March 22, 2011

3/22/11 – Big Thicket NP

Big Thicket was the first designated National Preserve in the country. It's sort of spread all over east Texas—there are 4 land and 4 water units. We went to the Turkey Creek Unit, which is where the Visitor Center and HQ are. 

We hadn't planned on going to this park, but we're staying at 1000 Trails Lake Conroe north of Houston. We picked this resort to visit George's cousin Wally's family, then extended for another week so we could make sure we got some mail my daughter is forwarding. While we're here, we looked at the book on national parks to see if there was anything around close. It's not exactly close—80 miles or so.

After the initial stop to take pictures of the sign, my first stop was the restroom. (Both of these are SOP—George is used to this by now!) No lights inside the ladies' room. Hmmm… George came out of the men's room—no lights there either. We took turns holding the outside door open enough to see inside. Then one of the rangers came out to start the generator out back—turned out there had just been a power outage because of the high winds. (I think "high winds" is a definition of Texas, but maybe it's just spring.) 
We saw the park movie, then prowled around the exhibits. The ranger gave us a map of the Kirby Nature Trail and sent us on our way. The front of this Visitor Center is really welcoming, with big rockers lined up just asking you to sit and stay awhile.

We ate lunch at a picnic table near the start of the trail, near an old log cabin that's now used for educational programs. Looking at the air conditioner in the window, I wondered if the original settlers would have left if that had been there…

The trail is 1½ miles, winding through (and I'm quoting the brochure here) "forested slopes, acidic baygalls, flood plains, and cypress sloughs". You pick up a self-guiding booklet when you register at the trailhead. There are numbers on the trail, and the booklet has something for each number—even though it might not make any sense at all to what you're looking at. One of the stops was for "crawfish chimneys” —nothing to see there, but George found some after we left the park—so I took pictures.  Apparently the crawfish burrow down into the mud during the winter, and the little mud pellets are brought to the surface so they can live in water underground.
 We were too early to see the magnolias in bloom, but violets, hydrangeas and azaleas were out. Dogwood too, but not so much along the hike—just the roads.  

It's a nature trail—I took pictures of flowers, trees, fungi, cypress trees & knees. Mostly I don't know what they are. Just look at the pictures and enjoy…

Link to pictures of Big Thicket NP

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