Note that the red stop sign above was not originally intended for kayakers.
Most people don’t know that the Dallas-Fort Worth area of Texas went through something of a deluge over the last couple months. Considering one of the first summers I was out here, I heard reports of cattle ranchers slaughtering their stock early because we had such a bad drought that the cows were falling over dead, this sudden over-abundance of water was–at first–exciting! The first couple months of extra rain in the early spring meant my new-found passion to learn how to trail-run was rewarded with the greenest scenery and freshest weather I’ve ever experienced in Texas. Which maaay not be saying a lot, since I came from the driest, brownest chaparral corner of Southern California you can imagine.
But then it kept raining. And raining. Aaaand… raining. Now all of my favorite riparian trails are underwater and have been for months. And since being outdoors in general is my happy place, that has made me one of the grouchiest of shut-ins. It’s only very recently that I’ve started to drive around the nearby countryside, looking for “higher” areas that have less of a chance of having been turned into a bog. I did enough slogging through knee-high water those first couple months and I’m not as excited as I used to be to get sloppy muddy, especially now that the water moccasins and copperheads have been largely displaced and agitated by all this daggum water. Still. The sun is shining and I’m way past getting cabin fever. So out the door we go.
Most of my “trail runs” go from trail running, to trail hiking, to trail ambling, and finally peter out to trail-photoshoot with the dog (I know, I’m super motivated). But he’s a good sport and a good pal, even if he is on loan. “Jip” belongs to my mother, but since I’m a woman and it’s supposedly scary out there to go and do things on your own, I borrow him as my trail buddy. For protection. Because dangerous interlopers obviously think twice before attacking someone with a small border collie cowering behind her. And I love the little guy. I’m like the cool aunt who takes him on adventures and bribes him with presents to earn his wuvs, then unloads him on mom the moment he’s coming down from his sugar-high.
Back on point: it’s a soppy mess out there, still. And yet, I’ve been noticing some cool things. As the water is (unbearably) slowly receding and drying up during these hottest months of the year, the ecosystem is going through yet another transition. I’m seeing water birds in my neck of the woods that I would have had to drive an hour out to the swamps to see. I’m seeing the bluestem grasses slowly recover. And duck weed–which had been pretty rare prior to all this–is now everywhere and thick as a carpet. I’ve even driven by “new” ponds with friends and pointed it out, and they’ve been flabbergasted too: “That’s water? I thought it was grass!” Duck weed in the creeks, rivers, stagnant sloughy puddles (ugh!). Duck weed on trees. … duck weed on top of dried up, cracked dirt.
That’s something you don’t see every day.
We thought we were going to lose a lot of the woodlands around here because it’s been underwater for so long. And yeah, a lot of the low brush and grasses have died out, giving full view of that grey, crumbly slate that looks totally out of place, exotic even. Random groovy fact: cracked earth usually only happens in dirt with a high clay content. Clay works a bit like a sponge, expanding as it soaks up all the moisture around, but as it dries out, it contracts. As it’s shrinking, it builds up a strain on the higher, drier surface of the soil than the waterlogged guck that’s still bloated and inert below, until–CRACK! And you’re left with a mosaic of dried up mud.
There’s a reason Texas has its own flavor of indie-country music named after “red dirt.” We’ve got clay just about everywhere. But I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to seeing a forest growing on top of what looks like a desert.