The last time we were in the Houston area we spent a day visiting Brazos Bend State Park and we were so impressed, we put it on the list of places we wanted to revisit and investigate thoroughly. It was a short drive here from the beach side campground in Quintana, but we missed a turn and ended up driving through miles of factories and refineries with no cross roads to get turned around. Because so many trucks are here conducting factory business, the roads are wide and Ken suddenly decided to make a U turn with the forty foot motor home towing the Jeep to get headed back in the right direction. Too bad I was the only one there to witness this impressive move.
Brazos Bend is less than an hour's drive from Houston, but it feels like another world. Spring has arrived and the area is lush and green and flowers are beginning to bloom. The Brazos River flows through the park, and the entire area is full of shallow sloughs and bayous that are gradually flowing toward the main channel. The park is full of wild life - birds, fish, deer, turtles, alligators and bobcat. It is common to find hiking trails in parks, but this park also has miles of bike trail through the bayou. And a bobcat actually zoomed across the trail in front of us chasing a rabbit - much too quickly to photograph, alas. Bridges cross the little lakes and there are numerous benches and platforms to stop and view nature.
Signs warn that the gators could be anywhere. These cold blooded creatures regulate their temperatures by basking in the sunshine and laying submerged in the cooler water, a bit like Goldilocks tasting the porridge. They move in and out of the water until they find the perfect temperature and then they stay put, barely moving. This makes them very hard to see and some of them choose watery spots that are also full of algae, which provides additional cover. The bark on a half submerged log looks very much like the scales on a gator. An overactive imagination can see gators everywhere. The squawks of a bird alerted us to the first real gator we saw. They were much better at spotting them than we were. When we rode our bikes in a similar environment in the Florida Everglades, some of the gators were sprawled across the paths we were riding on, but here they were always on the water's edge, which still meant that some were less than ten feet away from us. Some people also hiked on these trails, but it felt much safer to be high on a bicycle passing by three times as fast a we can walk. But our concerns were groundless. The alligator's moving eyeballs let us know that they knew we were there, but as long as we didn't get too close, they could care less. A bird or fish would make a much better gator snack.
The campground is spacious and nearly empty, but that will change this coming Easter weekend. But by then our exploration will be finished and we'll be ready to move on.