Friday, September 4, 2015

Yes ma'am we've got nature: Houston Nature Parks

My sister imagined Texas to be a barren land of cactus, dirt and cowboys. She and my fellow Californians thought I was crazy, moving halfway across the country to a huge oil rich but nature deficient state, my car packed with a few of my favorite things and my reptile family who had no say in the decision.  Pulled by the strength of the graduate school reputation and their scholarship dollars, trees or not, I was moving to Texas. 

Besides the purported year round perfect temperatures, in many parts of California, a person only has to drive a couple of hours in any direction to experience a different environment, be it desert, mountains, hills, or even sea.  This is a little bit of magic. From most cities in Texas, one would be crazy to think they could make a day trip to both the sea and mountains. And many people living inside of Houston quickly forget there is even nature outside of the city. I will raise my hand and admit, I, too, was one of these people.

Photographed by Glimmermere
Louisville, KY

Few average Texans appear to care about tromping through the woods, and to those who look in on this state, Austin is where all of the natural and beautiful parts are. Austin may be surrounded by more options, and more nature-inclined people seem to gravitate there, but with a little bit of searching, interesting nature can be found all over what is truly a lush and green Eastern Texas. From the cities, you may have to drive a bit to be surrounded in a great park to enjoy the chirping of birds and rustle of trees, or smell the sweet decay of the woods, but these places do exist.

As I returned to Houston after a long road trip, my route took me from the lush nature state of Arkansas and through many areas of green as I approached home for the first time in months. Within a couple of hours of my apartment, I passed through the vast Davy Crockett National Forest, before driving through the Huntsville State Park. These parks are still a ways from Houston, but they can be reached easily as a day trip, and both are quite huge. The Davy Crockett National Forest is a bit farther, but contains a full 160,000 acres of recreation areas, wildlife habitats, woods and streams. That's worth a day trip or a camping trip in my book.

As a Texas resident, living in the northern suburbs of the city, knowing my options for a respite from the city is incredibly important. The Californian in me screams to know I can find a place to breathe in nature, and not hear cars driving by.

Yesterday I scouted the Lake Houston Wilderness Park which is northeast of Houston and well within an hour’s drive for many Houston residents. The place was a beautifully quiet place, and during my exploration shoot with Peter Janecke, we appeared to have the place to ourselves and a few maintenance people from 9 am until noon. We drove around, pulled the car to the side of the road, hopped out for photography, then got back in and continued onto the next place. While walking around, there were little cabins to sneak into, bridges to pose on and under, and of course, so many beautiful trees.

I aim to develop my list of places to shoot at, but consider this a solid start. Point proven – there is nature in Houston. They can keep me.

 Inexpensive A-frame cabin. And free if sneaking for a quick shoot

 If you take a photo while walking, it might turn out crooked like this

Look at that line of perspective! Awesome bridge