Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Texas-sized Thicket

Have you ever seen the news and there's a hurt someone who obviously has no clue how to survive?  You know, someone mauled by a bear because he was there?  Or someone with frostbite or heatstroke because he wasn't dressed for the place? Do you ask yourself how can someone be so stupid?  Who does such a thing?  Don't people have at least a little common sense?  How does someone put himself in such a predicament? Well, I think I know.

Richard and I had to go to Shreveport so I could attend a workshop.  We decided early on that our trip would include a side trip to Dallas for a day or two of shopping and relaxing.  Now, both Dallas and Shreveport are cities built of metal and concrete and asphalt.  Both are hot.  We're talking 100 degree in July, so tees, shorts, and sandals are absolutely the way to go.  We packed, we left. An hour into the drive we made a quick stop at a book store where the trouble began. Rich found a book that looked especially interesting, The Most Scenic Drives in America.  


He drove.  I read.  Only I read his book, not mine.  My book was homework.  His book was interesting.  Hey, check it out: the East Texas Ramble; we'll be right there.  San Augustine is where Sam Houston lived for a while. Oh, this Ezekiel Cullen place looks interesting, built in 1838; that's old. Wait, there's a place with pitcher plants and orchids; wild orchids.  You'd like this lake; no it's a reservoir; looks bigger than Toledo Bend.  Wow, three rivers feed into it; you know it has to be big.  

And like that we were going on a ramble.  Love that word, ramble, sounds adventurous and fun.  To ramble around.  Just take a little ramble through this place--Big Thicket. 

The only problem, of course, is that we left packed for shopping. That meant no sunscreen, no hiking shoes, no bug spray, no long pants...in other words, no preparations for wild woods. 


But there are pitcher plants, and a huge reservoir and other stuff to see and do.  So south it was, unprepared though we were. We agreed poison ivy was out of the question and as much as was possible, so were red bugs (chiggers) and all other rash-inducing things.  Of course--we realized much too late--we were planning to go see some insect-inviting carnivorous plants. That would mean the plants trick the bugs to come to them!  

Oh, so there might be bugs.  Forget that there were big trees, lots of weeds, bogs, and other mosquito infested places. You'd think Louisianans would be able to see this sort of thing coming.  Oh no, not the Louisianans who want to see something else.  You know, can't see the forest for the trees sort of thing.  


So we made a big circle westward and planned the trip so that we'd see as much as possible of the places on the list that we've not see before.  A stop at the Ezekiel Cullen House was a loss because it was closed.  Well, not a total loss...but more on that later in the week.  Then south to the Sam Rayburn Reservoir in the Angelina National Forest-- lots of beautiful area here!

And on to the orchids and bug-eating plants.  First stop: the visitor's center to find out where, exactly, we can find the plants that lure the bugs that bite the people who want to see the plants.  

We gained lots of info, just not the you're-crazy-if-you-go-in-the-woods-dressed-like-dorks info.  

She tried, bless her heart.  She said, "There's lots of bugs right now."  She warned, "The bugs are real bad this time of year."  We marched on like the good soldiers we think we are.  I mean, really!, the pictures and the dioramas ALL showed bugs, snakes, nettles, sticks, stones, and....pretty flowers.  I saw pretty flowers.  Rich saw a break from driving.  We went.



Now, in Louisiana when we find ourselves on a dirt road, we know we've gone too far.  Things begin happening too fast.  Bad things. 

We turn around.  We go home.  We think.

But in Texas, we throw caution to the wind.  And we plow on. Forward. 

Sp we went.      And we went.

And we went some more.  There was no stopping.  Nope.  Can't stop; the bugs swarmed.  Keep going and, if you slow down, you gotta swat.  Swatting takes energy, better to walk fast.


And we went some more.  We made the whole circle, but honestly there's not much choice.  The pretty flowers lure you in.  The bugs keep you moving.  And the heat drinks your sweat.  So you go some more.  And at some point just before the phone dies so you can't call for help, you see a green roof...oh, thank God, it's the outhouse.  Never thought I'd be so happy to see a park outhouse.  The car--the ONLY car--near the outhouse is ours and it's air conditioned and there are no bugs inside.  

Well, not until we sit down in it, anyway.  The creepy crawlies that are too small to see (they are called no see ums for a reason) piggyback on you all the way to the car.  There's only one thing to do: you have to beat them back Clorox.  Oh, I am so glad we had sense enough to pick up a canister of wipes before coming!  Our preparations paid off, after all!  And we lived to tell about it.  

Which is the only reason we are not on the local news tonight!

Sidebar: The website for Big Thicket National Wildlife Preserve notes "Life of all types abounds in the Big Thicket. This national preserve protects the incredible diversity of life found where multiple habitats converge in southeast Texas. Hiking trails and waterways meander through nine different ecosystems, from longleaf pine forests to cypress-lined bayous. It is a place of discovery, a place to wander and explore, a place to marvel at the richness of nature."

Do I recommend the trip?  Absolutely!  Just use some common sense and prepare.  And maybe go in a cooler season.  And be sure to buy some Clorox wipes....they are heaven-sent when the chiggers and critters are biting and stinging.  The bleach is strong enough to kill of the bugs but mild enough for a quick wipe or two on feet, legs, and hands.   Or where ever the littlest insects have crawled.  And crawl they will.  And bite.  And sting.  And...well you get the idea.

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