The Brazos River Expedition of September 3, 2001

The water tended to run from shoe-top to waist deep. The sandbars I came across often had vast areas of soft places, but it was typical Brazos River Ankle-Biting Quicksand: four to eight inches deep. It was just a little looser and more widespread here, possibly because of the relative dearth of humans with their all-terrain vehicles scampering over every square inch of passable terra firma. Still, it was peaceful and beautiful here, and I happily explored several sandbars on my way upstream, and stopped now and then to shoot a frame of film.

I played the Egret Game along the way. Huge, snowy-white cattle egrets would park themselves on a sandbar ahead of you. When you got to within 300 yards or so, they would take to the air and fly further upstream, maybe another quarter mile ahead, and land...waiting for me to encroach again into their Comfort Zone. We repeated this drill several times on the way up. I wondered why they didn't just circle around while in the air and land back behind me where the game had started, but they didn't. Perhaps they were toying with me. I vowed revenge...I would NOT be mocked by birds, no matter HOW large and intelligent they may be! But alas, they consistently outwitted me.

A huge Baboon-Eating Spider, an immigrant from east Africa, is easily 18 inches in legspan and weighs perhaps two pounds. No, of course I'm joking here! This is a Wolf Spider, quite common along the Brazos, with a legspan of around three to four inches and an aggressive, Type A personality. Normally, they're not a threat to people, but I've noticed that when I poke a twig in front of their little faces, they'll lunge forward and give the end of the twig a good exploratory nibble. So, I wouldn't try to offer a finger to one, no matter how cuddly and adorable they may appear!

The cacti are bearing fruit! Time for havesting! Actually, I think the locals refer to the fruit of this type of cactus as "pears," and I believe some native Tex-Mex recipes actually utilize the pink delicacies. If memory serves, I'm pretty sure I've eaten them a time or two, and they're quite delicious with a good Mole sauce.

I also had a bit of a run-in with a deer. I was wading in waist-deep water ten feet from the east bank at one point, my attention focused on a point on the opposite side, when suddenly a doe jumped up from her bedding spot in some tall weeds and bounded away. I'm not sure which of us jumped higher. The river is always full of surprises and I'm usually on my guard, but there are times when the completely unexpected happens. Happily, the unexpected in this river is usually good for a hearty laugh immediately after the incident.

The old railway bridge, a mile and a half upstream from the highway bridge. Despite the overexposure on this photo, the sand here is very light in color and resembles the type of sand you'd see at a good, clean ocean beach. From what I recall of Sand Valley from two years earlier, this is a portent of what I would find ahead.