Langham January

January 18th – On a hike to and from an overlook in the Greenbelt

It is 11:00 AM on a breezy Saturday morning. It is about 72 degrees with a cloudless, sunny sky. My hike lasts about 15 minutes each way. I stop at the top of a cliff that overlooks the creek bed below, which is my destination for observations on this hike.

Walking the trail on my way to the overlook, I notice that there is little wild life to be seen, and there is a lot of noise pollution. The noises I hear are from construction on what I assume is probably Lamar. The sound of beeping trucks and jackhammering noises travel all the way out to me, even though I am surrounded by woods.The only man made thing I can see from where I am walking is the brush cleared away for a trail, but the sounds remind me that I am in a city. Most of the trail is thick with brush to the point where only little bits of sky are visible. There are many dead tree trunks and branches riddled along the sides of the trail between the trees and bushes. Along the sides of the trail on the ground there are smaller plants and moss. Most of the bark I see looks relatively dry. On the plants with flowers or blooms the leaves are green, but the blooms are all dried out.

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I see a muddy portion of the trail. There is a substantial amount of water, but no obvious source, which indicates to me that the soil here is softer, it has rained recently, and the shade is protecting the water from evaporating. There are also a lot of tracks in the mud, which have disturbed it and revealed the water just under the surface. There are dog prints and shoe prints. In rockier areas of the trail it is not obvious that there has been any rain recently at all.

 photo 1

When I reach the over look I have a large view. I count 18 buildings on the horizon. One of them is Barton Creek Mall. It suddenly becomes very understandable that I would hear so much construction commotion. The sound is obviously carried through the air over the valley and creek bed. The creek bed looks completely dry, and the rock is bright white and powdery on its surface. The trees that line the creek bed appear to be dead and leafless, while the trees farther back are mostly dark green. There is a lot of visible orange color to them, which seems like cedar. Perhaps the trees along the edge of the creek bed are on rockier soil and are more exposed to the sun, which makes it harder for them to absorb and retain enough water to be lively.

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I can hear wind chimes from a house. I am surprised by the lack of hikers in the green belt on such a beautiful day. I have only seen 5 hikers and 2 dogs. It occurs to me that the domestic animals in the green belt are much easier to spot if I am sticking to a trail.

photo 4

I hear a lot more birds now that I am off of the trail and exposed to the open air, where noise is carried farther. There are light breezes every 5 to 10 seconds. I do not see any clouds in sight.  In a bush off to the side there is evidence that between 1 and 3 other people have also enjoyed this overlook, because there are 3 empty beer cans decorating the ground.

photo 3

On my way back I do not notice much of anything new, but I pass 2 children with their father. I also see one orange butterfly, a small group of gnats, and I hear something scurry off behind some bushes.

On my first journey into the Greenbelt for this blog, I am forced to carefully observe. This is not something I am in the habit of doing very much day to day. In order to get through a day without being completely exhausted, people ignore almost everything around them and use their knowledge and experience to carry out tasks. For example, when driving, you cannot closely watch the beautiful sunset, because you will crash. Have you ever noticed that when you travel somewhere new there are so many amazing things to observe and pay attention to? Maybe this is why the first day of a vacation to a new place is particularly taxing, but also extremely enjoyable. As I walk through the Greenbelt with my awareness, I appreciate it more than I have on my usual hikes, which are primarily for exercise.

“Is education possibly a process of trading awareness for things of lesser worth? The goose who trades his is soon a pile of feathers.” – Aldo Leopold

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