I was worried about B-52 branches breaking off and falling down on top of us, cutting us up with ice, but I just kept going, one foot in front of the other, chin tucked into my scarf, making motorboat sounds with my lips from the cold. We had so many layers on we felt like we had on Sumo suits, I tell you. But it had to be done. We’re Texans, and we do not do the cold.
It was about 30 degrees and the frozen drizzle felt like beads of salt tossed and dashed at our jackets from the sky. We went off trail for a spell when I noticed stacks of boulders toppled over like the statues of Easter Island. I’ve got to go stand on them everytime I see them, like a dog at a fire hydrant, and inspect my territory. My wife looked around and found a railroad tie and tossed it up, testing the heaviness in her hand. (She secretly loves rocks and scans the ground for them like precious stones.) We had a little bit to go before we got to the bridge. On the muddy path we noticed tracks that looked as big as a cougar’s but realized paws slipping in the mud look bigger than they are. Funny how fear can cast a big shadow on what we see.
We hiked across a rockbed and forest of leafless elms where orange-bellied robins criss-crossed the bush in droves. We had to stop. We watched them fly over us in squadrons, and watched others fly down for refreshment. Some landed by puddles to drink, and others washed, splashing joyously in the water. I looked up and counted 19 perched in one tree.
We made it to the bridge and walked around the rocky puddles carefully, trying not to slip, and admired the vivid colors of graffiti on the concrete pilings. We crossed to the other side hoping to find a trail to the Southeast. There was too much water so we headed back, but I did get to see my beautiful green clovers floating in dozens of puddles in the rockbed, sparkling with dew.
We hiked a short 1.4 miles and decided to go back and get in the car to look for another access point to Slaughter Creek. We ended up in Manchaca driving around. While driving up a street, my wife came to a halt.
“What are you doing?!” I asked.
She didn’t answer, and reversed.
In between two trees in an old field, she showed me a golden hawk with black stripes sitting on a hay bale, inspecting its territory, the feathers on his chest ruffling in the wind.