My bones ache for the rugged earth beneath my feet, wandering for miles – which ironically also makes my bones ache. There’s nothing as comforting as the feeling of being lost on a new horizon, roaming far and wide. The tall buildings belonging to the empire of West Campus seem too tall, then too small as the bland concrete slabs attempt to crowd around me like hungry hounds. I’ve gone too long without my elixir, my healing remedy; pure nature. A small yet grand escape isn’t merely yearned for, it’s needed.

Driving through the hilly landscape normally hidden to me in the city, our destination is Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge. My fiancé and I get out at Doeskin Rach, an entrance located in Bertram, TX – about 45 minutes away from Austin. My eyes are instantly met with more hills accompanied by fields of gold.

The hills stretch far beyond our horizon as we explore the terrain.

Our 7-mile trek sparks an infinite amount of joy. An abundance of cacti greets me not far from the entrance, gathered together as if they were attending a family reunion – distant cousins upon distant cousins. My tattered and permanently dirt-stained hiking boots make their way to the tip-top of a hill, overlooking warm grass almost as tall as I am. Nostalgia hits, and within seconds I’m 5 years old again, the tips of my fingers grazing every strand of gold.

For a few seconds, I remember innocence; the euphoria of not caring, the obliviousness of our troubled world.

Fields of grass warmly blanket the Balcones.
My trustworthy hiking boots guide me as we explore.

My fingers inevitably touch more treasures – berries as blue as the saturated sky, different shades of Indian Grass, beef jerky to dismiss the hunger in my stomach. In the distance, my wide eyes see something that I can’t ignore – bright yellow wildflowers scattered throughout, almost camouflaged in the overgrown grass. The early bloomers are scarce and sporadic, but just a glimpse at a few is all that I need.   

Creations of the Earth like these dainty berries grab my attention.
These sporadic and sparse yellow flowers captivate me.

The parking lot is met with a bittersweetness. Bitter because of my inevitable return back to reality, and sweet because of my hunger. I’m not sure if my wanderlust will ever be tamed or in check, but the Balcones Canyonlands soothed it for a while.

The more we drive towards the city, the more cars pass us. First minutes in between, now less than seconds. My bones begin aching yet again, partially of soreness, but mostly with a longing. And still, they will ache until the next small, yet grand escape. •

by Carson Blair

Photography by: Carson Blair



Driven by creativity, Carson Blair is a senior majoring in Radio-Television-Film. Her interest in film stems from her deep passion for photography, and she pursues freelance photography outside of classes. In her free time, she can be found adventuring around the Austin area and collaborating with other creatives.

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