Thursday, March 05, 2009

BB Hikes the Brazos Bend SP Trails

I’m fresh off the Pedernales Falls State Park camp-out; my coat still has the faint scent of wood smoke and I decided I just had to go check out another set of trails. I’ve got a fever and the only prescription is more trail-hiking, to plagiarize Christopher Walken’s famous line.

Now I have reservations for a 4 day campout at McKinney Falls State Park in three weeks and since there is a burn ban in effect there, I’m cancelling it and going back to Pedernales Falls, where they will let you have a campfire. Anyway, even though I have a trip planned, I still want to go hiking and I want to do it anytime I get the chance, so here is how it all went down this week.

Back about ten years ago, my bride and I drove through BBSP (Brazos Bend State Park) and basically stayed in the car and visited whatever was viewable from the front seat – hardly the best way to see nature and this was my meager memory of the Park. However, we now have the Internet at our fingertips and the great State of Texas’ website people have gone way out of their way to attract campers, hikers and day-trippers. Maps, photos, scads of information and even videos of the park grace their well-built web pages.

I downloaded a park map and a separate trail map of BBSP so I could plan out a good 10-mile hike and then I enlisted the fellowship of my son, Nick and nephew, Andy Tallant. These two mid-20’s fellows made for some good company and a lot of trail humor to boot and we all benefited from pounding our feet on the trails.

Now, I’m in Baytown and according to Google Maps, BBSP is about 70+ miles from my house, but Houston traffic had a tail-wind and we arrived exactly one hour after leaving the house. My goal was to arrive at 9am and we did. I stopped at the main gate and flashed my Texas State Park Pass ($60 once a year and well worth it), which allowed me and my trail mates free access, so to speak.

Nick, Andy and I wore semi-warm clothes, as it was 50-degrees F and both young men wore water bladder packs, as we wanted to make sure we did not get dehydrated. I wore my excellent High Sierra Ridgeline Lumbar / Waist Pack w/2 water bottles. I like to eat sunflower seeds when I hike and we each took a couple Nature Valley Sweet & Salty Nut granola bars for an energy fix. A 10 miler was planned and 2.5 mph is about all a person can do if stopping to “smell the roses”. Our hike took about 4.5 hours and we felt a bit pooped afterward and real hungry.

This Park is really an amazing place for wildlife viewing, more so than any place I’ve hiked. We saw many American alligators, a wide variety of waterfowl, logs loaded with turtles and even a river otter. The park is not a zoo by definition, but we were able to see such a wide variety of wildlife that it felt like we were observing tame animals. I had no idea we were in for such a visual treat. I’m used to seeing wildlife high-tail it for the horizon, not ignoring me and this was fantastic and really added to our outdoor experience.

Both of my trail companions remarked that this would be an excellent place to bring a lady friend instead of “just going to the movies”, or sitting in front of an Xbox 360. There are camp sites, screened shelters, excellent bathroom and shower facilities available and picnic areas for park visitors.

One two occasions, I peaked over an obstacle to spy the American bittern, the only time in my life that I have been this close to this normally secretive bird. Blue-wing teal swam in groups and alligators lounged along the trail – so beware. One time Nick spotted a large gator covered with green pollen, not 40 feet off the trail. While we looked at it, Andy spotted an even larger cousin right behind us, just 30 feet off the trail. The Park’s web site warns us 30 feet is as close as we dare to get to these large carnivorous lizards, as they can cover the first 30 feet of ground at 30 miles per hour.

Great park, great time and I will be going back in April during the alligator breeding season, so stay tuned. Here are my photos.


Steve DC. said...

Bert-We took a big group of boys from our church to BB on a camping trip about 15 years ago-never have seen more wildlife in one place!! Such a hidden gem so close to the big city(Baytown)!!! Steve DC.

Rachel said...

Went to Brazos Bend several years ago...seeing your photos and reading your post make me want to go back soon! :) Isn't the George Ranch Historical place somewhere near there? Took a summer trip out there...beautiful country.

Natalie said...

You're making me want to go camping!!!

Anonymous said...

Hey Bert aka Brother in law,

Loved the pictures. Would like to visit Brazos Bend park. Lots of wildlife and not far from the house!

Naminan said...

Hi!! I'm glad I found your blog. It sounds like you know a lot about camping in the Houston area. I am from New Hampshire but now live in Houston. My husband is from Oregon. Needless to say, we're finding that camping in this area is a while different ballgame. I'm terrified of the idea of seeing and alligator!! I have two dogs: A Jack Russell Terrier and a Pit mix (40lbs). I think they would probably provoke a gator. Are there any campsites or state parks within 3 hours of Houston that are relatively gator free?? We don't have a trailer,just a tent. Also, is it OK to take a pistol/handgun with us to protect us from the gators if they come running towards us? I learned from your blog that April is mating season. Does this mean that they are more dangerous and aggressive or that they will leave us alone? I have no idea.

I would appreciate any advice you have for us. I will also research the State Park websites but I am looking for some personal experience stories.

Thank you!


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