Sunday, August 9, 2015

2007 Kayaking Texas' Gulf Coast Bays and Estuaries with Elderhostel

This Elderhostel program was hosted by Texas A&M University in Galveston and was based in Galveston. Our guide, Karla Klay, operates the non-profit Artist Boat, and constantly amazed us at her knowledge of the flora and fauna of the region. In this photo, we are paddling the cypress swamp of Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge and Mac Lake, enjoying the scenery and abundant wildlife of this cypress wonderland. One evening, her friend, Kris of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, spoke of the extensive efforts underway to restore coastal and marine habitats along the entire Texas sea coast.

Twice we paddled in bays -- Galveston Bay off the state park, and Christmas Bay at the western end of the island. We saw sea grass beds which were being restored through massive ecological efforts and observed many water birds and other wildlife that depend on the bay for habitat, including the migratory wildfowl that stop here on their flights to and from their Mexico wintering grounds. In the photo below, we paddled Armand Bayou before spending time at the nature center where we heard a talk by its head naturalist and hiked through the nature center's grounds.

Most alligators slid under the water as we approached, but this brave fellow held his ground and gave us a long look at him before sliding below.

A visit to the Houston Audubon Society's Smith Oaks Bird Sanctuary offered close views of a bird rookery, populated by nesting Roseate Spoonbills and Great White Herons, seen here, as well as Cormorants, White Ibis, and others.

One of Karla's degrees is in art, so a facet of the program is water color instruction as we enjoy the scenery discovered by paddling. In this photo below, Alan documents on canvas the sea grass and pelicans during a break, as Nicole behind him, another of the guides, works on her own masterpiece. On the final day, Karla presented all 17 of us with autographed water colorings she had completed. My own feeble attempts proved fruitless, so I resorted to using my camera as my artistic instrument to document the trip.

The entire group:
Back row (l to r): Carol, Elizabeth, John, Anastasia, Alan, Pete, Gary, Tony, and Chuck
Middle row: Deirdre, Renate, Katherine, Jane, Beverly (our driver), Sherry, and Bob
Seated: Lynn (our host), Karla (our guide), Val, and Phyllis

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