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 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Alabama COE to Natchez, Mississippi

It was a different ride from Wind Creek State Park in eastern Alabama to Prairie Creek Campground COE between Montgomery and Selma, Alabama. Very rural, small towns, but great roads for travel.

What seems to be in the middle of nowhere is actually a very nice Corps of Engineer campground on Prairie Creek which ties here directly into the Alabama River.

Another beautiful view.  Fish were jumpin'.

One fisherman in front of our site was excited to show us the large fish he had just caught.

Even the spiders liked our site.  Hanging from the Spanish moss.

This heron used the river markers as perches and flew from one to the other looking for food.  This section by our site was also a favorite for a kingfisher who loudly skimmed the surface and did quite well with fishing.

Saw this strange grasshopper at Prairie.

Kind of looked like a grasshopper designed in the 1930's------like the Chrysler Building style.

But really, looks like a leaf.

I never get tired of what the southerners and westerners see as important parts of a COE campground.  This little building is well built with good sized windows and screens for the bugs.

Close to the boat launch.

Yes!! You have it. A very neat and well cared for fish cleaning station.

Heading west towards the Mississippi border, the next stop is Foscue Creek Park at Demopolis Lake.

This is a very nice site on Foscue Creek which connects to the Tombigbee River.  The Tombigbee connects with the Alabama River--south of Prairie Creek--and eventually empties out into Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

We met some very nice volunteers at Foscue, including Glenn and Caite who had just retired and are just beginning their RV adventures and volunteering.

They mentioned that there are a number of huge boats and barges that come through Foscue and the locks.

This Coast Guard tug is available for all kinds of work. If you enlarge the picture--just click on it--you can see a whole stack of channel markers on the barge.

Jan and I have been pursuing Corps of Engineering campgrounds and also , at least, taking a look at state parks.

Our next stop required a little travel away from the main routes.  We crossed into Mississippi on Route 20 and then headed north to Okatibbee Lake and Twiltley Branch Campground.

Again some very nice people working in these parks.

A long ride into the sites from the entrance.  But the sites are nicely placed on the lake.

These corps parks serve as great resources in the communities.  We always see fishermen and boaters.  Also, a number of the parks like Foscue and Twiltley have Day Use areas that are well used by families for everything from walking to picnicking and playgrounds.

Twenty miles back to Route 20, a popular trucking road,  and a short ride to Roosevelt State Park.

Roosevelt is slightly east of Jackson, the state capitol, and close to the highway.

This is an older campground.  There is a newer section that is closer to the highway.  We are happy to have this nice view and a very level site.

Mississippi state parks offer a senior discount.  We were pleasantly surprised to find our final cost for the night was $14.91.  Most other states have been charging close to $30 per night--or more--and will also add on a day use fee of up to $7 or more.
This was also a full hookup site.

This is recommended to all!  A trip through Jackson is what you would expect on an interstate passing through a capitol city.  Very, very, very busy.

And then you turn on to the lower end of the Natchez Trace Parkway.  And---no traffic!!!

A country two lane road with few curves and a relaxed speed limit of 50 mph.  Wow!

The Natchez Trace goes for 444 miles from Nashville, Tennessee to Natchez, Mississippi.

It started as a buffalo trail, and was then well traveled by Indians.  The settlers from Kentucky and the Ohio valley would boat their goods downriver on the Mississippi to Natchez. After selling their goods, they would also sell their boats for wood(it was too difficult to try bringing the boats upstream).  Then they would hike the Trace back home.  Click on the picture to the right to read about the last place for provisions on the trek north.

There are some interesting stops on the way to Natchez.

Mount Locust was an old style plantation--not large or fancy --as well as an inn for travelers.

These are some pictures of the inside.  Very simple rope beds, but very comfortable rooms.  These rooms were for the family.  Inn guests first camped outside on the ground and then would stay in a small outbuilding for 25 cents per night--includes food.

Very basic furniture and dishes.  What more do you need?

Compared to some other early 1800 homes that we have seen in South Carolina and on the Blue Ridge, this one is quite fancy.  Note the well made brick fireplace and mantel.  All kinds of tools in the back room.
Also, outside, were a number of brick cisterns to save precious water in times of drought.

We had been on part of the Trace a number of years ago in Tennessee.  We will have to see about more of the middle section in the future.

The Trace fell into disuse after the steamboats began their trade on the Mississippi.  Jan and I needed to remind ourselves that in this early time there were no roads linked to Natchez. It was a river town.

At the end of the Trace we opt for another Mississippi state park.  Very nice and close to the city of Natchez.

Natchez is now a tourist town.  But in the antebellum age, it was a cotton town. And all of the cotton owners built their mansions in town to be close to the social and business activity.  This one is the Rosalie, right on Canal street which is on the bluffs with a good view of the Mississippi.

 From just beyond the Rosalie on the bluffs, there is a great view of the Mississippi and the bridges connecting Mississippi to Louisiana.  Jan and I had a great dinner right at the corner by the casino steamboat.
Jan had wonderful grilled shrimp and I had a marvelous catfish plate topped with mushrooms and shrimp. The restaurant was the Magnolia Grill and we were the only ones there at the time.  So-- a great view of the river.
That last picture was from the river walk that goes for quite a ways along the bluff.  This view is looking north.  That boat in the middle of the river is a rather large barge.  That gives you an idea of how wide the river is at this point. Jan and I were remembering our stop much further north in Minnesota.  That was in Itasca State Park where we walked across the Mississippi at its beginning.
This is Stanton Hall. another beautiful antebellum home.  Now it is home to a restaurant and museum with tours.  Natchez is a fairly small city with a spreading suburban community. As an historic city it represents many parts of American development.  There is the early river trade before and after the Louisiana Purchase.
There is the importance of cotton as the southern product. Natchez had more millionaires per capita before the Civil War than any other city in the United States.The destruction and changes from the Civil War.  The destruction caused by the boll weevil to the cotton crop after the war--and the Depression age that followed.  And then the resurgence of such towns when they reinvent themselves as tourist and business centers.

Close to the Stanton Hall are these two brick houses.  In the 1800's the one to the right was the main house for the owners.  The small on to the left was the kitchen--to keep the fires away from the main building--and the servant quarters.

This picture is from right in front of the Magnolia Grill after our dinner.

We did not realize we would have such a view, so this picture is credited to our cell phone.

What to do after Natchez?

Cross the Mississippi, of course!

This time, we are on Route 84, heading for Alexandria, Louisiana.

From Alexandria, we head south into the Kisatchie National Forest.  We are staying at Kincaid Lake Campground.  Not all National Forest campgrounds are created equal.  This is a great one!

The huge storm that invaded Alaska , sent its cold all the way down here to middle Louisiana.  We indicated to Alison that two days ago we had about the same temperatures as Livermore Falls in Maine.
Our high was 43 degrees and the low about 26!!!

But--no snow and we are getting warmer!!!