Wait! Wait! What was that? It is quiet, but I see something move in the stillness...and there it is...right next to the path: a cottontail. He is quite still now, hoping he was undetected. I click the camera shutter and off he goes, skittering hippity-hop down the path of Friedrich Wilderness Park.
What fun to explore one of San Antonio's best hiking trails. From easy, paved routes to difficult rugged terrains, there are some options you'll want to get a handle on before setting out in this north-side getaway.
Over the ridge of the Main Loop trail, the sounds of I-10 traffic fade away, replaced by the songs of singing cicadas' tymbals as you take the climb up about 200 feet along the Fern Del Trail.
But that, too, dies away suddenly upon the Vista Loop segment and only the sound of chirping birds break the still. Well, yes, you can pick up the distant sound of construction, but is so diminished it is hardly noticeable. Just think: Is that an endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler or Black-capped Vireo? And then. the distinctive: pat-pat-pat. It's a trail runner.
Meeting up along the way
Meet Marisa Garcia. How she sprints across rocks, small pebbles, tree-branches and obstacles in her minimalist "barefoot" running shoe is a puzzlement, but Garcia says she did her homework first. She sites a Harvard study that explained how barefoot running is done more flat-footed, instead of heel-toe. But, be warned: Marisa said her first attempts in this type of shoe triggered all her pressure points, resulting in lots of aches and pains. She's been at it 3 years now and has it down.
You'll probably meet other nature-lovers along the way, like the Central Catholic Ecology students who were seeking out animal tracks near a watering hole, or the couple, baby in tow, who took the most strenuous path, stopping to inspect a spider's web.
Watch your step!
To make your adventure even more rewarding, the Parks and Rec. people have printed up brochures available on a stand near the entrance. Inside you'll find a list of 84 identifiable plant markers to match up.
Observing the woodlands can take a lot of focus, but do watch out for trailing vines along the path. They can reach out and trip you up, not unlike the creeping maze found at the Triwizard Tournament in "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire". (Well, in the movie version, anyway.) But, the twisting, clinging, serpentine roots are part of the charm of the place, and really quite endearing.
The really great news is that Friedrich is growing. In fact, Friedrich is more than doubling in size. The adjacent Woodland Hills property purchased in 2004 is about to grow the park from it's current 280 acres to 606 acres of natural wildscape.
Sandy Jenkins with the Parks and Recreation Department says the funding came from a sales tax initiative to take property over the Edward's Aquifer that was going to be developed and make it parkland.
"Woodland Hills is just a beautiful, beautiful natural property. It was going to be a golf course with a residential subdivision through the golf course" Jenkins said.
Texas Parks and Wildlife and Friends of Friedrich will develop the new area. This fall they hope to begin building out the trails, and hopefully that should be completed and opened the summer of 2013. (From March through June they put the work on hiatus for the breeding season.)
In the time being, other construction is going on at Friedrich Wilderness Park. A new trail entry pavilion, incorporating native landscaping, that will accentuate the entrance is expected to be completed in October.
Want to get involved, volunteer or find out about the Saturday children's camps, nature tours and family programs (think bat talks, insect walks, wetland detectives and bird-watching) at Friedrich, Eisenhower, Mitchell Lake and other natural areas, go to SANaturalAreas.org.
You'll find there is always something new to discover right in our own neck of the woods.