"Maybe," I thought to myself, "maybe I don't have to go so far just to do some decent offroad riding. Maybe DFW isn't as paved and housing-development-ed and shopping centered as it seems. Maybe the quiet and even 'wild' spots are still out there specifically because they are unknown."
Maybe I can find them.
When I was a kid, my neck of the woods (northern Tarrant County, Texas) was not the kind of place that it is now. For better or for worse, the stretch of highway near my house has gone from a dinky two-lane road with nothing but a Dairy Queen to a hundred-lane beast, engorged by traffic day and night. Every Sunday after church, my family would drive a very old woman from the highway up the windy dirt road through the forest to drop her off at her mobile home. I was too little at the time to have any idea how far that road snaked through the fir trees and the oaks draped with with greenbrier, but I remember it swallowed you up and in no time you had no visual reference of the world past the trees, unless of course you looked up (which wasn't that helpful if you were looking for Dairy Queen). I can't place exactly where her trailer must have stood, and I suppose it doesn't even matter which of the shopping centers occupies the space nowadays.
I decided to head north and west, along the edge of Grapevine Lake and up to 377. They're building a lot of houses up there, but it's still the kind of place where you can, say, light your own fireworks on the 4th of July, so I was optimistic.
I went up to East Cleveland Gibbs Road where I knew an ATV park maintained trails. I thought that there would inevitably be offshoots. I found a road, graveled and overgrown and beautiful. Unfortunately it was gated and marked closed.
I turned the other way and the road ended at the interstate. I turned North and found tracks directly off the access road, down a hill and out of sight of interstate traffic.
The road followed a line of sunflowers, across of which was a field that lay fallow right up to a tree line about a hundred yards beyond. The road straight shot toward the far side of the field, but I could see it dipping down into a shallow creek crossing and out of sight into some trees, making me optimistic. Reality snipped my budding optimism as soon as I reached the far end of the field, where the power lines led me straight to a gas well and sign prohibiting trespassing.
In all likelihood, I doubt I would have had any issues if I'd continued, but I decided to turn around. Blame it on tazers, or Castle Doctrine, or bin Laden, but I wasn't interested in taking my chances that early in the morning.
The quest for an unmarked trail continued, up near the 377 intersection with 1171. Two more potential trail heads had signs either marking them closed or prohibiting motorcycles. My response can take two possible forms: 1) I proceed to deliver a libertarian diatribe inside my helmet, or 2) I utter one of the many, less-scientific synonyms of feces and turn around.
Nevertheless, in between the trail heads I managed to find plenty of paved roads with their own merit: uncrowded, twisty, and not constipated by stop signs and red lights.
Aside from the scenery, I was encouraged by the site of other people. It may sound strange, but in a place like DFW where you drive everywhere and are always surrounded by other people in their cars, interhuman interaction is paradoxically minimized and even avoided by most people in their cars. People actually responded to me out on these roads, and I'd like to believe that it wasn't only because I was in full offroad/martian gear (armor, goggles, boots, and all). Either way, it was good to actually evoke a perceptible response from people, and that's really saying something for a self-identified introvert like me.
A stray dog trotting along the road, looks like a blue heeler.
Luckily he decided I wasn't worth taking a run at. I looked him in the eye and saw there was respect, and we gave each other knowing "sup?" nods. Now that we were bros, each of us continued on our respective paths.
On the south side of Grapevine Lake, near 114, I found a brief cut through the woods....
It went about 1/8 of a mile before dead ending into the road again.
There was one exciting find, up near the north shore of the lake. Among the ranches on a dead-end road there was a vacant lot, unfenced, with a huge field that gently sloping up toward a line of trees at the top of the hill, which was the furthest you could see of the property from the road. No house or other structure was visible from the road, just a set of tracks leading across the field and into the trees, so that's where I went.
Once in the trees, the trail continued and actually had a couple twists and even branched off here and there but they all looped back to the same place. I hopped off the bike and wandered around a bit, keeping an ear open for police sirens, guard dogs, and Deliverance-style banjo riffs. The land dropped off quickly down to the lake but the spider webs convinced me that I had seen enough.
For all my troubles I would guess I only found 3 miles of unpaved riding, and maybe half of that was offroad. Compared to the usual 25-40 miles in a normal day riding trails at paid parks, this was rather underwhelming. Oh well, it was good to put the knobbies to some use. If any one knows of any free trails in DFW, let me know.