I’ve been working harder than usual these last couple of months, and often on the weekends and in evenings. As one who writes and speaks about wellness, I knew this wasn’t sustainable, so last week, I set out to make a change. It was Friday, and I finished up my most pressing work, and and set out to take a hike. Destination: Barton Creek Greenbelt.
I’ve always loved hiking — I actually used to be a camp counselor and director in my earlier years, and the rugged trails combined with the fresh air and sunshine always put me in a good mood. Somehow, I’d forgotten this beloved activity, but luckily for me, Barton Creek Greenbelt is close by! I first checked out the location with my friend, Paul, who’s an avid cyclist and hiker, and Paul assured me that this was a good, safe trail.
Barton Creek Greenbelt (3755-B Capitol of Texas Highway, Austin TX 78704) is a lush, natural area in the heart of southwest Austin. It’s got over 7 miles of trails for cycling, walking, running, and hiking, along with a natural swimming area that — because this is Austin — does not always have water. When I went last week, it was bone dry, so it made for another hiking opportunity through the creek bed.
This was early afternoon on a Friday, so I suppose it might be more populated on the weekend, but that day there were a few cyclists and runners that I shared the trail with, but hardly crowded. One brave guy was running barefoot, and several younger women ran with their dogs.
To be honest, it took me about 15 minutes into the hike to start to relax, and at the :30 mark, I was suddenly aware of how sweet the air was, and I stopped to take in several deep breaths. I normally get “into” nature fairly quickly, so the fact that it took this long was a big indication that I was waaaaay overdue for some Nature R & R. And you know what else helped? This view:
This view is fairly close to the trail head — since I was new to this greenbelt, I didn’t want to stray too far and lose my way. Although the paths are well-worn, there are times when you have to cross the creek bed to get to more trails, and I figured I’d save that for another day and different adventure.
About halfway through my hike, I started to slow down and appreciate some details. These are the things I love about the natural world — all of the life that happens off the beaten path:
I recognized a number of native plants along the way, but not all. I didn’t see any wildlife other than squirrels (do they count?), but if you scratch under the surface, there’s all sorts of wondrous things happening.
After I’d hiked a fair bit to the east, I decided to change directions and double back to the west of the trailhead. You can do this pretty conveniently because, at least in this area of Barton Creek Greenbelt, the trail loops around. I was delighted but not at all surprised to discover this graffiti underneath 360 — it almost seemed like a scene out of “The Walking Dead” where images from the urban past collide with overgrown nature. And yes, that did freak me out a bit — leave it to me to feel perfectly safe from other hikers, but get the willies about possible zombies lurking behind me.
Just as I was thinking it was time to end my hike, I thought, “I should take a pic of myself as a reminder of how I feel after walking in the woods.” Yes, I was still in an urban area, but we Austinites are fortunate to have so many green spaces in the midst of our eclectic city. I felt as though I’d been camping out in the hill country — it’s that sense of disconnecting with the busy-ness of the world and reconnecting with yourself and the natural world.
It’s grounding. It’s organic.
And it’s healing.
Barton Creek Greenbelt Tips:
Safe: Yes, but I wouldn’t leave any valuables in your car. My friend Paul said there are regular reports of car break-ins in the parking lot.
Dog-friendly: Yes, but dogs should be on leashes. I did see several dogs off-leash, though, which is frowned upon, but hey. Austin.
Accessible: Easily accessed from Loop 360 (Capitol of Texas Highway) with a decomposed granite parking lot close by the office park. This particular entry is about 3 miles from my house, so it’s very convenient for me.