Sign Shortage Confounds At State Park

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It was a perfect day for a hike, and my Beautiful Mystery Companion and I took full advantage. We arrived at Tyler State Park just past noon Sunday, paid $12 to an impossibly young park ranger, got a trails map and headed into the park to hike B Loop. The cloudless sky was a wintry shade of blue, but the temperature was perfect — 60 degrees with a steady breeze.

We drove around the park a while, looking for B Loop’s trailhead without success. The back of the map described it as being 3.1 miles long with many elevation changes, “making it a challenging but beautiful trek through the park’s many different types of forest.” It did not note that actually finding B Loop could be the challenge. We finally drove back to the park store. The ranger at the counter told us how to find the trailhead and said the Google Maps app on my phone would display the trail if we had any concerns.

Unsurprisingly, we had done no preparation for what would be, after all, just a walk in the park. We both had brought tumblers of water, which were not practical for hiking. So I bought a bottle of water in the store and joked about how we had to make the bottle of water last for the entire trek.

We found the B Loop trailhead and parked, then noticed a sign: “Trail Closed for Event.” Were they holding a rock concert in the midst of the woods? Unlikely. Being Sunday and the fact we spied a couple of hikers up the trail sparked doubt, so I called the park headquarters. The same young woman who took our money answered and said the sign pertained to an event on Saturday. “Could you take the sign down for me?” she asked. My BMC obliged; she has always wanted to be a park ranger. We began our hike on B Loop.

After a few hundred yards we came to intersecting trails and no clear idea which one to take. The last time we hiked here, a few years ago, the lack of clear signage and our innate lack of a sense of direction contrived to get us lost. Getting lost in Tyler State Park takes effort, since the park road is never far away. On that trek, we finally abandoned the trail and took to the road, realizing after about a mile that we were going the wrong way. We were determined to do better on this hike.

I consulted Google Maps on my phone. Sure enough, I found the trail on the app. This proved to be useless, since it was not clear to me which direction we were headed. We ignored Robert Frost’s dictum and picked the path that appeared more used, which turned out to be the correct choice.

It truly was a lovely day for a hike: no sweating or swatting at mosquitoes. The trail was not at all crowded. It was a bit disconcerting that most everyone was hiking or biking from the opposite direction. We finally reached the park road, with no idea of how to proceed. At least we could take a restroom break at the camping area and regroup. Across the road, faded signs announced the B Loop, C Loop and EZ Loop Trails.

A note about the park’s trail signage: It is the worst I have ever encountered, though the park is pristine, the restrooms spotless and the venue a truly beautiful piece of the Pine Curtain. But the signs, well, I plan to write my former Troop 201 fellow Boy Scout a letter. Gov. Greg Abbott, expect a letter from your fellow member of the Bobcat Patrol. Let’s spend a few hundred bucks and mark the trails properly so dootbrains like us don’t wander around lost.

We took what we thought was Loop B, because the road was in view. After several hundred yards, I consulted Google Maps again. For grins, I put in our home address. If we walked fast we could be home in 12 hours, according to the app. That was not the plan. I just had to find our car.

Suddenly the trail veered away from the road. Uh oh. “Let’s just get on the road and walk to the car,” I suggested. Since we had been hiking a couple of hours, my BMC readily agreed. We hadn’t eaten lunch and were famished. Google Maps assured us we were headed toward the park entrance, a good sign we were walking in the right direction.

And we were. Soon, the Rav 4 was in sight. We left the park and headed into Tyler to replenish our strength. All in all, it was a lovely afternoon. But I’m serious about that sign shortage. The governor is going to hear from me.

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