If you enjoy nature, there isn’t many option in Houston area. Brazos Bend State Park is definitely the one you should not ignore. Its highlight is the free roaming alligators throughout the park.

Having lived in Houston for a while, I’ve been to this park too many times. I’ve seen how the park changes from winter to summer. The place was boring to me until I realize that I have never see this place at night.

In this trip, I decided that I would hike at night no matter how cold it will be in late December. I am very happy I did. It was like exploring a new world.

Night at 40 Acre Lake

After setting up camp, I started hiking from 40 Acre Lake.

Dusk at 40 Acre Lake
40 Acre Lake as seen from the fishing pier

Night Hike

The park is quite beautiful in winter. Hiking is also easier since there is no heat or mosquito to contend with. The only attraction I miss is alligator. They are less active in cold weather. Therefore, winter is ideal for night hiking because no one wants to meet an alligator in the wild at night. Alligators hunt at night using their night vision.

Night at 40 Acre Lake

I was very careful not to step on anything as I continued along the trail. It felt like playing a really realistic role-playing game. If I didn’t need to get up for the sunrise, I would keep on hiking until morning.

The place was very serene. It was just me, the trees, the lake, and the stars. Nothing to get in the way – except for cellphone. Surprisingly the signal was very strong here with 4G. (I  ended up turning the airplane mode on.)

Night at 40 Acre Lake
The bright light that appear as a star is actually the moon. Kenko R-Snow Cross filter.

The moon is a very important thing to consider for night hiking. Without it, the landscape will be too dark to enjoy. It would be like hiking in total darkness. I used LunaSolCal to get the time of moon set and moon rise before hiking.

But then again, without the moon, the milky way will be more visible.

Photography Note: On the hike, I was experimenting with a new lens combination. I combined Zhongyi Lens Turbo II for Micro Four Third with Tokina 11-16mm f2.8. The result was very disappointingly soft around the edge of the frame. I ended up with very few usable photos of the night hike. Zhongyi Lens Turbo I actually performs better than Zhongyi Lens Turbo II in overall sharpness. Zhongyi Lens Turbo II is more resistant to flare, however.

Day Hike

The best part about camping trip is the lack of comfort, especially when it comes to sleeping. Because I can’t sleep, I had no problem getting up at 5AM for the sunrise.

Dawn at 40 Acre Lake
Taken using electronic shutter on Olympus E-M5 II. Plenty of dynamic range in one shot.

The sky was like it was from a painting. Everything was beautiful  It was unfortunate that I was the only one there.

Dawn at 40 Acre Lake

This was not the first time I see sunrise at this park. But the way the clouds reflect the rising sun here is really amazing.

Morning at 40 Acre Lake

Even later, the clouds helped block out harsh light and shadow. They helped tremendously in landscape photography.

Dawn at 40 Acre Lake

I saw only two alligator on this morning hike. They were both too far. So here are the other animals instead.

Cardinal

Where's food?

Is this pose good enough?
If this guy was posing for photo, he was doing it right.
I must fly away now
Testing Panasonic FZ300 continuous auto focus. Works better than expected.

Observation Tower at 40 Acre Lake

Way to Elm Lake
The view from the top of observation tower near 40 Acre Lake.

On the way back, I stopped by Sakura Japanese Sushi and Grill in Alvin for their calamari plate. It was delicious! Not sure how much MSG they used. If you go, do not let the exterior of this restaurant dissuade you when you arrive.

Sakura Japanese Sushi And Grill, Alvin TX

 

Overall Experience

This was the best trip I had in Houston for a while. That is unexpected considering how often I’ve been here. I might be back here again for milky way.

How do you enjoy nature in Houston? If you’ve been to Brazos Bend, I’d like to hear your experience.

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Categories: Art Travel

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