I remember stepping in like Harry Potter running through the 9-wall into a hidden world that changed me forever. This is where I started hiking in Austin, in earnest, and it’s been ten years since I made that first step inside. The first thing I saw was the staircase and the mosaic of mirrored glass and colored tiles on the balustrade that had me full of smiles. Oh, how I forgot about them! I admired the curl of the stem around its pink-petaled rose, and the swirl of the spying salamander in the design.
When I stepped down, I saw hundreds of floating lily pads that covered the whole pond like patches of green felt. I looked up and squinted my eyes. The sunrays pelted my neck with a laser-like burn, the same sting I feel every time I’m in Las Vegas walking the Strip. I jumped back under the awning and saw a rocket ship hole in the ceiling. What the heck is that?
There was a waterfall here, too, right? I was later told the water pump was broken, its filter clogged by a swarm of snails.
I made my way to the cages with their spinning misters and could smell an odor of urine that cut the air. Man. I squinted one eye, in pain, like I was having a brain freeze. I followed the cages until I made it around the bend to the raven. I talked to a worker there who told me a funny story. There was a raven, one that preceded this one, who was captured at Zilker Park because it was stealing car keys. This one, named ‘Pogo,’ was found tethered in an encampment. A thief and a prisoner. These guys got stories, too, I thought, living their own book-worthy lives in Austin, Texas, U.S.A.
I visited a sentimental spot at the Birds of Prey exhibit and marveled at the beautiful scenic overlook that only a few people visit. If only it were October, I thought. I walked around the grounds a little more and made my way back to the car.
I slowed my pace and hit the button on my key fob. I looked ahead, stopped, and hit it again, locking the car. I put my backpack back on. I could see the pedestrian walkway under MoPac was almost empty. I decided to check it out.
I felt a breeze coming on. In fact, the closer I got to the bridge, the cooler it got. I could hear the cars passing by at high speeds on the highway overhead. There was plenty of shade–and lucky for me–it was 102 outside. I stood there on the walkway by the rail, the wind blowing across my face, and I just smiled. Holding my ticket from the 9 & 3/4, I watched the kayaks and canoes, and paddle boarders in bathing suits, as they slowly floated by.