Last Wednesday when we were out bike adventuring in our favorite recreation area, Brian and I decided to hoof it down one of the walking trails just to see where it went. We discovered an old spring pavilion and a little waterfall flowing into a creek full of darting minnows. The walk was so lovely we knew we had to return soon with our backpacks and hiking boots to explore more of the trails. “Soon” wound up being Saturday.
|Exhibit A: Ow.|
We began from the Nature Center, having chosen to start with the easy main trail and all its moderately hilly/rocky loops for a total around three miles. Speed wasn’t our focus; there were too many interesting signs identifying vegetation that we both wanted to stop and read. Besides, you can’t hurry adventure. We hit the first loop around seven minutes in. Three minutes after that my foot got caught on a root and I face-planted into the hillside (Exhibit A). Once I stopped laughing long enough to get up, we continued on our merry way. Leave it to me to crater on the first loop.
The loops themselves were fascinating. We had learned from a short film at the Nature Center that the trails cross through ecotomes where forest transitions into grassland, and these areas are weirdly pretty (Exhibit B).
|Exhibit B: Prairie Loop ecotome.|
|Exhibit C: Pretty!|
Seeing cacti among the prairie grasses and wildflowers is too cool. While I did take a few pictures of the first two loops, most of them were fairly craptacular. Exhibit C is the one good shot from the ecotome flowers. Back under the canopy we were surrounded by a variety of elm, oak, dogwood, maple, and even the occasional sycamore. With the weather beginning to turn, the breezes on these trail sections carry the pleasant smell of acorns and fallen leaves. For me that scent is right up there with honeysuckle on the happy scale.
Eventually we made it back to the Nature Center, where we stopped for a break and Brian was conscripted to take photos for a large group of women also out adventuring that day. After eating our lunch of PBJs and pretzels in the company of a pink-nosed feral forest cat, we decided to go hike another three-mile trail around the small lake nearby. The entire path around this lake is paved, but some of the hills on the far side are just gnarly, so it still made for a good hike. I got a couple of nice shots here (Exhibits D and E), and was able to pay more attention to the wildlife because I didn’t have to focus so much on where my feet were going.
|Exhibit D: Nifty marsh area. Also, Brian’s elbow.|
|Exhibit E: Lake view from the top of the gnarly hills.|
|Exhibit F: So green! Photo credit to Brian Landis.|
Back on the first loop we had come across two armadillos rooting around in the leaves. One of them crossed the trail not three feet in front of us and appeared to give zero cares that we were in the vicinity. On the lake path we were able to see many more birds, including ducks, cardinals, ravens, mockingbirds, and jays. We were escorted by a few cute little striped lizards with red tails on the far side of the lake, and there we also found the prettiest snake I’ve ever seen (Exhibit F). He crossed the path in front of us and we stopped to watch him pass. Also, dragonflies. Dragonflies everywhere. We even got checked out by a few bees and I managed not to have a runaway.
When we got back in the car to go home we were hot, sticky, itchy, scraped, sore, and slightly bloody. When I was a kid, those were the hallmarks of an excellent day. Turns out they still are.