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!

Best Kept (Non-) Secret at Redwoods

After a little bit of a restless night’s sleep – I had to pee but had done so much bear research I’d scared myself into getting out of the tent in the middle of the night – it was time for our first full day at Redwood National Park! Since we were at the northern edge of the park, we first drove the Newton B Drury Scenic Parkway.

Jenna, Austin, and I had woken early to make sure we made good use of the sun and this meant our car was pretty much the only one on the road. I’d heard about terrible traffic along this road, but driving it right at sun up was awesome! We stopped whenever we felt like and got some quick shots of the more “touristy” spots.

We passed by the “Trees of Mystery” which we kept off our itinerary but did make a quick stop at to get some pics of the great Paul Bunyan and his ox. Also, I totally fell in love with a bear statue (which would also be the closest we came to a bear all weekend). At the end of our drive, we stopped to check out “The Big Tree.”

This is supposed to be the thickest tree in the park, so that was pretty great to see. Honestly, all the trees were so huge it was insane. I had never seen trees this large before, and to see a whole forest of them made me happy. We were visiting Redwood National Park during it’s 100th year of operation, but these trees are obviously hundreds of years old. (Research says millions of years old and that is mind boggling – haha!)

Next stop was the visitor center to get our Passport stamps and permits for the private trail we’d be tackling later in the day. Before that trail though, our agenda had us heading to Fern Canyon, which I’d heard great things from the locals the evening before. I went in knowing we wouldn’t have time to do everything on this quick trip, so I was glad one of the things we’d picked was getting talked up. Spoiler alert: it did not disappoint.

Even though I’d done the research, you never quite know what to expect, and a trail of ferns did not seem as exciting as the trees we were supposed to be enjoying. We headed out on this hike a little unsure of the route, but it was populated enough we followed in line down wood planks over creek waterways. It seemed we were hiking through a mostly dry creek bed, which was full of ferns and other greenery up the sides. It was gorgeous.

The further down we went, the trail lost a lot of people because the wooden planks had stopped. Halfway through you had to commit to danger (and the possibility of water) to keep going. We were on the hunt for some “falls” Austin had seen on the map, but the water was mostly in small streams it was hard to imagine us running into actual falls.

I was glad I wore my hiking boots because I definitely slipped on at least a dozen rocks, meaning I stumbled into the pools of water quite a bit. There were also a ton of overturned trees we were having to scramble over, so it was super fun! I will admit I did get stabbed by a broken tree branch, resulting in a gnarly bruise, but also adding to my excitement. I’ll say it a million times – I live for the experience!

We made it to the falls, which was pretty much just a dripping, wet wall, but it was still worth it. The hike was so much fun, not too strenuous, and for several stretches it was just the three of us. I think a lot of people stop halfway, but I suggest you keep going! The whole trail system is made for adventure.

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!

Finding the Trail

This was the trip that was going to make me an official “hiker” the way I saw it. I had gear, a purpose, and a buddy (Lola!) to take on the new adventure. I was [over]prepared.


My boots were secondhand but my bag was new because I was in this weird “I won’t commit till I love it”/”I’m going to love it duh” mindset. 

So why Davy Crockett National Forest? My thinking was I needed a mountain or a forest to hike but I live in Dallas. So forest it was. And this national forest was an easy day trip with easy trails – perfect for beginners.

We got an early start for our 3.5 hr drive to Kennard, TX because we wanted to be hiking at first light. It had been a rainy January so the roads were pretty much mud and the GPS dared us down a wrong-looking stretch. Technology failed us early and then we were off the grid.


Skimming the outer of the forest we found the official entrance and ranger station (empty). We were two newbies struggling to find the easiest trail in TX. We finally decided to park and and wander until we found it. Wandering is just a dreamier word for hiking, right?

We soon discovered that our intended trail had been closed a month before because of the marijuana crop that was found. (Eye roll.) So even with my full bag of gear and “necessities” I was already 0 for 2. But we would not turn back!

A smaller trail was soon found and we were soon actually hiking (an hour behind schedule). The trees were awesome, the trail fairly dry, and it was mostly flat. I kept thinking, “look at me I’m hiking.” 


The best thing about hiking with a friend is that there’s no technology to get in the way and you can talk. The second best thing is that you learn how to be comfortable in silence with each other. 

To be honest the trail was so easy, after hiking it the third time I had Lola describe the entire plot of Bridget Jones’s Baby. At one point I worked out aloud the ending to the screenplay we’re collaborating on. A lot was accomplished that day. (Haha.)


A little before sunset we got back in the car and headed home. A full perfect day and I could now add ‘hiking’ to my interests. I had learned a lot (like you may think you’re prepared but no) and I was ready to start planning the rest of my year. 

From this trip on I always had on the brain: Where could I go next?