McKinney Falls State Park, Lower Falls

McKinney Falls State Park, Lower FAlls
The following is the first in a series of photo essays: “Spring Arrives in Central Texas.”

Here in Texas, spring is not a time of thawing and waiting for the world to warm as it is in the north. There, it’s a time of year when the cold sleepy earth is rolling around in its warm comforter, thinking about throwing off the covers and jumping out of bed. Here, downy blankets are nice but unnecessary. The earth isn’t chilly; it’s thirsty.

This year, the water started in January. Humidity snuck into the Austin valley in banks of fog and mist rolling over the hills. There were now mornings when I awoke to the gentle ssssshhh of light rain; I would blink away dense metallic skies with my sleep-bleary eyes instead of squinting through the impossibly clear infinite blueness that expands over the horizon of a Texas summer. There was more rain in the first two months of this year than there was in the entirety of 2011, and it showed. The fog and mist didn’t last long—the water quickly multiplied. It became hailstorms banging down gum-ball-sized chunks of ice. And freezing torrents of rain. And soupy warm clouds. And fizzy drizzles. I saw water in every possible permutation this spring, and I had no idea which one was coming next. It makes it a little difficult to choose what clothes to wear in the morning, but things stay interesting.

Cooling down from a run in early March I took an alternate path back to my apartment to check on Barton Creek. The “swimming holes” I dustily scuffled through in October were now full, so I followed the path around the bends to see if the rest of the stream looked much different. The kayakers I’d passed a half-mile before barely registered to me as odd, mostly because I was huffing and puffing too much to process their presence. As I rounded the corner I nearly ran into a couple walking in the opposite direction and stumbled on a rock, fumbling out a quick “I’m sorry!” But they couldn’t hear me over the roar of the rapids. My jaw dropped as I peered through the trees at the source of the sound. The empty creek bed burst with life—with energy and danger and swiftness and excitement.

Every drop that had accumulated since February had trickled into the water table, saturated the ground, squeezed down the hillsides and absolutely filled the river. Spring had arrived.

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