Thursday, September 15, 2005

Joyride in the Big Thicket

Yesterday Troy came over and we did some exploring in the Neches Bottoms/Jack Gore Baygall Units of the Big Thicket National Preserve. Troy was determined to prove to me that my CRV could handle any road, no matter how narrow, rutted, muddy, or wet.

In the Jack Gore Baygall Unit we drove all the way to the river (about 6 miles on an unimproved road). The weather has been dry lately, but even so the road surface was wet and muddy. Troy was right; my four-wheel-drive vehicle had no difficulty getting through the puddles and deep wallows. The road traverses several miles of mature bottomland forest with many big old trees (a habitat I'd like to explore further), and crosses baygalls with stands of cypress and stagnant water. From the high watermark on some of the cypresses it looks like low points along the road are regularly submerged. We finally reached the end of the line, a wide sandbar on the river. After Spot had a swim we backtracked and checked out a side road leading to a "day use area." A preserve sign pointing the way to the "Potato Patch" took down a slightly overgrown track to a nice area of cypress swamp.

After that we headed south and took the road to Franklin Lake, which was more swamp than lake. There's a boat launch where the road ends, and it looks like it would be a good place to go canoeing or kayaking. Wildlife there included map turtles and a big alligator (yes, there are alligators in the Big Thicket!). We estimated it to be 6-8 feet in length.

I occasionally heard Pileated, Red-bellied, and Downy Woodpeckers, and some of the habitat looked promising, but if there are any Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in there they conceal their presence well. Saw plenty of dead trees, but didn't see any evidence of IBWs having worked on them. White-eyed Vireos were still singing, but otherwise the woods were pretty quiet.

Our four-wheeling adventure ended without mishap...well sort of. Once we got back on pavement the car seemed to lag, and when I tried to pick up speed it began to shake. At first we thought it might be a flat tire, or the tread coming apart, but it turned out the vibration was due to big clumps of clay stuck to the rims. We blasted the dirt off at carwash in Silsbee and the problem went away.


At 10:28 PM, Blogger Barbara said...

Sounds like you fairly well got Baptisted. Franklin Lake is a good spot to put in for many kinds of adventures. We live right beside Jack Gore Baygall.


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