Backyard explorations

Hidden park in Arlington with enticing name is a joyously hilly enclave

Hidden park in Arlington with enticing name is a joyous hilly enclave

Crystal Canyon park
The preserve has three pedestrian bridges. Photo by Stacy Breen

Editor's note: North Texas resident Stacy Breen is an intrepid explorer of local culture with an instinct for making nifty discoveries. During October, she's contributing a weekly column on her visits to parks around Dallas-Fort Worth.

My latest park adventure was a bit of a departure. When I look for parks, I try to find remote destinations that could be a day excursion. But this week, my boyfriend had an appointment in Arlington to get fingerprinted.

This meant that we had to find a park nearby.

I searched for parks in Arlington, but they all looked too much like paved neighborhood parks. That's fine, but it wasn't what we look for. A park with paved walkways doesn't fit the criteria. You want nature.

But the morning of, he found a place called Crystal Canyon. Just the name, already, I was, "yes." Crystal Canyon sounds enticing.

We arrived at 1 pm. There are nine parking spaces, but only one other car was there. Probably because it felt like 105 degrees this afternoon. For that reason, I didn't feel like wearing my usual hiking shoes and socks. I figured, "It's Arlington, and even though it's a gravel path, I'll be fine in my little sandals."

The park
Crystal Canyon is a 37-acre preserve in North Arlington with a half-mile soft-surface trail, through forest and hilly, rocky terrain. There's evidence that it may have been near water at one time. They've found marine shales, siltstones, and fossils of clams.

Arlington Parks and Recreation Department and a group called the Friends of the Crystal Canyon Nature Area worked together to preserve these resources and leave them in a natural state. It was officially dedicated in 2012 and is one of the city's newest parks. Other than the parking lot and trail, all it has is a few educational signs, bridges, and benches.

The main half-mile path goes all the way around, but it has all these secondary trails where you can go off into the brush. It's heavily shaded, which was fortunate since, as I mentioned, it was the middle of the day with bright sun.

We did cross paths with one guy who was trail running. I got the sense it might be a popular place for trail running. We also came upon a homeless camp, with what seemed to be one person's tent. If I'd been by myself, I might have left.

Hills are alive
One thing that surprised me is how hilly it was. Most of my visits to Arlington have been south of I-30. This part of Arlington north of 30, both the park and the neighborhood had steep hills. I instantly regretted my decision to wear sandals. My boyfriend had to help me up some of the inclines.

There was also a creek that ran through and I spied a crystal, just like the name of the park, in an area that looked quartzy.

We were there for about an hour. It was perfect for what we were looking for: No people, and a hidden surprise that was rough and naturey.

Lunch
We searched for an Asian restaurant because Arlington has such a big Asian population, but weren't able to find anything in that area. We ended up at Blaze Pizza, off Lamar, in the same center as the Whole Foods Market in Arlington. It was 2:30 pm, so we figured we'd have the place to ourselves, but it was busy for the middle of the day. They did a good job of maintaining spacing between seating.

Blaze is a chain, but it's a great option if you're looking for something vegan, which we were. I got a pizza with artichoke, red onion, spinach, arugula, and goat cheese with pesto sauce on their vegan-GF crust. He got the cauliflower crust, and we liked that better; it crisped up a little better than the GF crust. It was all really good.

The LTC
The appointment was at 4:20 pm, which sounds like a weed joke, but we were going to this place called Identogo that does electronic fingerprinting. He's applying for a License To Carry, and you're required to submit fingerprints to DPS as part of the application.

He'd tried to find a place closer to his home in Dallas, but they were all backed up. You can't get an appointment for at least two weeks. Everybody's buying guns. He wanted to do it ASAP, and this place in Arlington had an opening.

To kill time, I went to Marshalls. I guess no one is shopping these days, because the prices were really low. Michael Stars dresses, everything was $15, it was amazing.

The details
Crystal Canyon Natural Area is at 1000 Brown Blvd., Arlington. Hours are 5 am-10 pm daily. It's free to get in.