wasn't very reassuring since I was walking through miles of tall grass -- its natural habitat.
The trail takes you under a massive train bridge, behind some homes/ranches, and through a wildlife nature preserve. For the most part, the hike from Kimball Bend Park to Plowman Creek Park went as planned. At this point, I had covered 8 miles, but I still had some energy so I decided to continue on to Morgan Lakeside Park, just a mere 4.5 miles away. This is where things went south (figuratively speaking).
For starters, I never found the trailhead leaving Plowman Creek Park. Maybe it's there, maybe not. Perhaps I should have asked the park ranger. All I know is I didn't find it, so I followed the "obvious" walking path along the lake since the worthless paper brochure/map showed the trail went along the waterfront. As the "trail" withered away, it soon became clear that I had stopped hiking and begun a cross-country survival expedition. There are many inlets branching off the lake, so I had to hike around them, often times backtracking just to get around the water. There were zillions of alien looking burrs along the lake that I had to walk through, getting stuck and jabbed the entire way.
Each inlet I ran into was bigger than the previous one. By the time I got to the third inlet, a massive one to say the least, I decided it was time to abort the mission. I didn't want to turn around and revisit my eager alien burr enemies again, so I decided to use my GPS and put my orienteering skills to work and head for the nearest road. This is when I learned that the free topo map I had downloaded to my GPS did not show private property boundaries! I was literally within 100 yards of FM 56 watching cars whiz by when I ran into barbed wire fencing blocking my way, so I had to bushwhack my way around private property through some nearly impassible thickets of thorns in order to get to Mesquite Creek and up onto FM 56. The thorns ripped my clothes to shreds. By this point, I was tired, hot, and not happy. I followed FM 56 back to Plowman Creek Park and then took the trail back to Kimball Bend Park, only to find out my GPS batteries had died, too. Luckily, I remembered the way.
Hopewell Trail looked its best in my rearview mirror as I quickly pulled away in a cloud of screeching dust, lol!