Saturday, May 12, 2012

Exploring an Urban Jungle: Egrets, Snakes, and Liquid Cocaine

Saturday afternoon I set out on another adventure. I’ve gotten a little spoiled not working during the day because when weekends roll around I get frustrated at how crowded parks can be. Sometimes I joke with Donna and say, “The only problem with parks is that they are open to the public.”

With that in mind, I set out on an adventure in an area that I discovered about a year ago. In South Shreveport is a park called Wildwood Park. I found it one day while looking at a map and noticed a giant green area very near my house. Of course I got excited and started to figure out how to get there. Very quickly I figured out there were no roads to Wildwood Park. Or as they say, “You can’t get there from here.”

Thinking it odd I got in my car and investigated. As it turns out, Wildwood Park is the home of SPAR, the Shreveport Parks and Recreation department. Their headquarters is at one end of the giant park, totally fenced off and accessible from Jewella Ave. The park, in its entirety is 75 acres, if you can believe, and only a few on one end are used for the SPAR headquarters. There are no roads, trails, or access points to the rest of the park.

That’s where I come in. I spent the winter exploring Wildwood Park. I traversed every square inch of it. There isn't one single improvement to the park. There aren’t even fences. It’s like my own private old-growth forest very near my house. And, as it turns out, the railroad tracks that run by my house go right by Wildwood Park.

Needless to say I’ve spent a lot of time there. A large drainage canal borders the north side of the park. It used to be a creek, once upon a time, but now it’s hemmed in by concrete. It’s falling apart in places, which is a reminder of one of my many sayings: “Nature was here when we got here, and it will be here when we’re gone.”

Three weeks ago I discovered some wild berries of some kind, which were edible at the edge of the canal. How do I know this? I tasted one and it wasn’t bitter, and then I ate about ten more and didn’t die. It’s not very scientific but it’s a surprisingly effective method.


My goal on this trip was to bring back a Ziploc bag full of these berries. Unfortunately when I got there, the birds had stripped the vine clean and I only found one berry. Disappointed, but undeterred, I continued on my journey. 

Almost immediately I came across something that was definitely a first in my outdoor adventures.



"What is this?" you’re probably wondering. I was wondering the same thing. It’s obviously a condom but its contents were a mystery.  I googled it on my phone and almost immediately I knew what it was.

Liquid cocaine.

At least I think it was. Luckily I have not lived a lifestyle nor do I have a job that would lend itself to immediate visual identification of a controlled substance. I did some more research on my phone sitting right there in the canal and I was pretty sure I was looking at liquid cocaine. If I'm wrong, please someone who's in the know educate me! I tried to figure out what it was worth but the best I could come up with was an estimated street value of “five to ten years in prison.”

Later I called the police and reported it at the behest of a friend of mine who is a cop in another town. Mostly I wanted to keep it out of the hands of any kids, seeing as there were houses all along the north side of the canal.  I debated on whether or not to include this in this post, but then it occurred to me that cocaine is in fact a natural substance even if it is packaged in a condom for distribution! See, kids? Nature is involved in all kinds of crazy things! 

We continued on our adventure, retracing our steps and exploring the canal to the east. In this direction, the canal was considerably less structured and it started to become difficult to traverse. I had already seen one snake in this canal last week, so I was on high alert as Hart and I made our way along. I made a very rookie mistake and wore the wrong boots.  After a while I gave up trying to keep my feet dry and just waded through the water. When you’re in an urban jungle, everything looks like a snake: twigs, bicycle tire tubes, ropes, springs. It’s very unnerving. At one point, Hart stepped on a twig that jumped up and tapped him on the leg which scared him so bad he went flying into the air. The action was so sudden I jumped as well and let loose of a string of inappropriate words before we both realized it was just a twig. Needless to say after our jungle expedition my nerves were a little frayed.

I always feel like Indiana Jones when I’m on little expeditions like this – like anything could happen. To add to the effect, I’m traipsing through unknown waters waiting for who knows what to surprise me. Maybe that’s why I enjoy these trips so much. It’s kind of rush. It has been my entire life.

Continuing on I was reminded too of how our urban centers simply mask nature. I found two great examples: trees which should look familiar to you if you read my earlier blog posts. 




It’s two sycamore trees! Notice how one of them has grown through and then over concrete. The main difference between man made structures and nature is that mankind’s structures have to be maintained. Nature simply does not. It’s an interesting little world in this canal to see that nature is obviously winning the battle.

The last adventure of the day was to be found at the sidewalk’s end, so to speak. We reached a point where the structure of the canal had totally failed creating a pretty cool waterfall. As we approached it a giant heron or egret who was hidden out of sight below the waterfall launched him self into the air, squawking at the same time. It of course scared the living bejeesus out of me. I didn't get a good look as to identify it because it scared me so bad. 

Then I was in for one more surprise. (*Please note that in the video I incorrectly called the bird a "stork" because that was the first word that popped into my head when describing a giant bird.*)

video

All of these adventurers happened within a fifteen minute walk of my house right in the middle of South Shreveport, which is a great reminder that nature adventures can happen anywhere! Here's a few final photos from our afternoon journey. 



Notice the concrete is crumbling, creating small chutes of water.


It's an urban jungle out there! 


Bamboo growing wild along the canal.


Rule #1: Don't be afraid to get dirty! 


A good omen on the return walk: a hawk perched on the power pole watching me make my way home. He's hard to see, but he's there. I've seen this same bird in Wildwood Park. I consider him a neighbor!


Until the next adventure! 

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