My wife and I took advantage of a glorious Saturday recently in this non-existent winter to go hiking in Tyler State Park. This was our first visit to the park in years. Admission is just $6, and the money goes for a great cause — our state and national parks.
Tyler State Park is not breathtakingly beautiful, especially if you are already used to pine trees and reddish soil. But it is well maintained, with a sizable lake and lots of campsites. The beautiful weather had attracted a sizable number of visitors — hiking, biking, camping or just hanging out.
We parked at the lake, studied the map the park ranger gave us, and decided our first foray would be the trail around the lake, about 2.3 miles. Over the water, we could hear music blaring: The Supremes, Aretha Franklin and the like — mainly Motown hits, with some Creedence Clearwater Revival thrown in. Finally, we figured out it was coming from a guy in a canoe making his way slowly around the lake. He had a jambox with him, and for some reason felt compelled to share his musical tastes with everyone within a few hundred feet.
We could not get away from the fellow. He paddled the circumference of the lake, while we walked the trail. I spied two people walking a trail nearby, away from the lake. “Let’s go that way and get away from this fellow,” I said.
We started up a modest incline, enjoying the relative silence. A couple stood a few hundred feet away, smoking cigarettes. Hiking and smoking seem mutually exclusive, but not to them, apparently. We made a wide berth around their clouds of smoke as we passed.
We were so busy grousing about the smokers and the fellow with the jambox that we both had to swerve to avoid stepping on a dead armadillo that clearly was serving as a meal for buzzards or crows. That was a close call.
The trail for a time was an old logging road that was not particularly attractive. We eagerly took an intersecting trail that was much more nature-y. The lake was nowhere in sight, but we were not concerned. After all, we kept passing people, so this trail went somewhere.
Finally we ended up on the main road that goes around the entire park with no idea which direction to take. We struck out to the left. The occasional vehicle would pass and wave at us. We did not look lost, just out for a stroll. At last, a family in a pickup slowly approached. I waved them down and asked which way led to the lake. It was in the opposite direction, of course. By now the 2.3 mile hike around the lake had expanded considerably.
Another truck drove by. The bed contained a snarling, half-crazed looking German Shepherd, straining at its leash to attack us. Seriously, that dog would have had me for lunch, and my wife for dessert if it had its way. Who brings a dog like that to a state park filled with little kids and semi-senior citizens?
We finally got back to the lake, to discover the couple with the German shepherd beginning to walk around the lake. Of course, we were on the exact opposite side of the lake as where we parked. The attack-dog folks went one direction. We went the other, following a friendly couple with a golden retriever.
Two-and-a-half hours after we began, we were back to the parking lot. I bought a couple bottles of water at the park store before leaving. I figure we got in seven miles at the park. Not bad for a Saturday afternoon.