The Brazos River Exedition of July 11, 1999
Page 3

Huge cattle egrets leave huge tracks, as you can see. The giant
birds are quite common just about everywhere on the river.

I love these bars of muddy sand. It's easy as you look at them to imagine that they contain vast, hidden pits of human-engulfing quicksand. Or maybe very deep mud, at the least. In places, you'll step on an area that contains gasses from plant decomposition, and the waterlogged sand will hiss and spit with the release of the pent-up pressure. It all seemed deliciously nefarious.

Tiny bubbles burst foth from under the mud and sand. Decomposition of plant material in the mud layer underneath causes gasses to form. Sometimes, an area may not have been traversed by humans or large animals (cattle, deer, etc.), for many months, allowing a lot of gas to accumulate. When someone does finally step in such a spot, the sudden bubbling from an area several feet in diameter can be quite startling!

I half expected to hit a very soft spot in places like this and sink to my waist. OK...I didn't expect to so much as hope to, with great earnestness.

The first mudflat/sandbar from the bridge lasts maybe a good eighth of a mile, and there's immediately a second, smaller one. I zig-zagged back and forth across these two sandbars, desperately trying to step in each and every likely-looking goopy place I could see. Since these were adjascent to the south bank of the river, I would from time to time also check out the bank. I was starting to learn that often, the very muddiest places were right at the bank, rather than out on the sandbars.

At the few public access places available on this stretch of the Brazos, you'll inevitably find trails paralleling the river, made by folks with off-road vehicles and such. At the end of the second sandbar, I spotted where one such trail comes straight down the hilly bank and empties out directly into the river. I walked towards it; I'm not really sure what had caught my eye. As I got right to where the trail hits the low mud at water level, PLOP—in I went!

Mysterious brown object spotted in mudpit...authorities baffled! No—just some photo-manipulation to hide my trek companion's identity.

It was thick, luxurious mud, gray-green in color on top and dark organic black down deeper. I had sunk about mid-calf. I gingerly pulled out one leg and set it down a step closer to what appeared to be the center of the morass. That leg went a little deeper, but not much. Throwing caution to the wind, I began a squooshy march across my little mudhole, maybe all of about ten feet. It had a wonderful consistency...was cool, maybe even downright chilly! My heart was pounding. I was ready to take a step and find myself floating, half-engulfed in an undulating mass.

Alas, it wasn't to be. Wonderful though the mud was, it just wasn't very deep. Only about 14 inches, tops. I was bummed. My companion, who had been exploring the nearby sandbar, noticed me muddy up to just below the knees and came scrambling over with the camera. I posed morosely but dutifully, then made her march on in so that I could get some shots. When I was doing shooting, she wanted me to wallow around in the mud, so she could use up the rest of the roll. I declined. I was decidedly not a happy camper. It was getting on into the evening. We wouldn't be able to explore much further.

When we had the film developed, later, the pics of me were out of focus. This seemed to be an apt symbol for my little journeys so far: nothing really, really interesting ever developed. I tried not to be too discouraged. Oh, well...

It was getting close to dinner time. We decided to call it a day. The sun was hanging low in the west, and the golden light danced off the mud, sand and water...blindingly, at times. The Brazos could be hauntingly beautiful. I found that my mind often wandered from the task at hand and that I got caught up in the solitude and mystery of the place. You had the sense that time stood still here, that the frail conventions of human reckoning simply had no meaning where the river held sway. Even though I was constantly frustrated in what I was seeking, I was finding rewards in other, unanticipated ways.



Next: 1999 Season Wrapup