The Best Kept Secret - Urban Hiking Joy!

I read this spring that "hiking will be surpassing yoga in popularity as the newest health trend" and I think that is super news!  I see more people sharing hiking photos on social media and I see new resources for hiking: women hiking groups, local hiking websites, hiking apps.  It seems like the message of "getting out" and "nature is good for you" has been heard and it's wonderful to know that more people are appreciating the benefits of nature and choosing this activity for their weekend fitness outing.

What I'd love to see would be one small tweak to this - I'd love to see URBAN hiking becoming a trend!
hiking (ˈhaɪ.kɪŋ):  is an outdoor (sporting) activity which consists of long, vigorous walks in natural environments (on trails or footpaths), often in mountainous or other scenic terrain. (Link)
I cobbled this together from a couple of definitions.  Most used the word "countryside" to describe the environment.  One included "wooded areas".  Almost all indicated that it is a LONG walk or great distance, with two using strenuous or vigorous (Is this because some walks are uphill or because they are meant to be long and tiring?).  I wanted to include the word "sporting" due to the fact that hiking IS seen by many as a sport, whereas "walking" isn't - as one of the definitions confirms.

Wikipedia goes on to say that "walking is used for shorter, particularly urban walks" in Canada and the United States, whereas the term "walking" is acceptable to describe all forms (and distances) of walking in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland including our North American "hiking".

So if we take out "countryside" and consider that we can do a long vigorous walk in the city that can even offer us scenic terrain, urban hiking becomes an option.  And in many cities this can even be possible in natural environments if there are bike paths along rivers or lakes or in larger wooded areas.  Check out two examples of people who are doing some urban hiking on my Wild. Here. Walking Post from last month.

-- Beautiful scenery on an early morning urban hike.  --

So why is the Joy of Urban Hiking the best kept secret?  Here are 7 reasons:

You don't need all day to do it. No long drives, consulting confusing trail maps and looking for trailheads in unfamiliar areas.  Urban hiking can be done close to home and a two-hour hike can be done in two hours!

There are no busy parking lots. As countryside hiking becomes more popular and weekend warriors are looking for their next nature fix, you won't have to be fighting for the last parking spot for miles.

You won't encounter masses of people.  Yes hiking is a great way to get away from it all and to escape the busy-ness of the city, but isn't it frustrating to go seek solitude and then find big groups of people in the parking lots, at the picnic ares and all vying for that one shot of the scenic view?

Easily accessible peaceful spots - whenever you want, need or desire a visit.  Your favourite nature spots can be right here, close by in the city, rather than a two hour drive away that are only accessible on the weekend.  (Have you ever done a meditation where they ask you to imagine your favourite space in nature?  Well you don't have to imagine it - you can go visit it!)

-- Peaceful spot along the Ottawa River Parkway --

Your hike can be as strenuous or easy as you wish.  Urban hiking can offer paved, flat trails; stone dust paths along large rivers and even boardwalk "hikes" through marshes.  Some even offer benches where you can rest and enjoy the view.  What's not to like about that?  And for those who have mobility challenges, they can still enjoy longer walks at their speed and access to nature in the city thanks to paved paths, scenic spots and lots of benches.

Transit-accessible nature. If you don't have a car, hiking in the city is a great options and you get to contribute less greenhouse gas emissions (compared to the emissions to drive outside the city to go for a hike).

Train your mind to accept distractions. This is one of the biggest arguments people have about wanting to connect with nature outside the city.  They are seeking pristine nature far outside the city that can offer them that opportunity to escape, to get away from noise, to find peace & quiet.  I equate urban hiking to practicing yoga off the mat, or to what those at meditation retreats are reminded of: the real practice begins at home when you get back to the real world.  I find the more that I can enjoy nature wherever it is, the more peaceful daily life can be.

BONUS: The probability of your favourite coffee shop, juice bar or eatery being close by is higher!  Enjoy a super treat right after your hike - it's well deserved and we all enjoy a sweet, tasty reward every once in awhile right?

Read these Six Tips to Make Your Urban Nature Hiking Outing More Enjoyable (found at the bottom of the Wild. Here. April Walking post).

All photos by Viliam Glazduri (Instagram, Flickr, 500 px) Contributing Creative to Wild. Here.

-- You never know what you will find! --

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Horse Chestnut: The Overlooked Spring Bloom that should take Centre Stage!

Confession time: I didn't know what a Horse Chestnut was until I had one in my backyard.  The first house I purchased was a small urban lot and I moved in that summer.  There were a couple of shrubs in my front yard and one mid-sized tree that had unique leaves plus a large Maple in my backyard.  So it wasn't until next spring that I looked in my backyard and thought:

What is that amazing tropical bloom that has just appear in my yard?

It's incredible to see a floral bloom so colourful and large in a country that is well known for its snow.  Snow that covers our land for at least four months.  You would think that nothing that big and beautiful would be able to bloom in the short season we have up here.  But I've been surprised with some of our various native flowers over the years and here was a native tree that seemed to want to hold a LUAU!

While the only native species of this tree is VERY rare in Canada, it is not uncommon to see Horse Chestnuts (or Buckeyes) in various Canadian urban centres.  It's a great mid-sized tree that offers some eye-catching details, so how is this tree overlooked?  There are Lilac Collection tours to various arboretums and Cherry Blossom Festivals and everyone talks about Magnolia blooms but I just don't hear much talk about Horse Chestnuts here in Canada.  Why are there not more people raving about the beauty of Horse Chestnut blooms?  Why is there no Horse Chestnut festival here in the province?

Maybe it's because it has no heady scent?  Perhaps it's the misleading name or maybe it IS because they are rather rare and prefer milder zones.  Or it could be that if you don't catch their 1 - 2 week bloom, they don't stand out that much and they just become part of the green backdrop.  (Except perhaps when the Horse Chestnut's round nuts (also called conkers) drop!)  For whatever reason - this tree seems to continually be overlooked which I think needs to change!

Here are some great facts about this tree:
  • The only Horse Chestnut species (Aesculus) that is native to Canada is the Aesculus Glabra: the Ohio Buckeye which has only been documented to grow wild in Canada on Wapole Island.  That's rare!  (Ontario Trees)
  • Preferred habitats include moist to mesic deciduous woodlands, wooded valleys along rivers and rocky wooded slopes in sheltered areas.  At optimal sites larger Ohio Buckeye trees have been found exceeding 21.3 metres (70 feet). (Illinois Wildflowers)
  • This is a tree that prefers temperate climates and there are four types found in North America - including a shrub variety. (Encyclopedia)  
  • Their blooms can be 10 to 30 centimeters tall, with colours including whites, yellows (the colour of the Ohio Buckeye flowers), oranges, pinks and scarlet. (Kentucky Dept of Horticulture
  • The blooms are pollinated by Hummingbirds and long-tongues bees (such as Bumblebees, Mason Bees and Anthrophorine Bees) and the tree provides nutrients for various insects including Lace Bugs, Beetles and Aphids and squirrels which sometimes feed on the sweet pith of the twigs. (Illinois Wildflowers)

Have you noticed this tree while walking around town?  

What do you think - is it worthy of some extra notice?

For those in Ottawa there is a wonderful collection of Horse Chestnuts in the Dominion Arboretum!

You can see where there location is in this map: Nut Trees of the Dominion Arboretum (Ottawa).  (They are marked in yellow on the map.)  These trees bloom in late May so if you have a chance one evening this week or on the weekend, I recommend visiting them to enjoy their beauty!  I find them truly impressive and it is definitely worth a trip to see the various species at the Arboretum.

You May Also Like:

Crabapples: The Flowering Tree Everyone Loves to Hate (Not!)  (May 2017)

Spring Blooms in London (Ontario) - A Walk Along the Thames River (April 2017)

The World Within One Tree - Weekly Dose of Wild (September 2015)

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Let us Help YOU Connect to Nature in your City!

Urban walking path under shade trees Wild Here

It was our two year anniversary for this blog last month!  

I started writing the newest version of this blog in May 2016.  And with two years of posts, there is now quite the library of articles to help you connect with nature in your city.

Yes the nearby nature that is easy to access, every day, close to home.

Sometimes it's hard to remember that connecting to nature doesn't mean that you have to go on a long hike on the weekend outside your city.  There is tons of wild - here - right at your doorstep and it can provide you with the same type of wonderful nature (Vitamin N) benefits that getting out of the city can.

Yes it can!  The green right inside your city has Vitamin N also.

That's how the name for the business came to be:  I wanted to inspire more people to connect with the wild "here", as opposed to the wild that people seek "there" - away from the city, outside the urban environment.

Yes - there IS wild right here!  And we want you to connect to it!

Friendly Wildlife that you see in the city

So how does this Wild. Here. website help you connect to nature?

And for those in Ottawa or visiting the city, the Wild. Here. website also offers:

And last, but certainly not least: 

Thank you so much for being here and joining out urban nature loving community!  

We want to be creating resources and writing about topics that YOU are interested in, so let us know in this short two-minute survey online:

Gulls and Ducks seen on Urban Pathway along Refreshing River

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Take it Outside

I was so excited to see inspiration this week on Twitter of this post idea "Take it Outside" that has been brewing here for a bit.  Someone tweeted a photo of a group of people having dinner outside in a park.  So simple but so incredible.

I just love this easy concept: 

Take something that you normally do indoors and do it outdoors!

This is obviously easier to do in the warmer seasons, but there are still opportunities in the colder months, it takes a bit more inventiveness and fortitude.  But as it's spring here in the northern hemisphere (and feeling like summer in my corner of the world), I'll focus on outdoor warm weather activities right now.

Think about some of the things that you normally do inside such as eating, exercise, reading, listening to a podcast, playing video games (on phone or tablet), meditating, yoga or even watching TV and consider whether you can do them outdoors.  Also consider your favourite hobbies such as: visual art, dance, hooping.  Would one or more of these activities be easy to do outside?  In your backyard, in a local park, on your balcony?

My friends used to host neighbourhood movie nights in their backyard (which would be incredibly fun) but sometimes we think that it has to be this complicated process and grandiose gesture.

It doesn't have to be difficult.

It's as easy as taking your laptop outdoors and relaxing in your patio furniture to watch a TV show.

It's as easy as creating a serving space on your kitchen counter and then taking out just your dinner plate onto your deck.

It's as easy as grabbing your knitting project and walking down to the local park.

There are lots of locations that support our desire to be outdoors more: parks with picnic tables or benches, meditation and prayer gardens and so many patios for meals and drinks during the summer season.  Do you know where your closest park or rooftop garden is near your downtown office or perhaps there is a river or lake that is a short drive from your business park?

So let me ask you: what do you like to do?   

Whatever it is, how about enjoying that activity outdoors?

Let's take advantage of these warmer, longer days and get outside!

Who is with me?

P.S. You May Also Like:

Urban Outdoor Adventures Under the Full Moon (October 2017)

Podcasts to Listen to on a Park Bench (May 2017)

Immersion into Nature at Different Speeds (September 2016)

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Ten Bird Calls you Probably Already Know!

Before I went back to school for ecology, I might have been able to identify five bird calls.

Maybe I could identify more (I never tested myself), but I certainly wasn't really paying attention to the sounds of birds as I went around the city. My urban nature outings never involved working on  distinguishing one call from another, neither was I trying to associate a specific call with a specific bird.

Nature to me was a blur of colours, flowers and trees known more as groups than as individuals and the background sounds all blurred into one - a relaxing sound of birds.  I immersed myself in the big "N" of nature and enjoyed being immersed.

But when I had the opportunity - both at school to learn bird calls and to go to a birding class in the city after graduating, I found that knowing bird calls give me an extra enjoyment when I'm out in nature and even as I walk around the city.   There are more species of birds in urban areas than you might suspect.  Over twenty percent of birds are found in cities!  I also found that using my ears helps me identify birds that I don't even see.   (There are so many more birds around than we realize - many are high up in trees or hidden in shrubbery!) And best of all - learning bird calls really wasn't as hard as I had thought!

I thought it would be fun to list ten bird calls to start testing your birding ear with.

American Robin - Let's start with the American Robin.  Everyone knows this one right?  We see the Robin every spring hopping around in our gardens and lawns and enjoy its cheery call!

Cheer-i-up, cheer-ee-o

American Crow - Oh how I love the gregariousness of this bird and the loyalty it has to its family.  Their call is probably familiar to many!  I see them flying very high - there always seems to be at least one around when I'm out. (And don't forget to look for their daily sunset commute to their winter roosts!)


Blue Jay - Such a talkative bird and what a delight to see that flash of blue in your yard or in a local park.  I had to really work with the mnemonic to remind myself that this was the Jay call.  Usually they are further away in tall trees in my neighbourhood.


Black-capped Chickadee - This small friendly bird has a plethora of calls that includes one that echoes its own name: Chick-a-dee-dee-dee.  I find these birds easy to spot, very active, flittering from tree to tree.  At school a classmate shared with me a new mnemonic that identifies a second call of this bird which I love - see if you can catch this call when you are out.

Cheeese-bur-ger  (hungry yet?)

Mourning Dove - Who doesn't know the calming "coo" of a mourning dove?  And no worries if you don't - you can learn it quickly and easily, as it is a very unique sound.  (Pictured above in title photo.)  I find that this is one of those calls where I hear the bird more than I spot it.  But it also has another unique fluttering noise it makes as it flies off (from under shrubs) that finds me quickly turning my head.

Hooo-ah hoo-hoo-hoo

Mallard - Every duck has its own unique distinctive call - I had no idea!  So if you are familiar with the mallard's "quack" then you can identify this duck by ear!  And oh! I see these beautiful birds along our quieter river fronts (and in the rivers) whenever I'm along the water.

Quack quack quack (as simple as that!)

Northern Cardinal - Another colourful bird that is a favourite backyard bird for many.  It has two lovely easily identifiable calls.  You will here two parts to the first one - a quicker chirp that lasts for 12 to 15 quick beats with the Chew, chew, chew after and then the very distinct "Purty purty".  Hearing the Cardinal calls are another marker of spring for me.  If I spot one, I'll always quickly see if I can find it's lighter coloured mate.


Red-breasted Nuthatch - This may be a new call for you but you'll realize that it has been one of those background noises that was easily dismissed as a city noise.  In class, we were instructed to see if we could here the "low slow beep" that you might here when a large truck is backing up.  This was the best way for me to quickly hear this bird outdoors!  It's a smaller bird so a bit more of a challenge to spot but check tree trunks as it's known for searching for insects in the trunk's crevices.


Red-winged Blackbird - This beautiful black bird with the red epaulets is one of my favourites as I grew up around wet fields and rivers where their territorial call notified us of the end of winter.  They are rather gregarious, so another that you'll probably spot soaring over marshy areas but they also hide in reeds and grasses so look low also.


Pileated Woodpecker - Once you identify this ghostly dusky call, it might bring you back to camping days when you were walking around at sunset.  But you can also find this bird in urban areas as long as there is some wooded greenspace around.  It too can be spotted on tree trunks ready to drill holes in search of insects.


* * * 

You can listen to all these calls at the Nature Instruct Dendroica Site - choose your country and then type in the bird name in the "Filter Species" box (bottom right corner).  Or visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology All About Birds site that has photos, videos and all the details for every bird you can imagine!

Keep in mind that the distinct call or song that you use to first identify the bird, may be just one of many sounds that the bird species makes.  Pay attention and when you see (or hear) a bird you recognize, stay awhile and notice what other songs, notes, noises it makes.

For those in Ottawa - the Ottawa Bird Count offers an incredible Bird Songs course every spring for its volunteers.  The above list was inspired by their first class which goes over some of the more familiar bird calls!

*** Please be aware that listening to bird calls at home with your indoor cats may cause some confusion and "ears up" action!***  Our dear cat Max, kept looking for the birds he heard (as I was writing this post and reviewing the bird songs), even jumping up on my desk!

And last but not certainly least, this week we've contributed a post to Nature Canada's great website: "Cats and Birds" - highlighting two favourite Migratory Backyard Birds that we love.  Read the blog post here!  Thanks so much to the Cats and Birds staff for inviting us to write a blog post!

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How Did I Not See This as a "Thing" - I'm a Walker!!

Favourite Pastime: Walking  Walks in the City

I said it!  Yes!

I'm a walker!

It has been declared - wow.

This may not be a revelation for many of you but I had a lightbulb moment this winter.  I have never really considered walking as a sport.  I know friends who are swimmers or kayakers or see people stating that they are skiers or that they are hikers.

But being a "walker" does not seem to hold the same weight.  Maybe it's just me but I never saw it as a true activity.  I considered it as more of a pastime.  I would say:  "I'm going out for a walk" in the same way I'd say "I'm going to read".

So, why isn't walking seen as a thing in itself?

Or perhaps it IS just me?

This winter, I joined a new group online (Girlfriend Circles - I've shared a link to an article Shasta Nelson wrote here) and I saw that many people listed "walking" as an activity.  People who "enjoy walking, love to go on walks, favourite hobby is walking, love walks (walks in nature, walks on boardwalk, etc)". Wow!  I had never seen so many walkers!

This is what made it click for me.

Yes - I can be a walker!

I really enjoy getting outdoors and have done many activities including jogging, cycling, rowing, swimming and a bit of kayaking in the warmer months.  But lately I've found that my favourite  outdoor activity that connects me to nature is walking.

It's so easy - just put on the right shoes (or boots!) and go!

And especially with Viliam, we'd grab our cameras and go check out a trail or green space - either one of our favourites or a new one.

It's such a simple yet pleasurable activity and I like it because we can really see details and notice things while we are outside.

So I can now proudly say:  I'm a walker too!

Enjoy Walking as a Hobby
-- Photo by V. Glazduri --

What do you think?  Are you a walker?  

Do you think walking isn't taken as seriously as other athletic activities?

* * *

If you like challenging yourself - here is some inspiration for a walking challenge:
Main Street Hiker (Algonquin College - Student Blog)  
Holly Drew challenges herself to walk all the streets of the city she lives in like her father has done before her.  Take a look at her walking challenge map, packing for your walking challenge, and challenges of walking every street
Ottawa_Trails (Instagram account) 
"My mission is to hike, run, or ski every public trail in Ottawa.  East and south greenbelt done, river pathways done." (Challenge started April 2016)

Some Tips for Urban Nature Walking:
  • If you stay on paved or gravel paths there is less to think about: you won't likely encounter poison ivy, ticks, etc. These are things you should consider if you go off path and are walking through grass and/or other plants that you cannot identify.
  • You can find mosquitoes, black flies, etc. even in cities.  In Ontario, June is the worst month for biting insects, so you may want to avoid thicker forested or boggy areas during the hotter summer months.  Last summer mosquitoes in Ottawa tested positive for West Nile virus so take this seriously and apply "a Health Canada-approved mosquito repellent containing DEET or Icaridin to exposed skin and clothing" (link).
  • The summer months may be better for walks along urban water paths such as rivers or lakes where you may find less insects especially if there are some summer breezes coming off the water.
  • Check the weather forecast before you go, especially if you are going for a longer walk.  Sometimes, it IS as easy as putting on your shoes and getting out but other times you may need to consider weather protection (sunglasses, sunscreen, rain jacket, etc) and you may want to carry water.
  • If you do go off path, remember that ticks can be found in long grass and on other vegetation.  If you wear light clothes they are easier to see; consider tucking your pant legs into your socks (the best fashion statement around!) and definitely do a tick check when you get home.  
  • Also if you go off path, ensure that you are able to identify dangerous plants such as poison ivy and poison hemlock.  Ottawa has signs where you may find Wild Parsnip - even if it's not as dangerous as some say - still worth giving a wide berth!

Exploring Nature in City Walking in Parks

Happy urban WILD walking!

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Bat Video of Congress Avenue Bridge Mexican Freetail Bats (Austin, Texas)

Here is Gerald Dykstra's video of the bats in flight - it gives you a real sense of how many bats there are! 

CLICK THE PLAY BUTTON TWICE (and don't forget to EXPAND TO FULL SCREEN VIEW to enjoy to the fullest!)

Read his Wild. Here. Guest Post about his urban nature experiences during his trip to Austin, Texas here: Beyond the Festival Scene in Austin Texas: Amazing Urban Nature Experiences!
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Beyond the Festival Scene in Austin Texas: Amazing Urban Nature Experiences! (Guest Post)

Today I'm really thrilled to have a friend (yes someone I have known since university!) contribute a guest blog post about a city that he visited last summer.  When I saw his photos I was so incredibly jealous because even though he told me that he was going to Austin, Texas I had forgotten that Austin, Texas was THE CITY where the Congress Street Bat Bridge was.  (Ever since I saw this picture I have wanted to go!)  Along with these photos, he also shared images of another beautiful natural site that he spent time at while he was there.  His photos reminded me that Austin, Texas needed to be bumped back up to the top of  my "Must Visit" list!  (There's also the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center there!)  I'll let my friend Gerald tell you all about his trip so that you too can add this city to your urban nature travel list pronto:

Amazing Nature Experiences In Austin Texas

When most people think of Austin Texas they think of all the spectacular festivals: South by Southwest, music, film and television festivals. It is famous for its music scene year round. But there are a few natural outdoor attractions that you could miss if you just focused on the big fancy festivals. Here are a few that you may want to check out!

In between my festival-ling, I managed to go out to the Congress Ave Bridge just before sunset one night. You want to grab a spot on the lawn on the southside of the bridge which is a short walk from the downtown core. The bridge goes over the Colorado River which is quite wide as it snakes through the city.  The Congress Avenue bridge that spans over the river is quite large also.  And it needs to be because of what is found underneath it.  Not trolls but Bats!

-- Bats in Flight - Photo by Gerald Dykstra --

For some reason, this bridge houses approximately 1,500,000 Mexican Freetail bats. During the day they sleep and at dusk they start to wake up and fly out from under the bridge and down along the river to (I assume) collect a ton of insects that hang out near the river's shore. 1,500,000 is a lot of bats but they do not all wake up at the same time, so it is a steady stream for at least half an hour of continuous bats that are waking and flying away in large groups from under the bridge.

They're not giant bats and they move very fast (Wikipedia says up to 160km/h) so getting a good photo with a camera at dusk facing the river is a challenge. I tried to take a few photos and videos with the city skyline in the background. But it really doesn't do it justice. If bats don't freak you out you can sit and watch them as they take flight. They don't seem that interested in the hundreds of people on the river bank and on the bridge.  They just wake up and go about their business.  See my video of the Mexican Freetail Bats HERE (click link)!  It gives you a real sense of how many bats there are!  On this occasion there were storm clouds rolling in, so once the rain started, I abandon ship and crossed back over the bridge to downtown Austin where I stopped for some good old Texas BBQ.

-- Photo by Gerald Dykstra --

The next day after the last panel for the festival I was attending was over, I jumped on a bus and headed to the Barton Springs Pool. I did my research before going to Austin and was really looking forward to swimming in this all natural spring-fed pool. It is a large 3 acre pool  in the Barton Springs Park. You do have to pay to enter the pool (a little more if you are a non-resident). But it was totally worth it.

-- Natural Edge of Barton Springs Pool - Photo by Gerald Dykstra --

The pool is cemented on three sides so there is a proper pool deck but it still retains a natural feeling surrounded by grassy hills.  You find yourself in a natural setting as you walk around the pool  The water on the east side of the spring is quite shallow and probably good for kids.  And then to access the other side (which was the sunny side when I visited) you needed to take a small wooded path. I laid out my towel and immediately went to the diving board that was set up in the center of the pool.
After diving in and getting over the initial shock it was very refreshing and it felt very clean. No chlorine and suntan lotion feeling, and no sand and silt to murk up the water. I'm not sure how deep the pool was but the water was black.   The interesting thing with a spring-fed pool is that the water is always very cold (a constant 68 degrees) even in the Austin Texas sun and heat.

-- Photo by Gerald Dykstra --

To climb out there are ladders set up like a regular pool, but there you can also just climb out from the side, but you need to be extra cautious as it is a natural pool and the rocks under foot can have quite a bit of algae on them which makes them slippery. When not diving in the water, I did try swimming to the western edge of the pool, although not too many people were doing this.  I realized why once I got there, as there was a fair amount of algae/plants at the one end. I did walk around the whole pool and it was interesting to see where the pool fed into the Barton Creek on the other side of the western fence.  There you see lots of children, adults and dogs jumping and playing in the water.  It was a fairly steady waterfall at the start of the stream on the other side of the pool.  From there, it is a short distance for the creek to feed into the Colorado River.

-- View to Austin Highrises from Barton Spring Pool - Photo by Gerald Dykstra --

If I lived in Austin this for sure would where you would find me every Sunday afternoon.

I love this town for many reasons but these two wild wonders make it even more appealing to visit.

-- Silhouette of First Street Bridge from Congress Avenue Bridge - Photo Gerald Dykstra --

Guest Blogger Gerald Dykstra studied environmental studies at Waterloo University and now lives in Toronto Ontario, where by day he works at The Royal Conservatory of Music but by night he pursues his interests in film and film festivals, including: volunteering (20 years at the Toronto International Film Festival and counting), screenwriting, and festival tourism (travelling to other festivals outside of Canada).
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