Solitude in the middle of a neighborhood
Copperfield Nature Trail
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Distance: 6.63 Miles
Duration: 2 hours, 27 minutes
I just discovered this place. I started at Copperfield Park off of Yager near Parmer and hiked the whole length back to Yager, where I turned around and hiked the whole thing in reverse (I could have continued along Yager back to the park, but I where's the fun in that?). I was out for two and a half hours and only saw nine other people (four groups of two and other solo hiker), so I had a lot of solitude. Even though you never really forget you're close to homes and businesses (sometimes, you are practically in someone's backyard), there is still plenty of solitude.
Most of the trail follows creeks (Walnut Creek and a smaller creek that feeds into Walnut Creek), which had plenty of water in them today. There are several small waterfalls as well, which is nice. It is mostly wooded, so this would provide shade on a sunny day. Around where the smaller creek joins Walnut Creek, there is an interesting limestone wall with vegetation growing out of it and (today, at least) small springs that drip water down it.
The terrain isn't too tough, but it also isn't super easy. There are a few steep portions that would give people with knee problems trouble and one part that is on par of the creek bed which could get slippery in wetter weather.
There are two segments of this trail: The longer segment that runs from Copperfield Park to the Trotwood entrance of the trail and a shorter segment that runs from an entrance on Peggotty Place back to Yager. In between, you have to walk on a street through a neighborhood. The shorter segment of the trail was a lot less interesting to me than the longer segment, especially the last 0.3 miles approaching Yager: This part is just a path between two fence lines.
My phone died ten minutes into my hike, so I only got a couple of not-that-interesting pictures. I will return to take more pictures in the future.
Good trail for observing plants and animals
Buescher State Park
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Distance: 4.71 Miles
Duration: 2 hours, 23 minutes
Most of the trails at this park are closed due to the fires, but the blue trail is still open and it makes the trip from Austin worth it. Most of the trail is shaded. You'll see a ton of plant and animal life (I saw many lizards and toads among fallen leaves) and it smells really nice.
There are a few times the trail crosses a small creek. Be aware of this: You'll get a little muddy and perhaps wet depending on how much the creek is flowing and how good (or not good) you are and leaping from shallow are to shallow area.
The short CCC Crossover Trail is also open. It's a super quick hike, but still interesting. The stonework is fun to look at, especially since portions of it have been overgrown with moss and lichen.
The park is rather quiet. I know there were a lot of people there while I was, but I didn't see many others. (Perhaps they were all near the camping areas.)
At the end of the blue trail there is a scenic overlook, which is a nice place to watch the sun set. You can also get to this area by driving on the main park road.