What Makes Me Texan by Nature – Abby Rodgers

Texas summer nights have been my favorite time of the year since I was a kid. When the hot sun is going down and hearing the cicadas buzzing all around me is one of the most relaxing moments, as long as a mosquito isn’t biting me. Growing up in Dallas there weren’t as many nature spots around us, but I remember always being outside. My parents taught me to enjoy the outdoors, and without realizing it also taught me sustainable living. One of my chores growing up was sorting our recycling, and I remember one day when we were bored my mom sent us on a “treasure hunt” where we went to a ditch near our house and picked up all the trash to see what treasures we could find.

Most of our family vacations were centered around nature, visiting National Parks or my dad sailing us around. My love for camping and hiking grew from these trips, and when I’m hiking now I still think of my dad saying “it’s just around the next bend” only to turn many more bends before we actually got to the end. In elementary school we had a program called Classroom of the Earth, where our class would go on a camping trip in Texas each year. Mr. Long taught us all why we should love the outdoors and all of the beautiful places in Texas, and I believe it was one of the most important classes I had.

I have been fortunate to have traveled around the country and world a lot in my 23 years, but one of my favorite places is still my Grandpa’s Cabin in Ladonia, Texas. Every holiday we would drive out to the North Texas country side and spend time at the cabin. In the summer we picked peaches from the trees out front and went fishing, and in the winter my Grandpa would take us on the tractor to pick out and cut down the perfect Christmas Tree. From the back porch you could see the land stretch for miles and that was the best place to watch the beautiful Texas sunsets.

I began college in Biomedical Sciences, but quickly changed my major to Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences. Those classes grew my interest in parks and conservation even more, and I learned just how important outdoor leisure and recreation is to health. Throughout college I went on camping trips with friends, and the one that started my love of Parks was Guadalupe Mountains National Park. We hiked up to Guadalupe Peak, the tallest peak in Texas, where on a clear day you can see all the way to Big Bend. We returned to the campground that evening exhausted from the hike, and I remember seeing an older couple painting the Guadalupe Mountains on their RV as the sun set and hoping that would be me someday. After college I moved to Austin, the perfect balance of nature and city. I began freelancing with events, but in my free time I enjoyed the natural springs and parks that are abundant in Austin. I quickly found McKinney Falls State Park, a beauty tucked away in southeast Austin, and have been volunteering with them ever since. One day I hope to visit every Texas State Park and National Park in the US.

Texas is where I found the beauty in nature, and I hope that it can be preserved for others to experience for years to come.