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It always feels like I’m stepping into a flea market shop when I step into Stephenson Preserve, pushing aside a beaded curtain that rattles against the door behind me. I always find gaudy ornaments placed on trees here and there. Wind chimes, lamp shades, painted ceramics, and rusted drums & cans. I found another pet grave in a clearing covered with white rocks and a tree stump. Can you imagine the procession to its final resting place?

Walking across the preserve is like walking across a haunted vineyard, the cedar trees twisted and dead, the grapes and foliage long gone. No matter how many times I come here, it always gives me the creeps. And then my Map My Run app on my phone will go off with that female robot voice startling me out of my wits until I catch myself panting, leaning on a tree.

Amid the barren woods, I came across an elm with its short branches, some leaves, blood orange, yellow & green, not yet plucked off the tree. I love how elm leaves appear suspended in the air like they’re floating in place on an invisible stream.

On my way back to the car, the lavender sky gave way to the orange blaze of the dipping sun, and I chanced upon two brown owls perched on twin trees. They hooted and flew off, one by one, scanning the ground from just above row after row of trees.

Stephenson Preserve

Austin, Texas

3 miles

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