This week I drove out to Pedernales Falls State Park. It is a bit larger than McKinney Falls and has quite a few more trails. There is even a trail for horseback riding. I talked with a park staff member named Amy at the front gate for advice about the park’s trails. She was incredibly nice and very helpful. She recommended seeing the falls first and then to head over to Trammell’s Crossing. Trammell’s Crossing trail will then leads you to a trail simply called 5.5-Mile Loop Trail.
I took her advice and headed for the falls. The area around the falls was beautiful. There is a wonderful overlook of the river, although the falls themselves were not that quite what I expected. I’ve seen some photos people have taken right after a rainstorm and the falls were much more impressive. There were, however, lots of place to swim or to rock hop and plenty of nooks to explore. There were little lizards running all over the rocks and butterflies flitting from flower to flower. I didn’t stay long though. I was ready to hit the trail.
The Trammell’s Crossing trailhead is in a campground. I parked and made my way down. I skirted around a large group that was also crossing the Pedernales River and hit the trailhead for the 5.5-Mile Loop Trail.
When I first started hiking, I always went with other people. I have many good memories hiking with Matt, Derrick, Neighbor, and Lundy. There is such a sense of safety when you have others with you. And really, it isn’t just a sense, you actually are safer when you hike with others. Someone always has your back if you should find yourself in a dangerous situation.
Hiking alone brings on strange feeling that I wasn’t prepared for. I have found my senses to be much sharper and my nerves to be a bit more on edge. There is no one to rely on, no one to back you up.
As I am hiking and thinking about the implications of being alone to face whatever might happen, I hear a loud noise to my right. It startles me and I freeze in my tracks. My heart started racing as I stared at tree where the noises were coming from. There are several flashes of movement and I’m trying to make out what it is that I am about to face. At first I think that it is a pack of coyotes, but quickly I realize that it is a pack of wild pigs. Luckily, they did not want to have anything to do with me. About as quickly as I realized what they were, they were gone into the underbrush. The whole thing happened in about ten seconds and for about five of those seconds I was sure I was going to be gored by a boar.
One of mankind’s greatest achievements was learning how to work together and how to form communities. Don’t get me wrong, time alone to sort through your thoughts is a necessary part of a person’s mental health. That being said, I feel that we are loosing our connections with one another. I asked one of my teachers what he thought of social media and he said that it’s an, “extension of self that alienates self from others”.
I have been in situations where I am telling someone a story or working on a group project and people will just start staring at their phones, completely zoned out. You have in front of you real human connection. You have a chance to do what helped us become masters of the planet, and you would rather check football scores or watch cat videos.
Using social media should enrich our lives. It should not take the place of actually living. Technology is just the tool. The same piece of technology that can allow us to talk to someone thousands of miles away, can prevent us from talking to someone that is in the same room.
The rest of the hike was wonderful. It was overcast and kept threatening to rain on me but I was spared. I had lunch on a bench overlooking the valley that the Pedernales River flows through. It was beautiful. I want to thank Mark Chalberg for putting up the wonderful trail signs and building the benches. He did it as part of his eagle scout project.
As much as I like hiking by myself, I think I might also like to do some hiking with others again. I don’t think I’m quite ready for that yet, but at some point the companionship would be nice. And from this point on I am going to work diligently at putting my phone away when I am with other people. I want to do a better job of letting technology be the tool it is supposed to be.