Aside from just being weird, Austin is well known for its surrounding hill country. Deep vales are filled with hidden streams and old hardwoods – pecan and walnut trees especially, mixed with bald cypress that mark the wellsprings of aquifers. Highland chaparral adorns the drier hills to the west in an amalgamation of live oak, sparse grasses, prickly pear and many other native Texas cacti.
This year I want to get to know Austin better. Take in all it has to offer. This is a unique pocket of (cultural and physical) oasis smack dab in the middle of the largest state in the Union. A year and a half here and I haven’t really seen much of the nature nearby. Climbing is the exception here, with regular adventures out to Reimer’s Ranch and the Pedernales river 45 minutes west, but aside from that and a little kayaking the hill country remains a mystery to me.
This weekend Maura, Jeremy, Ryan and I ventured out to try a trail I just discovered east of the airport on the outskirts of a surprising and formal little sports complex called Southeast Metropolitan Park. A primitive (single track, unpaved, rough) trail, the route was an interesting 2.6 mile loop with plenty of elevation change, plus several offshoots to secret camp sites, fishing ponds, Onion Creek, and rest spots with vast views with the city skyline in the distance.
Austin has been in a bad drought this year and it’s the middle of winter so everything except the hills’ north side grass was a soft silver brown. We ventured down a tiny trail following raccoon and deer tracks into a beautiful and silent glade with perfectly bare mesquite trees next to Onion Creek, where it was clearly marked that only “sponsored youth groups” may camp. Obviously this is totally bogus and I’ll definitely be back to camp in this secret garden very soon.
While hiking we admired the few Cochineal bugs leftover on the prickly pear from last summer (check out Maura’s wonderful description of this tiny creature Here) and I dreamed of someday soon climbing and hiking the faces of Tukuhnikivats near Moab, and I wondered aloud if it’s possible to hike all the trails in a given state. Texas is so intimidatingly large and the mountains of Colorado are so intimidatingly mysterious, I don’t know if a single person could ever tackle such a feat. Nonetheless, I’m thinking of adding this to my Life List.