State Natural Area, Texas Parks & Wildlife
Chef Emile's Government Canyon Trail Log
On December 30th of 2005, I took my first nature hike since Boy Scouts. And that was at Philmont Scout Ranch in 1967, almost 40 years ago!! WOW, long time, and now I am hooked again!!
Two things I had forgotten since then. Get the right kind of hiking boots. I wore tennis shoes for this hike and my feet were killing me. I felt every pebble, and tennis shoes lead to very poor footing. The second thing, is bring a camera (and remember to take pics!!) I used the camera feature of my Treo 650, it provides nice shots, but has no options on lighting control.
As I understand it, the park had just opened a month before we took our hike. The trails are narrow at times put well marked. There were several people along the trail, we probably saw 15 - 20 people, some riding mountain bikes, some running. one guy was running and pushing a three wheel baby carriage!! BELIEVE me, I walked!!!
The official map is fantastic! (Rotate the second page clockwise 90 degrees, I have annotated our hike in red.) The topography lines are of great help because they are in increments of only 10 feet! The trails themselves are marked with logos. So you know what trail you are on, without continually looking at the map.
This trail log is written about 11 months after the hike, but I wanted to get it down and describe my experience.
We hiked out of the main Headquarters Parking Lot to the Trailhead (about .15 mile), then took the (Covered Wagon logo) Joe Johnston Route (3.955 miles) up to the Little Windmill. This trail meanders almost due north, following along the creek bed of Government Canyon Creek. Along the trail you can look up and see the South Bluff Spurs Overlook, the Wildcat Canyon Ranch Buildings, and the Hoffmann Hayfield. These also provide good markers to let you know that you are going fine. Even though you almost can't get lost here! At the end of this trail are Restrooms and a Primitive Campground. These are from the Government Canyon Creek bottom, my brother Mark and his wife Sharon.
We then took the Little Windmill Trail (.563 miles) west, which connects to the Sendero Balcones Trail. This is not as well marked as the Joe Johnston, but still easy to follow. We took the Sendero Trail south (about 1.5 miles), this was by far, the hardest part of our hike. You have to go up about 130 ft and down a couple of hills, then up (about another 120 ft) to the High Lonesome Windmill. That was tough for a guy from New Orleans! But I made it!! Along the way you see the best vegetation. Lots of stands of Pear Cactus and a tunnel of hanging Spanish moss. There are also some small cactus called "Horse Cripplers". These are ball cactuses (about 2 inches in diameter, no photo sorry) that have long sharp spines, watch out!! This jpg is my brother Marc, playing around with the pear cactus stand!
From the High Lonesome Windmill you go downhill (about 200 feet in elevation), this is Wildcat Canyon Trail (1.47 miles) running south west. This trail leads to the Wildcat Canyon Creek, then follows the canyon floor. It finally intersects the Joe Johnston Trail about .9 of a mile north of the Trailhead.
Of course we followed it south to the Trailhead. This is the only portion of our hike that we had to double back on.
It was a LONG hike! Right at about 8 miles, and ME with tennis shoes!! We started our hike at 10:30am and finished at 3:05pm, with about an half hour rest near the Little Windmill (about half way!).
While not on this trail, but back at our campground in Medina lake, we picked a couple of cactus... I planted them at my house in Harvey, LA, and this year the lone surviving one bloomed!! My Katrina cactus.
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