I had Tuesday off in celebration of the end of the filing season and decided that I would go to East Texas and look at the bluebonnets. Unfortunately I only saw bluebonnets in planters. On Wednesday, I discovered that the Texas Department of Transportation (www.dot.state.tx.us/) has a listing of where to spot the wildflowers and links to other travel sites for Texas festivals, scenic drives, etc. Oh well - live and learn.
I went to my parent's house at 7:00 on Tuesday morning to pick up my sister and we were on the road by 7:30. Took Hwy 171 South out of Keithville to Highway 5 through Kickapoo and Kechi and finally to Logansport, over the Sabine River and into Joaquin,Texas (about a 25-30 minute drive).
At Joaquin we took Highway 84 and followed it through Mt. Enterprise, Rusk and Palestine where we took Highway 19 into Athens. I must say that the drive down Highway 84 was the highlight of the trip. It's a two lane (sometimes four) road that is well kept and winds through stereotypical small Southern town after town.
The coolest part started at Mt. Enterprise. We had been driving along the flat, marshy, Pine Tree filled landscape of west Louisiana and East Texas for approximately 1 1/2 hours when suddenly we entered the beginning of hill country. Obviously we had been slowly climbing in altitude without realizing it because our first indication of hill country was the land dropping away from us on either side of the road and descent into a valley. 84 also has a lot of historical markers (usually just random things that happened on this spot), and Texas had made little pull-outs from the road so that you could pull over and read the signs in safety. A courtesy that Louisiana does not offer.
We reached Athens around 11:00, went to the visitors center and picked up some brochuers. Two caught our fancy. The East Texas Botanical Gardens and the Texas Freshwaters Fisheries Center. The Botanical Gardens are a bit of a joke. According to the brochure there are beautiful gardens and miles of nature trails. Technically they didn't lie. The small planting of flowers around a fountain were beautiful and the treacherous dirt path with low hanging branches and tall roots in the path did go through the woods and over a couple of very scary bridges for a couple of miles. It definitely ranked a fairly close second to our trip to Poverty Point in Epps, LA where we were told that they had recently mowed the trail. However, they had forgotten to mow quite a bit of the trail and we found ourselves wading in knee-high grass and coming face to face with cows in a farmer's field. Whoops!
The fishery center proved to be even more cool that its brochure. There was a beautiful recreation of a mountain stream running around the outside of the building with spots along the way to view fish as if they were in an aquarium.
Then Lianne spotted a sign that said they would provide rods and bait and would teach you how to fish.
I hadn't been fishing since I was in elementary school and Lianne had never been fishing. I told her that I would come with her, but that I was NOT touching a fish. She assured me that she would help me if I managed to catch a fish. Well....She caught a catfish and absolutely freaked. I finally got her to reel the poor fish in and get it on the pier so that we could remove the hook from its mouth and release it. The moment that fish hit the deck she started to jump up and down screaming and doing what I've termed the "icky flopping fish dance". I wound up having the release the fish from the hook and put it back in the water. She owes me.
After that we headed home to Shreveport via highway 79 through Henderson and Carthage, a road I travel a lot. We returned with a great story that Lianne will never live down, a bit of a sunburn, and some of my sanity restored.