Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Exceptional wildflower viewing in Southeast Texas

Austin area - typical Bluebonnet field on this trip
It as been a bumper crop along our highways and in our fields this year. In the middle of Spring, we always get a show, but this year is much better than most. Our highways turn into colorful parks for Texas residents. When there is no fence and no sign, properties are often used for photographs. I recently took a trip to observe what it is like out there on our "highway parks". The route I chose was dual purpose. I wanted primarily to see the back roads and at the same time, find a route that would be convenient to those living near The Woodlands. So first I will share the photos and then show you the route.  It is highly recommended that you view at least some of these fully by clicking on them.
Fields of yellow for a Texas fellow
Field of Indian Paintbrush
Taking farm to market roads in Texas is part of the story. Back roads is the rest. Most of the photos seen in these photographs were taken on FM roads, but some of them are on county, local or state roads. I like the county roads, but it is often a gamble on them. You may find wildflowers and you might not!
We find Bluebonnets and their companions along fence lines, in open pasture, along roads and just about anywhere there is sun. Texas has lots of barbed wire where the bonnets flourish. 

Horses will be seen grazing among wildflowers all over  the state.
I could not resist stopping at this location between The Woodlands and Brenham to watch the horses grazing. They were so peaceful and the flowers gave off a great scent.
A dirt county road in the hills close to Brenham

Butterflies are incredible among the wildflowers. 
One question people may have is - since there is so much nectar, are all local species out in the wildflowers? The answer is a definitive "no". Butterflies have their specific native host plants that they must have for their eggs and caterpillars to feed. Therefore, many are not out there at this time of the year. Some plants are not even available at this time of the year and those butterflies will not be found in the wildflowers. In fact, most species will not be found in road side wildflowers. Some however are tremendously common.

One of my favorite places between Brenham and The Woodlands
I discovered this property along the road. Two old barns were nestled in the brush with a beautiful field of wildflower mix in front of them. I got only a glimpse of this from the road and had to be cut up by briars, stung by ants and risked a snake bite to be able to take this photo. The gold blooms on some of the trees created such a contrast in the image that I had to compose some photos with them included.  
Ponds added to the feast of my eyes in this journey
Finding fields of predominant wildflower species next to water was not easy, but I did find three locations, such as this one having the Indian Paintbrush as the predominant wildflower.
In Texas, we have several yellow wildflowers. 
Usually we see yellow wildflowers in the month of May in Central Texas, earlier here, after the Bluebonnets have bloomed out. This year, we are seeing a variety of wildflowers with the Bluebonnets, more than normal because of the mild winter, early Spring and rightly timed rains.

Indian Paintbrush for the ladies  

Near Hempstead, Texas on state highway 290

Off the beaten path, east of Brenham off of H 290  
The gentleman who lives  in this house (and in this photo) was kind enough to discuss these flowers with me. They have been there for as long as he can recall, before he purchased the land to build. He lets the plants seed every year. That is the down side as he explained it. He cannot mow or groom the yard until all the wildflowers have finished their seeding in May or early June. However, the up-side is all worth it. He gets to soak all this in every day when he arrives from work and the aroma of "country" is extremely soothing and refreshing every day. He has to do absolutely no reseeding at all.    

More Paintbrush

Child's playground - straight out of a dream

Nothing like Texas Bluebonnets!
So what was the route?  I started my plan with the basic Brenham wildflower trail. There is an East and West part. From The Woodlands, I traveled on FM 1488 to Fields Store, then up FM 362, at which I found my first Bluebonnets. It must have taken me 3 hours to get to the park on the Brazos River. To me, I had found the perfect place to start my journey. As I encountered county and local roads, I turned off on some to search for wildflowers.  CR 325 was one I enjoyed. Then I followed FM 2 to highway 6 and then on to Navasota and then to Washington on the Brazos Park via FM 105, were I ate a sack lunch.  Then on to FM 390 N. I also traveled the west loop of the trail, but I do not recommend that section of the trail. I also stopped at a couple of places on H 290 from Brenham as I traveled to Austin. Why not take the family out on a Sunday afternoon drive? It is only 30-40 minutes away from The Woodlands.

Enjoy Texas! Enjoy our native wildflowers!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Parks nearby The Woodlands for Rainbow Trout Fishing

Would you like to take your child fishing for fresh water Trout? Or maybe you would like to grab your fly fishing equipment and fish for them yourself. Unfortunately, The Woodlands does not have an agreement with the state to stock them, but two other nearby parks are stocked annually! This year, the schedule you might want to make note of.:

Burroughs Park near Tomball - January 14, 2011. That is today folks! On Huffsmith Road near FM 2978.
Carl Barton Jr. Park Pond in Conroe - January 11, 2011. Off Loop 336 east of I-45; on right east of 1314.

Both locations can be fished now! For adult fishing, these are community lakes and you must abide by state regulations requiring a fishing license and a trout stamp. Read the documentation fully in the link below.  

Full list of stocked ponds for Rainbow Trout (and rules)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Cranebrook Park in The Woodlands Texas

Deep in the west of The Woodlands lies a fairly new village park which is quite different and quite compact. This is closer to a traditional park, lacking the customary feel of a heavily wooded and natural park of The Woodlands. Nevertheless it is convenient, first class and very worth frequenting.
Sterling Ridge Village Swimming Pool
Parking area
Children's play area
Children's play area
Soccer field
BMX Bicycle track
This is a nice bicycle track mainly for recreational cycling by our youth. It is a place where one could work to improve competitive skills right here in The Woodlands. Step up to one of the AMA tracks such as the nearby Armadillo BMX race at I45 and FM 1488.1
The pavilion here can be rented by calling in advance of your function, like other parks in The Woodlands. 
This unique spot in the park is great to sit down and relax. I saw some moms with their babies here on a weekday morning. 

On Cranebrook Dr. When traveling west on Woodlands Pkwy, take a left. It is located just south of The Woodlands Parkway. 


Town Green Park The Woodlands Texas

Flags on lake Woodlands Dr in front
This is an important park visited by many people but mostly for events along the Woodlands Waterway. It is rather simple but a pretty grass park that connects Lake Robbins Drive  frontage to the waterway. It is located adjacent to the Cynthia Ann Pavilion. Parking is simply anywhere you can find it. The Waterway can be crossed from the pavilion parking lots, so the Green or Orange parking lots are close by, as well as nearby street parking. The closest place to park near the entrance on Lake Robbins Dr is the library parking lot.  Runners in Town Center frequent this park along with the waterway pathways.
Entrance sign
Children's hands at entrance
Grass park with waterway taxis in back
Walking the pathway into the park, one finds the restrooms on the west or right side of the entrance.  When inside the park, there will be plenty of grass.
Outdoor amphitheater
water fountain next to amphitheater
You can arrive and leave via the trolley which stops right behind the park on the waterway path.
Like all Woodlands parks, visitors may walk their dogs in the park but must follow the rules for pets. Two years ago, this park had special rules. Now those rules are in place at all Woodlands parks. Please! Honor the rule for no "park poop".

There is also a seating view overlooking the waterway, a children's garden and a sculpture garden. 


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Woodlands Park Rules and Guidelines

Every Woodlands Texas park has rules posted. Some are particular to a special type of park and others are generalized for the park system here. There is good reason to have these rules. Let's say for example, you want to take your dog to a dog park. There are alpha dogs and highly protective dogs - for their master and for their toys. No one wants to step in dog waste. So there are consistent rules for dogs in all the parks. If you use the park, you must clean up behind yourself. Some people say "this is just common sense". I would agree, but some people don't seem to have that sense or if they do, they lack respect for other people rights to enjoy the park as found by the disrespectful person.

A few key items to note
1. Dusk is not dark. It is before dark. If you have to use a flashlight to see, you should not be in the park period! People live adjacent to parks and ponds. Keep them in mind. They will likely be the ones reporting you to the authorities should you be in viewing distance of their home or making noise. Privacy of residents is important. Please respect that.
2. Trash in our ponds kill fish. Please do not leave plastic bags or other trash on the banks. They often get into the water and kill fish. Trash in our parks is also an an unsightly and health hazard nuisance. Our community does not appreciate your trash. In fact, often it is a resident that has to pick up after you, not a paid contractor. This community is rich in assets but not is spending power, so it does not spend a lot of money on maintenance. That is the responsibility of the visitors to our parks.  Please pick up after yourself and carry out everything that you carried into the park. I admire those people who pick after others in addition to themselves. They don't particularly want to do it, but they have an appreciation of beauty and cleanliness. If your want to distribute your trash into our park, you are not welcome in the park.
3. Rowdiness to the point of aggravating other visitors in the park is also not appreciated. Just be courteous to others and understand they came to appreciate the outdoors and nature the park affords. Sounds of creatures such as birds and the tranquility of nature are reasons people are in the parks. Excessive noise is not appreciated.If you play music on some electronic device, play it for yourself, not the park.
4. People appreciate seeing children and families in the parks. They also appreciate pets as long as the owner takes responsibility for cleaning up behind the pet and the pet is not a threat to their family or pet. Leashes are required! Doggie bags are required. There are biodegradable bags that can be purchased from various sources. The Parks department here provides bags from Dogipot. Website
5. Dog parks have a different set of rules. Your dog should have its shots. There are serious diseases that can be passed from one dog to another.  Protect your dog by keeping its shots up to date. Keep aggressive dogs on a leash until they get to know the other dogs. Sometimes a dog is not suited socially to mix with others and should never be released to mix with other dogs. Do not let your aggressive dog harm another person's dog. You are liable for what your dog does, not the park system. That dog is part of their family.
6. If you are a vendor, you must have a permit to sell your goods on public property in The Woodlands. This particularly applies to food and drink vendors.
7. Honor designated parking locations. Do not park on the grass! Do not park on prohibited locations on streets. Chances are that you will be reported by local residents. If you don't know where to park, ask anyone you may see or call the parks department.
8. Ponds have special rules. You can fish the ponds, but must return the fish back to the water to live.  This is enforced. Fishing is defined as placing bait on a hook attached to a line for the exclusive purpose of hooking a fish and bringing it to shore. Net fishing is generally not allowed, although the park rangers allow nets for catching bait fish. Ponds are small and the community expects to not have to repopulate the ponds at a cost to the community. A Texas fishing license is required on all public ponds and lakes.1 Please be aware that Texas Game Wardens are not generally enforcing this on The Woodlands bodies of water, so there are differing statements regarding this regulation, but the regulation is clear. I advise conforming to the regulation rather than depending on local and possibly temporal interpretation of law. State fines are fairly stiff. Fishing for keepers is allowed in Lake Woodlands and the reservoir; these rules are enforced by the Woodlands Park Rangers.  Keeping fish is also allowed when extracting fish from private stocking for events such as the catfish stocking of Creekwood Park for children twice a year. Fishing from non-motorized boats in Lake Woodlands and the reservoir is allowed. Trolling motors are not considered a motor for this purpose. Keep the wake of your boat non-existent. Kayak fishing is encouraged on Lake Woodlands and the reservoir. Kayaks are rented by The Township for recreation that includes fishing. Refer to the related article. 2  Also, it is a good idea to honor the little known state regulations on turtles and frogs. Taking turtles from the ponds is regulated by state hunting laws. A hunting license is required to take turtles or frogs from public waters, even on private property.1   
9. Alcoholic beverages are allowed in the major parks, but keep in mind that drunkenness on public property is not allowed and violators will likely be prosecuted. In little neighborhood parks, alcohol is not allowed.
10. Vegetation in public parks is the property of The Woodlands Township. Unless you have permission to do so, do not cut or change the vegetation for any reason. For those who want to help care for pathways or parks, you can contact the township for what you may or may not do.
11. Pavilions may be rented but you must make reservations in advance.  Park facilities are also available for use by small businesses but you must have a permit or contract to do so.    

Park Rules published by The Woodlands Township(click here)
Park Regulations and legal authority of The Woodlands Township(click here)
1Texas Parks and Wildlife Website Summary of Fishing and Hunting Regulations
2Riva Row Boat House Commentary article