OUTDOORS ON THE COAST

6 best spots to hike, bike, or paddle in Houston and Galveston

Photo courtesy of Buffalo Bayou Partnership

This article originally appeared on CultureMap and was written by Melissa Gaskill.

The Texas coastal plain surrounding Houston and Galveston contains a surprising variety of natural landscapes — along with a number of parks, preserves, and other opportunities to enjoy said landscapes. Late spring is a good time for getting out into nature, before temperatures start to melt pavement in the parking lots.

At places with visitor centers, take the time to stop in for maps, trail guides, and general advice from the staff. And be sure to check the weather forecast.

Armand Bayou Nature Center

One of the largest urban wilderness preserves in the U.S., this 2,500-acre property in Pasadena has more than 5 miles of hiking trails, including three through forested wetlands to the bayou: the 1.32 mile Martyn Trail, 1.4-mile Karankawa Trail, and 1.5-mile Lady Bird Trail. Guided hike offerings include night hikes, birding tours, and alligator viewing. The Center also has pontoon cruises, guided canoe tours and an 1800 style farm site.

Buffalo Bayou Paddling Trail

A Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Paddling Trail, this route runs 26 miles from Highway 6 to Allen's Landing Park in downtown Houston. Ten access points allow for a variety of trip lengths. Despite flowing through an urban setting, Buffalo Bayou has surprisingly diverse flora and fauna. Paddlers may see turtles, rabbits, herons, egrets, hawks, fish, and even alligators, along with a variety of types of trees lining the banks.

East End Lagoon

A 685-acre nature park and preserve on the eastern tip of Galveston Island, East End contains wetlands, ponds, upland prairie, and beaches — a rare piece of natural Texas coast. A work in progress, the park currently has trails, viewing platforms, and launch areas for canoes and kayaks, with plans for a pavilion and other amenities down the road. Artist Boat offers regular kayak tours at East End Lagoon, from two-hour guided tours to three- and four-hour outings that include watercolor demonstrations and painting.

Galveston Island State Park

Galveston Island State Park represents the only undeveloped land on the island with beach-to-bay public access that takes in coastal prairie and wetlands. Explore with its four miles of trails, observation platforms, bird blinds, and paddling trails. Staff lead regular beach and bay explorations for those who want to learn more about the critters and landscape, and a nature center is open on weekends. Stay overnight in beach or bay campsites or one of the park's lodges.

Continue reading on CultureMap to learn about the final 2 spots.

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This week the NASCAR cup series heads to the world center of racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for the inaugural fourth of July version of the Brickyard 400. This is unprecedented for NASCAR considering over the course of 50 years they are usually in Daytona around this time. While this move was met with a lot of criticism from fans, there is a positive to come from this move though, as the sport will hold their first doubleheader with Indycar. This has been talked about for many years and now it has finally come to fruition. Another new facet of this weekend will be the Xfinity Series running on the road course configuration. This could very well lead to the cup series transitioning from the oval to the road course next season should everything go well when the Xfinity series does it. It will definitely be an interesting weekend.

Last week, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin dominated the first-ever doubleheader at Pocono. The two drivers finished first and second in both races with Harvick taking race one and Hamlin winning race two. Both of these races came down to pit-road strategy as Harvick was able to eke out a victory by taking two tires and fuel while his teammate Aric Almirola took four. The next day Denny Hamlin pretty much had the whole field covered as he went on to claim his fourth victory of the season. Overall, the idea of two races in a weekend went over well but for the racing itself, it was hard to watch. One of the main issues I had was how the drivers didn't have to shift this week. In my opinion, that was what made this track so unique. It was an oval that had road course characteristics and it usually produced some pretty good finishes. Hopefully this will be addressed when the new car makes its debut in 2022.

One of the big stories going into this week is the announcement a couple of weeks ago that NASCAR will be moving their all-star event to Bristol Motor Speedway. Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a whirlwind of news from the Bubba Wallace story at Talladega, to the doubleheader races last week. A lot of this has put this announcement on the back burner but this is a huge story. The race will be held on Wednesday, July 15th as NASCAR continues with midweek races. This is the first time since 1986 that the race will not be run at NASCAR's home track in Charlotte back when it took place at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The format will be pretty much the same as all the winners from 2019 and 2020 will all have an automatic birth into the race while the rest of the field will run in the open event the day before. The main event will feature four stages including a 15 lap closer around one of NASCAR's most popular race tracks. I think this move was long overdue and I hope that they continue with it in the future. Don't get me wrong, there isn't anything wrong with the race at Charlotte but I think a change of pace would be welcomed. I look forward to seeing how this turns out.

As we move on to Indy this weekend, the driver I have winning is Kurt Busch. This weekend will be the 2004 Cup Series champion's 700th career start, and he's won just about every race that there is to be won except this one here at the Brickyard. This week, that is going to change. It hasn't been the most consistent season for the Vegas native, but he still sits tenth in points and right in the thick of the playoff battle. This track isn't his best as he currently has a 19.42 average finish, including a dismal 30th place finish last year. But this week, I think he gets back on track with a victory as he starts second. The veteran has flown under the radar this year, but he has definitely shown spurts where we think he is going to break-out. He also has runs where it seems like him and his team are mid-pack, but there aren't many drivers out there that have the experience he has. And a talented driver like him always finds a way to bounce back. Look for Kurt Busch to take the #1 Monster Energy Camaro to victory lane.

All stats and information used in this article are brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com, the best websites for all NASCAR stats.

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