In September most places in the western hemisphere are experiencing their first chill of fall, the leaves beginning to crisp and change colors, and the summer breeze that once offered relief turning into a cold sharp wind. However, in Austin, Texas we experience fall a little differently, and by differently I mean the exact opposite. On September 7th for example at 1:28 pm when I was walking on the trails in Walnut Creek Park, I was wearing: shorts, a thin t-shirt, and a blanket of sweat. It was 89 degrees that day which compared the to the 101 degree heat we had been experiencing the previous week, and by any Texas standards considered “cool,” or at least the coldest it had been since our very long, dry, hot summer started. The trail begins with a wall of trees on each side, they’re tall enough to block out noisy cars and any human built structure, but short enough that you get a serene clear view of the sky. Three minutes into my walk I already felt so relaxed and at peace. Taking the time to go outside and actually enjoy nature where humans don’t control it, and can’t harm it, always leaves me feeling incredibly grateful.
“Wilderness is the raw material out of which man has hammered the artifact called civilization”
-A Sand County Almanac
Further into my walk I noticed an interesting striped plant and I wondered if it’s colors were meant to warn off predators because they were so bright and contrasted. Next to this leafy plant was a short bush of a type of berry I’d never seen. It’s fruit was colored a bright fuchsia, these berries and their bright colors I thought did the opposite of what it’s neighbor did and were instead enticing for animals. My hypothesis was further confirmed when I noticed some berries had been picked off. This berry plant was using other organisms to aid in its reproduction cycle and thrive while the leaf plant did the opposite and tried to survive through avoiding being eaten.
My favorite part of the trail was not the diversity of plant life but instead the very interesting way in which the erosion caused the bed of the creek which was made of limestone, to be shaped. The limestone doesn’t just make up the bed of the creek but walking along you can see how it forms the under layer of all that is living. Massive chunks of rock fall straight into the creek and once broken off you can see the nutrient cycle begin to take place as these massive rocks get broken down by the water, turning into smaller smooth pebbles, and eventually making their way back up to the layer of life in as nutrients in the soil.
The creek is barely a trickle now due to lack of rain, but this allowed me to walk through what once was a shallow freshwater ecosystem, and find a remnant of the past in the form of a seashell imprint. The limestone that makes up the creek bed, is a sedimentary rock made mostly from the bones of past marine life. This proved to me that even a little shell can play a major key role, because in Texas without the shell’s sediments we’d have no limestone, and without a permeable rock we’d have no Edward’s aquifer, so thank you little shell, thank you.