brazos bend

my wife and i haven’t been camping since new years… that’s been weighing heavy on us.

we LOVE camping.  to get outside, cook over an open fire, lay in open fields, etc.  it sets us free and recharges our batteries.

Elle had a few days off work this past weekend, so naturally, we decided to get outdoors.

brazos bend state park has been one of my favorite weekend destinations for the last 7 or 8 years.  it about a half hour southwest of houston, so not too bad of a drive from dallas.  a little over four hours.  well worth the drive though because it’s crawling with gators!

did i mention that i LOVE alligators?

american alligators are one of the most fascinating creatures left on our planet.  and they’ve been on our planet a really, really long time.

they have a primitive sophistication about them that has created in me a thirst for experience with these creatures.  i suspect it will never be quenched.

it’s similar to my love of bears.  i have a very healthy respect for both of these animals.  but that respect has to find a way to waltz around the room gracefully with my curiosity.  they are equal forces.  and i have to reconcile the two.  i want to get close… but not too close.

elle has not yet been to this park with me, so she was excited when we finally got the chance to go.

and there’s a lot more to this park that ranks it in the top ten state parks in the country.

the campsites are spacious and well kept, the facilities are that of a small national park, and the landscape, wildlife, and vegetation are stunningly beautiful.

the swampy landscapes created a great opportunity to get another unique star picture.

i’m just thrilled with the way this 30 minute exposure turned out!

sometimes we get bored in the heat of the day, so we goof off with my camera…

brazos bend also has a ton of great hiking, biking, and equestrian trails.  we didn’t bring bikes or horses, so we just hiked.  though if hunter were a little bigger, i might have tried to hitch a ride on his back…

lots of vines on which to swing and play tarzan.

and lots of little critters for hunter to sniff out and bay at in his cute, harmless little way.

baby dillos!

so, back to the alligator obsession.  this next series of pictures is not meant to be mimicked or tried at home.

believe it or not, i have a decent bit of experience with these creatures, so my comfort level is considerably different than most people’s.  i am fine with getting very close to alligators because i know their capabilities and body language very well.

so disclaimer out of the way, i called this 10 footer in from across the pond.

he slowly crept up the bank through the grass, and i stayed low, allowing him to think i was smaller than i am.

he came right out at a decent pace.  i had my camera on a tripod, extended vertically out in front of me with a cable release attached to i could click the shutter at will and maintain a few feet distance.

he got a little too close for comfort on this one!

when i stood fully erect, he finally realized that i was too big for him.  i thanked him for the good time and great pictures, and left.

the experience was refreshing and invigorating.  i never felt in major danger, but it tapped into that wonderful, scary, primitive survival part of me that runs on adrenaline and instinct.  thoughts race and reactions are sharp and focused.  i needed that.

having an experience with the wild like that is nourishing to my soul.  so i’m thankful i had that opportunity, and that it all went well and safely.

so i went back to camp.  where waited my less than wild, but just as amazing dog, and way more wild AND more beautiful wife.

we had a fantastic weekend.  and i know it’s not the last time we’ll visit brazos bend.  i hope it’s sooner rather than later, but right now i’m satisfied that wyoming is coming up just around the corner…


all images and content © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2011