Category Archives: Hikes

Brazos Bend State Park

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Houston made Time magazine’s list of 46 places to go in 2013, and made number 7 no less. Which reminds me that I really should get out and explore this city even more. I’ve done the Weistheimer area of downtown, and Galveston, checked out the Orange Show and visited the zoo and Hermann Memorial Park, but that paltry list is it.

Now we have visited Brazos Bend Park. Just 30 minutes away from our home it was a beautiful wetlands area, filled with wildlife. There were several flat and easy walks, many of which were interconnected. We would have done many of them had 1.5 miles into our first walk (a nature trail) I had not withdrawn my hands from around Sam in the sling and gone ‘Oh God… they are wet… and don’t smell good’. A quick dash back to the car and an exploded diaper later, we discovered we didn’t have spare trousers for Sam – so home it was.

Brazos Bend was so beautiful we will definitely go back. In the meantime: enjoy my pictures.

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Spot the little man..

Spot the little man..

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Lumberjack shirt, perfect for 'hiking'.

Lumberjack shirt, perfect for ‘hiking’.

And please share any Houston tips…

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Best hike Ever?

Canyonlands. Not the best hike ever. But pretty cool.

Writing about hiking is hard… you take an amazing trip, are blown away by a place and want to tell people when you get home. You spend every step composing poetic, and probably circumlocutory prose to bring your friends right there into your experience. The you get home and you are, of course, woefully inadequate. You resort to clichés, and erase them, and then are left with nothing, so return to them, with your tail between your legs to avoid a blank page. So I will write very little, and just say

“A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Hidden Valley. Possibly the best hike in the world.

My friend recently ran the Maob ½ marathon in Canyonlands. I was all signed up, but unable to compete at the last minute. This was OK, we had an awesome hiking trip planned after. So I went to kill 3 hours at the closest trail to Moab I could find: Hidden Valley. Best. Single. Hike. Ever.

Hidden Valley Trail

I started with a 45 min steep hike up deep red rock.

Up, up, up

That was impressive enough, but as I got over the crest of the climb before me everything changed completely: a mile of the most intense blues and greys I have ever seen.

It seriously was like one of those Gladiator-type scenes where someone almost dies and a glimpse of their loved one in heaven sends them back. I am serious. The whole thing blew my mind. After a mile, there was another beautiful descent, but alas, I had to return to collect my friend at the finish line. I am resolved to return and complete the full trail.

*This* was the candidate for best hike ever. But we also explored:

Canyonlands

We didn’t venture into the main park of the park, but did explore a cool little trail to a bridge. I liked this trail because it was very different to the rest of the Moab landscape – verdant and marshy in the midst of red rock and desert. No best hike ever, but, pretty cool.

Actually, Canyonlands was better than I give it credit for

Arches National Park

Eh, famous for its, well, arches, but perhaps it was pregnancy nausea, or the inclement weather, or my too high expectations,  I was not blown away (metaphorically… in a climb to see one of the biggest arches on an exposed ledge, I was). But this park has several short trails where you can indeed see lots of arches, but often (although not always) from a distance.

The rest of the road trip, was just that: more road than trail. We hit 4-corners: a neat place where you can stand in 4 states at once,

One of the four states: do you know the other three?

and eat Fried bread (A Navajo classic)

before journeying onto Flagstaff,

Flagstaff

a very cool college town with some amazing and highly recommended gourmet food my friend treated me to.

It was a wonderful road trip: the kind Brits are not lucky enough to take in their homeland. And one of my only proper i.e. multi-day road trips. But… I should have written this post earlier, before the memory faded and I was left with just my ‘phone pictures, some awesome memories (did I mention Hidden Valley Trail?), five new pins in my map… and the newly dawning realization I still owe my friend $160 for the accommodation.

baa shíni’

More Cloudland


This time we did 11 miles: The same 5-mile loop as last time, followed by a 2 mile waterfall trail and a 4 mile loop. The waterfall trail was stairs, stairs, stairs, but the last 4 mile loop was very easy – more like a stroll in the woods. If you can: go. If it wasn’t for the limited trail options, it would be my favourite place to hike.

If you are not on facebook (you’re not??) then checkout my Picasa album.

And get yourself there 🙂

Cloudland Canyon, Georgia and zip lining

View from Cloudland Canyon, Rising Fawn, Georgia

Last week I tried, for the first time, an American thing called ‘zip lining’. How to explain it to my British friends? Well, in the words of  Wikipedia, it is “a Pulley suspended on a Wire rope mounted on an incline”. In my words “sheer madness”. Basically you descend several flights of stairs to a wire stretching across some cavernous gulley, or alligator-infested river to an anchor wire considerably lower that your current point. You don a harness, some gloves and a helmet

It doesn't get much sexier than this... no really, I don't....

and attach yourself to said wire… and well, let gravity do the rest, turning upside down and dangling your hands if you dare can

Just like that. Genius.

. It is, apparently, a common American activity. It is, definitely, also enormous fun.

We rocked up deep into the Tennessee countryside (where no one can hear you scream) and climbed aboard a bus that poured out more smoke than Lydon B Johnson’s iron lung.

Why did I get on this ?!?

Wesley was full of excitement, me – I was a bundle of nerves. My nerves were not especially disquieted when a boy, who looked no old than 12 announced through his mohawk and acne,  that my safety was in his hands. Good-oh. Actually, he was extremely sweet (very kind when he said I seemed ‘kinda nervous’ and I announced this to be the greatest understatement since Churchill said ‘that Hitler bloke – not very nice, is he?’), and extremely competent and actually fairly attractive. Or maybe that was just a form of Stockholm Syndrome, as he held my captive life in his hands at several points. Either way, I returned safe and happy and wanting to do it again.

Here are some videos of me zip lining:

(yes, upside down and hands free thank-you-very-much), and landing almost perfectly:

– of course.

After that, we went white water rafting (like you do). It was fun too, and not at all scary. Our guide, Jody, was a sweet heart and it was safe and very picturesque. Both were done through Ocoee Outdoors and I would highly recommend them. We will have some more pics when we develop the underwater camera pics.

We also went for a hike at Cloudland Canyon in Rising Fawn, Georgia. It was 2 1/2 hours from Birmingham but the beauty of the place was absolutely worth it. There are 2 5 mile loops, and a 2 mile waterfall trail. We did one of the loops, skirting the canyon and seeing dells and glens and huge vistas of The Smokeys.

The hike was of moderate difficulty – the terrain was fairly easy, but it was steep at times and could be tiring. We didn’t do the second loop as we had to get to our motel, but we did do the 2 mile walk to the waterfalls. A lot of stairs (in fact nearly all stairs) but very beautiful. If you can get to Cloudland – go. Worth the travel (from Alabama) for sure. In fact I am off again this weekend, with Stella, Lizzie and Yann. Bring it on!!