Sunday 20 January 2008

Take a Luecke at this!

Here is something which we can see on Mark's route yesterday but which he will not have! This unusal 'signature' is only visible from the air and is located just a few miles east of Bastrop at the start of yesterday's stage. A bit of 'investigation' has revealed that the word is the surname of a local landowner who arranged for trees on his land to be clearfelled to reveal this pattern. The word is almost three miles long and so clearly visible from space that NASA have been able to use it to "estimate spatial resolution for lower contrast vegetation boundaries. By clearing forest so that a pattern would be visible to landing aircraft, a landowner outside Austin, Texas created a target that is also useful for evaluating spatial resolution of astronaut photographs".

The landowner was not, however, commissioned by NASA to do this! Setting aside his possible megalomaniac tendencies, good land management practices these days require some degree of habitat preservation when clearfelling. The same thing happens when commercial forestry is cleared in the UK . By leaving some of the original forest cover a small portion of the woodland habitat is preserved. The view above is of the same feature but from an aircraft.

What has surprised me as I have researched this is that the woodland here in east central Texas is natural pine wood (the clearing is to increase available grazing land). The woodland theme will become more prevalent as Mark heads east today (Sunday) and I will return to it in tomorrow's posting.
If we backtrack just a few miles to the outskirts of Bastrop Mark would have passed a road end marked 'Power Plant Road'. Just a couple of miles up the road is lake Bastrop and on its shores the Sam Gideon power plant. Location factors for power generation (apart from nuclear) dictate a location close to the source of fuel plus water for cooling. This 40 year old power plant was built to exploit local supplies of natural gas and the lake was created as a vast cooling pond. It also serves as a focus for recreation and there are a number of campsites and hiking trails along the shoreline and in the surrounding woods. I couldn't find an image of the power station but among several of the lake, I found this one of high voltage power lines crossing the lake!

Between Bastrop and Brenham Mark's route was Highway 290. Close up views of the agricultural landscape reveal a farm economy based on a mix of cultivation and stock rearing. Typical crops in this part of Texas include cotton, soyabean, maize, sorghum, peanuts and hay. As cotton can be grown with less water than any other cash crop in the area, it is likely to be the dominant crop. There are also apparently a very large number of dairy cattle but many of them are stall fed. At Brenham a long established creamery uses the milk of 50,000 local cows to produce what is reckoned to be the best ice cream in the USA! (Click banner to link to their website) Just west of Navasote, Mark crossed the floodplain of the River Brazos where the cultivation of a wider range of crops is possible. The River Brazos, in keeping with most of the rivers which cross the coastal plain towards the Gulf of Mexico is a NW/SE flowing river with an elongated drainage basin....

Considering the river is 1280 miles long, it looks positively puny as it passes Navasote and this despite the fact that it is already two thirds of its way to the sea. The reason for this is that like most of the rivers in this part of Texas, its waters are managed. Upstream dams deprive the lower course of the volume of water which would otherwise be flowing in it. The Brazos River Authority manages the waters of the Brazos and you can link to their website and read some detail of how the river is managed by clicking on their logo.

The end of the day yesterday is recorded as follows in the web diary "Camped 15 miles after Navasota. Freezing! Thanks to lady who brought dinner! " According to the GPS tracker, this is where that was ... in Anderson - a little settlement with a good Scottish name and some good Scottish sounding hospitality as well

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