The Kirby Nature Trail’s outer loop in Hardin County was the site of the National Park Service’s Big Thicket First Sunday Hike for February 2020, and Longleaf Ridge members enjoyed the interpretive hike led by Ranger Alex Halbrook. The loop treks through three different ecosystems starting with gentle slopes graced by American Beech and Southern Magnolia, descending into a Baygall thicket populated with Swamp Titi, Water Tupelo and Bald Cypress, and finally emerging on the banks of Village Creek.
Ranger Alex kept the hike interesting and entertaining, having us stop to listen for frogs, speculating about how a wasp nest found its way to the forest floor, explaining the history and medicinal value of the Toothache tree, also known as Hercules Club, and sharing many small wonders that brought out the naturalist in us all and encouraged everyone to appreciate the “treasures and pleasures” of the Big Thicket that’s right in their own back yard.
We spent time on a metal bridge over Village Creek while Alex used the Harvey flood event to explain how, even though the water was 45 foot above normal – about 20 foot over our heads as we stood on the bridge – the forest recovered easily compared to places covered with concrete that leave nowhere for waters to go except city storm sewers.
Alex has been an intern at the Big Thicket for a couple of years leading hikes, teaching canoeing, and giving snake talks. He has now accepted a position with Mammoth Caves National Park in Kentucky, so he’ll only be with us a couple of more weeks. Think we can get a field trip together for Kentucky?