Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Into the borderlands: Hiking Spring Creek

Nothing captures the essence of a borderland like Spring Creek, the divider between Harris and Montgomery counties. The Spring Creek borderlands form a huge triangle stretching from I-45 on the west to the west fork of the San Jacinto river on the east down to 1960 in the south. A half-hour drive from downtown Houston (or a three-minute walk for me!) puts you in undeveloped land filled with miles of pines, oaks, and cypress trees, some more than 200 years old. The stream itself is lined with large, sandy beaches and medium-sized cliffs. This is my favorite place to hike, canoe, fish, or just daydream.

One of my favorite experiences there occurred just last Christmas. Our house was filled with family (had been for days and would remain so for many more), and I needed to escape for a while. Early on Christmas Eve morning I bundled up (it was 25F!), grabbed some cup-a-soup and headed into the borderlands. By 7am I had found a secluded niche out of the cold wind where I could sit and watch the water flow past. The sky overhead was wonderfully overcast and gloomy, perfect for just being in the woods. I gathered some twigs and papery bark from a fallen river birch tree for a fire. It lit with a spark struck with my fire steel against a peice of flint-petrified wood found on a nearby sand bar. While the water came to a boil I carved a set of chopsticks from another branch of the river birch. After a few minutes of staring off into space the water was boiling and ready to add to cup-a-soup. I brushed a few flakes of snow off my bowl and...



IT WAS SNOWING!!!!! I couldn't believe it! Small, perfect crystals were falling down around me! I stood and opened my arms to the flakes, letting them gather on my face, my hair, my wide-spread arms. I breathed them in and felt them melt in my nose. It was wonderful. Being in the woods in the snow brought back warm(?) memories of my childhood in Minnesota. This snow melted as soon as it touched ground, but that didn't matter. It was SNOWING in HOUSTON for CHRISTMAS!!! I wish you could smell the blend of cold water, falling snow, and burning wood scents that I enjoyed that morning.

There are several paths one can take to get into this borderland. The easiest for a visitor would be to enter it from the Riley-Fuzzel bridge. There's room to park along the road or you can go down a small dirt road on the north-east side of the bridge which ends at a small, un-named lake filled with white bass, catfish, and alligator gar. Another good entrance is under I-45 where it crosses Spring Creek. Take the u-turn under I-45 south of Rayford-Sawdust road, then turn right (south) as you come out from under I-45. This will dump you onto a sandy area along the creek. Both the Riley-Fuzzel and I-45 spots can be used to launch canoe/kayak trips down Spring Creek.

Once you've parked (and locked!) your car, just look around for a path or trail to follow. This area is filled with miles and miles of trails, mostly made by people on 4-wheelers or in modified off-road trucks. I've been exploring this area for about two years and have barely scratched the surface. In it you'll find everything from 25' tall wild bamboo groves to wild hog tracks/scat. If you search hard enough you might even find the abandoned satellite uplink/downlink station. Why they built it there I'll never know. One of the many adventures Clark and I have planned is an expedition from Spring Creek to the west fork of the San Jacinto river sometime in the fall.

HAZARDS: Borderlands begin where civilizations end and this is definately true along Spring Creek. "Here be dragons" said the old maps. Well there may no longer dragons here but you do have to keep an eye out for rattlesnakes, fire ants, poison ivy, wild hogs, coyotes, mad raccoons, quicksand, snapping turtles, etc. Generally all the things that make exploration adventuresome and exciting! Oh yeah, if you hear something roaring towards you step to the side of the trail. Not many people ride these paths anymore since the bill outlawing riding motorized vehicles through Texas streams/rivers was passed. The people you do meet may look scary, but I've always found them all to be a really friendly bunch.

Adventure! Excitement! Exploration!

1 comment:

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