So, I’ve camped at Brazos Bend; I’ve done a photoshoot at Brazos Bend. But I never did a proper hike there, and boy, was it an eyeopener to go there for one a couple weekends ago. This state park is a lazy hour’s drive south of Houston (or a frantic 40 minutes’ drive), and is probably the city’s closest opportunity to feel like wilderness is nearby—without the sounds of the city. My husband, Joe, and I wanted to get a good long hike in, because we had spent the previous weekend mostly indoors looking at screens and felt pretty lame.
We set out on the Live Oak Trail, having been told it was completely tree-covered. Being that it was midday by the time we got down there, we were just hoping to avoid a ton of sun exposure in the Texas heat. As we got going, it felt like a little country lane: very straight and just wide enough for two directions of foot and bike traffic, and a pretty decent tree tunnel the whole way down. About a mile in, low land around the trail turned into swamp, with birds and dragonflies aplenty. Then we noticed an alligator out in it, probably about 20 yards away. Then another. Then another. And by this point, I was getting jumpy; what if there was one just sitting in the banks that we couldn’t see? What if we were so distracted looking at the larger swamp to our right that we didn’t notice one on our left? Sure enough, we were nervously and carefully walking through and trying to see any sign of danger when we heard a large, groaning, loud SPLASH only a few feet from us as an alligator dove in the water to avoid us. I can still see that splash in my mind.
I was truly freaked out by this point. Joe kept saying that other people were out and “the locals” (as if there are “locals” at a state park) didn’t seem too worried. The way I saw it, we were on an unpopular trail on the edge of the park’s perimeter and had only seen a couple other people out on foot—we’d seen several on bikes. My first instinct had been to run away, back up the trail we came down, but Joe wanted to press on to the nearby connecting prairie trail, which would be up and away from the swamps. He asked if running through this part of the swamp would make me more comfortable, so we ran until I felt safe.
Sure enough, after walking through the prairie, we wound up on a much more populous set of trails that had larger bodies of water and lots more alligators around. The banks of the trail were high enough up that the gators would have to climb conspicuously enough that you’d see them long before a proper attack. We got a lot of photos and videos, and Joe watched my back whenever I had my camera up. A lot of other people didn’t seem to be too bothered; apparently, before we came upon this particular section, one of the gators had just decided to walk across the trail from one body of water to the next.
At one point, we were the first people to notice an alligator lurking up to a lakebed near a covered dock with benches. We went up to the dock and I got some pictures while basically standing on the bench because I’m a big damn wuss. The gator then started getting closer to the dock and then pulled itself up on to the dry land where the trail and the dock met. Joe illogically said he’d feel safer not on the dock (I say this was illogical, because at least we’d be raised off the ground on the bench), and he had us evacuate to the trail, though he didn’t pull us to what I would consider a safe distance. This is a photo I got when the gator had pulled itself up onto land: