Today, I bit off just a bit more than my family could chew. We took a daytrip to McKinney Roughs Nature Park, a 1,100-acre preserve operated by the Lower Colorado River Authority about 20 miles east of Austin. Our first time visiting the park, the plan was to take it fairly easy and do about a two- or three-hour hike with a picnic along the way if our daughter got restless.
Zadie is a 2-year-old trooper. She’s been on many hikes in her day, usually hanging in the pack on my back for several miles with no problems. Often she naps.
And today started normally. Z delighted in the abundance of butterflies, beetles, rocks, and wildflower meadows overflowing with Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrush. We worked our way through rolling trails, a few easy switchbacks, box canyons, gullies, and streams throughout the four ecological zones—Post Oak Savannah, Blackland Prairie, East Texas Piney Woods, and the floodplain of the Colorado River.
But faced with returning on the Pine Ridge trail or continuing for a little longer, I made the wrong choice. In no time, Z was done. My wife and I tried all the stall tactics we knew—water, snacks, songs. But there’s only so many times you can tell a toddler, “The baby birdies went night night. Shh…”
Just when a meltdown seemed inevitable, we came upon this serendipitous prickly pear pad. I don’t advocate defacing nature, but I am grateful to whoever left behind this piece of unlikely art. It was the right distraction at the right time.