Wild Things

“Let the wild things stay wild”

She says, as she reigns me back in

Let them slink silently back into the forest

Let them jump, leap, hop back into the brush

Let them have some sanctuary

A place to escape from us

In Florida wetlands, a pair of sandhill cranes

Crossing a stream with their two offspring

Reminiscent of prehistoric creatures

Wildness on the wing

A pair of otters seen

Heads bobbing in the stream

Spotted, their eyes meet mine

Then slinky bodies retreat into the green

Later, two baby gators

Holding still in a swamp with mama nearby

Anhingas spread out their wings

A hole for a screech owl to hide

Where is the black panther,

The wild hog, the bobcat?

Are they watching us as we walk,

Oblivious to where they are at?

Spring in suburban Texas

A pair of white tailed deer

Step slowly out of the woods

Cross the creek then flee in fear

A flock of monk parakeets gather

While a pair of bald eagles fly by

Woodpeckers thump and owls hoot

And forest path is lit by firefly

“Let the wild things stay wild”

She says, as she sets me free

52 Hike Challenge Summary 2021

I have been working on completing my 2022 52 Hike Challenge, and compiling my list of hikes for the year, but I realize I should make a point of documenting them on here, too. Last year I ended up hiking 60 times. Here is the list of where I went and with who:
52 Hike Challenge 2021
1. 1/3/21 Camp Sienna Missouri City TX Jason and Sebastian
2. 1/4/21 Brindley Trail Sugar Land, TX Jason and Sebastian
3. 1/9/21 Brindley Trail Sugar Land, TX Jason and Sebastian
4. 1/23/21 Brazos Bend Needville TX 4 miles Jennifer
5. 1/31/21 Kickarillo Preserve Spring 6 miles Jennifer
6. 2/6/21 Lone Star Hiking Trail- Richards Loop 7 miles Jennifer
7. 2/20/21 George Bush Park Katy TX Jennifer + kids
8. 2/27/21 Creekside West Connector Spring TX Jennifer + kids
9. 3/6/21 Lone Star Hiking Trail- TH#3 to Kelly’s Pond 5 + miles Jennifer
10. 3/13/21 Seabrook Park Seabrook 4.8 miles HWHG
11. 3/15/21 Kickarillo Preserve Spring Sebastian
12. 3/17/21 Guadalupe River SP: Painted Bunting Trail 3 miles Kaleb, Jason
13. 3/20/21 Eastern Glades, Memorial Park Houston 2.71 miles Jennifer
14. 3/23/21 Shadow Creek Nature Trail Pearland Karina + kids
15. 3/28/21 Muleshoe Bend Rec Area, Spicewood TX Great Egret Loop 2 miles Jennifer + kids
16. 3/29/21 Shadow Creek Nature Trail Pearland 3.87 miles Robin from HWHG
17. 4/3/21 Resoft Park Alvin TX 2-3 miles Jason and Sebastian
18. 4/4/21 Armand Bayou Hike & Bike Jason
19. 4/5/21 Lost Creek Park Sugar Land, TX Jason
20. 4/7/21 Shadow Creek Nature Trail Pearland Stephanie from HWHG + kids
21. 4/8/21 Lost Creek Park Bang A Rang Trail Sugar Land, TX Kids
22. 4/10/21 Guadalupe River SP, Live Oak/Barred Owl Trail 2 miles Kids
23. 4/17/21 Lakeside Park, The Woodlands TX Jason
24. 4/18/21 100 Acre Woods, Spring TX 2.27 miles Jason
25. 4/25/21 Shadow Creek Nature Trail Pearland Veronica + Kids
26. 5/3/21 John Hargrove Environmental Center, Pearland 1.3 miles Jason and Sebastian
27. 5/8/21 Caddo Forest Trail Karnack TX Jason and Sebastian
28. 5/15/21 1776/Forest of Friendswood Trail 2.5 miles HWHG
29. 5/23/21 Lone Star Hiking Trail, Phelps Section 5 miles Misti
30. 5/30/21 Heceta Head Lighthouse/Amanda’s Trail/Knoll Trail, Oregon 2.25 miles solo
31. 5/31/21 Latourell Falls, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon 2.5 miles solo
32. 6/5/2021 Mercer Arboretum Spring 1.8 miles Jason and Sebastian
33. 6/8/21 Shadow Creek Nature Trail Pearland 3 miles Robin from HWHG
34. 6/12/21 Shadow Creek Nature Trail Pearland 4 miles HWHG
35. 6/15/21 Shadow Creek Nature Trail Pearland 3 miles HWHG
36. 6/25/21 Sumter National Forest, Modoc SC 2.25 miles Jason and kids
37. 7/3/21 Armand Bayou Hike & Bike 2 miles HWHG
38. 7/10/21 Lost Creek Park Sugar Land, TX 3.5 miles HWHG
39. 7/17/21 El Franco Lee Park Houston TX 2 miles HWHG
40. 7/24/21 John Hargrove Environmental Center, Pearland 2 miles HWHG
41. 8/27/21 Shadow Creek Nature Trail Pearland 1.5 miles Gracie the dog
42. 9/19/21 Caloosahatchee Creek Preserve, Ft Myers FL 1 mile solo
43. 10/2/21 Enchanted Rock Summit Trail Fredericksburg TX Jason
44. 10/2/21 Enchanted Rock Loop Trail Fredericksburg TX 6 miles Jason
45. 10/9/21 Stephen F Austin SP San Felipe TX 1.56 miles Stacey from HWHG
46. 10/16/21 Cypress Creek MTB Trails 2.8 miles Jennifer
47. 10/23/21 Fort Boggy SP Loop Trail Leona TX 2.3 miles Jason and Sebastian
48. 10/23/21 Fort Boggy SP Lake Trail Leona TX 1.3 miles Jason and Sebastian
49. 10/30/21 Cullinan Park Sugar Land, TX 3.43 miles HWHG
50. 10/31/21 Sugarland MTB Trails Sugar Land, TX 4.8 miles HWHG
51. 11/8/21 Lake Houston Wilderness Park New Caney TX 3 miles Bonnie from HWHG
52. 11/9/21 Lake Houston Wilderness Park New Caney TX 10 miles Bonnie from HWHG
53. 11/13/21 Huntsville State Park Huntsville TX BONUS HIKE 4 miles HWHG
20 with my family, 16 with Houston Women’ss Hiking Group, 9 with Jennifer +/- kids, 4 solo and 3 with local friends

Nature Therapy

A boy bounces down a bayou with binoculars.  “Let’s check Turtle Rock, Mom”, he says, pulling me down the bank to peer expectantly at the cluster of rocks in the middle, scanning for the little turtles that we have been seeing scrambling back into the water at our approach.  We hear a different bird call from a nearby tree, and walk over to investigate.  We determine it was just a blue jay, making that musical warble that they occasionally make.  We marveled over a June bug that was being chased by a line of ants, and then over a life-or-death drama of an earthworm and same ants.  We find a cracked egg and then a whole one half-hidden in the bushes near a fence line, and then we have to check on it on the regular during our walks after this.

Such is life out in Shadow Creek Ranch.  I’ve been absent from this cyberspace for quite some time due to our house renovations, search for a new house, and the maddening pace of adding a PhD program on top of our already-packed lives.  Any free time was being spent studying, learning, writing papers, or packing, unpacking – all the trials of the past year.  I very nearly lost my mind.  This summer, I have been trying to reclaim it.  Part of the healing process needed to be a commitment to spending time in nature.

We felt a little adrift at first in our new house, and decided what we needed was to find all the nature spaces within a short drive from home.  The bayou is very literally in our backyard, and a very short drive away is Shadow Creek Nature Park, a place I visit on the regular.

It is a walk in the woods that we want, though.  So far, 1776 Park in Friendswood is the closest we have come to the ideal patch of woods.  On an afternoon walk a couple of weeks ago, I found myself thinking about terpenes, the aromatic chemicals of plants, and how they affect our bodies (or perhaps the more correct word is “phytoncides”).  I was already several degrees calmer just from soaking in the scenery, but the smell of the forest was also lowering my blood pressure surely.  Nature therapy – it’s what the doctor (should have) ordered.

In Korea, the idea of the healing power of forests is so convincing that they have created 37 state run forest recreation centers and trained over 500 forest healing instructors.  Several countries, including the US, have followed suit and dedicated resources towards forest-as-therapy programs.  Most of us intuitively perceive nature is good for us, but now we have science to prove it.  In one study, 2 two-hour walks in nature over consecutive days resulted in a 50% increase in natural killer cells, which help prevent cancer and other diseases, in human subjects, compared to those who remained in an urban environment.  Those benefits persisted up to thirty days later, where those same cells were seen to still be around 25% increased over the urban-only subjects.  The benefits of nature can be obtained in something as simple as watching a video of green spaces or smelling the aromas of the woods.

Some of this information I learned from a podcast (“Hidden Brain”) that another student in my program turned me on to.  I am going to try to take this knowledge to heart, as I approach a third semester committed to trying to maintain my sanity this time around.  Perhaps I might even find the time to write some of those experiences down, in between assignments.