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Elm Lake Loop Trail
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mini location map2015-09-03
17 by photographer avatarSunDevil3
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Elm Lake Loop TrailGulf Coast, TX
Gulf Coast, TX
Hiking avatar Sep 03 2015
Hiking1.70 Miles
Hiking1.70 Miles   2 Hrs   30 Mns   0.78 mph
      20 Mns Break5 LBS Pack
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Flew in to Houston around midnight on Wednesday before the forthcoming ASU-A&M football game (and let's not mention anything else about that.) Planned to spend Thurs night relaxing on the beach in Galveston but had found Brazos Bend SP online in the weeks leading up to the trip and decided I must check it out.

After killing time at three different all-night eateries in Houston, finally set-off for Brazos Bend around 4:15AM, taking mostly backroads, and arrived at the front gate just before 6AM-- to find that the gate was locked and that the park did not actually open until 8AM (apparently all my research had not even skewed into the realm of operating hours of the state park itself-- live and learn, kids.)

After spending another 45 min driving around and reviewing my GPS to find some alternate/covert way into the park, i eventually headed back to the gate at 7AM and was lucky to find a ranger there just unlocking one side of it. I saw my opportunity and had soon paid my $7 and was off to the trail. Stopped briefly to take some photos of a large herd (or perhaps two medium-sized herds) of mule deer grazing beside the road (and beneath a massive rainbow.) I had been up for 28-consecutive hours at that point and the sight of those deer alone was enough to make me glad i had not scrapped my Brazos excursion due to fatigue.

The trail itself is basic-- paved or packed dirt the entire way-- but the star of the show is the wildlife. Gators abound in the lakes and sloughs and there is an extensive variety of ducks, coots, egrets, herons, and other water birds in action constantly. There must also be an abundance of small crabs or crayfish as I found countless leg and claw segments all over the place (presumably dropped by the birds) but never saw any alive.

I took a couple of diversions onto the spurs off the main Elm Lake trail and was glad I did. The first I encountered (walking clockwise around ELT) was the Pilant Slough Trail. This spur runs about one mile but I was not able to go the full length as a bridge (or what had been passing as one) must have collapsed and the trail was now closed with a barrier at the edge of a fairly steep ravine. It was here that I encountered the first of the spiders.

I actually encountered several of the spider's webs on my abridged trek down the Pilant Slough trail but did not see the beast that created them for another 10 mins. Off the main Elm Lake trail, the spurs offered a greater sense of isolation. The tree canopy quickly engulfs the sky and spanish moss hangs thick from every branch. It is the hanging moss that seem to provide some of the best web-building locales for the spiders.

I hit the first web without ever seeing it and, trudging along at a good clip as I was, did not realize i had walked into it until I could feel it not only all over my face and neck, but sticking to my encasing my arms and upper-half of my torso too. Needless to say, I was much more alert to my surroundings after that but, it was not until I got to the barrier and saw the spider that I actually ripped off my shirt and spent the next 10 mins checking my chest and arms for some non-existent spider who was about to inflict a mortal bite.

The ranger would later tell me they call those particular arachnids "Banana Spiders" but some quick research led me to believe they may be Golden Silk Orb Weavers. Whatever you call them-- they are big-ass spiders-- I had a hard time getting clear pics but the larger ones had bodies that were over 1" long and legs that were easily 4" across.

The other worthwhile spur trail i took was the 40 Acre Lake Trail which-- not surprisingly-- takes you over to 40-Acre Lake. More importantly, it takes you over to the observation tower at the NE corner of 40-Acre Lake which provides some very nice views of the park. It was along the short stretch of this trail between the two lakes that I saw the only gator out sunning herself that morning. She was a pretty big girl too-- about 6.5' from nose to tail by my guess.

I also spotted an armadillo (my first ever) rooting around in the dirt as I drove over to nearby Hale Lake. I was shocked at how close he let me get to him and only really got spooked when I, standing about 4 feet away, squatted down in an attempt to get a better shot with the camera. He gave an irritated snuffle and grunt and trundled off to another spot about 15 feet away (I guess I am not that threatening after all.)

The park also offers an abundance of camp sites and operates an observatory onsite which is open to the public on Saturdays.
Spanish Moss
"Being unselfish is a natural high, like hiking or paint thinner."
- Homer J Simpson
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