Saturday, January 30, 2010

Brazos Bend State Park

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...

15 comments:

Vince said...

It looks lovely, was it a good walk.
But I have to say you would not get me anywhere near that reptile unless I had something that would halt it in its tracks. I would have no intention of putting him in the position of thinking when looking at me 'Handbag and Shoes for the Mrs. She deserves it for watching that nest of eggs'.

Jen said...

@Vince: As long as you don't jump in the water with him or try to pet him, you should be fine. It was a good walk.

Vince said...

Ourselves and New Zeeland are the only places without reptiles. So forgive me, that while I believe you in my head when you say unless I decide to swim out and give her a kiss I would be totally safe. Nevertheless, I would feel much the happier with something in a small field howitzer between us.

buffalodick said...

30F? We'd be sunbathing in Michigan! :) It was 0 degrees at 6AM yesterday, went to the store about 2PM in a tee shirt and a hoodie...

gayle said...

What a beautiful walk!!! Not sure about the tipping ...it all depends on the waiter.

Poisonn Amour said...

haha sounds interesting!
i love walking. when its warm tho :P

sage said...

I found the gator--but it sounds pretty cold for him to be out. Sometime last year I wrote a book review of Texan John Grave's book, "Goodbye to a River" which is about the Brazos River... I've never been there.

Anita said...

I have got to find some hiking groups to get together with because I find myself envying people when they talk about hiking. Maybe I'll invest in those waterproof hiking boots so I'll be ready.
Nice photos - seems like it was a good day.

Jen said...

@Vince: LOL. I stole your "swim up and give a kiss" line when Poker Guy asked if it was safe for me to be getting that close to alligators. It was a hit and I took full credit...

@bufalodick: You're talking smack now but you would cry like a baby during our summers.

@gayle: He could have done more to serve as a liason between us and the kitchen. If I'd had some change I would have given him a small tip - no more than 10%.

@Poisonn Amour: I enjoy them much more in warmer weather, too.

@sage: They are not very active this time of year. We were surprised to find him. I have not heard of that book. The park is on the Brazos River, as you seem to have inferred by the name.

@Anita: You should! Hiking is great exercise and much more fun than the gym.

Rebecca S. said...

Great pictures of the alligator. I would like to see one in the wild (from a distance of course). I think students are exempt from tipping, aren't they ;)

Jen said...

@Rebecca S.: Students don't normally tip but I'm not sure the waitstaff is on board with an official rule. They only make a few dollars an hour - not even minimum wage in most places. Tips is what they live on.

Heather said...

Love those pics. Is Brazos Bend in Texas? I've been to Big Bend once. Just wondering.

30 degrees, I try not to poke my head out the door at below freezing.

Jen said...

@Heather: Brazos Bend State Park is in East Texas. Not nearly as big or interesting as Big Bend, but well worth the five dollar day use fee.

Anonymous said...

Ahhhh, Brazos bend. there is just something about this place... It is liking walking through Jurassic Park or something. You feel like a dinosaur is going to poke its head out--or perhaps a hobbit or two if you are walking in one of the Forest Trails.

It is a photographers dream--i go about once a week or more for exercise and to take pictures/video--It is only about 30 minutes for me to get there, it is so relaxing and I just take like a zillion pics and vids and walk until my feet fall off and then go home eat, look at all the pics I took, and crash out! Brazos Bend is awesome!

Jen said...

I didn't see any hobbits, but alligators are dinosaurs, right?

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