Houston Horse Trails
Photo Index Page
This page presents some pictures showing the natural beauty of this area which located adjacent to Houston, Texas. The target area is primarily located between Spring Creek and the west branch of San Jacinto River, and along lower Cypress Creek. Click on the picture for a full size photo.
The aerial photograph to the right shows the undeveloped land just north of George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) which should be protected as an urban park. The blue line in the full size photo shows one can ride from the airport up to Spring Creek. Harris County describes its plans for this area at its Spring Creek Greenway Project web site. Notice the upper right hand photo at the Harris County web page is the same photo as shown below except the horses ears have been removed. I certainly hope that Harris County doesn't plan to remove horses from this park, like they did in this picture, once it is completed. The Houston Chronicle also did article on this area on January 9, 2005. The photos presented in this web site were taken along sections of San Jacinto River, Spring Creek, Cypress Creek and around George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
I also ride around George Bush Intercontinental Airport as one of the Airport Rangers. I have been seeking the perfect picture of looking up at my horse with an aircraft overhead just prior to landing. I came close on February 6, 2005 along Ferrell Road. The aircraft shown in this photo is one of Continental's smaller Embraer jets which carry 20-30 passengers. Although it's a nice picture, I'm hoping to get a wide body aircraft at that same position to really fill up the photo. Jackie does hop around a bit as the aircraft passes overhead. I'm holding a rein attached to Jackie's halter on one hand and taking the picture with the other. Holding the camera still with a jumpy horse and the roar of jet engines is quite a challenge.
The photo to the left was taken at the confluence of Spring Creek and Cypress Creek on April 13, 2003. The lady on the closest horse wearing the straw hat is Darolyn Butler-Dial. Darolyn turned me on to riding in this area for which I am eternally grateful. Darolyn rents horses by the hour. If you'd like to visit this area on horseback, then check her out at www.horseridingfun.com. On this day, we rode about 20 miles up to Old Town Spring and had lunch at Hydes.
The U. S. Geological Survey measures the level and flow of Spring Creek. This data is available in real time on the Internet. Stream flow and level is presented at http://waterdata.usgs.gov/tx/nwis/uv?08068500. The stream level as reported on this web site is 1 foot deeper than the normal crossings on Spring Creek where we ride. Riding Spring Creek when this gauge is above 2.5 feet isn't recommended. I learned about these USGS stream gauges back when I was in graduate school at Ohio State in 1977. This is the first time I have used that little nugget of information. This USGS web site also presents an indicator of water quality called specific conductance. Roughly speaking, conductance measures the amount of salt dissolved in the water. Higher water flows would be associated with lower conductance measurements because more water is available to dilute the salt generated by erosion. The location of the stream gauge is shown at here. You can see the gauge mounted on the upstream side of the southbound marginal road on I-45 just south of the Woodlands.
The photo to the left is one of my favorite pictures. I wonder what the first-time-visiting Europeans on that Airbus 340 must be thinking when they look out and see me waving at them wearing a cowboy hat -"All those things they say about Texas must be true!". I made a little game of this. When I'm not taking a picture, I race the taxiing jet towards the right. The jets taxi about a fast as Holly gallops. The race is a little tricky because of a steep drop off into a drainage ditch and then into a roadway. So far, I have managed to shut down down Holly before we go over the edge.
Beyond this, the airport is a great place to ride a horse because it is so open and flat. Before I started riding around the airport, I was nervous about cantering and I never galloped. As I rode around the open median strips, I developed my confidence to the point where I now let go of the reins, let Holly gallop and throw my hands up into the air... Yee Hah, I'm really showing off now! I've had the rental car buses slow down and drive along side. I felt like Holly and I were an amusement attraction at Disney World.
The airport has its own section of the Houston Police Department. I got pulled over once by an officer in a squad car. As I looked down from atop Holly at him sitting in his car, he asked me what I was doing. "Just riding my horse, sir. " To which he replied "Why are you doing that?". "Because its fun, Officer." He responded "Well I guess there is no law against riding a horse. Please try and be careful." "Yes sir. We're just passing through and if you don't mind, we'll be on our way". The airport is undergoing a major construction project. Holly and I had climbed atop a big pile of dirt nearby a taxiway where I was looking down at the jets taxing by about 200 feet away. I guess the people in control tower got concerned. I made this little video while on top of that pile of dirt...fortunately the pile of dirt didn't have a web fence around it.
The Lufthansa Airbus 340 picture evokes so many images and concepts that you could ride a book on it. Humanity's oldest form of transportation meets humanity's newest form of transportation with man's most common form of transportation stuck in the middle. As the crow flies, we are less than 3 miles from Spring Creek and Cypress Creek sections shown in the other photos contained in this web page.
These two pictures show a type of spider that are very prevalent in summer 2004. Looking closely to the picture at the right (after you enlarge it by clicking on it), you'll see a little black spider to the upper left of the big yellow spider. The big yellow spider is the female and the little black one is the male. We all know what happens to the male spider when the female is finished with him. These spiders are all over the place. In Houston, we have a bug-of-the-year award where the conditions favor the predominance on one bug over the others during the year. These guys are the winners for 2004. Spiders build their webs overnight. People that ride down narrow horse trails first thing in the morning, like me, run into a lot of these guys. One of the big yellow mamas crawled up the back of my riding helmet after a recent ride. Ugh! But I didn't get bitten. You can see other pictures and learn more about banana spiders here.
The lady riding the horse in front is Darolyn Butler-Dial. Darolyn is deeply involved with endurance racing on Arabian horses. She wins national championships in endurance racing and flies her horses over to Europe and the Middle East to compete internationally. Nonetheless she hasn't yet joined me in racing taxiing jet aircraft yet. You can tell these three horses are Arabian horses by the shape of their heads. Internally, they have one less vertebrae as compared to quarter horses like Holly and Jackie. They also have much more stamina than a quarter horse. Darolyn and I are showing this beautiful area to Jennifer Lorenz who is the local director of the Legacy Land Trust which is an environmental group that seeks to preserve beautiful natural areas such as this. Jennifer is riding the third horse in this picture. Check out their web site at http://www.llt.org for further information.
The water quality status for Spring Creek can be reviewed from this web page. Two of my riding buddies, Pam and Paul are enjoying the lower portion of Spring Creek.
I took the picture to the right in the late afternoon of March 30, 2003. I wanted to capture the sun reflecting from the river. The temperature was in the upper 60s. The insects have not yet hatched. A very pleasant day to be riding.
The picture to the left was taken on March 16, 2003 which happened to be my 50th birthday. Having just begun to cope with living in the 21st century, I now must deal with being over 50. I have just learned from one of my students in the government class that I teach at Montgomery College, that I now qualify for membership in the American Association of Retired Persons. I am now officially a senior citizen! As part of my effort to rediscover revolutionary times in the U.S., I just finished reading David McCullough's biography of John Adams, 2nd President. Mr. Adams died when he was in his late 80s. He continued to ride horses until a few months before his death. So I guess I got a few years left to ride in this area.
This photo was taken on Spring Creek on March 15, 2003 which also happened to be the last day in my life that I was less than 50 years old. According to the USGS stream gauge upstream at I-45 bridge (click here), the water depth was 3.7 feet. We crossed Spring Creek several times that day. Since quick sand is more prevalent during these elevated water events, I led Jackie across most of the crossings.
I had the laser surgery done on my eyes several years to correct nearsightedness. Before that, my vision was about 20/600 which meant I wore thick glasses. Now my vision is 20/60 which is good enough to get a driver's license, but certainly not perfect. I don't normally wear corrective lenses now, although many people do with similar vision. Well anyways, when I am outside snapping these photos, the view I see is certainly pretty enough for me at the time although less than perfect. However, when I get home at night and plug my digital camera into the computer, I can see these pictures with basically perfect vision since I can focus on the computer screen easily. Before processing the image for the Internet, the picture is 25" by 19" and contains 5 times as much detail as the picture below. In this sense, I have computer-aided vision. Since I have no time lag for film development and more perfect vision, the viewing of these pictures is a very nice way to relive the day's events with "perfect hindsight".
Spring Creek meanders back and forth as shown in this picture for 10-15 miles. We normally cross Spring Creek at places such as this to reach the dunes and beaches on the other side. The water is normally clear and shallow. Trails have been cut by four-wheelers onto both sides of the river up in the forest. The sand is relatively difficult for horses to move in. The Arabian horses ridden by my friends don't even notice the difficulty. However, I have to go easy on Holly.
This location is within a couple miles of residential subdivisions. The land where we are standing is part of a soon-to-be developed parkland that Harris County is purchasing with recently voter-approved bond money. The Master Park Plan for Harris County can be viewed by clicking on this url http://www.eng.hctx.net/parkplan.htm. The plan has maps showing existing parks and land identified as targets for acquisition. That site is located outside of this web site so you will need to hit the back button to return. This area is located within Precinct 4 of the Harris County Government.
The land on the other side of the river is in Montgomery County and is used for environmental mitigation projects, cattle grazing and deer leases. I met the manager of that property on horseback one day. He was trying to find his cow dogs. He told me that the feral horses live in that land although they are very elusive.
This picture was taken on January 9, 2003 at about 4:30 pm. Spring Creek is at about the 3 foot level at the USGS river gauge at I-45 (see USGS Stream Data on Spring Creek). This is just a nice picture from another beautiful day on the river. I have just about decided to sell Holly and move on to another horse. (Be still my grieving heart.) Holly is the horse on which I learned to ride with confidence. When I started riding her 30 months ago, crossing a simple, two-lane road, like the northern end of Kuykendahl, was a scary formidable task. In other words, I was like most of the other horse people I know who think I'm crazy for riding my horse out in the open suburban and rural environment. Since learning to ride out in the open environment with Darolyn, I have ridden Holly between 1500 and 2000 miles through all kinds of traffic, terrain, obstacles and weather. Even though I have been thrown on the ground ten times and whacked my left knee with a big oak tree (all of which was me learning to ride and not the fault of Holly), I have really had a great time. I guess it is time to move on. Jackie was a pain in the butt when I started riding her, but she has come along nicely now. Jackie is a lot stronger and faster than Holly.