Thursday morning was chilly. It had warmed up sufficiently after lunch to go hiking. The Painted Bunting Trail at just under three miles looked like a winner as it formed a complete loop. No backtracking. It isn’t a long distance from the campground but long enough not to want to walk it twice.
The starting point was the southern trail head parking lot, the one closest to the ranger station. I had looked at the trail map the night before but forgot to bring it on the hike. Wanting to tackle the longer more crooked leg of the trail, I crossed the road and headed south along the trail. It was beautiful. For some time, the trail cuts across grassland that had turned that beautiful fall golden color, glinting in the sunlight. Amber waves of grain.
The trail turned more downhill. More brush, then more trees. Some oak but mostly the juniper commonly called cedar. I remember seeing a left turn but the trail marker showed Painted Bunting Trail continuing ahead.
At this point, had I had the trail map, I would have realized that the Painted Bunting Trail both continued ahead and turned left all at the same time. That is, I should have turned left.
I passed the Prairie Trail that turned to the right. According to the map, I would have been on the Oak Savannah Loop. At some point, there was a left turn that I took. Probably due south.
Immediately, I found my self on the park boundary. It isn’t just the fence, there are “State Park Boundary” signs hung on the fence at consistent intervals.
Usually my smart phone is more useful than this. I wasn’t really outside the park.
In parks, trails are often difficult to follow. This wasn’t the first time I’ve gotten lost on a new trail so I don’t worry too much about finding my way home. I continued walking along the fence.
I heard what initially sounded like chain saws in the distance. Not much further from the park truck, two park rangers were weed-eating along the fence. As I approached, the first park ranger turned off his weed-eater and pulled out his ear plugs. I said, “I must have made a wrong turn somewhere. I’m lost. Where does this “trail” take me?” He replied, “To the park entrance gate.” I thanked him and passed the second ranger with just a nod.
A half hour later, another park ranger crew was clearing brush along the boundary fence. I stopped and asked how for to go to the park entrance gate. A few hundred yards, they replied.
In no time, I passed the park entrance gate. Stopping at the ranger station, I got another trail map and got a bottle of water from the vending machine. I downed the water well before I made it back to the trail head parking lot. Back at camp, I sat down in a zero-gravity chair with more water and didn’t get back up for an hour.
Hope to see you on the road ahead!