As I write this, today is the fifth day of true winter, when temperatures are below the freezing number of 32 degrees. Way below. Dripping faucets worked until yesterday when the ground finally froze, and the water simply did not make it to my house. This has never been a problem in East Texas until a few years ago, so there was no reason to dig a little deeper when installing public water pipes, especially in a rural forest like mine.
The big decision to make this morning is whether I put real clothes on. I am so cozy in my complete body pajamas, flannel housecoat, wool socks, and fluffy pink slippers. Instead, I sit in front of the computer with my third cup of steaming coffee (mainly to hold for warmth) and dream of warmer days.
I’ve seen just about every acre of Texas and lived in three of the five different designated regions throughout my lifetime. By far, the Piney Woods region in East Texas is my favorite and where I chose to settle down and retire. But that doesn’t stop me from exploring new places of wonder.
Camping in state parks with my dog is my preferred mode of travel, and today my frozen Rockwood trailer is also waiting patiently for spring. Since Texas summers are almost unbearable, most of my hiking-centered trip endeavors take place during the spring or fall.
Today, in a frozen trance, I float from photo to photo of past trips. Here are a few of my favorite places in the eastern half of Texas for a hike during springtime.
· Davey Dogwood Park
Located just north of Palestine and nearest to me for a day trip, this little park is a gem that many locals try to keep a secret. Full of dogwood trees that bloom only for a couple of weeks in the spring, this park is a spectacular place to “forest bathe” in splendor. The annual Dogwood Festival is held in early April to highlight the blooming trees. An extra-special component is the Fairy Trail, where volunteers create a fairy wonderland of miniature homes and fairy memorabilia along the main trail. It is a wonderful experience for children, and a few adults who refuse to grow up.
· John Bunker Sands Wetland Center
A unique public-private partnership created this wetland water reuse project near Dallas — a lifeline for a variety of wildlife. The boardwalk trail crosses over the wetlands, giving the visitor amazing views below and above. This area draws many birds, some that stay permanently and others that are just passing through during the spring migration. I once spied a large flock of white pelicans stopping for a snack on their way to the Texas coast. A few eagle pairs call this wetland their home in the summer, raising chicks in the same nest every year, which can be seen using a scope on the Interpretative Center’s deck in spring.
· Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden
The largest annual floral festival in the Southwest, Dallas Blooms makes for a great day trip from one of the many amazing state parks in North Texas. The festival is held in March and April at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden. Accessible concrete walkways give visitors a workout among 500,000 spring blooming plants. The first to bloom are tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths. A later trip during the festival transforms into a world of blooming azaleas of many colors and cherry trees. There is a charge for entrance, but it’s well worth a day hike. The theme changes every year; however, the tulip superstars are world renowned.
· McKinny Falls State Park
The rugged beauty of boulders surrounded by a forest, plus Onion Creek splashing down a small waterfall, make this park pleasing all summer long. But in the spring, the bluebonnets bloom, many next to cactuses, resulting in a most interesting hike only found in March or April. Deep in the Hill Country of Texas, this former homestead and its old rock shelters were preserved by the ranch owners and donated to the state. The waterfall flows at its peak this time of year due to spring rains. Once during a hike on a trail deep in the forest, we spied a doe with her fawn.
· Salado Monarch Butterfly Garden
Cultivating interest in historic buildings along the beautiful Salado River, the town of Salado proudly maintains miles of hiking trails along an important stagecoach stop in Texas. A Historic Walking tour booklet is available, with detail about the buildings and their original owners. But my favorite trail starts with a four-foot hot-pink butterfly sculpture at the entrance of the Salado Native Plant Pocket Garden on Main Street. With over 200 plants to attract butterflies, the park is a Monarch Waystation, with great attention to attract and protect this endangered butterfly.
· Sea Rim State Park
The Texas Gulf Coast region comes alive in spring, beginning in early March. Smack right in the path for migrating birds, the area draws bird-watchers from all over the world. Who does not like to see baby birds? And during the spring is the best time to catch birds making nests, guarding nests, or feeding their young. My favorite trail is simply the ocean shoreline at Sea Rim State Park, within walking distance from campsites. Plovers and terns build nests on the shore; therefore, dogs are discouraged and must be kept on a short leash.
Following More Flowers in 2024
Planning my next trip is also a favorite winter pastime, and next year’s adventure is a five-month road trip on the Spacious Skies Campground Spring Bloom Trail. Starting in Tennessee and meandering along the east coast to Maine, Tipper and I will follow flowers as they wake up from winter.
Leaving Texas in April, I’ll also stop at festivals, fruit farms, museums, and whatever strikes my fancy. My first stop heading for the first official flower trail destination is Paris, Tennessee, for the World’s Biggest Fish Fry. Stay tuned.
Ann Bush, FB Group: Green Gypsy Travel, or [email protected]
Ann is a freelance writer drawing attention to the natural beauty of our planet, amazing historic sites and eco-tourism. A forever explorer, Ann has traveled worldwide since 1974 for either business or personal reasons. Raised in small West Texas towns, Ann has moved to other places around the world during her lifetime but returned to Texas often. Spending ten years in Houston during the 1980’s, she earned an MBA in marketing from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Ann fulfilled a rewarding 30-year career giving her best to non-profit organizations such as Preserve South Dakota, Easter Seals, Mercy Ships and the Lighthouse for the Blind.
Soon after retirement, she found her best job ever, freelance writing. Her specialty in marketing and public relations shaped her skills which led nicely into a writing business. Ann loves to tell her amazing stories of the places she saw and people she met along the way. As a member of SATW (Society of American Travel Writers), her suitcase is always packed ready to zoom to interesting places to do crazy things and tell her story – often taking her dog Tipper along for the ride. She never misses an opportunity to hike a hill, watch a bird, dance with the locals, ride a motorcycle, photograph a sunset or kayak down a river.
Most of her articles can be found with the following publications: Family RVing (FMCA membership magazine); TravelAwaits.com; Inspired 55+ (Canada), EastWestNews Service; Lifestyles Magazine, InMagazine, The Tyler Loop, Texas Living, The City Paper Bogota and Bird Watcher’s Digest. Articles are usually found in the travel, art, history or cultural sections. Ann posts her adventures on a Facebook group page titled Green Gypsy Travel. Her website is under construction but in the meantime, she can be reached at [email protected].