Hike It Baby – Terry Hershey Park

Close to the time my maternity leave from work was ending, I stumbled upon this group online that seemed congruent with my current lifestyle –  Hike It Baby.  The Houston branch is part of a national organization dreamed up by founder Shanti Hodges of Portland, Oregon in 2013.  There are branches in 100 different cities and two countries, less than two years after she put her idea into action.  The purpose of the group is to get families out into nature by offering hikes and urban walks, submitted and lead by local participants.  Although kids of any age are welcome,  primarily the group seems to attract parents of infants, babies and toddlers using various types of baby gear (carriers, strollers or wraps) to walk with their children through both forests and interesting urban environments.

hike it baby terry hershey

For me, this organization provides a social opportunity, a chance to meet and interact with other parents who already have something in common with me – the desire to introduce their children to the outdoors.  If you have read any of this blog before, you already know I am the “outdoorsy” type and that my kids and I spent a lot of time in nature.  I don’t need another motivation, per se.  However, what I do need is a group of my peers; other parents of young ones to talk with.  Because I have this second family going on, most of my friends with kids have older kids, like my first set, but I want to find friends for Sebastian and other mothers to discuss baby milestones with.

hike it baby sebastian crop
Sebastian sleeps through one of several Hike It Baby “hikes” he has participated in over the past few weeks

I also really needed to get out of the house during my leave and talk to some adults.  In the last two weeks of my leave, I participated in four Hike It Baby walks, and then I did another one in the evening when I started back at work (that just happened to be hosted at my favorite local place to take a walk – the Cinco Ranch Nature Trail).

I decided that since I enjoyed this so much, but that most of the walks were scheduled during the week when I was at work, that I would submit some of my own on the weekends to see if there were others for whom that time and day would work as well.  Plus, there were no hikes scheduled on National Get Outdoors Day (this past Saturday, June 13).

So I submitted my first hike through the online submission form, and I was excited when it finally posted.  I had invited my friend Misti, whom I met online through blogging, and it was a good opportunity to get our babies together (although Sebastian slept through their first meeting, naturally).  It was awesome to see her again, since we have only seen each other in person like once a year since we met (but always with intentions for more interactions, because we both really enjoy the outdoors).

Finally, it was the day of the hike, and I wondered if anyone would show up.  Besides Misti and her family, we had about seven or eight other families join us on the short hike on the Terry Hershey Hike and Bike that I had planned.  It was a bigger crowd than I expected!  It made me feel glad that I decided to plan a Saturday hike, and hopeful that this meant that the “Saturday, once a month” hike time that I had decided on would also work for other families, which meant I would have company (and someone to talk to).

Here are some shots from the trail:terry hershey hike n bike 2

terry hershey hike n bike








A night heron fishes for his lunch near the Highway 6 bridge  terry hershey night heronWe basically just walked a mile from the Barker Reservoir towards Eldridge, then turned around and walked back again.  I had Jason come with me for support (and to find the geocaches along the way), and although he enjoyed talking to the other dads, his feeling is that he would have wanted a faster pace.  I had forgotten to tell him that you set the pace expectations on the online listing, and I had said that this one was casual and that kids could walk.  The next one I have organized, at Arthur Storey Park, I set the pace for “fast, adult-paced” walk with a stop for the kids to play at the end.

I have been a little obsessed with the idea of this group lately.  I think it is an awesome idea and I am glad there is someone out there like Shanti to dream it up, and like the branch leaders in each of the 100 cities to have the motivation to keep it going with her original vision intact.  I am looking forward to more opportunities to interact with other Houston families out on the trails and on walks through interesting places.  Be expecting more on this subject this coming year

Lake Livingston State Park

livingston1On the Fourth, we headed about an hour and forty five minutes northeast of us to a state park that I particularly like, Lake Livingston.  Lake Livingston itself is the second largest lake in Texas, being 39 miles long and 7 miles across at its widest. It covers 93,000 acres, 635.5 of which belong to the state park.  It is notable for its white bass fishery, but also holds catfish (mostly blue), largemouth bass, striped bass, and crappie.

We were going up there to chill for the day and go hiking.  Once there, we met up with my friends Diane and Misti, and were joined at various points by a geocacher named Linda (it was technically a geocaching event, but very low-key) and some members of Diane’s family.  We all sat around in chairs in the shade by a picnic table in the swimming area of the park for a couple of hours.  People had brought various treats to eat, such as chips, guacamole, salsa, orzo salad, couscous, and pound cake.  We grilled some veggie burgers, hamburgers, and hot dogs and had a group lunch.  After this, Misti, J and I went for a little hike.  We ended up walking almost all the trails in this little park in about two hours.  It was a little warm outside but it was bearable.

Initially, we took the Livingston Trail from the swimming area.  We did the entire loop.  At the beginning of the loop, you cross over a bridge that takes you over very inviting looking water.  I wanted to swim in the lake today, but J didn’t think it was a good idea given my complications with my leg injury.  We are fairly certain that last time we were here, this bridge was out, and also this part of the lake was dry – it was probably a drought year when we were in this section of the park last, so that doesn’t surprise me.

livingston4 livingston5We found one of the few geocaches left in the park that we hadn’t already found while we were over this way.  After this loop, we walked past the swimming area again on this same trail – which, in its entirety, is 2.73 miles long – and then skipped off of it just before it ended and took the Pineywoods Nature Walk trail, which is about 0.95 miles.  This is a boardwalk path that leads you through a butterfly garden and bird blind observation area. I liked the educational signs inside the bird blind building.


We noticed as we were walking that some of the trees in the park had been completely taken over by poison ivy.  This picture below is actually of a pine tree, but it has been enveloped nearly completely in the poisonous vine.


All in all I think it was about 3.5 miles that we hiked.

This state park has a lot to offer, but apparently can get crowded with both people and poisonous plants.  There were a lot of people here on this holiday afternoon.  The parking lot to the swimming area was so full that the TPWD state park police were parked at the front of the lot, blocking access to it and directing traffic.  In this area, there is a swimming pool that is about $2-3 entrance fee, and it was completely packed with people.  I really did not check out the lake access swimming area, but I imagine it was crowded, too.  We found some occasional trash along our walk to pick up at first.  At some point we just kind of gave up on that – especially after two incidents where I picked up 1) something nasty and 2) something that had ants all inside of it that bit my fingers pretty good.  The park volunteers or rangers were going by on golf carts to pick up trash, but towards the end as we got closer to the swimming area, I noticed quite a bit of trash piled up near one family’s little claimed spot, and a collection of soda or beer bottle tops piled up near a little bridge.  It is a little disheartening to see, and it made me consider the idea of hosting CITOs at state parks after holidays like this.

This park also offers horseback rides through their stables only (public is not allowed to bring their horses) for about $30 an hour cash, and you can also boat, paddle and fish here.  There is a nice fish cleaning station at the marina.  Diane was camping for the weekend, and said she was not too thrilled with the camping areas – they were very close to each other, she said.  It is not her favorite park, but it is nice that it is close enough to Houston for a weekend getaway.

I heard a rumor that the state park was looking to kick this park out of their system, but that might not be substantiated.  It looked like a very popular park, and I think it has a lot to offer in terms of recreational activities.  TPWD is hosting a Birding 101 walk there July 13 and August 10, which could be interesting – unfortunately, I have conflicting events going on those days.  I wouldn’t mind going back to this park again – at least to grab that one last geocache we have left to find in the park.  It was also a nice excuse to see Misti again- hopefully it won’t be so long in between our next outdoors outing together!

WG Jones: The Namesake of Our Favorite Forest

IMG_20130630_115334This morning, a group of intrepid geocachers hiked along the front part of the south side of the W.G. Jones State Forest Area.  A total of fifteen finds were had, including five different kinds of cache hides (traditionals, letterboxes, puzzles, multis, and an event cache).  Even though it was approaching 95 degrees in the Texas sun, there was a little breeze going.  Everyone was sweating and exhausted by the end of two and a half hours, but a really good time was had.

On the way out to the park, J and I were discussing the origin of the park’s name.  He was getting the park confused with Jesse Jones Park (also a great place), and thought they were named after the same people.  They are not, but I didn’t know a lot about W.G Jones.  I decided to look it up, and this is what I learned:

WG Jones park is named for William Goodrich Jones (1860-1950), who is touted as the “father of forestry in Texas”.  He was born in New York, but his father was a jeweler from Galveston.  When the Civil War loomed, this father, John Jones, headed back to Texas, soon to be followed by his wife and three children.  They moved to Houston to escape the naval warfare, and then later returned to New York.  After this, they went to Europe for two years.  During this time, Goodrich visited the Black Forest, where he gained an appreciation of the beauty and advantages of a well-managed forest.  He learned there the principle of sustainability, about when one cuts a tree from the forest, he should plant one in its place; a maxim which became an abiding principle in his life.  Jones went on to obtain a degree in business from Princeton, and served apprenticeships in banks in Galveston and South Texas.
WG Jones
He became president of a bank in Temple and established himself as a civic and business leader.  He urged the townspeople to plant trees.  Jones advocated the adoption of an official Arbor Day to promote tree planting statewide. The state legislature eventually established this day on  the third Friday in January.
Repeated trips through East Texas observing the lumber industry earned him an invitation in 1898 by B.E. Fernow, chief of the United States Bureau of Forestry, to make a survey of the Texas region and write a report on the condition and future of forestry in Texas. The resulting document became a blueprint for conservationists in Texas.

Jones denounced the haste and waste of the large logging operators and predicted that under current methods the great forest would disappear within twenty-five years. He recommended that the state and federal governments cooperate to regulate a planned-cutting, sustained-yield, systematic reforestation program that would prolong the life of the Texas forest indefinitely.

W. Goodrich lobbied lumbermen and the legislature to create what would become the Texas Forest Service in 1915. A major force was the Texas Forestry Association, spearheaded by Jones in 1914.  Later the state authorized a system of Texas state forests, one of which has been named the W. Goodrich Jones State Forest (this forest!)


Jones was not a wilderness advocate but rather a supporter of conservation for prudent use of Texas forests.  He promoted the multiple-use concept of the forests in Texas and was interested in conserving the soil, grasses, and wildlife, as well as the trees. He also constantly urged the establishment of parks. To make every town a “green town” would, he believed, improve the lives of Texas citizens.

After retiring from banking, Jones moved to Waco, where he managed his various properties and devoted his time to promoting the cause of conservation. He lived until he was almost ninety and was widely honored. He died on August 1, 1950, and was buried in Hillcrest Cemetery in Temple.



W. Goodrich Jones Papers, Special Collections, Steen Library, Stephen F. Austin State University. Robert S. Maxwell, “Life and Work of W. Goodrich Jones,” Texas Forests and Texans, May-June 1964. Robert S. Maxwell, “One Man’s Legacy: W. Goodrich Jones and Texas Conservation,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly 77 (January 1974). Robert S. Maxwell and Robert D. Baker, Sawdust Empire: The Texas Lumber Industry, 1830–1940 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1983).