Sabine National Forrest
Last month our staff embarked on a scouting trip for this year’s backpacking camp. On this journey we encountered a carousel of environments from bay, beach, lagoon, swamp and forest. As we traveled north from Houston the scenery became dominated by towering pine trees. Once we arrived to the Sabine National Forest visibility shortened to just the edge of the dense treeline. The trees crawled with birds of all shapes and sizes. Bird songs filled the air with a soft melody of chirps and tweets. Where the forest met the lake the dense treeline thinned; revealing a pristine glass-like surface that reflected the sky so well it looked as if the world had flipped upside down.
As we approached the water’s edge we were graced with a phenomenal sight. Two bald eagles created a spectacle as they soared over the lake in great circles that seemed to nearly encompass the entire lake. Their large wings spread out wide as they surveyed the water below for their hunt. With immense speed they circled back around and vanished beyond sight. The sky and lake became painted with a blush of pinks and vivid violets as the sun set in blazing glory behind the headwaters of the lake. Sabine National Forest remains one of our favorite places to visit each summer.
Caddo Lake State Park
Caddo Lake State Park is located in East Texas and one of the few natural lakes in the state. Filled with a sprawling maze of cypress tree swamps and beautiful scenery, the lake itself is filled with over 70 species of fish and surrounded with an abundance of animal life. Upon arrival we spoke with the friendly office staff and received some answers to our questions about the high water levels. As a result of some recent flooding, the water levels had just reached happy level where the park could re-open to the public that day. Just one day prior the water levels were 5-7 feet higher and flooded the low lying campsites. Water was also moving fast and was recommended we not test the waters with our canoes. The amount of cleanup the crew achieved in just a few days was pretty amazing, from clearing hundreds of pounds of mud and debris to clearing fallen trees that could not handle the flooding. Our scouting trip moved forward as we explored our surroundings, met some local visitors and learned history about the area.
We were met with beautiful sights, sounds and smells as we continued to scout the area for our future summer camping trip where we will be taking a group of youth out for a multi day experience of camping, canoeing, hiking and skill building. The trails showed us the diverse habitat for wildlife including birds, turtles, snakes and forest of pine, oak and hickory scattered about. An array of burnt trees surrounded us in areas that looked as if they were struck by lightning in a recent storm, we later learned it was part of the first controlled burn in 20 years to help rid the area of unwanted plant species like poison ivy and thorny bush. The more we explored the more we could see why the native Caddo Indians of the day chose this region to settle. The abundance of life and resources led to maintaining far reaching trading routes and building of ceremonial centers. They farmed the three sisters (corn, beans and squash) hunted wild game and fished to sustain themselves. This trip not only opened our eyes to the history of the land but prepared us for our future trip so we are knowledgeable and aware of our surroundings.
The conclusion of our scouting trips are a reminder that our summer camps are right around the corner. We are very excited for the summer, and can’t wait to create all these memories with our new campers. Both locations provide so many great opportunities for our youth, and with full camps, we know it will be a trip to remember.