I used to look down on this park. Too crowded at the water-holes. Too close to the metropolis, worn, speeding tires of sedans pelting the Interstate in the distance. Good thing it never looked down on me.
We set ourselves free from those Sundays that keep you tied-down to your sofas like bullfrogs in slowly boiling water...You get the point. 68 degrees and 4:30 pm. We had only an hour of true daylight and of course, I still wanted to do the harder trail. The longer trail. If it aint at least four miles, it ain’t a hike in my book. We made it to the trailhead and walked across the rockbed of McKinney which is worthy of moon-buggies; I can just see a Lunar Rover bouncing across this strange rock with fat cartoon tires, astronauts turning knobs and flipping switches.
We crossed the slots over the Falls and hit the Homestead shortcut trail in the hopes of making the Overlook Trail by nightfall. We were happy to move past the “lobby” of the state park where we saw the lady walking around in full pajamas and house slippers, a film crew shooting a Tejano music video, and three separate engagement photo shoots...to the secret spaces of the park. We hiked up a flat slope right to the Flint Rock Loop Trail, and we were finally alone and enchanted. New trees and twists and turns, a still pond, and the caws of crows, sunlight glowing off the treetops. When we made it to the fork of the Overlook trail, we roused a deer sleeping in the brush. These were the woods. Woods with evenly spaced trees that stood straight up with patches of the greenest blades of grass. I pulled out a small bunch and they felt like koosh balls.
The grove at the Overlook is the moneymaker. Live oaks in a clearing right by the meandering water dotted with debris from floodwaters. At the end of the Loop was a hidden cliff-face and the prize: the sandy pools of Williamson Creek below and a stretch of autumn meadows. My wife was again holding her pee and it made her walk around like a bodybuilder hyping herself up on pre-workout powder.
We made it back to the Flint Rock Trail and night fell. We noticed lights ahead of us on the trail approaching us, then scurrying away. They stopped and we came upon them, a young family with a puppy Golden retriever with the most vibrant coat of hair.
We stepped past the Grist Mill trailhead and onto the Rock, the afterglow of the sunset and city lights hovering behind McKinney Falls State Park, the rushing waters twisting, writhing, through the limestone rock and slots.