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No. 37Every Texan should experience the primordial mystery of Caddo Lake State Park. With its ghostly, century-old cypress trees draped with gray-green Spanish moss, cozy cabins built in the 1930s, and a history that encompasses pearl hunting and steamboating, a Caddo getaway works efficiently to re-set your perspective. Stay at the park, or find lodging and dining in the nearby towns of Uncertain, Marshall, and Jefferson.

Published in TRAVEL

44-45 Paris v2

There's something spine-chilling happening in Paris! It's drawing the undead.


Bald cypress  trees flourish on Caddo Lake, as seen near Big Pines Lodge. (Photos by J. Griffis Smith)

My boyfriend seems unusually skittish as he peers into the utter blackness beyond our cabin door at Caddo Lake State Park. I’ve prepared two hot cups of ginger tea for us to sip on the porch in the crisp night air. But Marshall, willing only to open the door a crack, suggests that we enjoy our tea in the cozy confines of the cabin’s interior.

Published in TRAVEL

Illustration by Michael Witte

In the October 2013 issue of Texas Highways, Babs Rodriguez’s account of a fall fishing getaway shows how so many wrongs can make a right. Here’s the full story.

Published in Family Travel

On the Chaparral Trail section of the Northeast Texas Trail near Roxton, Bryan Hargis pedals across an 1880s railroad bridge that spans Cane Creek. (Photo by Laurence Parent)

After running across a brief story on a new rail-trail in northeast Texas, I had to investigate. The 130-mile trail—open to cyclists, runners, walkers, and even equestrians—extends from Farmersville in eastern Collin County to New Boston just west of Texarkana. It travels through seven counties and 19 rural towns. Some sections are paved, some are gravel, and some are the original rough railroad bed. As someone who has written a Texas hiking guide and taken photographs all over the state, I wondered why I’d never heard of it.

Published in Outdoors

A great egret fans out its showy plumes at Ruby Lake. The 15-acre lake provides a home to more than 17 species of birds. (Photos by Nathan Lindstrom)

It all started with a story. British author James Hilton’s 1933 novel, Lost Horizon, told of a nirvana tucked away in the Himalayan heights, mysteriously filled with promise of peace, harmony, and other unearthly ideals. He called it Shangri-La. The name and fantasy caught on, going viral from Hollywood to the White House. Ronald Colman and Jane Wyatt played characters seeking the promises of Shangri-La in Frank Capra’s 1937 movie Lost Horizon. President Franklin D. Roosevelt named the presidential retreat Shangri-La (since renamed Camp David). And in a far corner of the Southeast Texas coastal plain, philanthropist H.J. Lutcher Stark plowed some of his family fortune into creating a haven of flowers and forest he called Shangri-La, opening it to the public in 1946.

Published in TRAVEL

Although most Caddo were forced out of their East Texas homeland by the late 1830s, a series of earthen mounds at Caddo Mounds State Historic Site near Alto bears witness to the Caddo presence here more than 1,200 years ago. The mound in the foreground is a burial mound. (Photos by Kevin Stillman)

Long burined beneath mysterious earthen mounds and lost within dense forests and hidden glades, remnants of an ancient mound-building civilization have slowly come to light in the Piney Woods of East Texas. In recent decades, archeologists, historians, and the descendants of this Native American culture have unearthed, chronicled, and retold the centuries-old story of the Caddo tribes.

Published in TRAVEL

The Cedar Branch church still serves as the core of the community, which was founded by freed slaves in the 1860s. (Photos by J. Griffis Smith)

Before I met Cedric Fletcher, the man who would become my husband, I had never heard of the East Texas town of Grapeland. Our courtship led me there for the Peanut Festival every October. The sweet Pennington Farms watermelons that make the summer heat bearable brought me back. And in the decade or so of visiting, I’ve learned of hidden historical treasures in the rich, red land surrounding the town, especially the Freedom Colonies.



For Texans, there’s no need to cross the Sabine River into Louisiana to experience Cajun culture at its finest. It is alive and well in the southeast Texas town of Beaumont.

Published in Daytripper

The world’s problems are solved daily at Prospero’s Books in Marshall. At least that’s what Damon Falke tells me one morning as I peruse the new and used volumes on a recent visit to this appealing literary refuge tucked into a bright storefront in Marshall’s historic downtown. Falke, a poet, writ-er, and son of Prospero’s owner, Don Falke, helps run things. Besides offering the only bookstore in town, Prospero’s serves as a salon where regulars debate global issues. “Our bookstore, in its own small way, is a place for discussion and collegiality,” Falke says.

Published in TRAVEL

You've heard the saying: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. But what if life gives you yams? Well, if you’re the folks in Gilmer, you create the East Texas Yamboree Festival! This four-day October fest, one of Texas’ oldest, offers a fabulous yam queen pageant, coronation, and parade, lively music and dancing, carnival rides, livestock expositions, a children’s yam-art contest, and a yam-pie cookoff that makes the yam sing.


The East Texas sunrise casts a hazy red-orange hue in our rearview mirror as my husband, Keith, and I drive west along a foggy Texas 103 out of Lufkin. As the car pierces the thick morning mist, rolling pastures dotted with live oak and hickory trees give way to gigantic longleaf pines. The highway merges with Texas 7, and we near Davy Crockett National Forest. Around another bend, the object of our destination is upon us: the Neches River. Two hundred years earlier, we’d be plunging headlong into the drink, but the highway bridge safely handles our crossing.

Published in TRAVEL
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