Visiting the Trinity River Audubon Center in Dallas, Texas

Are you a Dallas resident? If so, you may or may not have heard of the Trinity River Audubon Center situated 10 miles south of downtown Dallas. I only recently discovered it a few years ago even though it’s been around since 2008. It boasts as the largest urban hardwood forest in the entire United States and is home to an extensive array of plant and animal species. My wife and I toured a couple weeks ago, and this is our photographic walk-through as we traversed through its bottomland hardwoods, wetlands and grasslands.

The view from Raccoon Pond

The view from Raccoon Pond

The Center provides a lovely walk through a diverse route selection and allows you to get familiar with the surrounding plant and underwater life. We happened to visit on a cloudy, calm day that was near-perfect besides the occasional trail puddle from the rainstorm the day before. Everything along the way became a photo-op.

My lovely wife as we began our adventure

Turtle BOI

Turtle BOI

At the edge of one our first pathways, we happened upon a massive turn in the ever-meandering river that is the Trinity. The overlook wasn’t anything remarkably grandiose, but the water reversed direction in unfamiliar and curious ways. You could practically feel the history behind this broad-sweeping waterway.

Tiff at the overlook

Tiff at the overlook

One of my favorite features about this place is how immersed in the environment you feel. A few fuzzy caterpillars greeted us along the walkway coupled with a tree somewhat off-trail who wore mushrooms proudly. Everywhere we looked it seemed something was vying for our attention.

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Nature isn’t the only appeal along the trails. Occasionally you’ll come upon small clubhouse structures that act as vantage points for unique views. Weird cut out frames in the sides of the modest buildings direct your attention to specific sections of the landscape presented to you. It’s fascinating the way it’s all prepared.

Overall, the Trinity River Audubon Center is an impressive, easy hiking area with some wonderful views. There’s still a lot of the exterior portion of the property we haven’t wandered yet, but we plan on returning soon to explore it. More information is below and some other images I collected from our experience!

Hours, Fees, & Directions

Hours:

  • Monday through Friday 9am – 4pm

  • Saturday 7am – 3pm (We offer guided early morning bird hikes most Saturdays at 7am, check our event calendar for more info!)

  • Sunday 11am – 5pm

  • Closed on ALL major holidays as well as most federal holidays.Please give us a call for the most up to date holiday hours at (214) 309-5801.

  • Please note: We close one hour early the day before a major holiday. Please check our Facebook or call us for the latest information regarding early closures.

In observance of the holidays, we will be closed December 23 - 26 and December 30 - January 1.

Admission:

  • Adults (Ages 13-59): $6

  • Children (Ages 3-12): $3

  • Seniors (Ages 60+): $4

  • Members, children age 2 and under, and 75217 residents: free

  • Free general admission the third Thursday of each month, 9am – 4pm, for individuals and families

Free and discounted admission rates to not apply to field trips and groups.

Group Rates/Tours:

Group admission: $5 per person (for groups of 10 or more)

Private one-hour guided tours available at $40 per guide (20 person max/guide, available on weekends during the schoolyear and daily throughout the year). Ask about our school programs.

For more information, or to schedule a school program or group tour, call 214-309-5801 or email trac@audubon.org.

Professional and commercial photographers and film crews – please contact us at trac@audubon.org for information regarding our media policy and rates.

Location:

6500 Great Trinity Forest Way*
Dallas, TX 75217

*Dallas recently changed the name of the street. If Great Trinity Forest Way does not show up on maps or GPS, please try "6500 S. Loop 12."

For more information call 214-398-8722

Longitude and latitude coordinates: 32.712636, -96.70879

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Visiting the BEAUTIFUL Lyon Arboretum in Oahu, Hawaii (A Photographic Adventure)

As many of you know from my Instagram and my wife’s Instagram, we spent our honeymoon in the beautiful state of Hawaii on Oahu island. We saw a lot of really amazing stuff, but in this post I wanted to focus on our journey through the Lyon Arboretum. It was hands down my favorite arboretum I’ve been to and we were lucky enough to visit them on their 100th anniversary.

(To view any picture up close, tap/click on it and it will expand. All photos are raw shots/unedited.)

We first arrived not really knowing what to expect. Most arboretums that we’ve visited are very structured with clear, graveled walkways. Lyon was in a realm of its own as it presented us with a dirt trail that became more and more treacherous and jungle-like. I suppose this is what one should expect on a tropical island.

The off-path feeling actually made everything a lot more enjoyable. In fact, it was even a bit dangerous as some trails had signs that basically translated to, “You may get hurt or die. If you think you might do one of these things, it’s best not to do them. If you think you might not die, however, go for it!

I realize now you may be reading this and thinking I’m roasting the park or that I’m speaking ill of it in some way, but I’m not! I just found it humorous and a bit more dangerous than your average arboretum. Like I said at the beginning of this, it was hands down my favorite arboretum I’ve been to. I thought the entire place was unbelievable. I even took a picture in the bathroom while peeing… of the window and view, of course.

When we first arrived, Tiff had spilled coffee on her shirt so we decided to visit the gift shop before hiking in and taking pictures. The greeter inside was extremely helpful, nice, and knowledgeable, (about the park - not stained shirts). We went to the restroom, (as previously stated - no clue why I had to mention our bladder powers again) and we were off down the trail.

The path opened up to a peaceful and scenic view, though as a sucker for close up photography, I started taking pictures of flowers immediately. The diversity of plant life here is amazing. It’s even more spectacular when compared to the Texas/mainland flowers we’ve grown up with all of our lives.

As we rounded the start of the trail, it opened to a large, sprawling field with strange trees and mountains hiding at the back of the landscape. The trees had their roots as their base and were exposed. Some hadn’t reached the ground yet and looked somewhat phallic. I, of course, had to showcase this in a photograph below.

Birds were heard overhead, though most were hiding from sight. We traversed a small bridge and came upon trees with the strangest root systems. They rose from the ground like a city’s walls. The way they ebbed and flowed as you followed their tops with your eyes were mesmerizing.

Along the path laid a variety of mushrooms, flowers, and other variants of nature.

As we walked through this area, I realized how obsessed I’ve always been with the forest’s floor. Looking up and through is always wonderful, but there’s something about looking down at the debris that covers the ground that holds an oddly satisfying feeling. Life thrives and dies down there.

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Most of the notable insects we came upon were invisible and only made themselves known by the red welts they left on my wife’s leg, (mosquitoes, we assume). Though besides a large, flying bug that blocked our path, (which I wasn’t able to get a good picture of) we encountered the cricket’looking creature from hell that can be seen below.

We did however see a few normal-appearing bugs as well. Some are harder to see in the photos than others.

Further down the jungle-y, Hawaiian rabbit’s hole we went. The pathway led us by mossy rocks & coconuts, strange-to-us plants & flowers, and more tropical greenery than we were used to. I snapped more photos.

It was a lot to take in and I didn’t come close to capturing it all through my camera. The moment seemed a little more important than the future’s remembrance of it.

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I could get lost in this for days with Tiff and be completely content, (besides all of the bug bites and humidity).

The hike went higher and higher up. The walkways became more dense. Our route elevated and provided us passing root systems that become convenient stairs. The entire climb up we could hear rushing water, but we couldn’t view its source. A directional sign popped up as the only man made object and directed us toward a small waterfall.

We followed the arrow past the sign and its metal sister that warned against falling rocks. After another 5-10 minutes had passed, we were standing before the ‘Aihualama Falls. It stood as a large rock wall with a peaceful stream flowing from it. The entire area was enchanting and belonged to just Tiff and I for a brief, fleeting moment.

We hung out for a bit and began our trek back down. We took a small detour down a part of the path we hadn’t yet traveled.

The rest of the photos are from our trip back down. I can’t recommend Lyon Arboretum enough. If you find yourself in Hawaii on Oahu island, add this to your trip itinerary! You can visit their website by going to: https://manoa.hawaii.edu/lyonarboretum/

Enjoy the rest of the photos below!

Photo Essay Three: Hers, Forever.
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Falling in love with her has been one of the easiest things I’ve ever done. I felt a tap on my shoulder, turned around, and fell. Our love surrendered to gravity.

She makes me feel as if I’ve known her my entire life.

Life is a train and we travel it wildly into the future. We’re both passengers. There was a time when we had never met. Then a day came when we did...and the train still flies down the tracks and we don’t know when it stops... but at least now we have each other. Her head forever sits on my shoulder as we both look out at the changing scenery. Both of her hands are in one of mine. There are no second guesses on if I should be with her... I should be.

Similar to a famous Carl Sagan quote: from my vantage point, she’s all I’ve ever known and ever will in my lifetime. She’s a ball of energy clearing the darkness that wishes to envelop us both. She represents our ancestors: the stars, better than anyone I’ve ever known. The only difference is, is that she burns brighter.

She’s a forest; now my forest. Beings before me have attempted to cut down her trees and stomp on her plants, but she continues to bloom. My goal is to preserve her and help her grow. As with natures most beautiful creations, we often think we’re saving them, when really with just one glance or just one experience, they’re saving us.

I consider tonight the vastness of space and time, and it leads me to my most important life understanding so far: somehow I got lucky enough to not only cross paths with Tiff, but out of every possible and impossible outcome that could have been, I get the opportunity to be hers, forever.

Robber's Cave State Park: History, Hiking, and Alien Encounters

Most people tend to think about Oklahoma as a flat, boring state. Well, for the majority of the landscape you'd be right, but not the Robber's Cave State Park Area. Robber’s Cave has some really cool winding trails through giant rock cliffs and an amazing view from the top if you go in the fall, (like Tiff and I did). It’s located in the scenic, hilly woodlands of the Sans Bois Mountains of southeast Oklahoma and just might be among my favorite camping grounds within 4 hours of Dallas, Texas.

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A Brief History

The area surrounding the present-day park has been a hunting ground for hundreds of years. Archaeological evidence suggests that the earliest people were related to the builders of the Spiro Mounds. By the 1600s, the Osage and Caddo tribes dominated the area. French hunters and explorers also visited, leaving their mark by naming some of the prominent geographic features, which are still used.

After the Civil War, this area became legendary for sheltering fugitives from the law. Some of these included Jesse James and Belle Starr. Other fugitives included the Dalton Gang, the Youngers and the Rufus Buck Gang.
— Wikipedia
“Dalton Gang” - Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia

“Dalton Gang” - Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia

My First “Alien” Encounter

When I was a wee lass about 10 or 11, I went on a camping trip to Robber's Cave State Park in Oklahoma. Something happened there that separated itself from other childhood trips: I saw an alien. Well, okay, I REMEMBER seeing an alien or a ghost or something. All I know was I woke up from a dead sleep, looked out of the window that was positioned at the foot of the bunk bed I was sleeping on, and BAM. In front of me stood, (or floated) this incredibly bright, green figure that eerily stared at me unflinchingly.

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In the years that have followed, I’ve tried to scour the internet for sightings similar to my own around that same location. The only similar story even remotely like it is that of “The Spooklight” or “Hollis Light”. A mysterious event that can be seen from the Oklahoma/Missouri state line from a small town in Hornet, MO.

The only issue with this commonly reported sighting compared to my own is that the two events take place a little over three hours from each other. In The Spooklight sightings, most describe it as an orb, whereas I remember a large figure that felt imposing and yet calm somehow. I had always hoped I could return to Robber’s Cave to see if I could experience the same phenomenon. In November of 2017, I got my chance.

My Trip As An Adult

My girlfriend at the time, (now wife) and I decided to go on a quick trip some place close, but out of North Texas. I told her about my encounter and my wish to return to this place that forced me into such wonderment as an adult. It had a lot of hiking and things to climb so she agreed and off we went. Below are some of the photos we took. (Click to Enlarge Them.)

Final Thoughts

As much as I’d love to say I saw the green thing again, I didn’t. Instead, the trip ended up being really great. We explored the area, climbed the rocks, cooked food over an open flame, drank wine, pet farm animals, stargazed, and more. The locals were extremely accommodating at the cabins we stayed at, the nearby gift shop, and the people in the nearest town where we ate dinner the first night.

I often think, maybe it saw me and I was completely oblivious or maybe and more probable, it was all a brain failure at a young age. Either way, I highly recommend visiting RObber’s Cave State Park for yourself. Who knows, maybe the glowing thing is waiting there to meet YOU.

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Some of the Coolest Tiny Apartments Around the Web

I’m not sure why, but I’ve been obsessed with tiny home and tiny apartment YouTube videos, As my fiancee can attest too, I’ve been watching WAY too many of these tours. I just find it fascinating how people pack their entire lives into small spaces and still manage to make them look really nice and livable.

I’ll try and break down my favorites by design style. Each video/space that I picked represents areas or furniture concepts that I hope to incorporate into the house I’m getting soon. Without further ado, here are some of my favorite ones and be sure to give a follow to all of these awesome YouTubers.

Modern Geek

This first tour is from a YouTuber named SpacySpice. He is a digital interior designer and wanted to show off his own home. I wanted to start with this one because it’s one of my favorites. The fold out bed/work area is so cool. Sometimes I watch videos like these and I’ll see a few areas that look kind of throw together, but this guy thought out every inch of the apartment. I’ve also never seen such a small kitchen that’s so functional.

Minimalist

I’ve always dreamed of being a minimalist, but I love collecting TOO DAMN MUCH. Luckily, I can live vicariously through YouTubers who do. This apartment is from a YouTuber named Rawvana. Her Loft is amazing in its layout and design. My favorite features are the modern kitchen and the wooden stairs.

Traveling through this apartment, I miss the loft that I used to have, (though this one is A LOT cooler than mine was). It gave me a few ideas on certain areas of our future house than can follow the minimalist lifestyle.

Artsy Fold Out

This one comes to us a YouTube series on a channel called Never Too Small. (Nothing Freudian about that.) I fell in love with this apartment the second that Michael Bay directed this guys kitchen. The way it transforms and fold out is such a cool concept and something I’ve never seen before. On top of that, the natural light is amazing the colors of the space flow nicely with it all.

Views / Modern

Here’s another awesome, tiny apartment from Never Too Small. Although it isn’t furnished yet in the video, the space all leads to my favorite part about it: the view. This would be a dream spectacle to wake up to each morning.

Everything

What can I say, this is my perfect apartment. It’s modern, functional, great views, smart home features, and the perfect balcony, (minus the constant rain where he lives). It might be a little bigger than the other apartments, but it’s still pretty tiny and extremely nice.

I think my favorite part is the large windows and beautiful view. My only complaint is the lack of art however he addresses this in the video so he plans on filling it and making it even more into my living space soul mate. Check out the video below and more on Justin’s YouTube channel, Justin Tse.

Photo Essay Two: Hemisphere
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How many nights have I spent here? If I had to guess I’d probably say five hundred or more.

Sometimes for skating.

Sometimes to explore the underground tunnels.

Sometimes to just get away from everything.

We called it Hemisphere because of the furniture store it was on the side of, but we mostly know it from the large, blank white wall the covers the west. The cracks and indentions in the cement. The low ledge that sits discolored from years of applied wax.

I visit less often now. The stores have changed in the building and the people are worst.

The spot itself really hasn’t changed much. The ledge continues to collect layers of wax from passing skaters.

The past is forever etched into its very existence.

A drive by reveals a thousand memories, (or at least five hundred).

Happy Birthday, Neil!

The past couple weeks I’ve been planning to make a rap song for my friend Neil, but I got hurt skating and then it kept raining and it seemed like it would never get done. I recorded the song last week, but there was still a video to be made. Yesterday I started brainstorming and worked on it all evening/night. Get ready to see a half-assed production for a non-half-assed friendship. Happy Birthday, Neil!

Photo Essay One: A Creative Space
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Growing up in the 1990’s was a fascinating mix between analog and digital; between technology and a lack thereof (compared to today). I thank the universe that I grew up in a time period where the prospect of adventuring in a forest was more important to me than sitting in front of a screen.

Sticks and dead leaves crunching beneath my feet created a feeling more fulfilling than watching TV. Climbing a tree made me happier than reading, so naturally I did one more than the other (though I still love books). The forest was and always has been my favorite place to spend my time.

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I would never advocate littering, but growing up next to a forest in a suburb of Dallas, trash and random items were a normal thing to come across. I would often use them and combine them with the surrounding nature to create forts, paintball courses, and more. In a city, I see it all as being apart of the landscape. If the trash and random human-manufactured items outnumbered the trees and plants, well, then it would all be a very different place. Luckily, that wasn’t the case.

The photos included in this essay were taken recently. This place now stands in the aftermath of its former self. Metal posts are still tied to the trees I placed them on. Paths, though worn and partly covered, still show themselves like an old man showing you the “good ole days”. A screw and nail still remain where an old childhood friend embedded them.

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Most importantly this area of the forest is where as a child and teenager my creativity, in part, blossomed. I consider the forest my first love and this is where we fell for each other. I never left this place sad or emotionally hurt, but rather I ran to it when I was scared or heart broken, just as a healthy relationship functions.

When I would visit a friend’s house, they would show me their newest toy. When they visited me, I showed them my tiny, personal safe haven filled with barbed wire, recently dug holes, and other broken pieces of mother nature’s anatomy. I’ve visited many wooded areas throughout my life in Texas and in other states, but none compare to my first love: my very own creative space among the trees.

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I felt like lying down by the side of the trail and remembering it all. The woods do that to you, they always look familiar, long lost, like the face of a long-dead relative, like an old dream, like a piece of forgotten song drifting across the water, most of all like golden eternities of past childhood or past manhood and all the living and the dying and the heartbreak that went on a million years ago and the clouds as they pass overhead seem to testify (by their own lonesome familiarity) to this feeling.
— Jack Kerouac