Spring Creek Reflections

Last night I took a walk with a friend in Pundt Park.  We experienced some of the trails, and then ended up over by the canoe launch.  We decided to walk down to check it out.  When we came down the sandy embankment and found ourselves face to face with Spring Creek, I was filled with this childlike desire to go play in the water.  I told my friend, and she was feeling the same way.

We took off our shoes.  I rolled up the legs of my jeans and walked slowly in.  Looking around the creek, standing there with my feet in the water, brought back so many memories of my youth.  There was a time where the best friend of my youth and I spent hours exploring and swimming in Cypress Creek.  We made up little stories about who we might have been in a previous existence, or what life would be like if this wildness is all we knew.

This night as we walked, the best friend of my adulthood asked me if I ever looked at the landscape and imagined what it would like to be experiencing it as a native american.  I do that often, particularly on long hikes or long drives where my mind begins to wander.

These thoughts led me to reflect on why wildness resonates with us.  Sometimes it is because the history of our species, some innate ongoing connection to the land through ancestral memory.  Sometimes our connection is born through a personal memory that means a lot to us, like the one of my friend and I playing in the creek.  Because of that, I am more interested in seeing these greenways between Cypress and Spring Creeks play out, because others might also build their own meaningful connections with this area.

Many times, for me, the wild areas remind me of Scout Camp, which was a place I felt happy.  My sense of discovery and excitement over learning about nature was probably born in that place.  When I am walking in a forest, I remember Scout Camp and this memory is connected to the bliss I feel in the present.

How will the children of this current generation learn to value the wilderness?  I imagine my children’s reality is similar to most of their time, where video games have replaced going outside, and kids know more about Minecraft building than fort building.  There is a book, Last Child in the Woods, that explores that theme more thoroughly.  I do think outdoor education and experiences are important for children to build that connection, and I try to give that to my kids, but my older children sometimes make me feel like I am torturing them with it.  Also, I am one person, one person who cares very deeply for the wilderness and actually spends quite a bit of time there.  What about most families?  Are they providing their children with meaningful outdoor experiences?  Will children of this Generation Z or iGeneration have enough of those experiences to feel willing to protect it?

When I start going down these mental roads, I feel comforted by a couple of things.  One, you do see families out at these places enjoying them, and with the investment of communities into places like these, there will be more access to those experiences.  Two, despite my children whining about having to go hiking and camping, they have picked up on a skill set along the way.  My teenager is almost at the point where I feel like he might be able to survive a weekend camping trip with a peer.  Finally, outdoor camps and recreation areas are still getting booked up in the summer, so interest in these areas is not dying off.

This night, we witnessed a family at the creek bank getting maternity pictures taken of the mom.  We saw a man playing with his dogs, who were swimming in the creek water.  We observed a girl sitting alone on the bank, pensively reflecting on her own thoughts before disappearing around the bend.  We saw many people playing with their dogs in the dog park and walking along the road or greenway.  This park is full of people like us, creating memories on a warm summer night.


Seven Meadows Duck Pond Walk

20150815_085352We have a way we like to walk, especially on days when we have a little more time.  Weekend mornings, some late evenings, catching sunsets or the morning dew as we go.  Sometimes my middle son is along, and we have the chitter chatter of sharing observations.  Sometimes it is just me and the dogs, with the jingle of their collars and their panting as the accompanying sounds.  Most days we hear mockingbirds and doves, sometimes starlings or grackels.  There has been an unexpected treat or two, like the belted kingfisher I saw last winter, or maybe a roseatte spoonbill, herons, egrets, or cormorants fishing along the little bayou that runs next to the path, or at the “other pond” across the street from this view here below.
20150815_085340 Mostly there are ducks, though, and lots of them.  As we walk, we are observing the world around us, with all the duck drama that unfolds.Usually, this little pocket park featured above and below, usually our second stop along the walk, has a few Muscovy ducks.  However, it is also the spot where the misfits hang out, the outcasts, the ducks that don’t fit in.  20150815_085213

Seen in the picture above is the current group of little duck rebels.  The two white ducks on the end, and potentially all of these, are domestic ducks that were most likely dumped at the park at some point, perhaps turned loose when they weren’t cute enough for Easter pets anymore.  The kids and I call the white ducks our “little friends”, as in “do you see our little friends today?” or “how are our little friends doing?”.  The two middle ducks in this row are two Mallard females who used to live at the upper pond with their mates, until the drakes disappeared one by one – to predation or accident, I am not sure.  The lighter duck in front was also one of a pair, kind of unusual blonde looking ducks, similar to the white ones but with sort of an apricot tinge.  They showed up one day when they were babies and grew up at the pond over the past year, but now one of them is missing as well.  The dark duck at the front is a new one.

The hig20150815_084443hlight of the walk is the first pond we come to, the great glorious duck pond.  This pond is able to support a huge flock of muscovies, many who have hatchlings during the course of the year.  The following pictures show the newest group of ducklings and their proud mama.  These ducklings haven’t learned to be afraid yet.  My dogs were sitting just a few feet away during these pictures, and the ducklings ran practically right up to them and probably would not have stopped except Scout started barking at them.

These ducks are fed by many, but fed correctly at least by one person, or perhaps the community organization.  We have seen duck food spread around the trees where they like to roost during the hot parts of the day.  Perhaps because of this boon, the flock has increased in size.  It usually has 30-35 members present when we show up to sit a while and take a census, marveling at the new babies.  However, today there was a surprising high of 53 ducks total at the pond.  20150815_084322I am curious if communities feel like having a duck pond is a positive feature for their neighborhood, and if they try to encourage ducks to come and stay, or if they wish the ducks would just go away already.  I wonder why the ducks picked this pond to live at, and not the two or three others further up which only have a handful of ducks.  The furthest north of the ponds, up where Gaston hits Fry Road, is bigger than this pond and even has a couple of duck decoys in the pond, presumably to draw ducks to it, but no live ducks ever stay.  Do the decoys scare them off?  Is there something unique about the water or availability of food here at this pond, or do the ducks stay simply because there is food that appears sometimes here, and if the food moved to the other ponds, would the ducks move, too?

At any rate, it is intriguing and somewhat relaxing to stop by the pond and see what is new today, what has changed, sometimes to feed the ducks or just sit a spell and listen to the water fountain.


Mike Driscoll Park

20150526_163435“Every time…”.
That’s what my husband says when we make the turn from Beltway 8 northbound to head west on the Westpark Tollway.

This is in response to what has been reduced to a simple gesture from me, or the beginning of a statement, something like “Someday, I want to…” or “Have I ever told you…”

This is a habit I developed in response to seeing Mike Driscoll Park there on our right. I’ve apparently been telling him I want to go there someday for years.  Finally I had a chance to go last week, when my plans for the day were canceled and I found myself with some time.  I loaded up the two youngest kids and we just went.

Basically, the park consists of a small playground and then a paved trail around a retention pond. This picture is after the recent rains (Memorial weekend historic flooding).  Usually, there is little to no water in this pond area.

The paved trail is a little over a mile long, and it has one big dip in it at the far end that was still able to be traversed by stroller. Some flowers were blooming at the waters edge, we saw a handful of bird species, and the trail had more shade than I 20150526_163538originally thought. We also found a handful of geocaches along our walk, along with a few mosquitos and a couple “rolly pollys”.
I would go again, though next time wearing more bug spray and perhaps when it was a little less wet there.  My middle son got his shoes soaking wet in the playground and we were unable to get to some of the geocaches that were hidden here due to water and bugs.

Maybe now, though, I will quit driving my husband crazy whenever we pass it. I think I got the desire to explore it put of my system for a bit

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