Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge

On the front door of Tater Junction

On the front door of Tater Junction

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.

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fort-worth-wildlife-refuge-11Today’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.

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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.

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Phone cameras do not make for good wildlife photography, but trust me the birds are out there

fort-worth-wildlife-refuge-6The 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.

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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.

The box canyon, not sure what the deal is with that rainbow effect...

The box canyon, not sure what the deal is with that rainbow effect…

Vegetation tunnel

Vegetation tunnel

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.

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A view of Lake Worth from Canyon Ridge Trail

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.

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fort-worth-wildlife-refuge-5On 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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More Tater Junction signage

Don’t worry, attack chickens are not one of the 200 species of birds found at the refuge, this is more Tater Junction signage

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Becky

At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.

24 Comments

  1. pamelab on November 25, 2015 at 8:12 pm

    I really enjoy your posts, Becky. Thank you for all the good information and the very nice photos.
    I hope you have a lovely Thanksgiving!
    Pamela



    • Becky on November 26, 2015 at 12:32 pm

      You’re welcome Pamela! Having a good day so far. πŸ™‚



  2. Terri on November 25, 2015 at 1:58 pm

    You’ve inspired me to talk about my hikes now more too! I love your photos, and share the lament about having a phone camera that doesn’t really show wildlife also. But i have to admit, your photos are a lot better than mine. The only reason mine come out well now is because I’m photographing Zion, which is beautiful all the time!



    • Becky on November 26, 2015 at 12:30 pm

      It is hard to take a bad photo in Zion, such a pretty place. πŸ™‚ I use photoshop on mine to adjust the contrast and sharpness and it makes a big difference.

      Happy hiking!



  3. Rhonda on November 25, 2015 at 11:33 am

    I don’t comment frequently as I feel like I should have something to contribute to the dialogue when I do. But I want you to know how much I enjoy armchair traveling with you. Your musings are full of information and are a delight to read. The accompanying photos always help support your thoughts. Thanks for taking us along for the ride and I hope your stint in Texas affords you some luxurious time to yourself at the end. πŸ™‚



    • Becky on November 26, 2015 at 12:25 pm

      Thank you for reading Rhonda and commenting, even if it isn’t frequent. πŸ™‚ Glad you’re enjoying IO.



  4. Linda on November 23, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    Hi Becky,
    Thank you for your wonderful post! I love reading about your adventures!

    All the best,
    Linda



    • Becky on November 24, 2015 at 5:00 pm

      You’re welcome Linda, thanks for reading!



  5. Jim Schmechel on November 23, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    A much needed walk in nature for you! I’m glad you were able to get out and enjoy your area in between all of your working. Thank you for taking us along on your adventure. I hope you are able to enjoy Thanksgiving, and have much to be thankful about. Among other things, I am thankful for your blog! πŸ™‚
    Jim Schmechel recently posted..A Psalm for ThanksgivingMy Profile



    • Becky on November 24, 2015 at 4:59 pm

      You’re welcome Jim, have a good Thanksgiving!



  6. Jim@HiTek on November 23, 2015 at 10:23 am

    That was a great report. Really enjoyed the pics.

    Is it possible that all the recent rains carved a new channel for the dry creek? That’s happens a lot to creeks in moderately hilly country. Especially if the country is mostly soft dirt easily channeled by heavy rean.
    Jim@HiTek recently posted..Heading South…after Gold Beach…My Profile



    • Becky on November 24, 2015 at 4:58 pm

      I’m not sure Jim, as good a theory as any.



  7. Bill K on November 23, 2015 at 6:27 am

    For a good group dining experience you should take a trip over to Roanoke,tx and checkout Babe’s Chicken Dinner House. It’s fried chicken and all the fixings served family style in a very cute town. Actually the town bills itself as the unique dining capital of Texas or something similar. Plan a hike to remove the added calories after a visit!

    http://Www.babeschicken.com



    • Becky on November 24, 2015 at 4:57 pm

      I’ll keep that in mind Bill, thanks.



  8. Jill on November 22, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    Thanks Becky, wonderful post. I’m seeing many interesting and fun through your posts. Beautifully done.



    • Becky on November 22, 2015 at 6:48 pm

      You’re welcome Jill, thank you for reading. πŸ™‚



  9. Jodee Gravel on November 22, 2015 at 11:25 am

    A wonderful day out in the wilds of nature – how lovely! Great shot of the tunnel. I’d want to explore that secret garden πŸ™‚
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..Do We Have the Right Stuff?My Profile



    • Becky on November 22, 2015 at 6:46 pm

      It must be pretty amazing in the summer Jodee, but all the same I’m glad I missed the 100 degree temps. πŸ˜‰



  10. Alan Belisle on November 22, 2015 at 10:26 am

    This looks like a day well spent, enjoying the beauty of nature and the good work of a long hike. Being former Minnesotans, we are pleasantly surprised by the abundance of leaves on the trees in mid-November. There is a certain stark beauty in the bare bones of a tree, but it always looks better dressed in a full gown of leaves.

    As part of our quest across the country, we are searching for those mythical Southern culinary delights like biscuits and gravy, chicken fried steak, and chicken and waffles. We have sampled a few versions but have yet to find the best. Any suggestion would be appreciated.
    Alan Belisle recently posted..Our Arkansas HomeMy Profile



    • Becky on November 22, 2015 at 6:45 pm

      I don’t go out to eat frequently Alan, I likely never would have eaten here if my coworkers hadn’t decided on it. All I can say is this place had great biscuits and gravy and everyone else liked their food too.

      If you do find great chicken and waffles though, do share because I like both chicken and waffles and find the combo intriguing. πŸ˜‰



  11. Jerry Minchey on November 22, 2015 at 7:04 am

    Becky, You find beauty in areas where most people wouldn’t even take the time to seriously look at. People who don’t hike miss most of the beautiful and interesting sights in the world.

    I love hiking and I really like to follow your hiking adventures. Your descriptions and pictures make me feel like I’m hiking right along with you.



    • Becky on November 22, 2015 at 6:43 pm

      Most people are too busy to notice Jerry, a problem I myself suffered from before hitting the road. Nothing like slowing down and smelling the roses. Or slowing down and listening to the bird calls in this instance.



  12. Ron on November 21, 2015 at 10:14 pm

    So glad you were able to get out hiking again. Great report. Ron



    • Becky on November 22, 2015 at 6:41 pm

      Glad you liked this Ron.



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