Hiking,  Outdoors

A Pre-Freeze Hike on the Lone Star Trail

This bright red-orange sapling tree was stunning but I’m not totally sure what it is. First thoughts were black gum, Nyssa sylvatica, but closer looks at the leaves suggest maybe a Prunus or Pyrus. ID is welcome!

Machine clearing in lieu of fire along one section of the trail.

You know the terrain is getting good when you find the dwarf palmettos and the river cane!

Lots of Sparse-lobed Grapefern, Sceptridium biternatum, along the trail right now.

The floodplain section begins…

Caney Creek

A new find for us in Sam Houston and the westernmost plant on iNaturalist, Georgia holly, Ilex longipes.

Hiker crew!

Keely crossing a small creek.

Ahhhh, the trail!

I made Forest sit on this tree that is very distinctive along this section…because….

He’d sat on it back in September 2018! It took me a bit to find the photo because I didn’t think it was that far back. But yeah, four years old vs 9!

Spiranthes cernua in seed.

My friend Keely sent me an email two weekends ago asking if I wanted to do an overnight backpacking trip this last weekend with her. I saw the email chain and realized she had used the email chain from another email she’d sent in November where she had listed out a whole bunch of weekends she had planned out for this year for camping and hiking and I had forgotten to respond. *facepalm* I immediately replied to apologize for the oversight and then said that backpacking was probably not in the cards due to the weather but “How about a day hike?”

I called her the next day and we caught up for a while. The last time we’d seen each other was in May 2021 when we’d done a wet overnight hike together on the Phelps Segment of the Lone Star Trail. After that hike we had promised to hike together more and then well, life is busy when you both work, live an hour or so from each other, and have kids, husbands, and all sorts of your own plans. We kept in touch via email a few times but it’s been mostly miss since then. We managed to make a day hike happen this time around and again promised to not go so long between hiking visits!

I picked out a few segments on the Lone Star Trail and sent them to her and we settled on a 5.6 mile section from TH 3 to FS 271 in the Kelly/Caney Creek section. Chris and I (and Forest for some of it) had hiked all but one little bit between MM 12 and FS 204B and I wanted to have that section complete under my belt. I honestly need to sit down sometime and see which sections I lack (mostly east of I-45) and finish the gaps. And some day it would be nice to do a thru-hike. Maybe over a Thanksgiving break or Spring Break one year.

Chris, Forest, and I met up with Keely and shuttled cars and started on our hike. The main trail heads on FM 149 were very busy but we only encountered a group of scouts at the very beginning, who somehow never overtook us, and one lady and her dog at Caney Creek. We only saw them briefly and they took off. The afternoon started out cool but sunny and with only about 1.5-2 miles left I noticed it had become overcast. It didn’t dampen spirits but Forest did start asking a lot more on how far we had left in the back half of the hike. He did well, though, and managed to stay entertained along the way. There were some really stand-out things in this section, some shown above. I wasn’t able to get a good photo in a section where there was a grove of mature and likely old hawthorns (Crataegus sp.). And I’d forgotten how much hiking at a comfortable pace forces you to not want to walk slowly and find all of the nature bits to document. I documented enough to satisfy my curiosity but it would be nice to explore the drainages around Caney Creek and the wetlands adjacent to it at another date.

I hadn’t had true hiker hunger in a while and despite a few snacks, I was really looking forward to a gas station stop afterwards. And dinner. It’s one of those feelings you don’t realize you’ve missed until you experience it again.

This section as a whole isn’t the most scenic but there are parts that do stand out. I know some of these sections are much nicer during spring and summer. Winter can be drab in Texas. Hey, but at least we aren’t covered in snow and we get to hike, right?

Anyway, here’s to more hiking in 2024! And making plans to meet up with friends more often!


  • shoreacres

    I’m laughing. My ID app insists that bright red beauty is Bradford pear. On the other hand, it seems that the originally sterile tree’s been messing around, and now produces fruit that birds and mammals consume, spreading the seeds. Is your trail close enough to a residential area for a tree to sprout up? Or might this be a wild pear cross? Fun to imagine!

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