Thursday, August 04, 2011

Widdershinning the Four Notch Loop

Because the sun played a highly important role in primitive religion, to go against it was considered very bad luck for sun-venerating traditions.

It's not all that great to go against the sun if you below to a modern, technology-based civilization, either.

I was supposed to do an overnight paddle trip last weekend but the danger of both temperatures over 100F and a potential tropical storm scared everyone off. Being desperate for some wilderness, I ended up doing the 10-mile Four Notch Loop again, though this time by myself. Sharp-eyed readers may notice the last time I did the Four Notch Trail it was only 9 miles long.


Yeah, so I got lost a few times this hike... A lot of trees have fallen along the trail which took down the trail blazes, too. You need to keep a close eye on things otherwise you'll be backtracking a lot.

When Clark and I did it last time we hiked it clockwise, this time I did it counterclockwise and for a very good reason. By doing it counterclockwise (widdershins) the last quarter of the trail was mostly downhill which considering how exhausted I was, was a very good plan. It's good to be able to read a topographical map!

The morning was actually quite cool and comfortable. Walking the trail was pleasant, especially since there were lots of pretty scenery and interesting plants to see.

Pigeonwing flower (Clitoria mariana). Hmmm, why would it be called that?

Me by a pretty gully. There was water even in the worst drought in decades!

Pretty gully without me...for those who'd rather not look at me.

The gullies were all very pretty...but by the end of the trail the constant up-and-down was getting to me some. I was carrying six liters of water in my pack which was pretty heavy. In the end I could have done it with only four liters, but I'm always paranoid about running out of water.

If you like spiders then the Four Notch Trail is for you. There were all sorts of spiders everywhere, especially funnel spiders. Plenty of crab spiders and orb-spinners, too.



Since I was alone I was able to spend all the time I wanted studying plants. This lead to the interesting discovery that wherever I saw a bull nettle plant I'd also find a young sassafras sapling. Very odd considering sassafras are understory trees while bull nettles are usually out in open, sunny fields.

Bull nettle. The needles pack a very irritating poison.

American beautyberries were also turning ripe.

Since the word for the day was "moseying" I decided to pitch my hammock and lay down for an hour over lunch. Best. Idea. Ever.


Currently there's a maximum-level burn ban there so even small campstoves were outlawed. I had to make due with trail mix for lunch. Works for me, I love trailmix!! A book would have been nice, too. Next time I'm definitely bringing some appropriate reading material. I spent the first half-hour just listening to nature but the grunting of pigs around me in the underbrush was pretty disconcerting. Luckily my new cell phone has a built-in mp3 player and pretty good external speaker so I ended up listening to the sound track from The Lord of the Rings. That was the PERFECT music and I ended up listening to it the whole rest of the day.

It was hard to leave the hammock but a lot of the trail still awaited. The temperature seemed to shoot up 20 degrees between noon and 1pm and my legs had begun to stiffen some. Not good. By the end I was really exhausted, though. The Texas sun isn't something to treat with disregard in July! Luckily, the plants and landscape remained beautiful and the music really helped me to keep going.

Pelvic bone. I stuck it in a tree where it looked like something staring at you as you passed by.

Trees with the Four Notch Loop blaze (blue lines). The silver blazes indicated the Lone Star Trail main path.

I started the loop at 9am and finished at 4:30pm. This included an hour's lunch/hammock time and about an 45 minutes worth of being lost. Not bad.

Me at the end (and also the beginning) of the loop.

I ended up dumping almost 2 liters of water and if I had brought some sort of water purification system I could have carried even less. I was really surprised by how much water was still along the trail in spite of the drought.



The Four Notch Loop is really the prettiest section of the Lone Star Trail that I've found. It's not just a long, flat slog through endless pine trees. It's very diverse in terrain and plant/animal life. Definitely a trail to do when I need some wild time.

Adventure! Excitement! Heat!


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Anonymous said...

I went to Ragtown Recreational Area last weekend. It has plenty of bathrooms with running water and include showers. It's in the Sabine National Forest, east of Shelbyville, Tx. It's a great place to car camp but will be much better when Toledo Bend fills up with water and the total fire bsn is lifted!

Trailguide said...

Wonderful description and photos of 4-Notch. Also my all time favorite section of the LSHT. You might also like Big Woods.