Friday morning we decided to go on a hike. I couldn’t really decide if we should got to Bull Creek or Barton Creek. I knew that both of them were roughly near Hwy 360 south of 183 here in Austin. I figured we’d drive, see a sign, and voila! we’d have our hike. I’d remembered seeing a pullout or two that I thought were trailheads. So kids in the car, Wesley talking his head, Jillian screaming hers off, we drove and drove and drove. A lot farther than I thought and much farther than Amber was expecting. It got a little tense in the car, as it can when one or more of the kids is screaming. I just knew I had seen an area for access to Bull Creek along the road during one of my many trips to or from Jeff and Chris’.

Eventually we realized we had gone too far and did a U-turn. A fortunate thing about Texas highways and freeways is that they have many (I mean all over the place) U-turn locations. These are paved and often well marked, designed just for that purpose. A ways back we had seen a sign for the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve. So we drove back, parked, and started to get ready. Other folks pulled in well after us, hopped out and were probably well down the trail before we even left the car. We had to feed Jillian, change diapers, get kids in packs, put on hats, make sure we had water and more. I’d say it took us 15 minutes or so just to get away from the car.

Now, I had no idea what to expect. When we first pulled in we weren’t even sure that there were trails we could hike on. Wesley and I did a bit of reconnaissance and found the trailhead board. The fact that they were asking $3 for adults and 2$ per child for use of the trails seemed like a bad omen to me. It is just so backwards down here sometimes. In Washington I’d have expected (depending on the managing group) to pay for parking at the trailhead. Maybe $5 per car. But I’d never expect to pay to actually hike on the trail. I guess the thinking in Washington is that you want to encourage hiking and discourage as many vehicles as possible. What is the thinking in Texas? Beats me.


We grabbed a flyer from the edge of the donation box and started down the trail. To my surprise the trail was marked with perhaps 40 markers. Each with a describing paragraph explaining the plant or geographic feature in front of you. It was quite nice especially since I am so unfamiliar with virtually all of the plants and animals in this part of the country. We hike down to the waterfall first. It isn’t big, it doesn’t have that much volume, but it was rather pretty in a quite sort of way. We hiked down a detour (causing us to miss some of the markers) on the Madrone Trail. It added a couple of miles to the otherwise very short loop. The terrain on this part of the trail kind of reminded me of hike Amber and I took a few years ago from Diablo into Ross lake. Just the general density of brush and trees was similar. There was some elevation gain here and we crossed a couple of very small creeks along the way. The wildflowers were quite gorgeous and I’ve never seen any of them before. It gave me hope that we can create a garden in our yard that will be both beautiful and require little or no watering.


The 227 acres of the park are wedged between two large housing developments and the highway. The land covers part of what would probably be called a valley if it were larger. The land has been protected since 1974. Unfortunately you can almost always (or at least quite frequently) see the large houses at the edge of the park. I assume that the preserve itself has encouraged the development right at their borders. Who wouldn’t want that as their backyard? The houses and highway did detract at times from the overall feeling of the place. You certainly never get the “all alone” feeling you can get in the North Cascades. Still, I was able to get lost in the moment even if only for short periods.


About the time we were heading back to the main loop Wesley got tired of being in the backpack. We let him out and he had a ball. He ran, he tripped, he scraped himself. But mostly we would tell him “Okay, now we need to find the letter ‘P’” and he would take off looking for the next marker. When he found it he would, without fail, get very excited and then lean his belly on it saying “sit”. I would read the description in the map, we would take a few pictures of whatever it was and then head to the next one. All in all Wesley hiked at least a mile this way, often uphill, with very little complaining and hardly any coaxing needed to keep him moving. He was quite the trooper. It was fun watching him rush over to whichever marker was next on our list. His enthusiasm is contagious.


Jillian slept most of the way, waking only long enough to eat a quick meal in the Baby Bjorn (she’s still too little for the Ergo) near the letter V. Amber carried her the entire way and I’m sure she was cooking from the bodyheat. Jillian was covered up by long sleeves and her sunhat, but the rest of us were taking quite a beating by the sun which by this time had really come into its own. Near the end of the 2 1/2 hour long hike we were all getting pretty tired. We still had a number of natural stone steps to climb to get back to the car. We stopped at the overlook to take this picture. There were a number of bronze informational plaques that Wesley called “TVs”. Then a few more feet and we were at the gift shop/information center. Not much here except some water ($1.00/bottle) and a few books that look like they have been there for a long time.


All and all I think we’ll be back. We missed some of the letters and a bunch of numbers on the tour due to our hike down the Madrone trail. It seems from reading the sheet that springtime is really peak for flowers so we’ll certainly be back then. It was nice that no dogs or bikes were allowed. We never worried about letting Wesley walk down the trail. I’ve heard that at some of the parks you’ve got to be extremely careful that you and/or your kids don’t get mowed down by speeding bikes. I’d thought about membership to the organization as one of our monthly donations, but their website offers no information at all. They say to call. What info do they need to tell me about membership that can only be given over the phone?



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