texasmonthly.com: How did the idea for this cover story come about, and why is it timed for the October issue?
Charlie Llewellin: It was our editor Evan Smith’s idea—he came to me in July and asked if I could get a hiking package together for the October cover. Of course I said yes, though I wasn’t sure I could do it. I was disappointed in myself for not having had the idea! And why October? Because there’s a slim chance that the temperatures will be below 95—and if they are not, we Texans just pretend they are.
texasmonthly.com: How many of the featured hikes did you personally trek for this story? How long did you spend hiking?
CL: I did all of the top ten except Guadalupe Peak, which I had hiked in 2000, I think, and Lost Maples, which I have visited in the past. I drove to Big Bend in one day and hiked Seminole Canyon on the way. I did the South Rim and Santa Elena the next day. Then I drove to Mineral Wells and hiked there (one day). I got up and did Cross Timbers in Lake Texoma, looked at another that was cut from the list, and hiked the Denton greenbelt. The next day I did the Japanese Garden in Fort Worth, a couple of crummy hikes in Dallas that did not make the cut, and then I drove to the Davy Crockett forest. The following day I did part of the 4C Kirby Trail, and then I drove to Galveston. The next morning I hiked Galveston State Park, then drove to Houston, and then walked around the Arboretum. The next day I did Palmetto Sate Park and the Lost Pines Trail.
texasmonthly.com: Did you order your top ten list based on personal preference, or the predicted preferences of readers?
CL: Ha! Predicted preferences of readers—that would be a trick. The top ten are the ones that I thought had something special about them, regardless of difficulty, and we wanted a regional spread and a mix of difficulties.
texasmonthly.com: Is there a best region?
CL: Well, I like East Texas a lot, but I have to say that the mountains of West Texas are my favorite. My personal top ten would be every hike in the Chisos and the Guadalupes, and Caprock Canyon, too, in the Panhandle.
texasmonthly.com: Were there any hikes you had never trekked before? If so, which was your favorite?
CL: There were lots I had not done before: Galveston State Park, the 4C. Perhaps the most embarrassing admission is that I had never actually hiked up to the South Rim, despite having been to Big Bend countless times. It was even better than I had imagined.
texasmonthly.com: What is your target audience here?
CL: Well, hopefully, everybody will enjoy reading it, even if they never plan on hiking anywhere. I hope that there is something easy or difficult enough and close enough or far away enough to please most people. It’s just another way of honoring the amazing beauty of Texas.
texasmonthly.com: What characterizes hiking in Texas versus hiking anywhere else?
CL: It’s generally hotter, and so you must be concerned about having enough water. We have some very remote desert and mountain hikes that are wonderful, but they do require planning.
texasmonthly.com: Do things look good for the future of Texas hiking?
CL: I don’t see why not. I found lots of Web sites where people posted hiking reports, so I would imagine hiking is popular. It’s the best way to really experience places.
texasmonthly.com: What is your most-hiked trail in Texas?
CL: The Bowl Trail in the Guadalupes.