Monday, January 16, 2012

The Big Thicket !

When most people think of Texas, they think of the Dallas cowboys...

The Alamo...

Willie Nelson...

...or wide open spaces...

But, as we discovered, east Texas...or the Piney Woods country, is the first place that was really Texas.

This is where the first people came and settled. The logging started here and oil was first discovered here. All that you see to the west was Comanche and indian country....not a good place to live.

So, we headed off to see what is there and to see if this is a place WE wanted to settle in the future.
One of the most noted places is The Big Thicket, a place that is possible the most biologically diverse areas in the world. ...and I quote...

The history of the Big Thicket goes back to the time when it was covered with water. In the last sixty million years, "recent times" according to geologists, the Gulf shoreline of Southeast Texas submerged and emerged time after time, in unison during the Pleistocene Age with periodic glaciations to the north. The shore line that contained the thicket rose above the waters of the Gulf during the Ice Age, and was built up by silt washed down and deposited by some ancestral Trinity River. The woods of the thicket grew, and ten thousand years ago the thicket dwellers included mastodons, elephants, the American horse, Taylor's bison, camels, tapirs, and giant sloths, beavers, and armadillos. Preying on these animals were the sabre-toothed tiger and the dire wolf. Their day ended around 8,000 years ago. The time of the glaciers established varieties of soils and vegetation in the thicket that remained after the glaciers retreated, and produced a unique biological crossroads of at least eight different kinds of plant communities. The Big Thicket is possibly the most biologically diverse area in the world. Cactus and ferns, beech trees and orchids, camellias and azaleas and four carnivorous plants all occupy what is called the thicket, along with the pines, oaks, and gums common to the rest of East Texas. The thicket also supports a wide variety of animal life and is especially noted for the many species of birds, around 350, that either live in the area or visit annually. The abundant rainfall and the long growing season, around 246 days, ensure that vegetation and all the animal life that depends on it thrive. -

We took off on a three-mile hike and, it being fall and all, the leaves, foliage, flowers and such were not in their best splendor....but it was a nice hike. The forest is so thick that people could live in there for years and no one would no. During the Civil War, when the Confederate went beyond volunteers and into conscription, many men would hide out in the thicket to avoid service and no one could find them.

Four of North America's five types of insect-eating plants reside here. We did not go to that part of the Big Thicket to see them.

Major North American biological influences bump up against each other here: south eastern swamps, eastern forests, central plains, and southwest deserts. Bogs sit near arid sandhills. Eastern bluebirds nest near roadrunners. There are 85 tree species, more than 60 shrubs, and nearly 1,000 other flowering plants, including 26 ferns and allies, and 20 orchids. Nearly 186 kinds of birds live here or migrate through. Fifty reptile species include a small, rarely seen population of alligators. Amphibious frogs and toads abound.

We met some terrific, informative, rangers in the visitor's center. I think they were glad to have some visitors this late in the year and the hike was very nice...calm and peaceful. We posted all of our photos here should you want to see more.

East Texas had some wonderful would never know you were in Texas.

One of the side roads I ran for my morning runs. It seemed like every house had a dog...and they all wanted a piece of me !

Road back to camp from a run.
I came home from a run with these stickers in my shoelaces...I found out how sharp they were when I went to untie my laces. This is to show how small they were.

I put one under a magnifying lense to show a closeup.....yikes !

...and I thought we were too late to see fall colors.

LOTS of logging trucks all throughout this area.

Heading north.

LOVE this sign....and "no", we did not try them.

We went to a BBQ one night...wonderful, warm people and the food was great. What a quaint place.

View from our table at the BBQ
We stayed about 5 days poking around. Met some really nice people in the park, took some motorcycle rides and lazed around. Even though we really liked the area, it can get REALLY hot and humid in the summer so we're not sure about homesteading here.
Next stop: Louisiana !

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