Friday, December 19, 2014

Sandy Creek COE and return to Rayburn

Waiting for dentist appointments gives us an opportunity to explore some of our favorite COE parks around Livingston, Texas.

Sandy Creek is one that we discovered last year. Then we were lucky to get a cancellation site on Thanksgiving weekend.

This year it's after Thanksgiving and before Christmas.  We are one of very, very few in the park.  Beautiful sites on B.A. Steinhagen Reservoir. The following links are some interesting items, the first is a Youtube video of a gator hunt in 2012 benefiting Wounded Warriors. The second is some information for kayakers about opportunities around Steinhagen.  We know a number of readers are kayakers as well as fishing enthusiasts. Steinhagen Wounded Warrior Gator Hunt and Canoe and Kayaking near Steinhagen. On the Southwest Paddler  page, be sure to click on the Photo Gallery on the left. Then go to very bottom of the page to load in some nice pictures of paddling adventures all across the Southwest.

Note: the above picture was taken from inside Lady Blue..

Jan is very happy on site #21.

Sites are quite level, long. and well separated.  This site is 50 amp as well as 30 amp.  That cost us $1 extra per night, but we liked this site. That extra $1 meant that we were paying $9 per night with the Senior Pass.

The office has a small garden.  This time of year there are few living plants, but some are still producing flowers.

This is a very small variety of cotton.

And, yes, there is still a small cotton boll on the plant

A rose???

No, it is a blossom on the cotton plant.

There are two areas in the campground. This abandoned house is on the road over to the second area.  it is fenced in and the grounds are well maintained.  Not so, the house itself.

I know------some of you were thinking this was our new home.

Steinhagen is a very shallow lake.  The Bald Cypress are quite at home here, giving it a southern swampy feel.

Not so great on the bass fishing, but evidently there is good fishing for the three varieties of catfish.

It takes a good walk to get over to the other campsites, but then---

Lady Blue looks so comfortable over there!

The winter look of the Bald Cypress.

We see this white heron all around the shore of Steinhagen.

Sometimes, the pictures around a quiet lake make you want to read one of those scary murder mysteries.

Maybe Not
On to Rayburn Park COE for a return visit.  Time to get out the Christmas decorations.  The plus of our smaller home is that we get to really appreciate the needlepoint work of Vivian Pope( Jan's Mom).  She was a crochet and knitting person.  This was new for her way back when.

Little momentos, but---     A Christmas tree from Alison, a lighthouse form Scott, and a " God Bless our Home" from United Parish remind us of past Christmases.  Fond memories of school concerts, school and Chorale dinner  concerts at Independence Harbor, and some wonderful holiday services with lots of Christmas music and a wonderful Brass Choir---right Sarah?
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Martin Dies State Park

Jan and I found it a little difficult to leave Rayburn COE.  But, we had business to attend to in Livingston, our home base.

As full timers, we use Escapee mail in Livingston.  We can stay for a night or two at our Escapee Rainbow's End campground.  There is a good laundry right there and we can just walk up to the mail room window and pick up our mail.  We have always been impressed by the workers in the mail room. They will answer any questions and our mail is always packaged neatly and mailed to our current location----often a "general delivery" at a local post office.

The other business is a visit to the dentist for Jan and myself.  We try to schedule our checkups right after Thanksgiving.  Unfortunately, we both always seem to need extra work, so we will stay in the area for a few weeks.
We enjoy a number of parks in the Livingston area. Among them are Lake Livingston State Park about 15 minutes from town, and Martin Dies Jr. State Park on B.A. Steinhagen Reservoir.  Since we will be staying at a few other Texas state parks on our way west, we pick up a yearly pass for $70.  That gives us free park admission to any park for a full calendar year and half off the second night of any stay for four times. The state
 park admissions vary. Livingston is $5 each person for every day.  Martine Dies is $3 per person per day.

Lady Blue is happy in our large site on a small cove.

We are surprised that there are so few people in the park.  But it is after Thanksgiving and a very wet few days.

Steinhagen is a fairly shallow lake and the birds love it.

Not just egrets and herons, but ,many smaller birds like Pileated Woodpeckers, Bluebirds, Warblers, Kestrels among others.

Always fun to see the Bald Cypress trees growing in the water.

There are a number of trails in the park. this one is the Slough Trail, about 2 plus miles. That is pronounced "slew".  Yes, we had to ask.

The trail has 16 bridges through swamp and harder grounds.  The cypress love the swamp.

Sticking up out of the ground near the cypress are these growths they call "knees".  Some rangers indicate that they are assumed to be for better balance in the soggy water.

The bridges are well made.

Later Fall and the leaves are pretty well down from the deciduous trees.  But the live oak and pines are still offering a lot of green.

Still a lot of color from some sweet gum tree leaves and others.

Quite a lot of rain for the past week or so.  The mushrooms are quite happy.

We are enjoying these parks, because we know it will take about 2 days travel west to be in the beginning of much drier, desert surroundings. But that seems to be a few weeks away .

There are Shelf mushrooms and Shelf mushrooms.

This one seems to be big enough to invite extra company in those holes in the bark.

We didn't think too much of this picture when I took it, but once I put it on the computer, it was-----Whoa!!!
Do you see a long green body?  Do you see the front leg in the foreground?  How about the huge wide open mouth?  Eyes?  And are those antlers or a kind of prehistoric monster dinosaur crown?

Yes, the Christmas decorations are up.  Must have the Kissing Bears!
Lady Blue is happy!   So are we!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

More Corps Parks on Sam Rayburn

There are so many Corps of  Engineer parks around the Sam Rayburn Reservoir that we decided to try a few more.

Most of these we have accessed from Jasper, Texas.  From Jasper, we would take Route 96 north and then Route 255 or Route 83 to access those on the east or north.  San Augustine is off Route 83.

Here, as at Twin Dikes, we find a few campers with large setups for a Thanksgiving family and friends get together.  We found out from a mom on this nature trail that the schools here have a whole week for Thanksgiving vacation.  Of course, their next vacation after Christmas is not until March with school ending at the end of May.

The holly trees on this trail are real trees, about 30 to 40 feet tall.

Another common sight on the trail are these berries. they are called American Beauty Berries or French Mulberry.  They have started to fade a little, but they are hard to miss.  A pretty berry, but poisonous.

Even the insects can be interesting.  At first, it looked like a stink bug.

If it had been resting on a branch, we never would have seen it.

Of course, click to enlarge!

These parks, Twin Dikes, San Augustine, and Rayburn Park , have closed sections for the winter.  During the week there are only one or two campers in the park.  Weekends bring more, but the hosts say they never fill.

Right around this time, while publishing the last issue, we discovered a problem with our computer.  We have two computers a Sony Vaio and an Apple Ipad.  We use the Sony just for this blog , checking on other blogs, and sometimes emails.  We had picked up an ad malware that was jumping out popup ads for computer fixes and cars and shopping deals.  Not sure where it came from, but it might have been an ad on Yahoo or RV Park Reviews that I clicked on by mistake.  That wasn't so bad, but then I think I clicked on
an ad that came up from that ad,  trying to get rid of it, and that started a popup tsunami.  We had some great communications with our antivirus provider ,Trend.  It took a while, but they got to the root of the problem and we cleared it.  This malware had disabled the Trend antivirus and the Windows firewall. It had also buried itself in a hidden folder and refused to be uninstalled!
With the help of some nice people at Trend we got rid of the malware and reinstalled everything.  Only problem was a day later we found out that our mailing list had been stolen from Yahoo and people were receiving spam emails.  Didn't even cross our mind.  We quickly changed passwords.  Jan and I hope that all of you managed to delete that email.  We can be slow learners ourselves sometimes, but lessons learned.
           1. Don't click on anything until you are sure what you are opening.
           2. If someone sends you an email with no message or sometimes even a subject, but only a link--
                         Don't Open It!!!!!

So------anyway.  Here we are at Site 45 at Rayburn Park on the north side of the reservoir.

This park is about 40 miles from Jasper.  Surprisingly, that puts this wonderful park too far from a number of campers. Hosts indicate that this park never fills up

We were so impressed with this campground.  Again, at this time of the year it is volunteer hosts and workers.  The host attendant indicated that she had been working alone, but new workers had just come in to help.  Good thing, she had worked diligently to keep this park looking great!  She had said that if she did not come back to work here, the Corps was preparing to close the park---not good.  Don't spread this too far, but this is the nicest park on the reservoir.

As Jan is discovering, these sites are huge and very well separated.  The nightly cost with the senior pass is still $13 per night.  Even at this time of year, there are two boat ramps in this area--well used.

What a nice Thanksgiving! We had enjoyed some great Facetime with family earlier.  Jan discovered that a Butterball 8 lb turkey actually fit into our oven. That and the Finnish turnip casserole and gravy turned out perfect.
Then, of course, there was Jan's homemade apple pie, clam dip, and we even found some oysters for scalloped oysters.
Just wish we could have family and friends here!!

All that and we even get to see some nice sunsets over the reservoir.  Lady Blue is happy. Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 21, 2014

From Louisiana to Eastern Texas

This issue is starting from Kincaid Lake National Forest Campground in the Kisatchie National Forest in Louisiana.

A number of our pictures are from the back window of Lady Blue, so I thought we would add one out the side window.  This is the big plus for Lady Blue , wrap around ,large thermal pane windows to allow one to fully enjoy sites like this one.

Lady Blue is 24 feet long and sometimes that allows us to fit in small sites with little room to spare.  But then we have sites like this one at Kincaid.  We could have invited 2 or 3 more campers!
This would have been great for some good outdoor time, but most of our stay here was in heavy rain.

But------refer to the first picture above.  Not too bad.

Jan and I were glad to be taking a more northern route through Louisiana.  Mostly through central Louisiana,  it gave us a very different view of the state than our first trip along the southern Route 10.

From Kincaid, we followed Route 28 to Route 111 to Route 191 and South Toledo Bend State Park.  If you look at the state maps, you will see that Toledo Bend Reservoir is a long, narrow body of water separating Louisiana and Texas.

As you can see, there are many branches and a lot of shoreline.

One nice thing about camping in the winter is that you will have a good choice of campsites on weekdays.   There were less than a handful of us there, but it is way out of the way from main roads and large cities.

There is some confusion on rates at Louisiana state parks.  It used to be that they would accept the senior pass for half price.  But now, they will only accept it from certain reciprocal states.  And, you guessed it, Texas is not one of them.

So, our cost was $23 per night instead of $11.50.  Still not bad for state parks.

There were some well built bridges, rest rooms, cabins, and other buildings in South Toledo Bend.

If you are wondering about Jan being all dressed up in heavy coat and gloves, this was our version of that first cold snap.  The night temperatures were down to the mid 20's and daytime was stretching to the low 40's.

Luckily, that is way below normal for this time of year here.

Jan is enjoying a great view from the Visitors Center.

Inside, there are some nice displays.  Among other things, you learn that Toledo Bend is 15 miles wide, 65 miles long, and covers 185,000 acres.

Even more impressive, is over 1200 miles of shoreline.  That is the result of all those branches you see in that map above.

Sometimes, we dare to not follow the red roads and trust the GPS.

This time, we followed Route 191 south to Route 692 west into Texas and then Route 63 to Jasper.

Jasper is a fairly large town.  But, what is unusual , is that we had no traffic along the way until we were about 2 miles from the center of town.  Still hard to get used to that.  North of town is the south end of the Sam Rayburn Reservoir.

There are a number of Corps of Engineer Campgrounds on Sam Rayburn and we decide to try at least a few of them.  The first is Twin Dikes park. This is very close to Jasper, but it is still very quiet for this week.

For any of you who are interested in campground hosting, these campgrounds go to strictly volunteer work for October to March. That means a free site and utilities for 20 hours of work. No pay.
For seniors this might not be the best bargain, but it depends on what you are looking for.  The work is very light in the winter.  And though , as a senior, you would only pay $13 times 7 nights or $91 for the week, you could only stay for two weeks at a time in most corps parks. For some RVers, it is still a reasonable job. You can keep busy, but still have a great place to stay for the winter--for free.

It is a very short ride of about 15 miles from Twin Dikes Park up to Mill Creek Campground.

Only a few of us here as well.  But that means we have a huge yard on the shoreline.

As at Twin Dikes, the volunteers here are quite helpful and very friendly.

Sam Rayburn is just a little west of the Louisiana border.  It is a smaller body of water, but it has a big reputation.  This link to information about the reservoir will give you some general information. Sam Rayburn info  If you scroll down on that link, you will see a map of Sam Rayburn and some pictures.
This hawk was concentrating on the local small animals and never moved.  Thought the sign he was sitting on was appropriate.

 Another thing about Sam Rayburn is that is the host for the Sealy Outdoor Big Bass Splash.

The picture to the left is of a Robert Nunley who won for his 9.81 lb bass.

The following link will take you to the page from this year's tournament, held in April. April 2014 Big Bass Splash
 As you can see, there were over 5,000 participants, and thousands of spectators.  People from 39 states and six foreign countries vying for over one million dollars in prizes.  Robert Nunley, above, was listed as follows:
 Nunley was awarded the Sportsmans Package Grand Prize worth $250,000 consisting of a 2014 Coachman Motor Home, Ram Truck, Triton 21 TRX powered by Mercury, equipped with Power Pole, Hydrowave, Tournament Saver Pro plus a check for $40,000.  
But , you might like best that the tournament raises a lot of money for charities like the Ronald MacDonald House and others.

Some other fishermen might like to see this chart from Texas Parks and Wildlife.  This is for Sam Rayburn record fish.  Note the record for Largemouth Bass.!!
Rod & Reel
SpeciesWeightLengthDateAnglerBait or Lure
Bass, Hybrid Striped11.5827.25Apr 6, 2005John OliveCarolina rig 
Bass, Largemouth16.8028.75May 31, 1997Tommy Sheltonchartre/white 3/4 bulldog 
Bass, Spotted5.5027.25Feb 14, 1987Curt E. Smith 
Bass, White4.7522.50Jul 17, 2010Marc Shawminnow 
Bass, Yellow1.7814.88Dec 13, 2012Brandon Domanguejigging Spoon 
Bluegill0.7110.25Jun 14, 2007Tyler Hutchisonworm and bobber 
Bowfin10.1329.00Oct 23, 1995Lewis Byers 
Buffalo, Bigmouth58.7540.75Jan 29, 1994Allen Chesney 
Buffalo, Smallmouth81.0044.00May 19, 2001Dwayne Pavlock 
Bullhead, Black1.4615.13Feb 17, 2007Randall Bradfieldnight crawler 
Carp, Common27.0036.50Apr 18, 2004Jim Welbornbread 
Catfish, Blue53.000.00Mar 6, 2006Michael McDonaldlive waterdog 
Catfish, Channel6.6924.50May 26, 2001Willie Richardson 
Catfish, Flathead74.0945.00Apr 18, 2010Mikal Sampsonzoom centipede 
Crappie, Black2.1517.00May 1, 2007Ricky Ethridge1/8 oz. jig 
Crappie, White2.9417.00Mar 28, 1995Paul Burleson 
Drum, Freshwater6.2021.00Mar 24, 2007Randall Bradfieldcrawfish 
Gar, Alligator192.0093.00Apr 21, 2007Ariel DreweryFlat Shad Rattle Trap 
Pickerel, Redfin0.5513.75Apr 6, 2009Douglas Wrightcrankbait 
Sunfish, Hybrid0.528.25Jun 1, 2014Lucy Rayworm 
Sunfish, Redbreast0.579.38Apr 10, 2005Randall Bradfieldlive shad 
Sunfish, Redear0.609.50Mar 5, 2006Randall Bradfieldnight crawler