Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Brazos Bend Blessings

We are loving our time at Texas state parks, because we pretty well have the place to ourselves during the week.  We can take long bike rides and never see another person!

We just have to brag on our great camping spot again.  It is so big that this is the picture taken from the back of our site towards our motor home.  One of the biggest sites ever!  


We also have to include a picture of the huge vines that wind their way up the trunks of most of the trees in the park.  Mark has been eyeing this vine all week, sure that it would help him climb our tree.

In Texas state parks, you can make reservations, but not for a particular site.  So someone (like us) that shows up without a reservation, but in the middle of the week when no one is here, gets to pick the very best site.

This park is very popular among people from nearby Houston, and we found out that every camping spot has been reserved for this weekend for several months.  So we hoped for a way to stay in our beautiful camping spot, but it didn't look very hopeful.  But then we were "blessed" with the same cold front that dumped three feet of snow on the northeast.  Our version of the cold front was temperatures that dipped into the 50's, with strong winds during the day.  That was enough to scare away most of the 300 boy scouts that were converging on the park for the weekend, so we got to stay!

By the end of the week end, we again had the place to ourselves. This picture was taken as the sinking sun illuminated our now empty campground.

We take advantage of these cold, windy days to catch up on laundry, and we made a batch of cookies!  We had to burn off those cookie calories, so the next day we continued our long bike rides and hikes around the 34  miles of trails in the park.

The little white dots under that big live oak tree are two ibis.  We've seen hundreds of these birds in the park.

Actually, some of the park trails are closed because they are too muddy.  We got on a few trails that should be closed, as riding a bike through the mud is one of the hardest and messiest things we have tried so far.

We found out this park was closed last spring because it was totally covered with water.  You can still see the water mark on the trees and bushes throughout the park.  It looks like our campground was under about three feet of water at the time the park was closed.

The water birds and alligators didn't seem to mind the flooding, and we can attest that they are doing well.  We saw lots of these curious birds with bright red foreheads.  A google search taught us that they are common gallinule.

We were easily entertained by this gray heron, intently watching the water for his next meal.

There is also a huge flock of vultures in the park.  They must keep the dead animal carcasses cleaned up in a hurry with this size of clean-up crew.  We counted over 150 vultures in the air at one time.

The park has a great nature center and very friendly staff.  We also enjoyed this "clock" outside the nature center.  Called an analemmatic sundial, it uses the sun's movement pattern to measure time. Denisa is the gnomon, a fancy name for any object used to cast a shadow on the dial.  But since she is a moving gnomon, she can move to different areas of the dial to reflect the sun's position in the sky during different months of the year. By standing on the square marked as "January," her upraised arms point at the correct time of day.  It was actually 2:50 when we took this picture--very accurate!

We are learning some of the curious hunting styles that God has given to some curious birds.  This is an anhinga--also known as a snake-bird.  Instead of floating on top of the water like a duck, this bird will be totally submerged under water except for that long flexible neck.  He looks like a snake going through the water. Those wings don't shed water, so he must come to the beach to spread his wings to dry.

This is a close up of an anhinga that let us get unusually close. When we saw the way he was holding his wing we kept our distance because we thought he was either injured or perhaps a juvenile.

God gave this little snowy egret a great hunting tool.  On the end of those long black legs are bright yellow toes.  He wiggles his yellow toes to stir up aquatic life that might think they are chasing a worm for lunch--only to find that they have become lunch for the egret instead.

The turtles also seem to be doing well at Brazos Bend. We are looking at them with a different degree of respect after watching one inside the jaws of an alligator.

Since we were blessed to get to stay through the weekend, we were looking for a place to attend church on Sunday morning.  Right outside the park is Brazos Bend Baptist Church, and we enjoyed the service here with the friendly congregation.  If you look closely on the sign, you can see that there was a chili-cook off, and we were invited to stay and help judge the best chili.  This is the second time we have been a soup judge in the past week.  We're wondering if this could lead to a second career for us as professional food judges.  What a delicious career!

Staying through Sunday also meant watching the professional football playoff games on Sunday afternoon.  On this beautiful afternoon, Mark finally had the opportunity to watch the games outside. We have been on the road for over a year, and this is the first time we have used that outdoor television.  It was also a good time to sort out the citrus fruit that we brought with us from the Rio Grande Valley.  You can see the piles of oranges, tangerines and grape fruit on the ground beside the motor home.  We have certainly been enjoying eating and sharing the citrus we picked off Denisa's Mother's trees in Mission.

With the beautiful weather, we started a campfire and had a hotdog supper.  That would also include a smorse dessert while the football games wound down.

A herd of deer wandered into the site next door.  This has to be one of Denisa's favorite park pictures.  It includes campfire toasted marshmallows, wildlife, and a beautiful Spanish-moss-draped oak tree, all taken from our huge camping spot.  We have been blessed with our stay at Brazos Bend State Park!

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