Surrounded by Solitude: Joshua Creek Nature Preserve


Photo by John Hamilton

John Hamilton, Staff Writer

Following the death of rationality on a favorite series of mine, it was time to visit a familiar and quiet park located just outside the reach of the city. Joshua Creek Nature Preserve is a picturesque collection of landscapes, including rolling hills, step-down ponds and hiking trails that circle massive fields of wind-swept reeds.  

In multiple visits, I have yet to reconcile the fact that this place is seemingly always devoid of visitors. It could be early the highway exit that I seem to pass every time I visit this place. In any case, the stillness here is always welcome. A blend of sun-baked sand and gravel form a path resting beneath the shadows of towering mossy oaks, leading around the outskirts of the park.  Following the trail, I made my way down to the water’s edge for the first cast of the day. Working my way down the bank, it dawned on me that I have been skunked on multiple consecutive trips. This is starting to get out of hand.

Image by John Hamilton

After a few exciting battles with what turned out to be underwater plants, I decided to make my way down to the lowest pond in the park. This place is always a source of inspiration as I look down into the crystal-clear pool and see the self-contained ecosystem thrive. The spring seeps through the rock wall, feeding the pond drop by drop. 

It truly is amazing to consider the evolution that occurs here, even from one trip to another, the park is constantly changing with time. As I tried to capture the elegance of this seemingly insignificant body of water, I shuffled around for the right angle. Eventually, I found a decent one just as the gravel gave way under my feet. As my weight shifted from under me, my instinct was to reach for something to hold onto. What I ended up grabbing was the driest, most fragile piece of vegetation on the face of the earth. It now resides in a vase for its valiant but failed effort at breaking my fall.  

Having fallen down the embankment, I figured it was time to stay on solid ground.  Making my way around the rest of the hiking trail brought me across swaying fields and through forested areas. At a break in the trail, my music was muted as I heard trampling through the woods. My vision honed in quickly onto something moving along the forest floor. 

Photo by John Hamilton

The last visit here had put me within arm’s reach of an armadillo, and this time I hoped for another chance encounter with peculiar wildlife. What was this shadowy figure? A bobcat? A fox? My imagination spurred me onward as I disregarded my pain and discomfort. As I picked my way through prickly trees and cactus to get a better view, I finally got a glimpse at my mystery creature. It was two winter-ready squirrels chasing one another. Thankfully, no one knows about this misguided tracking adventure.

Sitting at zero for three on the day, it was time to relax and enjoy the views. I continued along the trail, throwing casts here and there, enjoying the weather. Fall was deciding to stay or go, and the dense vegetation had thinned considerably since my last excursion here. However, the desert colors juxtaposed with emerald greens makes for an incredible sight. 

Each pond offers unique pieces to the park, all necessary for balancing this place. It’s always amazing to see the way the ponds evolve as they multiply in size. Starting as a small pool fed from springs, the ecosystems develop more complexity as the waters around them grow. A departure from the main trail offers an overlook of the deepest parts of the ponds, highlighting the mixture of seamlessly blended terrains.

Photo by John Hamilton

This place is always an inviting refuge, and the fact that there is no entrance fee is icing on the cake. Joshua Creek Nature Preserve is located down I-10 West about 15 minutes past Boerne Lake. The park is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and is home to a pavilion and observation deck. The waters are limited to kayaks and canoes, swimming is prohibited and catch-and-release fishing is highly encouraged. There is no entrance directly off the highway, so save yourself some gas and avoid the tempting thought of “I’m not lost.” Here’s a hint: 289 toward Waring/Welfare. If you do give up, it’s worth noting that you can get a chicken fried steak the size of a car tire out there. Safe travels!