3 January 2011

Round the Bend: Brazos Bend

Back in the November I found myself in Houston for 10 days - about as far removed you can get from the Yorkshire Dales, short of driving to Ulaanbaattar I guess. I'd never been to Texas before and to be honest the only Texan history I'd learnt way back in elementary school was the battle of The Alamo - so I kinda had this preconception that Texas was all desert, how wrong I was...

Tree Ducks

I put over a thousand miles on what I, somewhat cruelly, called the 9th ugliest car in the world and discovered that you don't have to travel far (at least on a Texan scale) to find some fantastic locations for a good walk.

To the north is the fabulous Huntsville State Park, much like Kielder forest only with a lake 9x the size, and to the south; Brazos Bend, famed for its ox-bow lakes and resident alligator population.

Texan Autumn

Now whilst hundreds of miles of trails through lakeside deciduous forest is appealing, the opportunity to get up close to one of the few species left-over from the Mesozoic era was too good to miss.

So I chose to leave the air-conditioned comfort of the rental mini-SUV thing and head out into the heat and humidity (82% and 26degC, not the most pleasant of conditions) and parts of the park's 35 miles of trails.

Judging by the number of warning signs the 'gators here either hunt in packs, or there's a lot of stupid people about. Hopefully I'd soon be finding out.

'Gator Warning

For the sake of arguments let's say I'm not stupid, I just "mis-interpreted" the sign warning me not to get closer than 30ft to an alligator and thought 30 inches would suffice.

Besides, if you're going to meet your maker, going through the pearly gates in the jaws of an alligator ranks near the top of the list of "All-time great ways of departing" in my book.

As it is, it seems alligators are pretty solitary creatures, shying from human attention and preferring to lounge on muddy riverbanks or float just below the surface of the water with their eyes and snout poking up through the thick green weeds. So I was a bit surprised when I encountered this chap...


Glad I had a decent camera to hand for a change as the results from the venerable iPhone would probably have been useless. So I squeezed off a few shots whilst the 'gator decided if I'd be making his lunch menu or not.

Seems he came upon the realisation that tall, scrawny, Brits have very little meat on them compared to your average American (more-so with Houston being titled obesity capital of the USA) and so left me in peace, as I him.

The other thing found in abundance at Brazos Bend is waterfowl, with Whistling Ducks being the most common and one of the most brightly coloured (maybe with the exception of the pink Roseate Spoonbill).

Tree Ducks

I've put both walks over on Everytrail; Creekfield Lake and Horseshoe Lake. And, whilst the distances are laughable at barely a mile and half each, the wildlife more than makes up for what they lack in challenge. A few other photos from Houston are lurking on Flickr too.
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