If you enjoy nature, there isn’t many option in Houston area. Brazos Bend State Park is definitely the one you should not ignore. Its highlight is the free roaming alligators throughout the park.
Having lived in Houston for a while, I’ve been to this park too many times. I’ve seen how the park changes from winter to summer. The place was boring to me until I realize that I have never see this place at night.
In this trip, I decided that I would hike at night no matter how cold it will be in late December. I am very happy I did. It was like exploring a new world.
After setting up camp, I started hiking from 40 Acre Lake.
The park is quite beautiful in winter. Hiking is also easier since there is no heat or mosquito to contend with. The only attraction I miss is alligator. They are less active in cold weather. Therefore, winter is ideal for night hiking because no one wants to meet an alligator in the wild at night. Alligators hunt at night using their night vision.
I was very careful not to step on anything as I continued along the trail. It felt like playing a really realistic role-playing game. If I didn’t need to get up for the sunrise, I would keep on hiking until morning.
The place was very serene. It was just me, the trees, the lake, and the stars. Nothing to get in the way – except for cellphone. Surprisingly the signal was very strong here with 4G. (I ended up turning the airplane mode on.)
The moon is a very important thing to consider for night hiking. Without it, the landscape will be too dark to enjoy. It would be like hiking in total darkness. I used LunaSolCal to get the time of moon set and moon rise before hiking.
But then again, without the moon, the milky way will be more visible.
Photography Note: On the hike, I was experimenting with a new lens combination. I combined Zhongyi Lens Turbo II for Micro Four Third with Tokina 11-16mm f2.8. The result was very disappointingly soft around the edge of the frame. I ended up with very few usable photos of the night hike. Zhongyi Lens Turbo I actually performs better than Zhongyi Lens Turbo II in overall sharpness. Zhongyi Lens Turbo II is more resistant to flare, however.
The best part about camping trip is the lack of comfort, especially when it comes to sleeping. Because I can’t sleep, I had no problem getting up at 5AM for the sunrise.
The sky was like it was from a painting. Everything was beautiful It was unfortunate that I was the only one there.
This was not the first time I see sunrise at this park. But the way the clouds reflect the rising sun here is really amazing.
Even later, the clouds helped block out harsh light and shadow. They helped tremendously in landscape photography.
I saw only two alligator on this morning hike. They were both too far. So here are the other animals instead.
On the way back, I stopped by Sakura Japanese Sushi and Grill in Alvin for their calamari plate. It was delicious! Not sure how much MSG they used. If you go, do not let the exterior of this restaurant dissuade you when you arrive.
This was the best trip I had in Houston for a while. That is unexpected considering how often I’ve been here. I might be back here again for milky way.
How do you enjoy nature in Houston? If you’ve been to Brazos Bend, I’d like to hear your experience.