Sunday, July 05, 2009

Four Notch Loop Trail

Record heat? Bah! We are adventures! We laugh at heat/humidity! Stay indoors? Not when we both have a day off! Sure, the weatherman was saying it'll get up to 104F with a heat index over 110F, but how often is he right?

So, this time he was.

That's okay because Clark and I had both packed a lot of water. I was carrying 2.5 gallons of water plus a quart of Gatorade and a can of Coke. Clark had something like 1 gallon of water and one or two bottles of Vitamin waters. Turns out that was more than needed and as the hike progressed we dumped unneeded water to lighten our loads.

What a hike it was! The Four Notch Loop is my new favorite hike in the Houston area. It is part of the Lone Star Trail through the Sam Houston National Forest.

Me at at the end of the trail, still smiling!

This trail winds for almost nine miles through stunningly beautiful woods, across many small (at this time of year!) streams, and up and down hills, some reaching a mountainous 400 feet above sea level! Well, when you are stuck mainly in Houston a 400 foot change in elevation is something to write home, er, on a blog about...

The trailhead.

The trail. It goes up and down like this a lot.

More trail. Even during the drought we've been having water was available. According to the sign at the trail head the water here only needs to be treated for biological contamination. Filtering, boiling, or a chemical treatment would render it safe to drink.

Clark. He really is actually having a good time.

Clark eating some greenbriar.

A cool magnolia tree above more water.

Funnel-web spiders had made homes all along one section of the loop. These things looked capable of taking down a gopher!

"Downed Bridge". If you look closely you can see a small, white rectangle on the large tree to the right of the picture. That's the blaze indicating where the trail is. There used to be a bridge here but it was washed away long ago. Luckily a bit upstream there was a narrow, shallow area crossed by small log. How one would get across this stream during the rainy season is a problem left to the reader.

More water, easily crossed.

Like I said, it was a beautiful area. The forest was alive with deer, birds, butterflies, skinks (the lizard thing, not me misspelling skunks), toads, and spiders but blessedly free of mosquitoes. Clark did find one tick climbing on him. We were always shaded by the trees and so never measured a temperature above 98F. It was quite comfortable if you're already acclimatized to the heat. Had we known so much water was available we wouldn't have carried gallons of it. We would have just collected water as needed from the streams. Sidenote: if you do go there bring lots of water along just in case. Dump it when you have confirmed there's still water in these streams. Please don't screw around with Texas heat, it really can kill you.

My GPS couldn't hold a signal under the dense cover of trees. You can see coordinates and a topo-map of the hike at this site. There were many spots that looked like they'd be good campsites, so this could be a very lazy two-day excursion if one was so inclined. It took Clark and I exactly seven hours, which included 30 minutes going the wrong way. We both have a tendency to walk much and rest little. Afterward we agreed we should have spent more time loafing along the way.

How to get to the Four Notch Loop trail head:
1. Take exit 102 of I-45 and head east on FM 1375
2. Turn left on to hwy. 150/hwy. 75
3. Turn right on to FM 2296
4. Turn right on to Four Notch Rd.
5. Turn left on to dirt road FS 213 (Google maps incorrectly calls this FS 218)
6. Trail head parking is second dirt road on left, trail head is on right.

View Larger Map

One important thing to know is this National Forest is open for hunting and is a popular spot for Houston deer hunters. Use caution when out there between Sept. 28th and Jan 5th. Sidenote: It is illegal to harass anyone lawfully engaged in hunting, so don't do it.

Adventure! Excitement! Dang Hot!


Kelly said...

What a great hike. I've been wanting to get back out there. We've only done the Richards loop so far...and in the heat of summer last year. I almost had mutiny with the family.

So when you get water from those sources do you filter or use tablets or what?

Merriwether said...

I have a Sawyer water bottle/filter thingy like this:

It doesn't stop virii, but that isn't much of a concern in most places I hike.

Brad said...

4 Notch Loop, one of my favorite spots in the SHNF. I'm jealous.