What’s the first thing that comes to mind when I say Texas? I bet you think of cowboy hats and horses set upon a sandy desert… That is, of course, unless you’re actually from Texas. Then you know that we don’t actually ride horses to school. But even I, a native-born Texan, was shocked to find this secret hidden within the Hill Country…
I was confused at first when my college professor mentioned that we would be visiting an ancient coral reef. We live in the middle of Texas…how could there be coral reef here? I actually didn’t give it much thought as I prepared for our trip. I was just excited to meet my classmates and spend time with them out on a mini-camping trip before class even started.
We were camping out at Wessendorff Ranch, a private ranch land filled with cabins for a church camp. When we drove out to the ranch lands, filled with cows and dirt roads, I had forgotten about the “coral reef” remark. I was in the familiar landscape of the Hill Country, a flat, slightly forested spread of land. Honestly, I was too busy looking for foxes to pay much attention to anything else.
After unloading everything at our cabin, we decided to venture out to the main attraction in this area: the Narrows. It was when we pulled up to our destination, hopped out of the vehicle, and were met face to face with a sign that read: “Warning Dangerous Conditions!” that I remembered that there were some supposed steep cliffs out here. They must be hiding, because I still hadn’t seen anything.
After everyone had taken their tourist pic with the death sign, we ventured along the path and came across a wide ledge. Overlooking the ledge, jagged, rough rocks could be seen. Finally it was beginning to look a little interesting.
I followed my classmates across the rocks, hopping precariously from stone to stone, clutching my camera tightly in my hands. After a few wrong turns, we found ourselves following a path across the rocks until we came across an enormous ledge.
That was a site I was not expecting to see.
“You see, these are the ancient coral reefs,” my professor shouted out for everyone to hear.
“So this was all underwater at some point?” asked Amy.
“Yes, the water carved out these canyons.”
Instantly, I had been overwhelmed with amazement. To think that this whole land used to be covered in water and that these giant rocks we were scampering across were not rocks at all; they were coral reef. We weren’t standing upon cliffs overlooking a valley, we were standing on the bottom of an ancient ocean. It really changed my perspective. Suddenly, I felt very small.
Hidden within the valley of the coral reef rested placid pools of water spread throughout. In some areas, the pools were a mere trickle of a spring running gently across the rocky bottom. In other areas the pools expanded and connected to create a massive swimming hole.
“People like to come out here and swim in the summer time,” stated our professor. “Some of those pools are very deep. We can’t even find the bottoms of some of them.”
After that statement, the most adventurous of the bunch, Austin, became wildly curious. He had already been climbing atop the highest rocks and peering over the tallest edges. After hearing our professor’s statement, he wanted to try something. Suddenly he began scouring the ground looking for rocks. After finding a few, he began tossing them over the edge and into the waters. As they “plopped” into the water, he looked a bit disappointed and continued searching.
I continued stumbling over the jagged surfaces while carefully taking pictures with my prized camera. Not long afterwards, Austin came back holding an enormous rock that he had found.
“Hey, I’m going to see how deep these ponds are!” he exclaimed.
After hearing Austin’s remark and seeing the giant rock he was toting around, the entire class began scrambling among the rocks around him trying to get a good view. “Is everyone ready?” Austin asked, making sure everyone was going to see his achievement. After everyone had found a place, Austin thrust the rock over the edge.
As the rock met with the water, there was a loud clap, as if thunder had erupted in the sky. An enormous amount of water rained into the air around the rock as it began to sink. Not long afterwards, Austin heard the rock hit the bottom of the pond and was satisfied before continuing on his adventures.
After all of the excitement, everyone went back to exploring the Narrows on their own. Some stayed up near the top, far away from the steep, dangerous edges of the valley. Others carefully climbed down among wet, slippery rocks and found hiding places within the crags. Most of the class found a tranquil opening upon which to sit and chat.
I joined my friends as they ventured deeper into the valley until my own curiosities overcame me. At one point, I was off venturing by myself, soon followed by my peers.
We spent several hours at this amazing landmark, taking in the magnificent scenery and enjoying the fresh dose of nature before heading back to our cabin for the night.
The Narrows left such an impression upon us, though, that we returned in the morning before finally heading back home.