News to me, but the Eastern half of Texas is actually green!
It’s part of a temperate and coniferous forest, called The Piney Woods, that goes through four states and holds over 250 species of bird and mammal. We’re lucky enough to live an hour from the south tip of The Piney Woods so we’ve been able to hike a bit, plus Tristan and I spent a weekend camping towards the north-eastern part in Texas, at a beautiful spot called Caddo Lake. I didn’t know Texas could look like this so I thought I’d show off some pictures!
SAM HOUSTON NATIONAL FOREST
The closest bit of Piney Woods to us is the Sam Houston National Forest, where we went hiking in the first couple of weeks after arriving in Texas. It was really nice to be in a forest as I definitely miss that atmosphere, but honestly, it didn’t feel very ‘forest-y’ to me. Maybe that’s because I’m from the PNW where I’m spoiled by thick, green forests. This one had no terrain, trees with empty branches, dried mud everywhere, and it was buggy and muggy. I had a hard time understanding why people would repeatedly go back to a place like that. I wasn’t disappointed (because it was lovely to be surrounded by shade and greenery!) but I wasn’t intrigued enough to make too many routine visits back. Maybe in the winter it will be nicer!
DAVY CROCKETT NATIONAL FOREST
This was a stop on the way to Caddo Lake (which is probably the most gorgeous spot in Texas) where we walked around a camping area next to a lake. In Texas, everyone loves to go ‘camping’ in RV’s… where being in the wild tends to be in marked campsites next to public bathrooms, asphalt roads and with plenty of fishing to do at a brown, muddy, lake. The lake we saw here was thankfully not too muddy, but the ‘beautiful hike’ that was listed online was through the campsite. The trail is probably used more for the people camping to stretch their legs than for people to make an out-of-the-way pitstop for. Davy Crockett is quite a large national forest so hopefully we can go back and check out less often visited areas. Maybe we had bad luck on this ‘highly recommended’ hike? Oh well… I heard there’s a waterfall somewhere, we just have to find it! (although no promises there will be water!)
CADDO LAKE STATE PARK
Now this was incredible.
I’ve never seen anything like it and even after visiting, I’m not sure it’s real! After two (at least for me) disappointing trips to see national forests, I was initially not too ecstatic about the trip. Tristan and I looked at pictures online but everything looked overly edited and I wasn’t buying it. When we arrived I was in shock.
We were transported into a different world with Spanish moss draped on the arms of Bald Cyprus trees, all surrounded by swamp land.
Our trip to Caddo Lake was an overnighter, with Tristan and I meeting up with my friend Matt. We set up camp for the night before exploring the area, going on a walk, and making dinner. Every other site was booked to give some space during Covid, and people were cognizant of the rules– keeping apart on walks and such. On one of those walks it started to pour and within 30 seconds we were all drenched, but it was still warm out! Rain came down in sheets while the sun was setting and the result was gorgeous!
Over the two days and one night we saw bats, turtles, a Texas brown snake, spiders, herons, wild pigs… and when I went to pee at night I heard nearby rustling that turned out to be a friendly armadillo! Once the storm cleared we watched the stars and were lucky enough to spot the NEOWISE comet amongst the perfectly laid out night sky.
It was hot that night and didn’t cool down until about 3 am, so sleeping was difficult. In the morning we made a quick breakfast, packed up and said goodbye to Matthew. He went back home to Arkansas while Tristan and I went to pick up our canoe! When we were learning about Caddo Lake we saw that the area is surrounded by swamps and figured that the best way to see it would be to get on the water (as I’d rather not get in the water). We rented a canoe easily enough and spent a few hours paddling through water trails. There were main water thoroughfares where we’d find fishing boats or pleasure cruisers, but back in the swamp and deeper on the trails it was just us and any animals around (like a wild pig and little piglets!). This canoe trip was by far the highlight of the trip and the best way to see the area.
Although Sam Houston and Davy Crockett are nice places to visit, Caddo Lake has surged to the top spot out of all the places we’ve been so far in Texas. We’ll definitely have to see what it’s like in the wintertime! Truly majestical and I can’t recommend it enough.