Fort Boggy, neither a fort nor a bog, is a relatively small Texas State Park. It’s got a little lake and two hiking trails. Due to its small size, Mom and I thought it would be a good place to continue our Beginner Hiking education.
After driving up the bluebonnet-lined entranceway and self-paying at the dropbox next to the headquarters, we drove straight to the picnic area on the beach by the lake for a snack of summer sausage, cheese, and crackers.
It was unseasonably cold for a spring day in Texas. It wasn’t freezing — Yankees and vikings probably wear shorts in that weather — but it was uncomfortable for us native Central Texans.
After our snack, we set out on our first hike of the day: the Lake Trail.
The Lake Trail follows the edge of the lake, but the lake is out of sight for long stretches of the hike. It felt like a walk in the woods instead of a stroll along a lake. The path was pretty narrow in some places, with trees and brush tightly surrounding us. There weren’t any other people on the trail. The solitude was quite nice, albeit a little scary.
We were getting into the groove of hiking in the solitude when we came to a fork in the trail. The trail didn’t have any arrows or other indications about which path to take. The map didn’t show any forks on the trail at all, so that was no help. One of the trail options had a sign that said “Beware of snakes.” The other trail option did not have any signs at all. We took a guess and went in the direction of the sign. And then the trail began to look like this:
We thought maybe we took a wrong turn at that fork, that surely we weren’t supposed to walk through THAT. We turned around and took the other option at the fork. After walking about a quarter of a mile through fallen leaves and being terrified of disturbing sleepy copperhead snakes, we came to a fence boundary. Wrong way. The muddy path WAS the correct direction after all.
So we turned around and went back to the Path of Mud. It wasn’t too unpleasant, the mud was just a little sticky. It wasn’t impossible to walk through it. At first.
The water on the path got progressively deeper and deeper, the mud more difficult to manage. My shoe came off. We were constantly scanning the environment for water moccasins. Mom wanted to turn back around two or three times. I didn’t want to have to cover the same ground I had already been through, and I kept hoping that the terrain would lighten up. It felt as if we were too close to just quit then (and double our hiking time by having to go back around the lake).
Eventually we did pass all the muddy parts. We could see the lake again and very shortly made it back to our starting position by the picnic area.
After eating lunch at the picnic area, we decided that we had enough energy for the Nature Trail.
A closed metal cattle gate with a sign warning of ongoing feral hog trapping was by the entrance to the Nature Trail. We couldn’t figure out if the trail was closed or not. And the sign confirmed there were feral hogs at the park.
A QUICK INTERJECTION ABOUT FERAL HOGS
I was frightened by our encounter with the Mystery Animal at Lake Somerville. It made me realize that I did not know the answers to fundamental survival questions like “What should we do if we encounter dangerous animals on the trail?” and “What ARE the dangerous animals that we should be wary of?” Therefore, I did some research before our trip to Fort Boggy. Probably too much research. And one type of animal above all others made me very, very nervous: feral pigs. Now, a pig doesn’t sound so scary, until you realize that a pig is a 400+ pound intelligent animal with razor sharp tusks and lightning speed. And they travel in large groups. The internet advice on how to handle them, however, seemed pretty straightforward – don’t piss them off, don’t surprise them, and don’t mess with their babies…just generally stay as far away from them as you can.
BACK TO THE TALE OF THE TRAIL
We didn’t want to accidentally hike down a closed, dangerous trail, so we checked with the ranger station. The rangers inside were incredibly friendly. The ranger managing the cash register informed us that the Nature Trail was open, that it was safe, and that she had recently walked it with her toddler in a stroller. She told us she had never seen any wild pigs, just evidence that they had been there. The ranger went on to say that the Nature Trail would be much dryer than the Lake Trail, as a nearby spring keeps the Lake Trail pretty wet most of the year but doesn’t affect the Nature Trail. I took the opportunity to buy a Texas State Parks Pass.
Mom and I were much more relaxed after our conversation with the ranger. The sun had finally broken through the clouds. The Nature Trail’s wide open, dry spaces were nice after the tight closed-in, muddy Lake Trail. We joked around and looked at pine trees, very pleased with our decision to continue our day of hiking.
As we came to the first primitive campsite, marked as C-1 on the map above, I heard a hawk’s call. I looked up in the trees, trying to locate it. Mom was just ahead of me, scouting for snakes with her huge tree branch of a walking stick. Next thing I know, Mom is walking past me FAST to where we were coming from, whisper-hissing to me:
“Hogs! Crossing right ahead! One was huge! I mean HUGE!”
We both silently watched the crossing to see if there was any more hog activity. A small-ish black blur, about the size of a really, really large dog, flashed across the trail. It appeared to be a baby pig. Mom and I looked at each other, then started walking quickly back to the trail start. We planned to just loop around the trail from the other direction, but the map was misleading. There is not a long, straight trail that goes by the cabin areas; that’s a pipeline easement that isn’t really meant to be walked on. We didn’t know that, so we got lost looking for a non-existent straight trail going in the other direction, wandering around in circles on paths in the cabin areas (which also do not appear on the map). It eventually occurred to us that our options were (1) go home or (2) walk the trail the way we had intended to walk it the first time before we were interrupted by walking bacon.
Me, kinda scared: “Do you want to go home?”
Mom: “What do you want to do?”
Me: “I’m fine with whatever you decide.”
Mom, scared too: “Let’s keep going.”
Me: “If you’re this stressed out and scared, why do you want to keep going?”
Mom: “Because I want to prove that I can.”
That pretty much sums up the appeal of hiking.
We kept going. We didn’t encounter any more pigs, although we saw where they had torn up a lot of ground. We stayed nervous and on edge during the entire 45 minute hike. The scenery was nice though, opening up to meadows, then closing down to woods, all with blooming wildflowers. The colder weather kept the bugs away. It was dry. I would have really had a lot of fun if I hadn’t been worried about some huge damn thing running out of the trees at us.
The scenery got weird at the end of the trail. It was like something out of the movie Annihilation. The environment couldn’t decide whether it wanted to be a forest, a swamp, or a grassland, so it just acted like all three at once. It was truly neato.
After the grassy swamp forest area, we came to a section of the trail that the rangers had told us about, where a kind of canopy of tree branches envelops the trail. It’s supposed to be pretty, and I was looking forward to seeing it. As we approached that section, though, I heard a high-pitched squeal. I didn’t want to be trapped in an enclosed space with an enraged pig, so we cut through a cleared pipeline path and went back to the car. Then I realized the pig sound I heard could very well have been a small bird.
Our nerves were fried, we were cold, and we were tired. We went home.
The next day, we were ready for more adventure.