Alternative title: nothing says good morning like clearing cobwebs with your face.
When I first started running* in Texas, the majority of the trails in my area were managed and frequented by a local off road biking club. No matter how early I was hitting the trail, I almost always saw other cars in the parking lot which meant the biker guys were already out there to clear the cobwebs for me.
I really missed those guys last weekend.
The Herman Creek trailhead is a tiny parking lot that doesn’t seem nearly as popular as some of the other hikes in the Gorge AND it has a bathroom** which earns it huge points in my favor.
The thing you need to know about this trail is that if you hate switchbacks, this is probably not the trail for you. After a very short initial decline, this trail starts climbing up and continues pretty much the entire time you are on it.
Per the internet’s instructions, I took Herman Creek until it connected with Gorton and then started climbing in earnest. Gorton is entirely within the tree line so you don’t really get any views but I stayed cool as I swatted away cobwebs and tried to keep my mouth shut so I wouldn’t swallow any bugs. Once at the top, you hop on Ridge Cutoff trail which literally just crosses the top of the hill before connecting you to Nick Eaton (take the trail heading down and to the right) where you catch those promised amazing views on the other side as you head back down to Herman Creek and heading home.
Trail tip # 1: Love all the crap that isn’t an instagram worthy view. The sore quads, the cranky IT band, the dehydration, the heat or cold or rain, the fight with your brain once it gets bored 15 minutes into the excursion and tries to get you to turn around and go home so you can sit on the couch like a normal person.
Because if you don’t love that stuff first, I kinda feel like the views won’t mean much.
Anyway, after taking a break in the sun, I started down and soon encountered several hikers on their way up. Nick Eaton is a bruiser of a trail, super steep even with the switch backs to help you out and my quads were shaking by the time I made it back to Herman Creek.
Trail tip # 2: Take the harder trail up. Yes, I know that sounds counter intuitive but I promise it’s always easier to take the steeper portion up than it is down. Your knees will thank you.
Once back on Herman Creek, I caught up with another hiker and chatted with her the whole way back to the car. She was a wealth of info and super nice (I find that most people you encounter on the trail are) and left me with tons of ideas and feeling super inspired.
Trail tip # 3: Always pay attention to the people out there old enough to be your parent. They have the best stories, the most insider info and can kick your ass.
I’ll end with this little bit of info which I think tells you everything you need to know about this trail: that nice hiker I ran into at the bottom said it was her favorite trail to use as training for mountain climbs. So there ya go.
Trail stats (per the internet, not a GPS system or anything because I don’t even wear a watch):
Length: 7.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 2800 feet
*Not that I was ever very fast to begin with but thanks to several injuries and a body that is still getting used to trails that go up, what I do these days is less running and more ‘running’. Meaning sometimes I run, sometimes I hike, sometimes I stand around and curse switchbacks.
**It was a chemical toilet but it was in a building with a door which is luxury accommodations as far as I’m concerned.