My First-Day Hike 2021 in a Texas State Park

by Linda Jo Conn

It’s been quite a few days since I participated with other nature-loving folks in a self-guided hike at a nearby state park, on the first day of 2021. I think it has taken me that long to recuperate before sharing my adventure.

The four state parks closest to my home are each about 35 miles away. I chose to visit the Birch Creek Unit of Lake Somerville in Burleson County. The last time I visited it was on an El Camino Real Chapter field trip in October 2013.

Heron at Birch Creek

It was not a warm day, in the mid 50’s, so I did not have to worry about breaking a sweat.  My jacket felt good when I was not protected by trees from the wind. 

I initiated several physically-distanced conversations with several folks, including a couple from Iowa who had come to Texas to eat BBQ at Snow’s in Lexington the next day. (I could not resist wowing them with the fact that the famous pit master Tootsie is my former sister-in-law.) It was interesting to hear from each person where they had traveled from for this event. 

I obtained my printed copy of the designated trail showing locations of several orange flags marking points of interest. I walked down the path, stopped at the first orange flag, read about the lake in the pamphlet, proceeded along the way, and never saw another orange marker. I got totally and hopelessly lost. 

Freshwater Mussel

Eventually, I encountered an equally lost college student and her younger brother from Houston. We teamed up to find our way back to the park headquarters. Although not the ideal situation for nature talk, as we walked along I enjoyed answering their questions about the plants we passed and showing them interesting species such as soapberry, yaupon holly, and coralberry.  I even pointed out feral hog, deer, and raccoon tracks for their edification. I realized how much I have learned by being a Texas Master Naturalist and iNaturalist addict since that 2013 visit to Lake Somerville.  

Coralberry

 My hike about the park took a bit more time and effort than I had planned, but was certainly worth the experience.  Perhaps our chapter members can hike Mother Neff or another state park together New Year’s Day 2022. I will certainly appreciate some companions to guide and direct my steps.        

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