I have loved the outdoors since I was a kid. I was fortunate to be a member of an active Boy Scout Troop that took us on many hiking and backpacking adventures. My favorite adventure was in July 1972 at the Buffalo Trail Scout Ranch in the Davis Mountains of far West Texas. Camping at Buffalo Trail was a dream come true for me and my South Texas buddies. We logged lots of hours hiking up and down mountain trails, enjoyed cooking our own meals, and felt like pioneers when we drank water from a cold stream.
I still have my Boy Scout Handbook and several of my Merit Badge handbooks as well. As a Scout, I spent hours poring over the pages of these manuals, learning to do things like tie knots and make my own survival kits. My grandmother made my first sleeping bag because they were not as readily available in stores then as they are today. My homemade sleeping bag served me well for a number of years. My Dad gave me his Boy Scout hatchet and my Mom bought me an official Boy Scout knife.
For a number of years I lost some connection with the outdoors because of my busy schedule of writing, travel, and the plain old pressures of the daily grind. In recent years, however, my son helped me to reconnect with the outdoors by inviting me to join him in kayaking, doing ultra-marathon canoe races, camping out, and hiking. I’m glad he did. Getting outdoors again flipped my outdoor adventure switch back on — and it has stayed on ever since.
Last year I managed to bike and hike a little more than a thousand miles on Texas trails, including thru-hiking the Lone Star Hiking Trail. The great thing about biking and hiking is that you can take things at your own pace — no need to get in a hurry. I set my own goals last year of hiking every trail at Brazos Bend, Stephen F. Austin, and Palmetto — three state parks not far from home. I am in the process of doing the same at a couple of other state parks this year. All at my own pace. Just a few miles at a time.
Don’t be satisfied with watching Bear Grylls eat bugs and have his own epic adventures on television. Take some intentional steps to enjoy the great outdoors in the Lone Star State. Do some online research to find a state park or walking trails near you and then go on a hike. Start slow and go at a pace that you can enjoy. Set a goal to walk all of the trails (over time) that are a fit for your physical conditioning. Invite a friend to join you. Walk slowly. Stop often to breathe deeply and to listen to the sounds of nature. I guarantee you’ll enjoy the experience.
Below is a quick checklist of some basic items you will need for a leisurely walk in the woods. More on these items in future blog posts.
• Comfortable shoes (a half-size bigger will give your feet room to expand)
• Trekking pole (a personal preference)
• Water bottle or hydration pack
• Trail mix or granola bars
• Trail map (available at any park office)
• Survival Kit (I carry a compact survival / first aid kit in my hydration pack)
I hope to see you somewhere on a hiking trail in the great State of Texas.