This morning I dragged myself out of my warm bed, layered up, and headed to Brazos Bend State Park for a hike with BCO. The temp was in the low 30's so I wore two pairs of pants, three shirts (one with a hood), gloves, and my ear-warmer headband. I didn't get started early enough to make breakfast so I ate a Cliff Bar. I also had not stocked up on water and didn't have time to stop and buy any. There was zero chance of heat being a problem and it was just a short 6-mile hike so I grabbed a bottle of Sunkist instead. It turns out I didn't need anything to drink at all, so I didn't get caught with it. I need to buy some refillable bottles for future use.
We met at the nature center and I was tempted to head back to the car for a jacket to put over my three shirts because I was still a little cold, but I was reminded I would warm up quickly once we started moving, so I didn't. They were right. As long as we were moving, I was comfortable.
We started on the Pilant Slough Trail, a "1-mile long trail that starts near the ampitheater at the nature center and follows Pilant Slough as it meanders through the bottomland forest" according to the park's trail map. If you click to enlarge the picture, you can see one of the many puddles we did our best to go around. I was wearing a pair of retired running shoes which I managed to keep mostly dry. I definitely need to invest in a pair of waterproof hiking boots. Wet feet on a cold day would not have been pleasant.
The trail ended at Elm Lake, where we waited for the slower members of our party to catch up. I wasn't moving and the wind was blowing, so I was cold again. I'm glad we didn't have to wait long or I would have had to do some running in place or jumping jacks or something. If you click to enlarge this photo you can see the ducks. How can they swim in water that cold? Brrr...
We picked up a portion of Elm Lake Trail and followed it to the start of Spillway Trail which "leads through a bottomland hardwood swamp and connects Elm Lake Trail with 40-Acre Lake Trail". We crossed a footbridge and someone noticed an alligator floating just below the surface of the water. I wish I had a camera with a polarized lens because that would have made a great photo. At the end of the trail was an observation tower. I'll wait for a trip in warmer weather to climb it.
We then hiked the 1.2-mile 40 Acre Lake Trail, which took us in a circle around the lake. About halfway around we came upon a picnic area. We took a short break and some people ate snacks or visited the restrooms. I took a few pictures of the massive live oak trees covered in Spanish moss.
We ended up back at the Spillway Trail and took a second trip across the bridge. One of those sticks floating on the water is actually an alligator. Our submerged friend from earlier, maybe? Click to enlarge if you can't find him. Below is a different view.
We then headed back to our cars and some of us caravanned to Chili's for lunch. Bad news: Service was terrible. Some of us waited an hour for our food. Good news: It was on the house. I didn't leave a tip because I didn't have anything smaller than a ten. I had planned to add the tip when I signed the check. Are you supposed to tip if your meal is comped? I'm not convinced the waiter was completely to blame...