A Walk on a Winter’s Day

A walk on the wild side through the prickly pear cactus. (Courtesy of Paula Richards)
A walk on the wild side through the prickly pear cactus.
(Courtesy of Paula Richards)

Walking along a trail in the winter you see a whole different side of the woods and grasslands.  The UHLNC naturalists recently hosted two groups eager to get a taste of the outdoors in January.  The Hill Country Trekkers took on the 4+ miles of League Loop.  (Trekkers are not to be confused with Trekkies.  There were no “live long and prosper” hand signals, only eager pointing when someone spotted something interesting.)   A group of 80 students from Emery Weiner School in Houston were hosted by Outpost Wilderness Adventures.   The students hiked, biked, climbed rocks, and learned about animal camouflage, habitats, and even a taste of the unique geology that is the hill country.

With few leaves left on the trees and bushes, it is often easier for hikers to spot interesting things on a winter hike.

Curious deer checking out the hikers. (Courtesy of Phil Wyde)
Curious deer checking out curious , but quiet hikers.
(Courtesy of Phil Wyde)
winter view of bird nest
Bird’s nest revealed in the notch of a tree.
(Courtesy of Paula Richards)

Shaded walks are spotlighted by the sun shining through the bare branches highlighting things we might have missed.

Master naturalist Jerry Stacy gives hints on determining which animal made which tracks. (Courtesy of Paula Richards)
Master naturalist Jerry Stacy gives hints on identifying animal tracks.
(Courtesy of Paula Richards)
Signs of raccoons among signs of human bikers.
(Courtesy of Paula Richards)

Nature provides food for birds even in winter.

Possumhaw holly provides a winter feast for birds. (Courtesy of Paula Richards)
Possumhaw holly provides a winter feast for birds.
(Courtesy of Paula Richards)

The seeds of the many native grasses provide winter forage for many creatures.

Sideoats grama, a favorite of harvester ants who are a favorite of the horned toad lizard. (Courtesy of Paula Richards)
Sideoats grama, a favorite of harvester ants who are a favorite of the horned toad lizard, our Texas state reptile..
(Courtesy of Paula Richards)

Looking carefully under trees and near rocks,  interesting treasures are revealed.

Ferns find a home in the shade. (Courtesy of Paula Richards)
Ferns find a home in the shade near lichen encrusted rock..
(Courtesy of Paula Richards)
Yarrow, a sweet-smelling medicinal herb that has delicate white flowers. (Courtesy of Paula Richards)
Yarrow, a sweet-smelling medicinal herb that will have delicate white flowers in the late spring.
(Courtesy of Paula Richards)
The leaves of the Pennsylvania Pellitory herb taste like cucumber. (Courtesy of Paula Richards)
The leaves of the Pennsylvania Pellitory herb taste like cucumber.
(Courtesy of Paula Richards)
Cliff-brake fern nestled next to a dead branch.
(Courtesy of Paula Richards)

And along the trails, signs that the fall rains will bring a lovely, colorful spring.

A promise of spring wildflowers in the bluebonnet rosettes. (Courtesy of Paula Richards)
A promise of spring wildflowers in the bluebonnet rosettes.
(Courtesy of Paula Richards)

Just a few of the happy hikers who took to the trails on a winter’s day and had a great time.

Students from Emery Weiner School in Houston enjoying a winter hike. (Courtesy of Billy Hutson)
Students from Emery Weiner School in Houston enjoying a winter hike.
(Courtesy of Billy Hutson)

 

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