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  • J.F. Rowan

Bend it like Brazos

It was a day trip, leaving Sea Rim State Park to Brazos Bend State Park by way of the Johnson Space Center in Houston Texas. In the last post (which you can read by clicking HERE) we were just wrapping things up at the Johnson Space Center and even though we don’t like to eat out too much, we had stopped off at the local Five Guys and grabbed a quick bite so we could get back on the road. Once we had our fill, I stuffed my pockets with napkins and peanuts (kidding…sort of)then we hit the trail.

Our camp spot. Fire keeps us warm as the temp drops.

It is an easy drive on mostly well maintained “Farm Road”routes. These are designated roads through Texas (there could be other states that do this as well) that connect the major agriculture areas with cities or places where crops or produce would either be bought, sold or stored. So far, these roads tend to be great for our kind of driving. A smooth, simple two-lane highway with speed limits anywhere between 45-70mph. Because I like to stay below 65mph, I can still find myself being passed by anything like a VW to a dump truck. Yea, a dump truck. At the risk of jinxing the whole deal, I have to say that driving this truck has become one of my favorite things to do, even in traffic. Mind you, I still can’t stand idiotic drivers, but being behind the wheel of this truck is a blessing. My navigator, however, can get a bit nervous at times, especially when day turns into night. Yvette seems to be getting better, but three of here worst scenarios while driving are (and in no particular order): 1.) Driving in close proximity to Jersey barriers, and in Texas, they can be about 4 feet taller. 2.) Driving in the outside lane, passing a car while the road curves to the right (especially when it slopes to the outside of the corner). And last but not least…3.) Driving anywhere, at night. And it was getting late.

The last thirty miles were dark, like Texas-without-a-moon kind of dark. And the speed limit for the roads we were on was 65-70mph with the occasional 45mph whenever there was an intersection. Which basically means everyone else on the road was driving about 75-80mph….except us. No worries, we reach our turn-off and we are home free. As the color slowly returns to my wife’s face, we drive through the entrance and then another 3 miles to the back of the park. Along the way, 13 (she says 15) deer and one large owl snagging its dinner from the middle of the road. Yep, this is the place for us! It was after normal park hours but since we had phoned ahead, we knew basically which area of the camping section we could park. I found a spot and despite it being pitch black, with the aid of my trusty navigator, we seamlessly backed into spot #34. It was already pretty cool, so the furnace went on and the beds were made. No sooner did we hit the sheets than a Barred Owl welcomed us with a hoot right outside our window. Made me smile to think I could still hear one of my favorite sounds this far from home.

There is much to see and do here in Brazos Bend State Park if I miss a few of our highlights, you can always check out our video HERE for great photos and other details The main attraction that Brazo’s is known for is probably their large population of American Alligators. However, during our visit, we only had one great day for viewing, and even that was at a distance. The rest of the time it was too cold for them to be seen but thankfully, they aren’t the only show in town.

Somebody was sleeping. Too cold to be active, they sleep in what sun they can find.

Birding here is especially good during migration but while we were there, it certainly wasn’t anything to sneeze at. We probably saw 10 or 12 species neither one of us had ever seen before. And, they were there in number so if you were anywhere near water, there was always something with feathers to observe. I am thankful for an early appreciation of birds and birding. My mother always had a dog-eared copy of Roger Tory Peterson's bird book always where one could grab it, next to the living room window. But I digress. Brazo’s Bend also has a great nature and education center that we took advantage of while there. Two programs in particular: “Venomous Snakes” and “Wildlife Observation” were informative. The on-scene naturalist was helpful in answering all kinds of questions that Yvette had and we even learned about becoming naturalist ourselves (apparently the national park service calls them “Interpretive”). Training actually is done within the state park system in differing regions depending what area you wish to immerse yourself. It may be something we’ll look into at a later date.

Wherever we turned in this park, there was always something to see or do. Biking, walking, wildlife viewing, they even had an observatory that held regular star parties and programs. At night, while most of the other campers were nestled inside of their RVs, we walked the trails listening for sounds of wildlife, and we were never disappointed. We could always hear and see deer, fox, owls and more. During the day, we could walk about 5 minutes away from where we were parked and see thousands of Turkey and Black vultures circling above. During the late afternoon, you could walk back to the same spot and witness them all selecting their roosting spots for the night. The trees would be filled with these black masses of large birds, very Alfred Hitchcock.

Could this be a sign?

During the first few days, there was something that was always present, but until you stopped and really studied it, you couldn’t quite make heads or tails of it. Whoever ever you walked, there was a line so many feet above the ground on everything in the woods. Being from the Quabbin Reservoir area, I’ve learned to associate this “look” as a result of over-browsing by deer. Hence, I never really paid attention to it until one day while looking at the trunk of a large “Live Oak” I noticed this line was actually caused by a staining that occurred not a few months earlier during heavy rains associated with Hurricane Harvey. Further investigation revealed that 75 percent of the park was flooded 9 days, in some spots with as much as 8 feet of water. Several buildings were being repaired while we were there and much of the camping area’s electrical system had to be repaired or replaced. If you look closely at some of the photos, this stain is clearly evident.

Stain line caused be flooding a few month prior.

The nighttime temperatures steadily decreased in the 7 days that we were there. and on the final three nights, the mercury fell to 22 degrees. As a precaution, I drained what little water I had in the trailer and in the coach. We were thankful that our furnace worked well and kept us toasty. The cold made for a good nights sleep. The last day was the coldest and brought with it sleet and freezing rain. But even a frozen bicycle rack couldn’t keep us from moving to our next location the next morning. A quick breakfast and some last minute preparation and we were on the road to Buescher State in Smithville Texas. This was a great park experience, it will definitely go on the “Place to revisit” list.

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