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Hiking to the Sawmill

    Today, I’m visiting the Angelina National Forest and hiking the Sawmill Trail. This trail is in the Piney Woods area of Northeastern Texas. Piney Woods is not the Texas that we envision from the western movies and stories. It is countryside, filled with rolling hills, rivers, and forests. The trail is rated moderate and is about a six-mile round trip.

    My drive to the trail is not hard but the forest road was slow going. Arriving at the parking area, I find it under construction and end up parking on the side of the park road. After several attempts, I finally find the trailhead and I’m off. The trail runs along a creek from the Boykin Springs Recreation Area. It is a sandy trail with no rocks but lots of tree roots.

    It meanders along and I am surrounded by tall Loblolly pines towering over me. I get an occasional glimpse of Redbud, Dogwood, and American Holly as well. As I walk, I see where fire has scarred the bark of the loblollies.

    This is from prescribed burns that are done to reduce dangerous wildfires. It’s early spring the vegetation is dry, and the area is under a burn ban. On one ridge in the trail, each side of the trail is different.

     On one side is the creek. The water level is low, and the sides are sandy where you can see where flooding has undercut the sides of the stream. This area has not had a burn recently and open areas are filled with very dry vegetation and shrubs. The grass is tall and dry. The other side of the trail has had a recent burn. There is short dry grass and only a few shrubs.

    Both sides of the trail are covered with a deep pile of leaves with large pinecones from the Loblolly pines. It is still in the woods – no wind and very quiet. I round a bend and hear a sudden rustling under the leaves. A quick note from my memory bank reminds me that this is spring, I’m in a forest, in Texas – watch out for snakes. My subconscious is way ahead of me and already had my butt hustle away before my memory bank told me why. The next turn in the trail is a treat.

    Butterflies. They were enjoying the sun on the sand and flutter up into the area as I came upon them. There were Monarchs and a type of swallowtail white and blue that I’d never seen. A little research later and I believe them to be the Pale Swallowtail. I soon arrive at the ruins of the sawmill.

    I see quickly that I’m not the first visitor. The graffiti artists have been here long before me. At first, I’m angry about their painting. My mood changes as I look at the graffiti. I’m amazed at the skill some of these graffiti artists have with a spray can.

    I decided to incorporate their art into my photography. I made several images as the light changed. Some images are inside the structure others as I look in. It was a moment that I let my expectations go and accepted what was there. It was great. After shooting for a while, I decided to head back.

    I pack up my camera. As I set my pack down on some leaves they start to move. Some small baby snakes slither away just about as fast as I grab my pack and run the other way. It was an Indian Jones moment and yep, I’m scared of snakes too. Later back at my rig I take a moment to reflect as I sit outside in the shade.

    I’m staying at Hanks Creek, a C.O.E. park on the Sam Rayburn Reservoir. My rig is nestled in the woods under some tall Loblolly pines.

    The loblollies stretch straight up branching out only at the top.

    A dragonfly darts back and forth looking for his lunch.

    The breeze plays its music as it whistles through the pines.

    The sun bakes the ground where it finds the open ground.

    A soft coolness touches my skin from the breeze.

    A fisherman’s boat interrupts the quiet for a moment,

    The peaceful music in the pines returns as it moves away.

    The fragrant pines scent the air with their sweet smell.

    For a moment the breeze is still, I hear the cooing of doves.

    Looking up I spy birds circling and soaring with the winds.

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