Monday, October 24, 2005

Enough about Dallas, back to poking monsters with sticks!


Throughout the "civilized" parts of Lake Houston State Park are signs warning of the existence of poisonous snakes. If snakes are such a problem in the happy family area of the park what creatures lay in wait for those who wander into the woods? Being an adventurer, there was only one way to find out. Clark and I had to walk down a half-mile of dirt road to get to the trailhead. This involved stepping on a copperhead. I took it to be a good sign!

Wildlife teems throughout the Lake Houston state park. We spotted our first deer a moment after the snake encounter. The wind was in our favor so we were able to get pretty close to it before it high-tailed away. Alas, I still didn't get close enough to poke it with my hiking stick. After that we entered the woods on the main trail. Every so often we'd come across an area on the trail which had been oddly scuffed up. Pine needles had been shoved around, but the ground was too hard for any footprints. Something was mucking about, but we couldn't tell exactly what it was. Cool! A woodland mystery which, in the end, turned out to have a rather frightening answer.

A bit further in on the trail we found our first rat snake. It was a big, black brute but completely harmless. *Poke*

After that it was just copperhead after copperhead. Clark just missed stepping on one. I almost grabbed one (accidently!) while I was climbing up the riverbank. They were friggen' EVERYWHERE! Perhaps next time we'll stick to the designated trails rather than heading off cross-country, but I doubt it. It was an interesting hike. If you looked up you'd step on a copperhead, if you watched your feet you'd end up stuck in a spider web with a 3" spider crawling on your face. It was awesome!! When you are an adventurer you often find your self damned if you do/damned if you don't. In this case it was either snakes or spiders, or so we thought.

Can you spot the snake?

Big, yucky-tasting spider.

The earth was getting more and more torn up around us. Suddenly Clark let out a new curse as he saw the beasts responsible. Ahead of us were three adorable baby pigs barely big enough for sandwiches. The momma pig, however, would have been perfect for a block-party pig roast. This was not good. Feral hogs are a real menace in Texas. Even if you discount their ability to kill and eat people, they are still dangerous due to the large number of diseases they carry including such things as brucellosis, tuberculosis, pseudorabies, and the plague. I'll poke snakes and spiders with my hiking stick, but feral hogs? Um, no. I'm not that stupid. A good adventurer knows when to poke and when to pray.

With an insulted grunt, the momma pig herded her babies away from us. We waited around for a while, taking loudly about how manly it was to be out in the woods and how good pork tastes, then we carefully continued hiking. We discussed the yumminess of bacon at the top of our voices. We banged our walking sticks against trees. We eyed each shadow with suspicion.

"Grunt, grunt, snort grunt".  We frozen in our tracks.

Whirling, we spotted five large pigs staring at us from ninty feet behind us.

Crap (not in the verb sense!).

There was only one thing to do (being law-abiding and therefore unarmed hikers). I waved my stick over my head and let loose my loudest, meanest roar and started towards them. This worked, the hogs panicked and ran away. Hah!!

Overall, the trails were unimpressive (hence the off-trail adventuring), but wildlife abounds at the Lake Houston State Park. During the course of our 7.5-mile hike we saw one deer, several copperheads, one rat snake, one rabbit, dozens of giant spiders, a troop of boy scouts, assorted beaver-chewed trees, and nine feral hogs. It's worth going there once if you want to see dangerous creatures, but the rest of  the non-threatening sights were pretty average.

And now, some more pictures:

Clark on a log (hmmm, most of my pictures of Clark are him standing on a log...)

This spot was quite nice and the gravel bars were filled with petrified wood.

Being an adventurer means knowing how to start a fire without matches. I'm striking sparks using a piece of an old, steel file against a flint-fossilized piece of petrified wood.

A spark landed in my tinder and I'm now blowinging it into a flame. Clark cooked up a great-smelling bean soup while I made sauteed onions/potatoes/sausage with herbs. Adventurers know how to eat in the woods!

This tree was really big and hollow.

Of course I had to see what was down there.

I think this tree was chewed by beavers. Other trees had been downed, but we didn't see any dams.

Cypress trees have "knees". I don't know why. They are kind of spooky looking, like demons clawing there way out of the Earth.

Clark looks kind of like Indiana Jones.

I kind of look like Don Quixote.

Adventure! Excitement! Feral Hogs!

1 comment:

Merriwether the Adventurer said...

Here's a link that talks about the dangers of wild hogs: