A Field Guide to the Katy Trail
How to recognize the species that inhabit Dallas’ most popular jogging spot.
The waif gliding ahead of me keeps looking over her shoulder, inviting me to pass. I’m far too intimidated to do so. Despite the heat, I do not observe a single bead of sweat on her. This makes sense, because she has no detectable pores. Her makeup is flawless, though I can’t see her eyes, which hide behind Jackie O-ish Chanel sunglasses. Her long locks shimmer with Richard Hayler highlights. Her stack of John Hardy bracelets jingles with each stride. If we were anywhere else, I might worry she could be mugged for her Prada water tote.
But this is Dallas’ Katy Trail. A cavalcade of beautifully dressed, hard-bodied WASPs goes before me. An endless receiving line of social butterflies approaches on my left. What was I thinking when I left the house in a pair of soccer shorts and torn t-shirt?
For the uninitiated: the Katy Trail was once the Katy Railroad Line, which operated in Missouri, Kansas, and Texas. The trains ceased running in 1992, and, eight years later, a couple miles of rail were ripped up and replaced by a strip of concrete that now runs from near the southern terminus of the Toll Road, along Turtle Creek, up to Knox Street at Abbott Avenue. Roundtrip, it’s just under 5 miles.
But the next phase of construction could begin as early as next month, extending the pavement from SMU to the American Airlines Center. The trail will also get drinking fountains, landscape design, benches, and the first mile of the “Nike Grind,” a 6-foot-wide secondary trail made from recycled Nike soles that will run adjacent to the existing trail. That way, runners and walkers can get some relief for their knees and avoid the cyclists and skaters. Once finished, the Katy Trail is expected to span 17 miles, joining the Trinity River to White Rock Lake.
Even at this early stage in its growth, though, the trail provides a truly unique experience: it’s Walden in the heart of the city. Cedar elm, crepe myrtles, live oak, and Texas ash tower over the path, creating a verdant, living tunnel in the spring. Double-crested cormorants and red-bellied woodpeckers flutter about in thick stands of bamboo. Mornings and early afternoons offer the best opportunity for peace on the trail. It’s sparsely populated with friendly folk intent on getting a bit of exercise, taking pleasure in the bloom of a rose bush and the song of the white-eyed Vireos.
However, as a Katy Trail regular, I can tell you the most exciting species migrate to the trail between 4:30 and 7 p.m., when the trail transforms from nature walk to fashion runway. Should you venture out to the path this spring, here is your guide to some of the more spectacular specimens you may espy.
THE LIZZIE GRUBMAN
Description: Tall, thin, heavily made-up, blond species with preternaturally large breasts and no visible body fat, despite aversion to any exercise more strenuous than a hair flip. Travels in packs. May sport inline skates and/or rhinoplasty. Summer plumage: sports bra and the tiniest shorts ever made. Winter plumage: see “Summer plumage.”
Mating Habits: The trail is her runway. She struts and sneers at all who dare make eye contact. Only males who display keys to expensive cars or membership cards to Sense (perhaps oh-so-casually peeking out of a pocket) merit conversation.
Mating Call: “Did you grow up in Highland Park?”
Other Habitats: Beau Nash, Thin Room, Last Call at Neiman Marcus.
THE BRIAN BOITANO
Description: A hard-bodied creature with model good looks, an expensive haircut, and highlights. Generous with the hair product. Plumage: Spandex shorts, tiny t-shirts (if any), Rollerblades, jazz hands.
Mating Habits: Expertly blades up and down the length of the trail, inviting admiring glances from wistful females. May backwards or couples skate on occasion. Only socializes with species from its own flock.
Mating Call: “Are you in or are you out?”
Other Habitats: J.R.’s, The Filling Station, Ibiza.
THE J. LO
Description: Has lately begun dressing better but remains unafraid to display her downy underbelly and street cred. Originally from the mean streets of Mesquite. Hopeful. Considers Pretty Woman a documentary and believes similar events “totally happen all the time.” Plumage: Juicy Couture sweat suit.
Mating Habits: Prefers to stroll. Absence of bra under the Juicy jacket prohibits more strenuous exercise. Smiles suggestively at all proximal males because one never knows who might be “the one.”
Mating Call: “I’m the total package.”
Other Habitats: The Loon, Umlaut, Bachelor auditions.
THE ROBERT DOWNEY JR.
Description: Earthy-smelling creature that pops onto the trail occasionally from Reverchon Park. Oftentimes carries 40-ounce bottle of Old English 800 in brown paper bag. Endangered species due to encroachment of children from the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital (a soon-to-be-built ramp will connect Reverchon to the trail and give access to kids who require physical therapy). Plumage: varies widely. At times, completely nude.
Mating Habits: Wanders aimlessly or simply stands in the middle of the trail, practically begging to be run down by Peddlia furious.
Mating Call: “Glrffgl.”
Other Habitats: Lou Sterrett, raves.
THE JOAN RIVERS
Description: Tan, well-coiffed animal always accompanied by equally well-coiffed canine. Sometimes also seen with (grand)children. Summer plumage: golf-appropriate attire, hats. Winter plumage: Burberry jacket or, in extreme conditions (50 degrees and lower), full-length mink. Conveys heightened sense of fascination with a nearby Japanese Oak while pretending not to notice dog defecating on trail.
Mating Habits: This species often suffers ugly divorces. It prefers to let the waste of its dog communicate how it feels about life and man/womankind in general.
Mating Call: None.
Other Habitats: Stanley Korshak, Dallas Country Club, waiting rooms of plastic surgeons.
THE LANCE ARMSTRONG
Description: Hairless, beautifully calved creature on a bicycle more expensive than most domestic sedans. Plumage: bright yellow jersey, spandex shorts, wraparound sunglasses once favored by Brian Bosworth.
Mating Habits: Nervously weaves in and out of walkers, bikers, and bladers, occasionally yelling, “On your left!” Burns approximately 12 calories over the course of the 4.5-mile roundtrip ride.
Mating Call: “Total myth. Biking doesn’t really affect a guy’s sperm count.”
Other Habitats: Park Cities Baptist Singles, White Rock Lake, La Madeleine.
THE JIM DAVIDSON
Description: Bronzed, firm-bottomed law enforcement traveling on mountain bike, despite flat terrain. Refuses to distribute tickets for failure to pick up canine feces. Plumage: gun, sexy uniform. Suspiciously well-oiled. Always travels in pairs.
Mating Habits: Leisurely rides up and down the trail. Sends out the “power” vibe.
Mating Call: “Hey.”
Other Habitats: Gyms, 7-Eleven on Travis, Barley House.
THE CATHERINE ZETA-JONES
Description: Youngish and pretty. Exceedingly gift
ed at attending cocktail parties and giving birth to healthy babies. Always accompanied by above. Note: this species can be seen on the Katy Trail at any time, as it does not have a job. Plumage: Prada sportswear.
Mating Habits: Marches while pushing multiple offspring in the double In-Step Marathon Stroller.
Mating Call: “Weee! You’re Thomas The Tank Engine!”
Other Habitats: Junior League meeting, University Park Elementary PTA meeting, therapy.
THE GORDON GECKO
Description: Thinning hair and pot belly but boyishly handsome. Wears a pained expression, probably as a result of trying to run with pockets bulging with cellphone, MP3 player, and Blackberry. Summer plumage: no shirt, shorts sporting a prep school logo, Nike Air Maxes. Winter plumage: adds a St. Mark’s sweatshirt.
Mating Habits: Begins running, stops, barks into cellphone something about “If Scott Ginsburg can get away with it, then why can’t I?” Looks around, ends call, and begins to jog. Stops to tie shoelace and make another call.
Mating Call: “Didn’t I see you at the Butterfly Room at Hotel ZaZa the other night?”
Other Habitats: Beau Nash, Javier’s, Premiere Club, Uptown-area apartments (though the species constantly crows about looking to buy in Highland Park or Preston Hollow).
THE JACK WELCH
Description: Middle-aged and recently divorced. Has let his midriff go over the years but has recently washed that gray right out of his hair. Plumage: having not exercised since a year after he was first married, he wears his workout clothes from the 1980s Carl Lewis collection.
Mating Habits: Begins at a sprint. Quickly downshifts into a “power walk.” Lecherously smiles at women half his age.
Mating Call: “Who’s your daddy?”
Other Habitats: Sevy’s, Beau Nash, Brookhollow Country Club.
THE RICKI LAKE
Description: Rarest of all species on the Katy Trail. Actually runs so that she might improve her figure and, in general, not be fat. Plumage: judging from failure to generate any interest on the trail, this species is either heavily camouflaged or invisible.
Mating Habits: Sweats profusely.
Mating Call: “I think I might vomit.”
Photo by Kris Hundt