I’m planning/preparing for my thru-hike of the Lone Star Hiking Trail. I’ll start in Cleveland and end in Conroe.
Part of getting ready for any hiking trip is downloading maps, checking the status of the trail, going over the gear that will be needed, and maybe doing some reading of other people’s experiences hiking the same trail.
In doing all of that, I found there’s an issue on a section of the trail with a bridge that crosses the north end of Lake Conroe. It’s closed due to severe damage from Harvey. I began looking to see if anyone had posted a detour or alternate route. I found lots of other people asking the same question, but never found an answer. I did find one hiker that said they planned to cross it at night. During their actual hike, the timeline was off by many hours and they wound up at the bridge during the day. They simply hiked right across the bridge and there were Sheriffs and DPS troopers at the other end and they all just said “Hi” and let them pass. This hiker admitted they knew there might be a fine, but had no idea what it was. Yikes! The penalty for crossing that bridge is up to a $5000 fine and/or 6 months in jail. It’d be my luck to get stopped and hauled away.
I set about finding a detour. Sounds easy enough right? I mean, really, I should just be able to say, “Google [or Siri or Alexa] find a detour around the Stubblefield Road Bridge on the Lone Star Hiking Trail for an east to west thru-hike. Avoid private property, heavy bushwhacking, and large, deep water crossings.”
Heavens, I truly hope it never gets that easy…seriously…
There’s a boat launch on the east side of the bridge. I thought about hanging out and seeing if someone would ferry me across on their boat. I thought about trying to hitchhike from somewhere east of the bridge to somewhere west of it. I contemplated attempting a shallow water crossing at some point. I allowed myself the slim possibility that I would simply do what the other hiker did: walk right across.
In the end, I thought it best, since this is a “safe” hike right in the middle of a well traveled urban area, to hone my skills of going “off trail”. I did it ALL the time as a kid and, to quote an old lady from a cartoon movie, I’m “Still alive!”
I love that quote. Though, staying alive does entail quite a bit of personal responsibility. And that’s what all this hiking practice is about: so I can always use that quote. The day I can’t, well, we all know what that means.
Back on topic. I needed a topo map of the area around Lake Conroe to plan and map out a detour.
There are lots of sites to download topographic maps. And I do mean lots. For me, the easiest is CalTopo (no affiliation). This site isn’t real flashy and it even kind of looks like it still exists in the Internet of the early 90s. But, the interface is pretty simple. After I played around with it and figured out how to get what I was looking for (not because of the site, because I had to learn some mapping terms), I really don’t need to go figure out another site at this time. Plus, I believe this site is run by one guy that actually used to do it completely for free. Downloading basic maps is still free, but he now has some subscription plans which give users more options (again, no affiliation here). Having a blog and photo site, I completely understand the need to be able to pay for the bandwidth, storage, and time it takes to program, support, and maintain a site like his that does what it does. It’s not inexpensive.
I downloaded the map for the area I required. Using that, the USGS 7.5’ PDF quadrangle, and Google maps satellite imagery, I mapped out what I believe will be an acceptable detour. As far as I can tell, there is nothing illegal about it and it avoids what I hope should be any really heavy bushwhacking. It’s not the most direct route, but I think it eliminates a lot of uncertainty about the creeks (depth, width, flow rate) as I am crossing most of those at established trails or roads.
The magenta line (not the EXACT path, just the idea of the path) is the detour I mapped out. I’ll be starting at the top of the map and then heading south. That southerly road where I would cross Lake Conroe is FM1375. The Lone Star Hiking Trail crosses it just a mile or so west of where I stopped drawing the detour line.
If anyone sees a major problem with this, do leave a comment and let me know.