What I noticed first: The trip was worth it for the drive alone.
What I noticed most: The hefty weight cutting into my collarbones from my overstuffed pack.
What I believe is the single most important rule of travel: Never underestimate the power of a clean shirt and dry socks.
The day was soggy - quite rare for the arid hills of this region. Then again, I do seem to pick the one rainy day to plan my adventures. Floods ravaged my home town as we headed west in search of the sun.
In early November, the days are still too warm for the leaves to fully change color, though their tips glowed orange, like ombre hair highlights. We started slowly down the rocky path carved into the bowl of the river basin, surrounded by hills crowned with maples underneath the overcast sky.
My feet slipped across wet rocks and splashed through ankle deep streams. Wet socks. Gross. My legs creaked under the weight of my pack. I’m a novice, budding backpacking enthusiast with a nerd-like obsession for lightweight travel gear. Just one small problem - my pack was still not light enough.
Vistas of maples and limestone cliffs stole my eyes and trapped them among the crags. Water trickled by, so pure and crisp it looked like a glass cover on the rock bed below. Most Texas parks are beautifully maintained. Yes, people sometimes gripe that they charge entrance fees (a pittance really) to visit these state treasuries. I don’t mind paying a little for the preservation of public land.
We passed one primitive campsite after another, determined not to stop until we reached the end. Three wet, weighed down hours later, we threw down our packs and reached our camp site. An ash juniper grove kissed by the droplets of a shimmering rain enveloped us with its fragrant freshness. One hurried meal and a quick set up later, we lay tucked in the tent, our eyes drooping from exhaustion.
I woke to the sunrise. To the silent scurries of dozens of daddy long-legs scattering across the tent mesh. The quiet of morning chirped through the trees as giant black hawks swooped low and circled the hilltop where we lay. My back screamed at me for what I put it through but my spirit awoke and answered the call of life swarming around me.
I moved slow. I sat and waited, nothing else to do, nowhere else to be, as the water for my tea slowly rolled to a boil. I sat on a gnarled log and drank the hot liquid without moving, down to the last drop. I sat and let my thoughts just be.
Time. That’s what nature buys us. Those precious, fleeting moments of calm that sit with us like glimpses into eternity. So rare and long overdue. It washed through me with each hot sip I took, rinsing out my soul.
Written by Lauren Bringle