(EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first in a three-part series on trails in Texarkana.)
People walk for various reasons—exercise, fresh air, change of scenery, change of pace, immersing in the great outdoors, charity. You name it, people walk for it. For those living in and around Texarkana, there is no shortage of options for a stroll.
On the north side of Texarkana, on University Avenue near Texas A&M, Bringle Lake sports a trail system that is growing in size and reputation.
The trails are accessible by bicycle or foot from either the Bringle Lake West or Bringle Lake East entrances.
From Bringle Lake West, a paved path to the right of the boat launch curves down past a pavilion and winds around the edge of the lake until it reaches the bridge. Most of the trail is a raised 12-foot-wide bridge/walkway with benches scattered along its considerable length. It provides good views across the lake of the paved trails in the main picnic area of Bringle Lake East.
The walkway continues along the outside of the bridge over Clear Creek, separate from the motorized traffic on the road. It's a safety feature for pedestrians. The other side leads to the main picnic area of Bringle Lake East.
Just before the main bathrooms is a concrete arch (created to look like timber) labeled "Bringle Lake Wilderness Trail." Go through it and angle to the left to start an adventure through the woods. For those inclined to go wild on two wheels, keep going past the picnic area to reach miles of trails set aside just for mountain bikes.
In either case, there's a large trail map posted near the bathrooms. Both sets of color-coded trails are shown on it—the walking trail in blue going all the way out to the spillway, and the bike trails in red looping around and around themselves. The walking trail is about 3 miles there and back, while the bike trails can run up to 5 to 6 miles depending on how many turns and loops you choose.
The differences between them are immediately obvious. The bike trails are thin and bumpy, twisting and turning, splashing through mud and rolling over creeks on low wooden bridges. Walking across them, hearing the board thump hollowly, evokes memories of old Westerns in which characters in cowboy boots walked on wooden sidewalks in front of the saloon.
There are dozens of bridges on the bike trails, one of them stretching for 114 feet. Other signs warn pedestrians to travel in one direction so the bicycles can go the other way. Fishing boats dot the lake, creating a scene of pastoral tranquility.
The walking trail, by contrast, is much wider and smoother. There aren't any bridges and the handful of muddy spots are easy to walk around. If you follow it, you'll soon come to a another decorative arc, this one put up by the Boy Scouts, stating you're entering the Bringle Lake Wilderness Area.
According to Barry and Caroline Hughes, the walking trail used to be a logging road.
Hughes is a biology teacher at Fouke High School who sometimes brings his class to Bringle Lake for field trips. He and his wife are also members of the Texas Master Naturalists, a group dedicated to creating a corps of well-informed volunteers providing education, outreach and service related to all things outdoors.
The couple also work as interpreters and hike leaders at state parks and other wilderness areas, detailing the different kinds of plants and animals, what they do and how they contribute to the environment.
The Hugheses have seen deer along the Bringle Lake trails, along with the ever-present squirrels and increasing numbers of birds as the weather edges toward spring. Beyond the spillway, they point out, more trails are being developed. It is all very much a work in progress.
Trees overhang these trails, promising to become green, leafy tunnels when spring finally makes an appearance. Park benches strewn along the side of the trail in shaded areas provide comfortable resting places. One bench, near the spillway, is inundated by the soothing sounds of cascading water. It's a beautiful resting spot, well worth the walk to reach it.
On this particular day, another couple, Dustin and Jennifer Hawks of Texarkana, visit Bringle Lake on a semi-regular basis. Jennifer calls the lake beautiful and especially loves it during the summer. Dustin mentioned how wide the trail is and how easy it is to walk all the way out to the spillway.
Both have been to other state parks and traversed other trails and say Bringle Lake seems "to be one of the better ones," calling it therapeutic.
In the parking lot, two young women are stretching for a run. Toni Young and her friend, Taylor, who live in Nash, say they've been coming out to run on the trails at Bringle Lake since the park first opened, before they were students at nearby A&M.
They run down to the spillway and back, mostly in the summer. They agree it's really nice then and brings out more people.
"More than is out here right now," they say, laughing.
Well, that's a wrap. Not quite the sunset ending you might expect. But sometimes a narrative just trails off naturally.