2011 RUNNING & TRAVEL ADVENTURES

 

   
 
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   TRAIL SCENES FROM WEEK 2 @ BRAZOS BEND

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 20

 
"This primitive trail is 3.2 miles one way (6.4 miles round-trip) and takes visitors
on an extended hike, bike, or horseback ride through the forest and on to the
remote Creekwood Lake. This trail is sometimes closed due to wet trail conditions."
 
~ description of the Creekwood Lake Trail from the Brazos Bend trail map
 
 
Indeed.

The first 1/3 mile of this trail was so wet last year that Jim and I weren't able to continue any farther on foot, let alone on a bike. It was closed to all trail users the whole month of March.

This year should be different.

I am always curious about trails that are new to me, and even more determined to explore this one because of being unable to see most of it last year.

Here's the section of the trail map that shows the Creekwood Lake Trail highlighted in yellow:

The only way to access Creekwood is via the Bayou Trail (shown in blue), which is also sometimes closed to foot, bike, and/or horse traffic if it's too muddy. Currently Bayou is open to all trail users but Creekwood is closed to equestrians. In my opinion it's not ready for bikes quite yet, either.

Although the first 1/3 mile is wet again this year, it's not nearly as swampy as last spring. A week ago I was able to detour pretty easily around the two wet, muddy spots located after the second ravine. This is one of them:


Still some wet spots in mid-February, but they might dry out in March.  (2-13-11)

What a pleasant surprise when this dirt and grass "road" morphed into beautiful wooded single-track just beyond the muck and mire! I couldn't see that until I reached a right turn and continued following the blazes:

Last Sunday I hiked in 1 miles, then turned around because I didn't have enough water for Cody and me on a warm, sunny day. We'd already hiked several miles on other remote park trails before approaching Creekwood. This first series of photos are from that hike.

That day I encountered one more significant wet spot about 3/4 mile from the trailhead. I was able to bypass 150 feet of water and mud by cutting a tangent through the woods:

After approximately a mile the trail popped out of the woods and into a less verdant open area with the third major ravine down to a creek:

 

The trail flattens out after a short steep climb up from the creek:

Wild pigs had been digging up the dirt on and near the trail in that area but I didn't see any of them that day.

I continued on a little further until coming to a fourth ravine:

 

That ravine is about a mile and a half from the trailhead and the point where I turned around the first time I hiked this trail. I took the next photo on the way back through the "pig field" to the steep ravine:

That hike just made me want to see the remaining mile and a half of the trail to the park boundary. I'd have to wait until I had the time and energy to do at least a 10-mile hike, however. This isn't a trailhead to which you can drive.

I got my chance one morning this week. The bad news is that the pictures from my second hike on the Creekwood Trail aren't as pretty because it was an overcast day. The good news? Since we haven't had any more rain the trail was a little bit drier than it had been four days earlier. I still had to bypass the three wet areas in the first 3/4 mile but I could tell they were improving.

The next four photos are from this hike; they are scenes from the second half of the Creekwood Lake Trail.

When I approached the field the pigs have been digging up I was rewarded with seeing a couple dozen hogs in the woods and the one ahead on the trail that I showed in the last entry.

Father along the trail I could see other areas where they'd been digging. This is the most remote part of the park and a good place for the pigs to stay so the rangers are less likely to "relocate" them (you don't want to know). Cattle from neighboring ranches also occasionally manage to find their way into this area but I didn't see any of them.

A little past the pig field the trail comes very close to Big Creek and you can see the 200-loop of the campground across the deep channel cut by the creek. You can see it on the map at the top of this entry. Too bad there isn't a bridge across the creek so more folks could access this trail. It would have to be a major bridge, however, because of the serious flooding that sometimes occurs.

No, you wouldn't want to ford the creek. Alligators, remember?

After this the trail is mostly flat, smooth single-track that passes through a canopy of tall live oaks:

The trail becomes more jungle-like as it curves around Creekwood Lake, one of several horseshoe-shaped meanders that have formed off to the side of Big Creek:

I was surprised the lake was almost totally covered with aquatic plants:

The trail became more open and grassy near the park boundary about a quarter of a mile beyond the lake. I turned around and retraced my steps 3+ miles back to the trailhead at Bayou Trail (and another couple miles back to our campsite).

It took Cody and me about 3 hours to hike a total of ten miles; my GPS indicated we were on the Creekwood Lake Trail (round-trip) for 6.6 miles of that. I like this trail and I plan to come back on my bike if the weather continues to be dry for a while. It's an interesting trail to hike, run, bike, or ride a horse -- when it's dry enough. 

SCENES FROM OTHER TRAILS THIS WEEK

By now I've hiked or ridden every trail that's currently open at Brazos Bend.

That's about 34 miles of trails, with 1 miles on Live Oak still closed to all trail users. Rangers have begun to spread crushed rock on Live Oak but they reportedly need to come up with another $22,000 worth of rock before they can complete the job. Money like that isn't easy to come by when the state of Texas has a serious budget deficit. I doubt that project will get done this year.

This past week I've walked 21 miles and biked 34 miles, mostly on trails. One of those rides was 20+ miles, another 13+ miles. In addition to the pictures in the last two entries, here are some of the other trail photos I took.


Sky drama over Elm Lake  (2-15-11)

My favorite trails to hike and bike are the ones around and between Elm and 40-Acre lakes. I love the water, birds, and alligators. During the week there aren't many other folks using the trails. Jim and I have both learned to avoid the lakes on weekends -- when the hordes descend on Brazos Bend --  unless we're in the mood to saunter and talk to visitors instead of getting in a serious workout.

Two trail loops that begin off the NW side of Elm Lake are shown on the map above.

The purple Horseshoe Lake Trail loop (1.2 miles long) winds around and between two other U-shaped lakes (New Horseshoe and Old Horseshoe). This is a wide, smooth dirt and crushed rock trail that is easy to run, walk, or ride and is also popular with fishermen and birders:


Birds gather at Old Horseshoe Lake  (2-18-11)

The 2-mile long Big Creek Loop Trail runs off the far side of the Horseshoe Lake Loop Trail. It is marked in green on the map above.

Last March this trail remained fairly muddy in spots and we didn't run on it much. Last week Jim reported it still had some mud in a couple places but was in better shape than we ever saw it last year. That was enough to get me out there!

When I hiked it two days ago this was the only wet spot I found:

The rest of it was dry.

The Big Creek Loop has a few hills but is mostly flat and smooth. Most of it is dirt, not crushed rock. The bumpiest place to ride is where the trail goes through a field:

That photo doesn't show the double-track grass-and-dirt trail; I was standing on it when I took the picture.

One of the trails closest to our campground is the Roadside Trail, which runs from Creekview Lake past the George Observatory to the Hale Lake picnic area. It is marked in tan and is in the lower right corner of the partial trail map at the top of this entry. The trail is a little less than a mile long. It is smooth dirt, flat, and about three feet wide.

This huge live oak tree is on part of the Roadside Trail near the observatory:

Another trail I often walk or ride is the Bayou Trail, shown in blue on the map above. It's a 1.4-mile dirt and grass trail that connects the Bluestem and Sawmill Trails. It also has the only access to the Creekwood Lake Trail.

The next two pictures are along the Bayou Trail, which winds through pretty woods and up and down several small ravines:

 

 

The Bayou Trail was a little muddy last week. The first time I walked it I spent a couple of hours clearing limbs and dragging small trees out of the path. That wasn't totally altruistic or as part of my camp hosting duties; I also wanted it clear to ride my bike!

Now it's not only cleared of debris, it's also dry enough for bikes and horses.

I've also cleared limbs from the Sawmill Trail, which runs 2 miles along Sawmill Road between the  Bayou Trail and the equestrian campground (EQ). Most of that flat, wide, double-track dirt and grass trail is dry but there is enough mud in one place that it's not open yet to equestrians.

I'll continue to show photos of these and other trails in subsequent entries.

Next entry: clearing trails and other volunteer duties we're doing in return for a "free" campsite

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the Ultra Lab

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2011 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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