I decided to take a drive today to check out some trails east of Zavalla that I’d been told about. I was told that bikes were permitted by the USFS, so I wanted to see if they were worth it.
I packed up my bike gear plus a bit of a larger first aid kit than I’d otherwise take biking to appease my wife. I made sure to include my camera and my Edge 705 to record my path. Not only did I want to check these out, but I wanted some GPS data, so other riders could know that they can ride there.
Here is my ride.
It took me a whole hour to get there from Nacogdoches. That alone had me thinking that these trails better be good, because it doesn’t take much longer than that to get to Tyler State Park from my house, which has outstanding trails.
My first bummer of the day occurred just outside Zavalla. I had loaded some waypoints for trailheads (or so I thought) before I left the house so I’d have a relatively easy time finding out where to start. Sigh…those waypoints were not in my GPS. So I had to sit on the side of the highway for a few minutes looking at the topos on my GPS (thankfully those DID transfer over) trying to figure out where the trails were supposed to be. Thankfully I have a good memory, and I was able to figure it out. I don’t remember the recreation area they are near, but it’s just east of Boykin Springs and north of Route 63. It’s on County Road 352.
My second bummer of the day happened when I chose which way to go from the trailhead. It appeared that the trail crossed the road where I chose to park. I set off to explore points northwest. It didn’t take me long to discover massive amounts of downfall. The trail gets used, but not heavily…so while go-arounds were often flagged, sometimes the trail was still not obvious. I did a lot of hike-a-bike here. I kept going, though…hoping things might open up. Nada. The trail forked, and each fork disappeared completely after awhile. It was so bad that I ended up taking a bushwack excursion from my route for a bit. I did see a small pack of coyotes through the trees here. This forest was pretty open compared to what’s typically around here, so you could see awhile. I’m not sure if they saw me or not, since I just caught a quick glimpse as they trotted along a downed tree. It looked like there were 2-3 coyotes. Unfortunately, even if I’d brought my DSLR with 300mm lense, I’d not have managed a shot because they disappeared so quickly.
Once I realized that my options here went nowhere, I returned to my car and headed east. Here the trail was more obvious and it became clear that I should have come this way from the beginning. Intersections didn’t peter out into nothing. They’d actually go somewhere. I took one to the right that looked like singletrack. It was just a short section, and dumped me out onto a dirt road next to an oil well. I rode up and down this street a bit to see if there were any trail crossings nearby, but I saw nothing. I backtracked and took the other fork.
This one went awhile and I eventually managed to make a whole loop out of it. Parts of this trail were nice. The lowest part of the trail had tons of mud. It was slow, difficult going. Once the trail got back on top of the hills, I encountered more downfall. All these downed trees are probably left over from Hurricane Ike. It wrecked Boykin Springs nearby, so it wouldn’t surprise me if all these downed trees were from that storm, too.
Again, there was some flagging indicating alternate routes…but few of them were terribly obvious. At best, it looks like some of them were “ridden in” with a horse or ATV. So these paths were quite grown up and with the open forest, were difficult to distinguish. More hike-a-bike.
I eventually made it through the quagmire onto some open trail. I was thankful…for a little while. But I was so tired that the loose sand was even more of a problem. It made the going VERY slow to return to the car. I need some wider tires I can run at lower pressure. But I’m not sure even that would have helped that much. Some spots were nice and solid and I could go back to my middle chainring. But that loose sand was impossible for me to ride in anything but my granny ring, and even then not that much.
When I got back to my car I was exhausted. And hungry. I was probably close to bonking. I had a couple energy bars left (those mini Clif Bars), so I could have managed that. But I was close enough to the car that I wanted some greasy food. Cheese tots and a root beer float at Sonic awaited.
My overall impression is that it’s good to have more trail miles that are rideable. But a couple factors make this place less than desirable. First, all the downfall makes it tough. Alternates exist already in many spots, but they’re not obvious. If they were properly cleared of brush rather than just flagged and ridden in by horses and ATV’s, it’d be easier to stay on the trail. They other problem is all the loose sand. This place is probably better shortly after a rain to help it all stick together. The final one is that a large segment of the trail just held water like a pond. One giant linear pond. It’s been dry long enough that most of them don’t have standing water, but many parts are still quite muddy. There may have been alternates, but again…not very obvious.
My final word is that since this place took me an hour to get to…I would rather drive to Tyler State Park if I was up for an hour-long drive to get to the trail.
I gotta embed via Garmin Connect. The plugin my site uses doesn’t like large files. This one is over 2mb and my site plugin won’t parse it due to memory issues. So I’ve gotta embed it a different way.