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It’s not all Prairies and Concrete!

June 8, 2010

When we decided to retire in Texas we promised ourselves we’d see the state. Texas is a LOT of state to see! I think most people who haven’t been here tend to think of it as all prairie and no trees and flat, with a few big cities full of concrete thrown in.

It is. But it’s so much more. The part I grew up in is called ‘The Piney Woods’ and Don had never been there. We decided to take a lot of mini-trips, using the Texas State Parks guide, and check it out for ourselves. We live at the very east edge of the ‘prairie’ part, or the very west edge of the ‘piney’ part, depending on how you look at it. Our neighbors don’t consider us ‘East Texans’, but those to the west of us definitely do! A bit like, ‘We’re not rednecks but they sure are…’

So the first place we chose is Caddo Lake State Park, and it’s like nothing we’ve ever seen. About three hours away, it was the perfect first road trip. We found a place to stay online, Caddo Lake Cabins, and a charming little room was $65 a night because we went during the middle of the week. Our room was ‘slough view’ and our first lesson was learning ‘slough’ is pronounced ‘slew’ as in swamp or marsh. We spent the first afternoon checking out the state park, eating at some very funky places, and meeting interesting people. We had breakfast at a place that is only opened two hours a day, six days a week, and they only serve one thing. They call it ‘breakfast, period.’ We walked in and they told us, ‘we’re bringing you eggs, bacon, toast and mayhaw jelly.’ How do you want your eggs?’ Then they sat down at the table next to us and talked to us the entire meal.

We left the owners of a beautiful jar of mayhaw jelly that had been put up by the owner of the restarant (a man), who was proud to tell us it was his momma’s recipe and it had just won third place in the mayhaw festival the weekend before. Loved that!

The second day we hired a guide to take us out for 1 1/2 hours. $60 for the two of us, and it was only us and the guide. He helped us into something called a ‘go-devil’ boat, a boat designed to move in inches of water, able to cut through lily pods and such.

Two things make the lake very unique – the bald cypress trees growing up all over the place. He told us the oldest one in that lake is around 350 years old. And the spanish moss – originally called ‘spanish beard’ by, I believe, the french to make fun of the spanish explorers. Our guide told us he knew of two female alligators that were nearby but we’d never see them. When they hear the boat motor approaching they tend to dive under. He offered a night tour when alligators, beaver and other creatures would be more active, and also a birding or photography tour. Wouldn’t that have been fabulous?!

I got to sit in the front of the boat for the tour. He guided us into parts of the lake that others don’t normally go in, unless they want to be pulled out by him later in the day. There were ‘road signs’ throughout the lake guiding people what paths to take so they would eventually get back home.

This beaver’s dam is three generations old, around 25 years. It must have stood 15 feet tall. He told us he trapped beaver when he was a young boy. Having given tours for about 40 years he was a wealth of knowledge. Well worth the $60. Riding through the lake felt like being inside the cover of an Enya album.

This black vulture, named Harriet by him, has been coming back for several years to lay her eggs inside this duck blind. He told us she likely wasn’t successful at raising a brood this year or she wouldn’t still be there. She stood sentinel as we rode by, never moving from her post. He told us he gave her the name, Harriet because he sees her at least several times a day throughout spring.

There were two kinds of lily pods, each with a distinct flower. One stays open all day and the other closes in the heat of the day.

A ‘road’ through the lake.

And thrown in just for fun, the headboard of the bed in our little cabin. I loved the idea of using an old door, with 2×4’s attached to the back of it. If you look closely you can see someone painted Caddo Lake in the panels. (Personally, I would have gone with a more neutral bedspread so the headboard showed up more, but isn’t it charming?)

When we told neighbors where we were off to not a single one has ever been there. Texas has so much to see and we’re excited to check it out, a little bit at a time.

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. June 8, 2010 9:09 am

    Well you are certainly off to a great start. What a wonderful place to visit. And I feel like I had the tour with you … without the heat and bugs of course.

    I can’t wait to see where you will go next. Any trips to see the Dallas Cowboys play this fall? Or Beth Moore teach her Sunday School class? Or a dude ranch where you can go on a round up? Texas is just FULL of interesting things to do.

    Thanks for taking me with you πŸ™‚

    • June 8, 2010 11:56 am

      Becky, yes to all the above as possibles, except seeing the Cowboys, unless somebody happens to throw free tickets at us. We’ve been told it’s $75 just to park in their parking lot – a bit rich for my retired blood!

  2. June 8, 2010 9:44 am

    What a beautiful place! The tour sounds wonderful–maybe something we can go on when our kids all know how to swim πŸ™‚

    • June 8, 2010 11:57 am

      Unless you want them to swim with ‘gators I’d say just go and keep them out of the water. The bass fishing is supposed to be superb on what they call ‘the big water’, closer to the Louisiana side. Chris would love that.

  3. June 8, 2010 10:10 am

    It’s so beautiful, Bev. Not something we’d see around my parts, for sure. Sounds like you guys picked a great first spot to start it all off.

  4. June 8, 2010 10:21 am

    That picture of the trees growing up through the lake is just mesmerizing. And the door/headboard is really clever – I love that kind of creativity. I’m with you about the bedspread!

    I can’t wait to see where we go on tour next!

  5. June 8, 2010 11:04 am

    Sounds like you had a wonderful time away, and a great guided tour. Such a pretty area – thanks for sharing the photos!

  6. Mary Huckaby permalink
    June 8, 2010 11:55 am

    Hi Bev!

    Thank you for sharing your trip with us. I love ‘out of the way’ places like that–and your swamp tour was just priceless!

    Seems to me like you and hubby are on your second honeymoon! LOL

    Love that old door as a headboard too. Very unique!

    • June 8, 2010 12:02 pm

      Mary, wasn’t that a great idea?! I saw it and thought of how cute it would be to do a guest bedroom or even a master bedroom with limited funds. I loved that she left the doorknob right in the middle of it.

  7. June 8, 2010 12:01 pm

    I have been catching up on your old blog and now your new. Wasn’t sure if you knew I ‘moved’ too as it has been awhile. I LOVE what you did to your new home. WOW! That was a fabulous transformation. We are now emptynesters, our youngest graduated and are leaving the Black Hills for Oregon – the coastal area – this fall. A HUGE move which I am sure you can relate too. I like Texas. My mom’s family is from the state and my brother and sis-in-law live in Sweet Water – original from Corpus Christi.
    Have a great day!

  8. June 8, 2010 9:16 pm

    Wow! What a beautiful place to see, and I would never have guessed it was in Texas. I’m so glad you are touring the state an dtaking us along:-)

  9. June 8, 2010 9:16 pm

    Oops! I meant “and taking”. When will I learn to proof before submitting?

  10. June 8, 2010 10:26 pm

    Loved your picture tour! We live in northwest LA not too far from where you were in East Texas. We enjoy visiting Jefferson, Longview, and other towns in East Texas.

    • June 9, 2010 9:03 pm

      Glenda, we went into Jeferson one night for cajun Tex dinner – fun! And it was an even better surprise to find out the town is completely covered with antique stores. Ended up coming home with the back of the car filled up with wonderful old things and next time we go back, I’ll be better prepared with a ‘hunting list’. Jefferson was a really fun town.

  11. June 8, 2010 11:43 pm

    I never knew Texas had some bayou country! How marvelous for your first trip πŸ™‚

    My summers growing up were spent with relatives in the bayous of Louisiana, so this brought back alot of memories. Thank you!!

    Cannot wait to learn more about Texas, other it being ” miles and miles, of miles and miles!”….

  12. Susan D permalink
    June 9, 2010 11:41 pm

    Love the great pictures & story Bev! I feel like I am along on the tour! Did you go here when you were younger & living in Texas before?
    I am so glad that you & Don are enjoying your new life! Who knew that so much fun was yet to come?
    I am still hoping that you can fit a Colorado trip in when the heat becomes unbearable there sometime this summer! I hear The South calling us!!!

  13. June 19, 2010 6:11 pm

    I am filing this away in the back of my mind, hopefully to be found again when the weather is cooler. Mike and I can’t handle being outdoors in 100’ish degree days, but that place does look fabulous! The prices for the cabin, as well as the tour guide are very reasonable. Thanks for sharing!

    PS-The breakfast experience is right up our alley, too. πŸ™‚

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