North Shore Trail: Flower Mound, TX

Let me start by saying this is the first hike of the year! I’ve decided to go for the #52HikeChallenge this year, mainly to track my hikes and miles since it’s something I’ve never done before! I originally wanted to do this hike over the weekend, but life got in the way so I did it after work this week.

So, how did I end up in Flower Mound, a suburb outside Dallas? I spent some time looking for “jumpable” cliffs around Dallas because I was thinking of starting the year off with a polar bear plunge and the only way that was going to happen was if I jumped off a fun cliff. That led me to Rockledge Park. However, that has an entry fee and with budget goals I decided to go ten minutes north along Grapevine Lake which led me to Murrell Park. Similiar cliffs, same lake, and its own (free!) hiking trail.

It wasn’t too far from where I work, so after less than a half hour of driving, I was winding my way through a new, and fairly nice, neighborhood. The more parks I check out, the more neighborhoods I drive through. It’s weird to find these hidden hiking trails so close to civilization, that’s for sure. When I arrived the park was empty except for one car, there was no map at the trail head of North Shore, and the sign said Closed.

Oh, and you know, I couldn’t find my hiking boots, which I was sure I’d thrown in the car days beforehand.

I’d already delayed this hike a few times because of the rain, and I’d driven this far, and I hadn’t gone hiking in close to a month. I had excuses not to do it – the most obvious the closed sign followed closely by choosing to hike in my heeled boots. But when things don’t go my way, sometimes I just power through it anyway. And it usually works out.

Starting off, right away I could tell this was a trail meant more for mountain bikers than for hikers, which is typically the case I’ve noticed for the trails around Dallas. The path was narrow and winding and full of bike tire tracks. The temperature was pretty perfect considering it’s early January, although there were a few muddier spots because of the rain. In areas you could see the nearby houses and at various points the trail crossed a small cement road, but overall it’s a nice looping trail. Lots of brush, but the trail was very well marked.

Weirdly, halfway through I found the map posted, though it was hard to tell how long it was. At this point, I had yet to come upon the lake and I was losing daylight. I picked up my pace (even in my heeled boots) and made it my mission to get to the lake and back to my car before I was left in the dark. My phone GPS worked perfectly since I was so close to the neighborhood even though I only passed one trail-runner and one biker in the whole two hours I was out there. My feet held up in my heels even though the trail was hilly and passed a couple of cute waterways.

Finally, just as I was about to give up on the lake overlook, the trail kept heading for the lake, instead of taking me back and forth away from it. I passed a (kind of scary) outdoor bathroom and a (cute) campfire area to get to a small trail overlook with one cliff ledge. There was no way (or time) for jumping so I enjoyed the view and the colors of dusk before heading back to my car.

I knew I wouldn’t have time taking the trail – looking it up now, I think in total the thing is three miles, but it could be as long as six since it doesn’t have many reviews. I took the cement road which led me out of the trails and back to the main road where the park entrance was. This took me less than a half hour and I got some good views of the setting sun over the lake from beyond the trees. Overall, even though I had a chilled sweat, it was a great hike! I’m marking this as a rough start – but still successful!

Katie Jackson Park trail review

As most of you know by now, I love finding hidden nature trails in the city!

Living in Dallas, it’s not exactly easy finding nature escapes where I can’t actually hear the traffic. To be honest, most hiking trails in my area you can always see at least a building. But we have our big nature centers luckily – and we have some hidden gems in our suburbs!

I found out after the fact that the Katie Jackson Trail is prime for “off road” bicycling but this made for a pretty great hiking trail as well! This trail was great for its zero foot-traffic. I hiked on a Friday morning with my friend Lola and we spotted no one else our entire time on the trail.

This trail is split into North and South sections, but other than that uninformative guidance, I cannot tell you how it’s laid out. Lola and I even got lost for a good twenty minutes! We really could’ve used a bit more maps or even less left-or-right options. But I will say the trails were well-marked and there was no chance of wandering off the path.

Because this trail is mostly a biking trail, there are a lot of great dips and inclines scattered throughout which I enjoyed. It’s easy to find a flat walking surface and so much harder to find a trail with some variety!

We were nestled in the middle of a North Dallas suburb so there was definitely evidence of people. Quite a bit of trash and even in one area a very clear teenage hangout. Someone had built a wooden loft and brought out a couple of lawn chairs to have a little break mid-trail. Lola and I thought this was hilarious – but also probably very cool for the local kids to have their own secret hangout.

Of course, the last upside I’ll leave you with was the beautiful views! This trail meets a creek a couple of times, offering a nice view every now and then. Plus, there’s one section with a big field which offers lost of different wildlife and nature to explore.

I will definitely be checking this trail out again – it’s probably great in Spring!

Trail Review: John F Burke Preserve

I only stumbled upon this trail after passing it a few times while grabbing lunch on my work break. The entrance is tucked under a major highway on the edge of Dallas. So one morning before work, the weather was nice, I had on sporty sandals, and I decided, heck, why not?

It really is a tucked away hidden gem. When I arrived, the parking lot was empty so I knew I had the preserve to myself. It was a weekday morning though, so maybe no one gets quite as adventurous as I do before work – ha!

Right away you pass under the highway and the trail opens up into a large seating area. There’s a few tables for picnicking and whatnot. I passed by this to continue on the trail, realizing it would basically be a pretty good sized loop around a little lake.

Along the trail there are little openings to better view the lake; for the most part the trees cover the view. These openings were really great, with different wooden structures like benches and trellises. Perfect for a quiet viewing of a peaceful lake.

But. Well, I won’t lie. You are very close to that highway. It’s hard to really escape the city when the traffic is heavy. The preserve is really well kept, but if I had to guess, probably mostly empty because of it’s proximity to the noise of city life. Even the lake was suspiciously void of ducks and other birds.

Besides my lack of run-ins with any kind of wildlife, there are cute little wooden posts along the trail that let you play an animal guessing game. On the top it has painted animal tracks that you can try and figure out the animal. Then you flip up the wooden sign and it reveals which animal the footprint belongs to.

Overall, I love it because of how conveniently close it is to my work and I also appreciate the neatness of the trails. It’s an easy walk – perfect for not getting too sweaty before I need to go be a professional!

Pro tip: Go when the traffic up top will be light!

Why I Hike (Anywhere I Can)

This Saturday is National Trails Day! I’ll be busy with a friend’s wedding, so I’m hoping to get in my hiking before the weekend arrives. Hiking has become very important to me, so I wanted to share my most personal hiking thoughts.

1. My body got me here.

As most of us probably have at some point, I’ve struggled a lot with what my body can and can’t do. Regardless of whatever insecurities I may feel, I always have a moment of being so proud of what my body can do. The elevation I can climb, the miles I can push through, and the weather I can survive. All thanks to my body!

2. Does (blank) really matter?

Hiking is extremely meditative for me. It’s where I tend to start working through a lot of the problems I deal with. I’ve never been able to sit and work toward a solution. It’s only when my body takes over that I can get to a place where my mind is free to work on all that deep stuff going on subconsciously.

3. I can work on that connection.

Similarly to personal problems I work on, I also find me thinking a lot about the relationships in my life. Hiking always makes me optimistic so I begin to think of what I can do to better a friendship, a connection, etc. The solitude of nature has a way of making you appreciate the connections I’ve made and all the wonderful people who surround me in life. I’m thankful for the opportunities to work on showing my loved ones what they mean to me.

4. A perfect check mark for my list.

I find myself almost constantly needing to be productive. A lot of times I can stretch myself too thin or take too many stressors on my plate. Hiking is one of the only things in my life that feels completely for me and yet doesn’t give me the guilt of not “getting stuff done.” It’s good for me mentally and physically so it’s almost like having a few check marks rolled into one (especially when the thinking time helps me solve a problem).

5. Life has beauty to it.

The main thing about getting outdoors – anywhere that may be – is there’s always something visually beautiful to offer. Even in the winter, even in a small park, even on populated paved trails, there’s always something interesting to discover. I’ve always been a naturally curious sort, but being in nature reminds me how wonderful life can be. Things completely unrelated to you are growing, are struggling, and existing.

Arbor Hills Nature Preserve

I was very excited about this local hike. I’d seen one of my friends frequent it and it looked a bit woodsy and very spacious. It was a bit further north of Dallas in the city of Plano, so I invited my friend Lola for a morning hike since she was on the way.

After a quick coffee stop (of course) we headed out there. When we first got there it seemed everything was paved and well done – quite a fancy park. We didn’t see too helpful of a map, so we just decided to pick one of the cement paths and see what we could find.

Very quickly, we found an offshoot dirt path. I don’t mind nice parks, but I was very glad to see dirt trails and what seemed like a lot of mileage. Afterward, I discovered there is equally three miles of paved trails and three miles of unpaved trails.

The two of us were a bit chatty this morning, but I was glad to find only a couple of other people were out on the trails because of the cooler weather and the weekday. Lola and I weren’t sure where we were headed because we essentially had no map so we just decided to pick directions randomly. (This is normally so unsafe but I knew it was all one big loop so there’d be no real way to get lost if we stuck to the trail – we just might end up hiking more miles than we’d planned.)

The trails were mostly pretty flat, so very easy, but interspersed with a lot of interesting trail additions like ledges and bridges. The nature aspect was also pretty great. At times there were woods, fields, creeks, and even a lake!

We passed a very nice, big pavilion, found the restrooms, and knew we were close to the car. Around this area, we finally discovered a big map, but having not kept track it was too hard to know where we’d gone exactly.

At this point, me and Lola were pretty cold so we decided since we’d stumbled upon the parking lot, it was time to head out. On our way out on the last little trail, we spotted a few cardinals playing in the trees. It was so great!

I know I will definitely be back because of all the rural trails I’ve yet to explore. I’m especially excited to check it out again now that it’s getting warmer. Warmer weather means more enjoyable hikes – and also more wildlife!