It's been very easy to see the beauty at Brazos Bend lately. In just the past
seven days there's been a noticeable difference in how the
park looks. All it took was a week of very muggy, sunny,
warmer-than-normal weather and the place is really starting to look like
This is what we've wanted all winter, although a little less humidity
and fog would be nice. Some mornings the mist from the Gulf is dripping
like rain off the Spanish moss on the live oak trees.
Spanish moss hangs from the
branches of live oak trees in the 200-Loop (2-15-11)
You're probably wondering if I'm complaining or bragging! Neither,
It will just take some time for Jim, Cody, and me to acclimate ourselves
to humid 70s F. after all the cold weather we've had this winter. On
days we aren't doing our camp hosting jobs in the mornings we try to get
out on the trails for runs, walks, and rides right after breakfast. It's
more humid then, but cooler. Otherwise, we go out after lunch and just
sweat it out.
It's 'way better than cold rain or snow, after all.
Elm Lake (2-15-11)
Although the Cameo is much better insulated than our old Hitch Hiker
5th-wheel camper we keep the windows and door closed when it's humid
outside. We don't want any mustiness or mildew inside. We're also
running one of the air conditioners at a rather high setting (usually
about 78° F.) during the daytime to
keep the interior of the coach more dry, and using the electric heaters
at night for the same purpose. The temperatures this week have been
moderate enough at night (50s-60s) that we really don't need the heat to
stay warm, just dry.
Creekfield Lake looks summery
even with bare tree branches. (2-19-11)
We haven't had any rain in the past week, just that mist I mentioned.
The fog is so thick some mornings that the plants are bathed in
moisture, and that's made a noticeable difference in the green plants
floating in the lakes, the grass, other
groundcovers, and wildflowers.
Flowers? Yes, something besides dandelions!
By the end of this week I've seen white and purple violets --
definitely a harbinger of spring -- some short yellow buttercups,
and tall yellows stems with clusters of multiple daisy-like
I took both of those photos yesterday. I remember all of those
flowers being quite prolific here last
they're all over the park en masse in another week or two, if the weather
stays this balmy.
The leaves are not responding as quickly. Deciduous shrubs and trees
still have mostly-bare branches.
No rain this week = even drier trails (yay!) and lower water in the
sloughs and some of the lakes. Not sure if that's so good. The easiest
way for me to determine the water level is by how much is flowing over
the concrete under the spillway bridge:
Less water, more floating aquatic
plants under the spillway bridge this week (3-18-11)
Another "barometer" is the level of water in the (not so) Big Creek
at the bridge near the campground:
At normal flow you can't see any of that reddish mud; during late
winter flooding, the water is well up into the trees.
One of the first things we heard in our campground host meeting
upon arrival at Brazos Bend was the good news that the
campgrounds are booked on weekends from now through fall.
That's good news for the park, maybe not-so-good news for
visitors trying to make reservations! We ran into that last
March before we lucked into the CG host job. We could reserve
for three weekdays, but not into the weekend (although the staff
person who checked us in said she knew not everyone would show
up, so she did allow us to extend our reservation through that
Brazos Bend is typical of other state parks in Texas during the
school year (cooler months) -- the campgrounds are only
15-25% occupied during weekdays, primarily with tourists, and
near capacity on Friday and Saturday nights when more local
folks can enjoy a two-day break from work and school.
Saturdays at Brazos Bend = full campground
One difference between the parks in Texas that we've noticed the
last two winters is the high number of scouting troops that
reserve campsites at Brazos Bend. We haven't observed that at
the other parks where we've camped, even Huntsville. They get
some Scouts in December, January, and February, but not nearly
as many. Perhaps more go there later in the spring when we
Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Boy Scouts come from all over the
Houston metro area to camp at Brazos Bend. They arrive all
Friday afternoon and evening, and leave early Sunday morning.
They not only reserve the three large group camping sites near
Hale Lake, they also take up about half the RV/tent sites in the
Burr Oak (100s) and Red Buckeye (200s) camping loops.
They come with trailers to haul their gear and set
up multiple tents at each site. Note the turquoise tent I
highlighted in the photo below; it's suspended off the
ground. I haven't seen that before.
The Scout groups are a little noisier than one couple or family per site but
they are always well-behaved and clean up after themselves
better than some of the other campground visitors do. I think
it's great that the kids have the opportunity to enjoy the park
like they do. They attend the nature talks, go hiking on the
trails, ride their bikes on the paved roads throughout the park,
and learn camping and teamwork skills.
This weekend includes the President's Day holiday tomorrow, so
the place is packed. What surprised me most was the number of
campers who came and went on Saturday and Sunday. I would have
expected folks to be here for three or four nights in a row.
That made our weekend patrol job busier. I'll explain more about
our responsibilities when we do that job in another entry.
CHANGES IN THE PARK THIS YEAR
There are two main differences in facilities and accommodations
at the park since we were here last year.
One of the fourteen screened shelters is now enclosed and has air
conditioning. Unlike the other shelters, this one now has
a lock and guests have to check in and out with the
campground host on duty. It's like renting the dining hall --
upon checking in the person who is reserving the space must sign
a check-list verifying the place is clean inside and out and
that everything is in working order (lights, AC, fans, etc.).
When they're ready to leave, the host meets them to verify they
are leaving the place in the same condition.
Several of the roomy shelters
It's a little more work for the hosts but the guests really like
#3 since it's been enclosed. The park may enclose more of the
There are also tentative plans to build a new, larger nature
center in the field across from the present structure. It's just
not big enough for all the visitors and potential displays.
Funds for that will probably be raised from the very active
volunteer organization that supports the park. Although the
Texas state parks are in relatively good shape compared to those
in other states, there isn't much funding available for a huge
project like this. Brazos Bend is one of the most popular parks
in Texas and brings in a lot of $$$ to sustain its operation so
hopefully it can raise the necessary funds to improve the nature
center. The current building may be turned into a lodge, which
would also be an asset to the park.
Right now park staff has a major headache with half of its
restrooms. We heard all about that during our first campground
host meeting this year.
These large portable potties have sinks and
running water. "Real" restroom is in the rear.
Throughout the winter three of the six large restrooms in the
park have been closed while undergoing renovation. The work was
supposed to be done by now but one thing after another has gone
wrong with the project, including cost overruns and contractors
that haven't paid their subcontractors.
There's a big push now to get the work done before the hordes
arrive for spring break in mid-March.
Above and below: this temporary mobile unit has
Meanwhile, people camping in the two campground loops and the
shelters must either use the nice portable units (with
showers, even!) or go to one of the un-renovated restrooms
without showers in the three picnic areas. Staff in the
HQ/entrance building and folks who camp near it in the overflow
area have to use a smaller wheelchair-accessible porta-potty.
We are so glad we have a sewer at our site so we can use our own
SERVICES OUTSIDE THE PARK
We still have to go outside the park to do our laundry. The
often-malfunctioning washers and dryers behind the restroom in
the 200-Loop are also under renovation and may not be available
for use until after we leave in April.
Last year we never did find a Laundromat we liked in neighboring
communities. We looked harder this year and came up with a good
one about 20 miles away in the city of Rosenberg (3205 Avenue I,
for those interested).
Another problem we had last year was the length of the drive to
Missouri City to use a YMCA, about 29 miles one way. There was a
Walmart and AAA nearby, and Sam's Club, another Walmart, and
a Post Office in Sugar Land.
Elm Lake (2-15-11)
This time we did some more research and found a Walmart, YMCA,
Post Office, chiropractor, and other businesses we could use in
Richmond, all about 20 miles from the park. That's still a hike,
but closer than Missouri City. We did go to Missouri City and
Sugar Land several times to use the other YMCA, shop at Sam's
Club, and eat lunch at a really good Thai restaurant (Thai
Cottage II), but for more routine trips to Walmart and the
Laundromat, we just drove to Richmond-Rosenberg this year.
Fishing pier on Elm Lake (2-15-11)
Most of the Y's we use when traveling don't have indoor pools or
whirlpools; Jim likes to sit in the whirlpool to relax
the muscles in his back and legs. It's good therapy for his
injured knee, too. We were happy to discover that the Y in
Richmond has both an indoor pool and a whirlpool.
We are able to use our convenient plastic Houston-area YMCA
cards in Conroe (north of the metro area), Missouri City, and
Richmond. We just swipe the card on the scanner when we go in,
instead of signing in on a register for guests. We are each
allowed thirty free visits per calendar year.
DID YOU SAY CHIROPRACTOR?
Yep. Jim never did heal properly from his meniscus surgery in
early December. His knee doesn't bother him when he's moving
around, even running, but it aches when he's sedentary. The
worst is when he's trying to sleep. He just can't get
comfortable and he's losing a lot of sleep.
OTC pain meds are no help. Stronger prescription pain meds and
sleeping pills do help, but they don't address the underlying
cause, whatever that is. His (our) orthopedist in Roanoke is
surprised that Jim's having this problem from such routine,
simple surgery and he can't determine the cause from 1,800 miles
away. His remedy was to stop running for a while.
Jim's frustrated because he can't sleep well and he can't train
adequately. So he decided to find someone who can help until we
get back to Roanoke in a couple months.
Just chillin' (2-18-11)
We both value the services of a well-trained chiropractor. The
ones we've used over the years in Atlanta, Billings, and Roanoke
have had good holistic solutions for our various running and
aging issues. Even when we're traveling we've found competent
chiropractors and other medical providers around the country
when we've needed them, usually by luck rather than solid
references from other patients.
Jim looked online to see who within 20-30 miles of the park was
a preferred provider with his insurance company and found the
names of several chiropractors. The closest was a young woman in
Richmond who specializes in sports medicine. He called her
office, described his problem, got some answers he liked, and
made an appointment for a few days later to see her. He made an
appointment with another chiropractor near the first one, in
case he didn't like the looks of her office; that was
On one of our trips to Richmond/Rosenberg for other errands we
did a drive-by at both medical offices. Jim was OK with the
looks of both, so he kept his original appointment.
I went with him to his first appointment with the
chiropractor on Monday of this week. We were both impressed with
how thorough she was in evaluating Jim's problems and current
condition (including his very tight back and leg muscles) and with
her multi-disciplinary treatment.
We were also glad to see that she is a well-trained and toned
athlete herself. We always wonder about medical professionals
who are not in good physical shape themselves. How are they
supposed to motivate their patients to be healthy if they aren't
good role models?
All wrapped up: Cody amuses Jim by
being a goof-ball. (2-20-11)
That first appointment lasted almost two hours, including the
doctor's verbal and physical evaluation, chiropractic
adjustment, deep-tissue massage around the knee, and
recommendations for treatment at home (specific stretching,
Jim had asked our orthopedist if he should get PT after his knee
surgery but the doc didn't recommend it. We didn't think
to ask about massage, and he didn't mention it.
The chiropractor said some deep tissue work would have probably
helped Jim's knee tissues to heal properly. She talked about
remodeling/realigning the muscle fibers properly around his knee
because they didn't properly heal after surgery. That sounded
like stuff we've heard previously, especially from massage
therapists, and it made sense to us.
After being poked and pummeled and getting lots of useful advice
and encouragement, Jim not only felt better when he left the
office, he also slept better that night. He went in for two more
sessions this week, which concentrated more on deep tissue work
and stretching than alignment. He's also been gently stretching
at home as instructed, and icing his knee several times a day.
Our Specialized TriCross bike is fun to
ride both on and off pavement. (2-17-11)
Our orthopedist had already told Jim to take several weeks off
from running and the chiropractor agreed with that in order to
hasten his recovery. He's able to do some walking and cycling to
keep from going too crazy but the chiropractor advised him to go
easy with both activities while she's still treating him.
He'll see the chiropractor two or three more times next week and
determine whether he'll continue after that. He feels like there
is some improvement in both his knee and his ability to sleep,
and the price is right -- only a $25 co-pay for each
fairly lengthy visit.
THIS WEEK'S CRITTER COUNT
next page . . .
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2011 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil