"Brushy Creek or Williamson County Trail?" I asked my still-sleepy son. "Brushy Creek," he mumbled back, started to peel off his bedcovers.
An hour later, we were in the car. We hoped to start at the dam and walk eastward. Pulling into the west-end parking lot, we spied barrier fencing, concrete mixers, and a construction crew. The dam was still off limits.
We got back on the road and entered the parking lot at the center of the trail, deciding to head east from there. I started my fitness app on my phone and my son checked his FitBit on his wrist. The birdsongs we heard through the crisp air became punctuated by the crunching of gravel underfoot.
This part of the trail was wide enough for four people across. There was quite a bit of traffic; pedestrians and bikers of all ages passed us coming or going every few minutes. Reaching a fork in the path, we decided to head to the right and cross a bridge to the side farthest from the main road.
A red bobber appeared as if by magic as we looked over the edge, ripples breaking the smooth surface of the creek. We passed two young fishermen as we continued down the path.
This route was bordered to the left by trees leading down to the creek; on the right were the backyards of the neighborhood in which my students live, some close to the path, others separated by swaths of silvery-beige wild grass. We chatted about the style of the houses, the wildflowers we encountered along the way, the sculpture-like beauty of dead trees tucked among budding branches.
Out of curiosity, we left the path to climb a well-manicured berm to see what was on the other side--a storm reservoir, empty except for lush green freshly mowed grass. Tiptoeing carefully over bluebonnets, we got back on the trail and walked until we came to a loop. Continuing eastward was a thin, well-worn path.
"Do we take the loop and head back, or do you want to see what's down this trail?" I asked. "We can always turn back, if we continue on."
"Let's see what's down the trail," my son answered.
This path was one-person wide, so I forged ahead. Blue skies were replaced by a canopy of trees; the path was packed earth that quickly became strewn with rocks. We dodged spider webs, stopped to look at rock ledges to our right, and realized we were getting closer and closer to the creek's edge. We crossed a rivulet leading to the creek, stepping on wobbly stones, disturbing a crayfish hiding underneath.
Packed earth turned to leaf-strewn muck. We picked our way carefully, trying to avoid deeper patches. At one point the creek's edge covered the path. Someone had placed an old plank over the mud, which sunk a bit as we walked its length.
Suddenly, the path came to an end, and the only way to move forward was to climb upward. The rocky edge was rough, but slippery; my fingers sunk into a squishy puddle as I looked for a handhold. I managed to pull myself up, my son right behind me.
From the cool shade of the creekside trees, we emerged blinking in the bright sunlight over another immense, well-manicured field. A few steps over the grass took us back to the gravelled path. I gingerly pulled a tissue from my pocket to wipe away as much mud as possible, then handed it to my son to do the same. We spied a playground with a restroom facility in the distance, and decided to wash our hands before heading back.
As much fun as the muddy path had been, we took the gravelled, roadside trail the mile back to our parked car. The roar of cars rushing past seemed to insult the sounds of running water and birdsongs on our left. My son, ever the spy for details, stopped to take pictures of an iridescent beetle on a retaining wall.
Our soles were dry and clean by the time we returned to our car, thirsty and thankful for our muddy, mucky creekside adventure together.