Fear Factor

Ever wonder what's inside the Great Trinity Forest? Enter if you dare.

The "dirt" is a kind of urban sand made entirely of broken glass, ceramic shards, concrete dust, gypsum and who knows what the hell. I've cut myself on the soil.

I find Lemmon Lake eventually, ripples glittering behind a wall of reeds--a scene fit for the Baby Moses story except for the fluttering plastic bags. Helicopters rumble far above. A bleak loneliness stills the air, different from the solitude of wilderness. This is more moon than forest.

But moments later I round a bend in my car, and look at that, will you! Almost the entire City Hall press corps is assembled here in the forest today, milling and grinning like amiable islanders beneath a grove of dish trucks. I pop out of my car and go over to chat with Gary Reaves from WFAA-Channel 8. I'm so happy to see everybody. They're searching for a body.

A beautiful pond in the southern tip of the Great Trinity Forest
Eva Watson
A beautiful pond in the southern tip of the Great Trinity Forest
The combined forces of flood and human ingenuity have carried trash into the forest's deepest reaches.
Eva Watson
The combined forces of flood and human ingenuity have carried trash into the forest's deepest reaches.

I wish them well in the forest today and go on my way. That must be what the helicopters are about. One's heart is always warmed when one comes across one's fellow hunter-gatherers in the forest.

Bryan Kilburn is a city employee who has been mapping the most valuable resources within the Great Trinity Forest. He was kind enough to e-mail me a list, and on this last morning of my adventure, I am striking out to see the one everybody talks about--the Buckeye Trail. Of course, this is not at all the season to see it. The trees are bare; this morning a cold rain has begun to fall; as I climb the huge flood-control berm at the end of Bexar Street, just south of Turner Courts public housing, the ground is already slipping beneath my boots.

A fairy-tale wall of thorns bars my way at the edge of the levee, but then I see a portal, and from that opening a delicate footpath beckons. I step from the city into an enormous room of forest--silent, dark, romantic. I do have to make my way through a few drifts of trash, and I can still do my trick of standing still and sniffing out automobile tires.

But this is an ancient and primordial place, not cut by roads, without concrete pillboxes. The air is fresh and muddy in a good way, not like Eau de doo-doo. I have to pause and say softly to myself, "Oh, my."

This and other jewels within the so-called Great Trinity Forest are well worth protecting. I wonder if City Hall is capable. I wonder if anyone at City Hall has the slightest inkling what the phrase "Great Trinity Forest" does and does not mean. I am intrigued by what else could be out here. But do you think, if I was going to do a whole lot more exploring, I could hire a couple of Pinkertons to go with me?

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