“It is a river who wields the brush, and it is the same river who…erases it forever from human view. After that it exists only in my mind’s eye.” – Aldo Leopold
This month, I decided to venture out into Bull Creek District Park on a cold and rainy morning. Located about twelve miles west of Austin, it is a unique landscape where a creek flows through stunning riparian woodlands made up of soaring cliffs, and enchanting hilltop vistas.
My adventure began with a misty and dewy fog that hung heavy in the air, where it was so still and quiet all I could hear was the swish of my clothes and the crunch of fallen leaves under my boots. I started scaling the paths that bordered the creek, heading towards the sound of running water. Encompassed by the mass limestone rocks, I admired the defined rock striations and the foliage that grew out of them. I observed the defiant trees steadfastly remaining upright even with most of their roots exposed from the rocks. Thousands of colorful pebbles, rocks, and boulders, mostly smooth and round, decorated the bed. These I considered to be nature’s furniture, so I plopped myself down on one and took in the paradise. The silence was occasionally interrupted by a bird perched high on a tree. I admired the position of all the stones and marveled that each one has its place and will lie perfectly until some animal, current, or human disturbs it.
I sat underneath the shade of the umber-brown Qercus fusiformis (commonly known as the Texas Live Oak), whose short, tapering trunk and gnarled branches reeked of age, and years of snapping branches crashing to the floor in solitude. Unlike some of the trees that lined the trail, the Live Oak’s leaves still remained on the branches, and did not give in to the harsh winter conditions. The trees stood serenely, with their bark looking like riffled toast awash the crusty exterior. I spotted a Northern Cardinal perched up on an arthritic bough, experiencing the slight morning drizzle. Along the trail, I couldn’t fail to notice the distinct bright-green and scale-like leaves of the Juniperus Ashei (commonly known as Ashe Juniper or Cedar).
As the rain began getting heavier, I crested the trail and headed back down again, stopping often to admire the elevation and the vista of tree canopies, waterfalls and the creek down below. All the way enjoying polite hellos from friendly hikers, bird calls, and the meditative sound of the leaves shifting together in the harsh winter breeze. Tranquility.