Friday, November 20
Ahh, it feels so good to laze around in bed!
Dust motes dance slowly in the still air of the Casita, illuminated by sunlight peeking through the blinds. Reading while snuggled under the covers on a cool morning is one of life’s simple pleasures, but there are other fun things on the docket for today too. The second item on the to-do list is breakfast with coworkers at Tater Junction, a small mom-and-pop style diner just outside of Boyd.
This amusingly named restaurant is a favorite among locals, and the place is hopping when we arrive shortly after 8:30. One of my coworkers has developed a rapport with the waitress, and they trade insults with each other (all good-natured) while we wait for our food.
It’s delicious. Probably somewhere in the neighborhood of a thousand calories, but the peppercorn gravy smothering the huge flaky biscuit I order is amazing.
Back at the RV park, I quickly throw together snacks and food that won’t spoil without refrigeration, and then I pick up a different coworker for a hiking outing.
Today’s destination is Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge (FWNC&F), located on the west side of Fort Worth and only about a a half-hour drive from my home base in Boyd. Admission is $5 per adult, and it’s open from 9 am to 4:30 pm daily this time of year (hours are longer in the summer).
Attractions include a prairie dog town, extensive interpretive center, naturalist-led walks, bison herd, and some pretty spectacular birding opportunities along the shore of Lake Worth. As usual, I’m here for the hiking, of which there are plenty of options as well. FWNC&F boasts 12 hiking trails totaling around 14 miles (there is some overlap between them) through a variety of terrain from marsh to meadows to hardwood forests.
Two of the trails have been closed due to flooding, but that still gives us ten to choose from. We pick the 1.5 mile Greer Island trail to start with, located at the southern end of the refuge.
Wow, places like this make me wish I knew more about birds. Maybe that’ll get added to my list of things to do once Amazon is over and I have more time again. The trail heads out into Lake Worth along a narrow strip of land leading to the island. We see water fowl in numerous shapes and sizes, from great blue herons to egrets to ducks to others that I don’t know enough about to positively identify. Greebs maybe? Or cormorants perhaps? Possibly both of the above, plus smaller species that I see as no more than specks in the distance.
The twittering of chickadees fill the air while the occasional breath of wind carries dried leaves from the branches of maples and oaks to rest on the floor below. While peak fall color is past, many trees and bushes have berries, fruits, or seed pods on display, which likely makes for some happy birds.
My coworkers knows something of botany from her pre-RV days and is able to identify some of the plants we pass on the wooded island, but about some she is clueless as Colorado and Texas of course don’t share all the same ones.
Out on the island a weathered wooden sign comes into view advertising a nature trail. The same trail we’re on but the name, while hard to pick out, isn’t the same. Nearby is an old stone shelter with a newer wooden roof on top, surrounded by other low stonework now overgrown that may have been some sort of fencing or property boundary in the past. If you visited during one of the guided walks I bet there’s a lot of interesting things to be learned about the history of this area.
Lunch is had at a picnic table back by the parking lot, under the shade of several large oaks. My coworker has a phone interview for a position out at Yellowstone next summer (what better place for a job interview?) while I lay on the picnic bench and watch the ever changing mosaic of fluffy clouds and blue sky through the branches.
After her interview concludes we walk behind the picnic area through a neat little box canyon, and meet up with Canyon Ridge trail, one of the longest trails in the park at 3.25 miles one way. This one has a little bit of climbing in it with some steps, but is still fairly easy. North Texas is a land of rolling hills, not steep gradients.
The vegetation here is shorter and dense with frequent snarls and a lot of vines. During the summer with all the leaves on the trees parts of it would look like a tunnel, an impenetrable wall of green. Even now at this time of year we frequently hear the rustle of movement just off the trail, but are unable to see what made the noise through the tangle of branches. Glimpses of the lake are few and far between.
While this past summer out at Yellowstone granted me enough bison viewings to last a good long while, they’re still a novelty my coworker and we take an obligatory drive through the bison area. Unlike at Caprock Canyon State Park farther west of here, the bison here are not free range, although their fenced-in area is pretty large. There are several cows with calves that are separate in a smaller enclosure near the road, to guarantee a sighting for those unable to hike.
Our last hike of the day is Forked Tail Creek, which I started calling Lightning Bolt trail because of the symbol on the trail placards. Here the forest is older and taller with less understory and a clearer line of sight. There are several low points along the trail that look like they’re wet during certain times of the year and frequent crossings of the creek. Said creek is curiously dry right now, despite all the rain recently. Maybe it’s seasonal, or maybe there’s still enough of a rain deficit from the drought that the ground is still soaking all the water up.
On the way back to the truck, we get turned around as the sun is beginning to lower to the west. We share a chuckle about not making it out before the gates close at 4:30, but luckily did not go too far out of our way before figuring out where we took a wrong turn. You’d figure that with over three years of full-time travel and navigation that I’d have improved at reading a map by now, but sadly that’s not the case. Maybe in the next three years…
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