Sunday, July 23, 2006

Peacefully, Lake Stubblefield

It is now a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500, to intentionally feed an alligator.
-Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife

The sun in front of us was just a handspan above the horizon. Filtered golden light brought brilliance to all the colors around us, the pale green leaves, the dark green vines, the emerald green water... Okay, the colors around us were pretty much variations on the theme of green, but they were all glowing magically in the morning sunlight. Once again, Clark, I, and Seeker's Fate had scored the prefect day for a great adventure.

It has been HOT lately, 99's for the daytime lows and little rain for weeks. Clark and I were both dying to get out in the water (uh, perhaps a bad choice of words...). Lake Charlotte is always awesome, but we wanted to try something different. Clark had heard a lot about Lake Stubblefield so we decided to check it out.

Now before us lay green upon green. Pines, oaks, and cottonwoods lined the shore and Duckweed covered the water. Behind us was the same green water, but cut through with the path of our canoe. The path we made didn't last long as the Duckweed flowed back together at the edge of sight. The air was suprisingly cool and filled with all types of birds and their songs. Occasionaly a big alligator gar would break the surface.

No turtles, though.

Raising up from the water around us were hundreds of tree-trunks, the source of Lake Stubblefield's name. When the San Jacinto river was dammed to create Lake Conroe thousands of trees were flooded and died. Now all that remains are their weathered stumps sticking out of the water like the ribs of long-dead whales. Most of these tree stumps were removed from Lake Conroe but as the resevoir grew it eventually filled a second shallow spot north of Lake Conroe. This shallow depression became Lake Stubblefield.

GPS track of our trip.
LakeStublefieldTopo LakeStublefieldSat

The lake itself is quite narrow and it quickly shrinks down even smaller as it meets up with the San Jacinto river. Once on the river the trees close in overhead given you blessed shade. The water was still green with duckweed as there's no real current here. That made paddling upstream easy. Better still, previous paddlers had sawn through the deadfalls which would have blocked our path.

It's definately nature at it's finest.

Well, nature at it's finest if you dig alligators, anyway. The banks were riddled with alligator burrows and slides. One does not dangle a hand in the waters of Lake Stubblefield...

Sadly, in the four hours we spent paddling we weren't lucky enough to see more than the occasionaly splash and a glimpse of the tail of these magnificant brutes. Apparently they have a healthy fear of humans and so they didn't sit sunning themselves on fallen trees like at Lake Charlotte.

Lake Charlotte gator.

I guess sometimes an adventure doesn't have to involve blood, sweat or monsters.

No, really. I'm serious. Sometimes a nice, leisurely paddle along an oxbow lake is a wonderful thing.

Lake Stubblefield lays within the Sam Houston National Forest. The boat launch is just beyond the Lake Stubblefield campground (which looked very nice, running water, toilets and everything!). The drive down to the boat lauch was a bit white-knucklely, but Misseswether's Honda Pilot handled it beautifully. From doorstep to first paddle-dip took just a hair over one hour, which isn't bad for Houston, especially when you include loading/unloading the canoe.

It's a beautiful spot for paddling. North of the launch site the lake is narrow and shaded by trees, then shrinks even more when you hit the San Jacinto river. This was where everything was green and the banks were loaded with signs of alligators. On a hot day this section is a cool oasis (albeit an oasis filled with very sharp teeth).

Heading south from the boat launch will take you into the woods then out into a maze of channels through grassy swampland. A GPS unit was very useful in this swampy area as everything looked the same. With no landmarks one could easily get lost in this trackless waste. The water was clear here and fish of all sizes could be seen swimming along side the canoe. One small stick of dynamite could have easily scored us lunch and supper...

We made the mistake of heading north into the shaded woods first, then came back to the swamp/grasslands during the hottest part of the day. After an hour of blistering sun we wisened up and returned to our starting point. According to the GPS we were only a quarter-mile from the northern boundry of Lake Conroe, but Clark was out of water and there was no clear path visible. We could have spent hours searching each finger of the delta to find one that would allow us passage.

All total we spent about five peaceful, beautiful hours on the water. I'll post the pictures in a few days, until then just close your eyes and visualize green.

Adventure! Exploration! Chekhov's Gator!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

lake stubblefield rules! I have never seen a gator out there but have caught lots of catfish!