Escape To The Mountains

img_5213_editedLast weekend, I took my first hike of 2019. On a whim, I decided to take advantage of a moderately warm day and drive out for a day trip with my dog, Flynn. I needed some time in nature, some quiet and solitude, some space with my own thoughts. I needed to move my body in a challenging way and see what emotions came up. I needed a break from the normal places I go and see.

Davis Mountains State Park is one of my favorite places to get outside in West Texas. It’s close enough to make it a day trip, the staff is always amazingly friendly, and the trails are great for beginner to intermediate hiking level.

For this particular day, I decided to take on the challenge of hiking to highest point of the park. In total, it was about 8.6 miles, including a decent elevation gain and some great views.

Sure, driving for a total of 6 hours to hike for 4 doesn’t make a lot of sense to everyone, img_5250_editedbut here’s what I know:

  • Getting on the trail centers me for the week ahead.
  • Being in nature decreases stress, keeps me grounded, and reminds me of the good things about living in such a remote area of the country.
  • Hiking keeps me healthy, and it motivates me to stay healthy during the week so I can hike again next weekend.
  • Flynn loves being on trail, and a tired dog is a happy dog. He spends so much of his life waiting for me to come home from work… we should do more things that are fun for both of us.
  • Supporting our public lands through our dollars and footsteps ensures they will still be here 10 or 20 or 50 or 500 years from now.

So I’ll keep hitting the trail every chance I get for as long as my body allows me.


Camping With Kelley

img_69481With my head tilted uncomfortably against the back of the camp chair, and I stare at the sky above our little clearing in the woods. Even though there are no clouds to obscure the view, the stars don’t pop like I thought they might – we’re too close to San Antonio, and the moon is too bright. The combination leaves the campsite comfortably dark, but not oppressively so.

Until I’m in nature, I forget how bright the night is. In the city, night means darkness, shadowy corners, a hyper awareness to every sound.

Among the low trees of this Texas forest, cicadas, tree frogs and crickets chorus loudly around the campsite.

It’s been awhile since I’ve slept outside, although I’ve started opening the balcony door to my bedroom to avoid running the air conditioning. I’m afraid I won’t sleep well, that the shockingly loud noises of the woods will distract me, but sitting there soothes me, makes my soul quiet.img_69611

The wood we get to make a fire and cook dinner is wet, but I learn that perseverance is key. And dryer lint. And lighter fluid. This is not an exercise in suffering.

Thankfully, we brought chips to snack on and music to listen to. As we work on the fire and prepare the vegetables for roasting, conversation swings far and wide – the past, present, future. In between conversation that flows only the way two old friends who don’t see each other nearly enough, I learn about camping. How does this work? What do you do about this? What’s your favorite kind of that?

Night creeps over the camp, but it’s hard to tell for awhile because those city lights maintain a perpetual twilight to the south.

Finally, we eat something so delicious, mostly because we waiting so patiently for it to sizzle in it’s tin foil in the hard-earned embers. Marshmallows come after, with squares of delicious chocolate.

After midnight, exhausted, we crawl into our sleeping bags, still in the middle of all those sounds, but it’s quiet in the late hour. Warm and cozy, my mind is quiet for the first time in what feels like months, just soaking in the cool air on my nose, the warmth in the bed, the subtle sounds outside the tent.

img_69511Sleep, better than I usually sleep, comes easily, probably because we stayed up so late, partly because I feel surprisingly safe. And partly because my cat isn’t purring in my ear for a 3 a.m. scratch behind the ears.

It’s bright when I wake up, but filtered through the tent, I feel cozy and snug, like it would be okay to laze around in bed like I do at home on a Saturday morning.

Quick trip to the semi-modern bathroom, then light up the stove for eggs. It was warm in the tent, but the cool morning air sends a chill through me, and I’m thankful for the heat. We’re quiet in the morning as we wake up, a routine we got used to back in college as roommates. Oh, how I miss the easy flow of that time.

We undo everything we worked so hard to construct the night before – sweep the tent, pull stakes, fold, fold, fold, roll. Then, almost suddenly, everything is packed away in neat packages how we brought it all in. Haul it all back to the car, everything neatly in the trunk, day packs out and water bottles filled.

Ready for the next adventure – an 8 mile hike on rocky ground to see dinosaur footprints. It’s warmer by the time we start hiking, and I’m glad I shed my sweatshirt. Through the trees, the conversations continue – hiking, flowers, birds, trees, places we dream of, places we loved visiting, philosophy on travel and relationships and jobs and careers and the intense pressure from all sides to not miss out on a single moment of this glorious and precious life.img_69741

At the top of a ridge, we look down and see the footprints from so long ago. Across the way, clouds hover above the next treeline. We are on top of the world, but also nestled into this little pocket.

And there it is – this moment is incredibly unique, and we are one of a kind. Yet, we also are so insignificant. This moment is everything and nothing. And that’s the beauty of nature.

Sand, Sand Everywhere

IMG_6732I used to take day trips all the time, but Midland, Texas, doesn’t have a lot of options for short excursions. It’s in the middle of everything… which is West Texas means it’s far from everything.

However, Monahans Sandhills State Park is a gem of picturesque dunes in the midst of flat, mesquite-dotted desert.

Although renting sleds to slide down the dunes is a lot of fun, on this particular trip, Flynn the Dragon and I just went and wandered and played. Dogs are welcome, as long as they stay on leash, and the park rangers will scold you for disobeying. However, I’ll confess I let Flynn romp around a little to get out some good energy.

The magic of the sandhills is that they are such a surprise. You pull in by the sign, pause at the visitor’s center, wondering if it’s all it’s cracked up to be. From the road, it looks like the rest of this part of Texas. As you follow the drive winding back away from I-20, you start to see glimpses, but the skepticism persists.IMG_6725

Then, you pull into the picnic parking area, are you start to see the prize: crisp, smooth hills, one after another after another, off into the distance, an occasional brush or tree interrupting the pristine landscape, but mostly just something straight out of a movie.

When you look closer, you start to see small tracks by bugs, snakes and birds. You see deeper impressions from people who walked there even just minutes ago, but mostly, it’s just marked by the wind making tiny, intimate wrinkles.

Go visit. Enjoy. Take water. Take a camera that doesn’t matter if it gets a little sandy.


Want more photos? Visit me on Instagram @mbrincks989

Fort Worth Nature Center

Since moving to Fort Worth, I haven’t had a chance to do any real hiking, and I’ve missed it. So last weekend I got my butt out to the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge for some pretty great trails and views. Here a few photos from the day:



September Hike At Sky Meadows

On Saturday I took a great hike through Sky Meadows. I started up the South Ridge trail, hooked up with the North Ridge, then hopped on the Old Trail, looped back on the Appalachian Trail and ended on the North Ridge back to the parking area. It was a great combination between woods and open meadows with a lot of hills. It was so nice to get outside and enjoy the beautiful fall weather and get a great workout at the same time.

If you can believe it, I even enjoyed looking at the beautiful spider webs in the early morning mist. Yes, that’s right. If you can believe it, I’m doing my best to work on my arachnophobia. I tried to get some photos, but I didn’t get the hang of capturing them in the mist. Still, they were great to look at… and carefully avoid. 🙂