I needed a park to start my journey and with a quick internet search I found Texas State Parks home page. That was crazy easy. Just like I talked about in my previous post, technology can be amazing! In like ten seconds, I was able to pull up a map of every state park in Texas! I decided to pick a park close to home and maybe just sort of work my way out from there. Although, I have to admit, Dinosaur Valley State Park sounds awesome! I will get there, I promise. I settled on McKinney Falls State Park for my first outing. You can check out there website for a full list of actives. I’m just going to highlight a few here.
The park was easy to find. I stopped at the front gate and grabbed a map of the park. Since it is called McKinney Falls, I decided to check out the falls first.
The Austin area has had a ton of rain recently so the falls were running pretty heavily. It was Saturday, so lots of people had flocked to find some relief from the Texas heat. I didn’t stick around long. When I head out into nature, a big part of that is to get away from people. Hanging out at a swimming hole with fifty other people doesn’t really help me connect with nature. So I decided to find a hiking trail. Hiking and camping are probably my two favorite activities to do outdoors.
There are two main trails at the parks, the Onion Creek Hike and Bike Trail and the Homestead Trail. Both trails are 2.8 miles long. Onion Creek is paved, mostly. And the Homestead Trail is compact dirt. I much prefer a non-paved trail. So I decided to head over to the Homestead Trail. I made my way from the upper falls to the lower falls to the trailhead for the Homestead Trail. Here comes the tricky part. In order to get to the trail, you have to cross the “creek”. I say “creek” because when it rains heavily for several days, a creek becomes river. I was not prepared for this. And really, I don’t want to die my first time hiking in Texas!
So, I turned around, and went back to the Onion Creek trail. Even though it is paved it’s a very nice trail. You start out walking beside the creek that feeds the upper falls. I saw a couple of turtles swimming around. I wasn’t really able to get any good shots of them though.
The water was murky. The banks of the creek were nothing but slippery mud. This fact I know first hand because I almost slid into creek while I was snapping a shot of what I think are raccoon tracks. If they aren’t raccoon tracks, please comment below and let me know what they are.
After almost taking an unexpected dip with the turtles, I continued on the trail. About a mile into the trail, I made a rather shocking discovery: Texas is incredibly hot, and I’m out of shape! I felt a bit like I was going to die. My skin was on fire and I was sweating buckets. I really wanted to call it quits right there. But I feel like these are the important moments in a persons life. Yes, this is just a small state park. No, I’m not climbing K2. Yes, the trail is only 2.8 miles. No, I’m not traversing a continent. But you have to start somewhere.
This past summer was a tough one for me. My wife and I packed up everything we owned and moved across the country. We didn’t have any extra money to really do much of anything so we spent most of the summer sitting on our buts. We both got a little stir crazy to say the least! But I’m putting the lazy summer behind me. That is part of why I was out on the trail. I was out there to connect with nature and to get out of this lazy slump that I had been in.
Needless to say, I’m a bit out of shape, but I’m not going to let a little heat stroke stop me! Just kidding, I didn’t get heat stroke. I did however sit down in some shade for few minutes and splash some water on my face. If I can give you one piece of advice if you go hiking, however much watch you think you should take with you, double it. I can not stress this enough. With as much water as I took with me, I drank every drop and probably sweated out just as much.
After my cool off, I got going again. Not much else exciting happened. Mostly just walking, looking around, and pondering. I think that’s why I like hiking so much. It gives me quiet time to think. We create so much complexity in our day to day lives. It always seems so chaotic to me, bills, school, work, appointments, schedules, meetings. Nature, while being just as complex, always seems so much more peaceful. Maybe it is the lack of expectations. The natural world doesn’t expect anything from you. You just are.
McKinney Falls State Park is a really nice little park. For not being a very big park, there is quite a bit to do there. I left excited about what is to come! I’m really looking forward to going back out next weekend!