Do you know the feeling you get from ridding yourself of a persistently stubborn bad habit?
Weaning yourself off of an addiction to technology is not easy. The dopamine hits that come from being stimulated by screens and sounds can overwhelm and exhaust you if you’re not careful with how you manage it.
In an attempt to bring a little more zen and meaningful, productive quiet time into my life, I have been running for the last two months without headphones, as crazy as it is to imagine. No more Spotify workout playlists and no more podcasts about news, cooking or movies.
Granted, I still carried my phone last Wednesday afternoon to take videos and photos of Sugar Land’s Oyster Creek Park, and wore my smartwatch with me to track my run.
Nonetheless, running alone with your thoughts is an incredibly jarring sensory experience. For several years, I felt dependent on having some external stimulation to help me push through more difficult or long runs.
Last week, I found myself taking my contemplative journey to Oyster Creek Park.
Oyster Creek Park feels like a cozy neighborhood park, and it is, largely because of its water garden with a fountain and a waterfall feature that is surrounded by rocks and tucked back comfortably in the shade. But it is also rather large, at 111 acres.
Once you park your car, you’ll walk over a bridge over the namesake Oyster Creek, and you can follow a 3-mile hike and bike trail. Markers are placed every quarter of a mile around the trail’s outer loop, which spans 2.25 miles, and connects to the Lost Creek loop, which is almost a mile long.
I saw several other runners and walkers along the path. They came by sometimes in pairs and others, like me, went solo. An elderly woman and several young children, each walking small dogs, paced along the smaller loop around the water garden, which is less than half a mile.
A group of three men enjoyed their lunch under the shade of the tall trees enveloping the picnic area. There is also a man-made source of shade in the form of an amphitheater.
I came across three public art pieces within the first few minutes of my run, and abruptly stopped to document it with a photo. While I don’t usually stop often while running, it felt like I was on a mission to find different aspects of the park that I found interesting, from the statues on benches to smaller ponds or quieter stretches of trails where the sounds of traffic were drowned out by birds, cicadas and the rhythm of rubber soles striking the dirt trail.
I turned around once I reached the marker for the Dulles Avenue Trailhead. As I entered the home stretch of my 3.1-mile workout, the traffic noise became more audible and more pedestrians began to enter and leave the park.
The brief and blissful disconnect from the constant buzz of push notifications is one of the main reasons why I run, and a healthy outlet for my stress.
I didn’t see any alligators or snakes at Oyster Creek Park, but there were many signs warning visitors of them. I did see an adorable rabbit and a red bird that may have been a cardinal, but they were both too fast for me to capture photos of them.
Please be sensible and respectful of any wildlife you come across, whether it is at a state or national park, or a local park or your backyard.
If you do see an alligator or snake, the city of Sugar Land recommends contacting your local game warden at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department at 281-842-8100.
Because of their protected status, alligators can only be deemed dangerous by Texas Parks and Wildlife under specific circumstances, one of which is if they’re spotted in a roadway, or if they come directly toward a visitor.
I cannot emphasize this one enough: please bring a bottle of water and hydrate not only during your time outdoors, but also before and after throughout your day. Your body will thank you.
Sunscreen is also incredibly smart to apply before heading out for a stroll at Oyster Creek Park, even if you do manage to remain under the cover of the trees for the most part. I didn’t notice any mosquitos or other nuisance bugs while I was there, but bug spray is also a good call if you’re going to plan your day around a trip to the park.