(This article in Holston’s much loved series, LAW MAN WALKING: Nature Treks With Bill Holston, appeared in D Magazine on April 17th, 2020.)
I’m now in the practice of doing a hike every morning before work. To say that this is a stressful time to work for a nonprofit doing immigration legal services is an understatement. The work was already difficult and stressful before the pandemic. The entire power of one of the most powerful governments on earth is aligned against our vulnerable clients. Now, in addition to that, we are trying to figure out how to pick up the mail, respond to requests for evidence from the government, all while our staff works remotely. I’m suiting up with mask and gloves and going to the post office twice a week and then heading to my office, scanning documents to the attorneys so they can do the proper responses. I also do the financial reports necessary to keep us going. The best way to prepare for all that, I find, is an early morning hike.
Wednesday was one of those perfect hiking days. It was in the low 40s and clear. I decided to head down to the Trinity Forest and try to hike over to where White Rock Creek empties into the Trinity. I made coffee, loaded my backpack, and drove out 175 to Lake June Road. The easiest way to do this hike is to head to where Elam Road dead ends into the forest and park at the trailhead. There is a small parking area and a part of the AT&T paved trail that connects to the Trinity River Audubon Center. I parked my car, put on my day pack, and started walking. The trail parallels a huge ditch created by the city of Dallas when it excavated dirt to build the Trinity Forest Golf Course. It was a huge eyesore. But now it’s filled with water, and it was actually pretty, because of mist on top of the water. The area was filled with blooming Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrush.
During this time of social distancing, I’ve been trying something different. I started doing a Facebook live video as I hike so that people who are unable to get out can see some nature. It has been fun to see who joins in. I see lawyers, activist friends, fellow Master Naturalists, and old friends watching and making comments.
Where the paved trail takes a bend to the left, I kept walking straight right toward the Trinity River. There is a clear dirt trail that goes straight to the river. It crosses Parson’s Slough, which has been dammed by beavers. The creek is running really nicely now. I walked up to the banks of the Trinity and watched mist rising off the warmer river waters. I then turned right to head to where I know there is a trail. There’s really no trail at the beginning, but it’s easy to find your way as you simply walk parallel to the river.
This area is prone to flooding, and I have seen it very muddy. But the walking was easy this morning. After a few hundred yards, you arrive at a lovely pond. Ben Sandifer and I call it the Beaver Pond, because beavers are very active here. Someone has placed a bench there with a dedication to a fallen soldier, Daniel Holland. That was a very thoughtful thing to do, and I always enjoy sitting here and thinking about this fallen warrior. This is where the trail becomes much clearer.
I made my way through the forest of Cedar Elm, Hackberry, Soapberry, and Bois D’arc, and walked in knee-high Virginia Wild Rye. The trail showed signs of the feral hogs that are common down there. After about a half mile, there is a small side trail that branches off to the left. I followed that and arrived at the spot where White Rock Creek enters the Trinity River. I stood there a bit and then decided to walk back to the pond and sit at the bench. It’s a tranquil spot. It didn’t take long to walk back, and I sat at the bench, drank my coffee, read a Psalm, and wrote in my journal. The pond was beautiful. It was mesmerizing to watch the streams of mist rising from the waters into the cool morning air. A single Cormorant swam in the pond. I then started walking back to the car.
Later in the day, I went over to a church, Life in Deep Ellum. They are one of our community partners. They had done a food and toiletry drive for us, and I needed to fill up the car with all of their generosity so our clients would be able to survive.
There are so many negative consequences of this moment. But there are some positives. I’ll tell you one: this is the time to see people’s true character. It is awesome to see all of the churches and other groups who are using their resources to give back. It is so encouraging to see LIDE doing good work. This is a small church, and they are showing who they are by this generosity. Another example is Wilshire Baptist, whose pastor, George Mason, is one of our great local leaders. They just sent us funds to support our work. I think we are all watching right now to see who we can count on. And I’m thankful to see how many people you really can count on when the going is rough. One thing I know we can count on is some of our local philanthropic Leaders. Communities Foundation of Texas has put together an emergency North Texas Giving Day. Please consider, if you are able, supporting HRI or one of the other great nonprofits of our area on May 5. That happens to be my beautiful bride Jill’s birthday, so give and celebrate her fun life.
We will be on the other side of this someday. Some things will be very different. Let’s work hard at preserving the things that we love about our city. Stay home, flatten the curve, and order takeout from that restaurant you’ve always loved. And later, I’ll see you on the trail– 6 feet away.