Eager to see Barton Creek after the heavy rains a couple of weeks ago, this afternoon I headed down to the greenbelt for a short hike.
For the past several years when I’ve hiked the greenbelt, it’s been during our persistent drought, and while the upper creek had water, usually it was dry by the 360 access point where I enter, the boulders like sun-bleached skeletons sticking out of grey clay and gravel. In the spring there would be some wildflowers and delicate understory plants, but by the fall, after a hot and unrelenting summer, very little would be left other than shrubs and trees.
A few yards down the path and I could sense that something was different this time. The path wasn’t dusty, but soft. There was the lovely smell of a combination of humus-rich, garden soil, dampness, green. Cheery turks’ caps and lavender Texas asters greeted us, and a half-dozen other flowering plants dotted the edges, and new banks of silt, branches, and other organic matter recreated the terrain.
Two weeks ago, everywhere I walked was under water well over my head. I could see the leaves and debris six feet or more above me. Dead branches and tree trunks were heaped in drunken piles. At the wooden footbridge I’ve taken for years to get to the area you have to cross to continue downstream, there was yellow caution tape… and no bridge whatsoever. The narrow drainage creek now looked like a gaping ditch.
And all along the path, from Mopac to the premature end of the trail, clear water flowed. It wasn’t the gushing white water currents that would have been there two weeks ago, but even now the water was flowing in channels waist deep, and so clear you could see all of the rocks below. Fat tadpoles scurried from rock to rock, and blue dragonflies clung to the plants that a month ago were desperately trying to maintain a foothold in the dry creek bed but now were piers for the flittering insects.
My puppy Nimue and I splashed around in the shallow water, wading in the creek on rocks not yet slick from algae; felt the soft silt of new organic matter on the banks; squished our toes in the cool mud.
Up on the banks insects work furiously to break down the materials deposited by flood waters, including a dapper black and red millipede that skittled past us.
Everywhere we went, we could feel the gods of Barton Creek smiling upon us. The greenbelt is once again lush and green and full of life, and feels like a creek should.
After so many years of drought, it’s so heartwarming to see nature enthusiastically healing itself.