Announcements from the January 2022 Chapter Meeting

Highlights from the January 2022 Chapter Meeting

The Announcements

View the full set of January announcements by clicking here. As more activities open up, more volunteer opportunities are coming into the chapter calendar. Opportunities and contacts, websites, and other details are available in the announcements.

COVID-19 update: Chapter meetings are now offered in hybrid format. Masks and social distancing are required at the in-person meeting at Dallas College – Brookhaven. We’re tracking with CDC guidance and continue to encourage wearing masks indoors and social distancing. If you opt to participate online, please know that your extra caution is appreciated. Details here.

Highlights of the meeting

Kicking off this year outdoors, the chapter celebrated New Year’s Day at John Wilt’s farm with First Day Hikes. Thanks to John for opening up your lovely place for our benefit – a very educational and enjoyable day.

This month’s camera roll showcased First Day Hikes along with more of your amazing nature photos. Please keep them coming.

Hiking North Texas: Where to Go, What to Know

Thanks to our chapter’s talented panel for an engaging session on hiking in the Dallas area. Native plant sage Dana Wilson, forager/adventurer Bob Richie, constant hiker/frequent author Bill Holston, outdoorsman/paddling expert Rich Grayson, and I, general outdoors guy, were moderated by author Amy Martin through a discussion of trail preparedness and places to experience.

What to Know – To address basics of getting outside panelists talked about their practices, from attire to mindset.

What to Bring Hiking – No doubt Dana Wilson said it best: “I don’t carry anything with me.” The hiking threshold is really that low. It’s a wonderfully inclusive activity because you can simply head outside.

Panelists shared a wide range of opinions on what they like to bring along. What you wear can make the experience more enjoyable: comfortable shoes always help; long pants/long sleeves add protection if you’re going where the itchy-scratchy things are. A cap or hat makes it much easier to be out in the sun and weather.

Moving from gentler paved trails to more challenging or remote ones, priorities shift in what can be helpful and can keep you safe. “What’s in your pack?” brought out the priorities from panelists and audience, via chat and post-meeting:

– Plenty of water: staying well hydrated is essential but not always easy, especially in Dallas heat; adding electrolytes to water can help you keep going

– Food: energy bars, salty snacks replenish flagging energy

– Sun/weather protection: an extra layer against the cold or rain, sunscreen

– Navigation: a cell phone with GPS, Google maps or the Gaia or Strava app; a compass and extra battery can help

– 1st Aid: e.g. bandages, antibiotic ointment, tweezers, hand sanitizer to deal with minor emergencies; again, a cell phone can be a lifeline

– Flashlight: if there’s a chance your walk could have you still out at dark

– Tools: binoculars, loupe, pocket knife, paracord – depending on your activity, and route

– For poison ivy/oak: IvyX protection; Tecnu or detergent to wash the oil away

– Insect repellent: naturals like lemon eucalyptus based for mosquitos, dusting sulfur for chiggers; picaridin or DEET based sprays

– Apps: iNaturalist and eBird help identify what we see and make contributions to citizen science

– Miscellany: emergency whistle (locating), bandana/cloth (many uses), gloves

Necessary moments – most hikes in the metro area are shorter, under 3 hours, and have no facilities, so plan accordingly for comfort stops before or after; for longer rambles, take supplies; the best practice is Leave No Trace.

“What do you keep in your car?” also brought out useful advice.

– Warm, dry sweatshirt/clothes in case of rain or otherwise getting wet

– Dry shoes/socks, especially after paddling or walking in deep mud

– Towel to dry off, wipe down pets and gear

– Bottles of soapy water and rinse water for handwashing, cleaning away poison ivy

Safety and courtesy notes – While some safety insights were shared, planning is important, all the more for longer and more remote walks. Plans include knowing your limits in relation to a particular trail, letting someone know where you’ll be, and having thought through what to do in an emergency. Basic share-the-trail courtesy includes packing out all your trash – “take only pictures and leave only footprints.” Bringing dogs along is great fun; for other hikers’ sake, remember to maintain a short leash and put pet waste in the trash.

Perhaps the most important thing to bring is a hiking mindset. Panelists shared perspective on what helps them benefit from being outside. Silence lets the senses to switch on and eases tuning in to what’s around you: the sounds of water, wind in the leaves, birdsong; fragrances; the range of what is in view, from the big picture to the tiny details; the subtle changes that come through the seasons. As much as a phone can be a lifeline and a camera, separating from texts, tweets, and such improves focus and receptivity. Getting into a flow with few distractions helps nature do her work.

Where to Go – Amy started us out with a review of the DFW area: our ecoregions, the underlying geology, and the Trinity River watershed. Each panelist took us through favorite places. Woven through the discussion was what to watch for as they come around in the year: the progression of constellations, the progression of favorite plants to see – trout lilies, coralroot orchids, swamp privet, buttonbush, gum bumelia, eastern wahoo, changing foliage – and to eat – various greens, greenbriar tips, dewberries, mulberries.

Dana and Bill focused on the Spring Creek Forest Preserve. It offers very accessible concrete trails – making it easy to introduce people to the preserve and help overcome imaginations about woodland dangers – as well as natural surface paths that take you through

– prairie areas with “the best wildflower displays in Dallas County”

– deep into the old growth forest showcasing big chinquapin/bur/red oaks, walnuts, pecans and a rich understory with rusty blackhaw viburnum, Eve’s necklace, wahoo, virginia wild rye and much more. The great biodiversity makes this a natural teaching area because so many species are close together.

Bill also touched on his frequent hikes along the AT&T trail as a fine birding area, with dickcissels and painted and indigo buntings in their seasons.

Post Oak Preserve – That a short drive gets to such a different, quiet place makes this a favorite for me. Deep sandy soils support this mix of savannah and forest. Along with post and blackjack oaks, there’s plenty of eastern red cedar, bur oak, and hickory. Grasslands feature good stands of Indian grass and little bluestem. Another fine location for trout lilies, the rolling, more open forest showcases quite a large colony. There is an easy asphalt trail to the pond, connecting to a dirt path then dirt road through more open areas. A natural surface trail that leads to trout lilies and coralroot orchids.

Bob led us through the Scyene Overlook/Beeman/Piedmont Ridge areas. This natural surface trail ascends the White Rock Escarpment by Scyene Rd. for a view that feels like the hill country; it tracks through cedar brakes and meadows. Going south on Piedmont Ridge leads to small prairie areas with New Jersey tea, coneflowers, liatris, to name just a few. Coming in from Devon Anderson Park takes you to the Comanche Storytelling area, a limestone outcrop featuring a small but very old red oak.

Bob discussed how some 35 DORBA trails offer exceptional hiking after rains close them to cycling. He also brought out the joy of exploring what’s right at hand: the backyard creek, how the land near railroad tracks provides wildlife and native plant corridors.

Rich closed us out with places he prefers to paddle. Starting with the Trinity’s Elm Fork, he covered reaches below LLELA, above McKinnish Park (including Denton Creek), above and below California Crossing, Frasier Dam. Moving to the West Fork, he described the remote silence above River Legacy Park and a rock beach that provides a great break to take in the river.

White Rock Creek is easy to access and paddle a couple of miles up from the north end of the lake, much more if one is willing to work past occasional obstructions.

Rich also highlighted floats in the main stem starting at the Sylvan bridge, going on to Santa Fe Trestle, Loop 12, or the last takeout (please don’t miss this one) at McCommas Bluff. During floods, paddling near Big Spring gives a great chance to glide over areas one normally hikes and see alligator gar moving away from main channels to spawn.

Many other area hikes were also touched on, each offering its advantages and different terrain, ecology and accessibility:

Cedar Ridge Preserve, Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center, Gateway Park, Goat Island Preserve, Holland Trail, McCommas Bluff, Ned & Genie Fritz Texas Buckeye Trail, Trinity Forest Trail (AT&T), and Trinity River Audubon Center.

Going deeper: City of Dallas Nature Trails (unpaved) and Linear Trails (paved)

Dallas County Open Space Preserves

Wildering: Anyone’s Guide to Enjoying the American Wilderness, Mick Tune

The Ultimate Guide to Hiking Dallas, Bill Holston in D Magazine

Trinity Coalition Paddling Trail

Trinity River Expeditions Charles Allen, river expert mentioned by panel

Thanks to our guests and members for participating in this month’s meeting. I hope all feel welcome at NTMN.

Take care,
Scott Hudson
President
North Texas Master Naturalist

 

 

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