On the Woodland Trail
Photography and writing by Lauren Nagel, Family Garden Attendant
AT JUST 1/4 OF A MILE, the Woodland Trail is one of the shortest trails at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. However, it is perfect for a pleasant walk, offering both variety and beauty, a sense of awe and a sense of peace. At one end, you can spot a statue of a bobcat, head turned as if to check out a noise that might be prey. Look up and see the branches of the trees on either side of the path twisting and tangling together to form a canopy that filters the light and cools off the trail. Be careful though, one thick limb crosses the path much lower than the others. Anyone taller than 5’4” will need to duck. Due to the rain this spring, a soft covering of moss has appeared on the limb, giving the bark a new shade of green.
Look down for more variations on the color green in the underbrush. New plants and old circle the tree trunks and fill in the spaces between. One tree’s roots have grown upwards in a semi-circle, leaving the perfect place for a small mammal to burrow a hole. I’m not sure if it is currently lived-in, but it looks very cozy. Also by looking down, you might catch a glimpse of the occasional animal track or scat. Humans aren’t the only ones who love this trail.
Now listen. Do you hear the birds? Is that a rustling of something moving along the dry leaves? If a breeze is blowing, you can hear music from the wind chimes placed high in the trees. If there was a heavy rain or storm the night before, you may hear the water flowing in the ephemeral creek, which can be seen to the left. Most of the time, the creek is dry and is indiscernible from the rest of the terrain. When I’m on this end of the trail, I feel content and at peace. All is right with the world.
As you walk, you will notice the trees are getting farther apart and farther from the trail, letting in more sun and warmth. Now wildflowers, grasses and cacti begin appearing beside the path. Keep an eye out for butterflies, dragonflies and bees pollinating these flowers. Just past the statues of a pair of watchful foxes and almost directly across from the armadillo statue, the trees completely recede, exposing a meadow. And what a springtime meadow it is! Scores of red and yellow flowers — Indian blankets and black-eyed Susans — cover the ground with a blaze of color. At one point, the black-eyed Susans have covered the ground up to and around a cluster of cacti, much like a stream breaks away and surrounds a large rock. This part of the trail gives me a sense of awe and joy at the beauty around me.
As the trail ends, a proud stag sees you off and greets those who enter from this end. All the statues along the Woodland Trail, as well as the ones in the Family Garden, represent creatures that are native to Texas. If you continue walking, you will reach Dino Creek where more statues and new adventures await.
Learn more about the Keli Howell Wagner Woodland Trail.