What a strange thing to find on the trail, I thought. “Honey?” I shouted. “Come take a look at this.” I kept looking at it. I heard the crunch of her footsteps as she approached and stopped where I was standing, on a dry creek bed with grass growing out of cracks in the rock. She didn’t say a word. She just pulled her hair away from her face like she always does, and we just stood there, looking at it with question marks. On the trunk of a felled tree, lay a soiled, white lace dress across the bark. A white dress from another time. What was it doing here? We just kept looking at it, draped over the trunk as if it had been gently laid down, (and I sensed this), the same way a mother lays a newborn down inside of a crib. There was a lone Indian Blanket wildflower, with petals too heavy for the stem, planted in the ground in front of it.
We just stood there and stared.
As soon as our cloud of awe lifted, the questions came in. “Why is it here?” she asked. “Why?” she demanded. “Who put it here?” She didn’t like it. Neither did I. Then came the eeriness—like bugs on the skin. The sullied, white garment looked like the wedding dress of a pioneer bride. Was there something abnormal…something paranormal going on here? Perhaps it’s a dress with a sad past, a dress a bride never got to wear, a dress she clutched one last time, and left behind with regret.
“Some people come to the woods to do things like this,” I told my wife. “...to commemorate their pain. But, who knows why.”
We continued on our hike. I wasn’t expecting any other surprises. We followed the rockbed of a bone-dry Eanes Creek and explored, walking where the water once flowed who knows how long ago. My wife searched and found fossil imprints and little cracked bits of seashells. We hiked over the rocks and found a nice spot where we could step back into the woods from the rockbed for a look. I heard rustling in the brush. In a moment, I saw two deer, chests out, facing me, mirrored side by side, like some coat of arms on a knight’s shield, ears and tails flapping with agitation. When I made a step, a stag charged at me, stopping short, snorting, popping his neck down and up, showing me his disdain. I could see a gust of air thrust out of his nose. Oh, boy. I wasn’t expecting a stand-off. I kept still, knowing I had intruded on their domain. They fled in leaps and disappeared into the brush as I caught my breath. Whew. I haven’t been checked like that since grade school. I laughed, scratching my head.
On our way out, we found a map of where we were hiking: Zilker Nature Preserve, my absolute favorite place to hike in all of Austin. But my wife looked at me then pointed out something odd. On the kiosk, in all caps, “YOU ARE HERE” was written twice in two different spots on the map. “That’ll do it. We’re done, babe.” Time for us to end this hike.
Have you read Bobby's article in
Texas Highways Magazine: A Hiker Confronts Monoculture in Austin Parks?