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THROUGH THE NATIONAL FOREST:  You never know the perils you face until they show up,
then you wonder if you'll make it to safety.

DAVY CROCKETT NATIONAL FOREST
(AND MUD HOLE)
Story & Photos by IRA KENNEDY

Maps can never keep up.  You always come upon something
that's new or, just as likely, was missed to begin with. 
There's no way of knowing for certain -- unless you're local
in which case you wouldn't care because you don't need to to know. 
After all, why should you know something that doesn't matter.

If you're traveling through Davy Crockett National Forest you have two choices. Take Highway 7 or take your chances.  If you leave the highway you'd best have a 4-wheel drive with eight cylinders to back it up.  Especially if it's raining.


B.jpg (7557 bytes)efore we leave the Victorian Inn & Suites in Nacogdoches I like to tell you what they offered.  I don't get a nickel for this but you ought to know this inn is high on Ms. Intrepid's list of lodging -- and it's worth mentioning that her notion of roughing it is the "Four Seasons and the remote doesn't work."
       Here's part of the deal all run together: whirlpool bath, microwave, refrigerator, hair dryer, 25" remote control TV, swimming pool, coffee maker, iron & ironing board, data port phones and the obligitary Free Continental Breakfast.  All for $41 a night.
       On Ms. Intrepid's suggestion I asked at the desk about any really good restaurants. Auntie's Pasta was at the top of their list.  We found the place and avoided the very long wait by sitting at the bar where you can be served drinks and food.
       (Now let's see, should we... Wait for seating while leaning against a wall?  Get seated right away.  Wait for a waitress milling around in the crowd?   Say, "Bartender".  Find the waitress to order.  Say, "Bartender".  Wait to get another drink?  Say, "Bartender".   What's there to figure out?)
       Here's another tip:  Know your bartender's name as soon as possible. Our's was Richie.  The food was good, the service top grade, and when we're that way again we'll return.
       It had started raining just before  we left Lone Star and we decided that even if it was raining in the morning we could still drive around downtown.   I could get a few pictures from the car and maybe we'd visit some shops. That decided we settled in for the night.
       Ms. Intrepid's sleep was broken around 2 a.m. by a few party-goers gabing it up right outside our door.  I wasn't awake at the time, but I don't need any details to know that was a fool idea on a monumental scale.
       When she finally realized they had taken up residence on our doorstep Ms. Intrepid got up, walked to the door, opened it, eyeballed each and every culprit, then closed the door. 
       They were long gone real quick like.  Ms. Intrepid could be a secret military weapon if she had a mind to.
       By morning it was raining so hard there was little I could to to shield the camera lens.  Undeterred by predictible events we drove downtown, or tried to anyway.  I don't know what the occasion was but the downtown, for blocks all around, was closed for a parade.  Maybe it's their Annual Rain Festival, I don't know. After working around all of the blocked off streets were headed out the other side of town.
       What the heck, we were going home anyway so we checked the map to see what might be of interest ahead.  And there it was: Davy Crockett National Forest.  By this time I had laid aside my pine-tree phobia and agreed to explore a few of its backroads.  All that without giving reason a chance to catch up with reality.  It was raining hard, those roads would be mud and I was hardly a cup of coffee into my morning wake-up ordeal.
       KAAA-BLAAAAMMM!!!!!  It was an all caps five exclamation mark moment when an oncoming semi being followed by two cars on a narrow, two lane, no shoulder, seventy-mile-per-hour road during a major downpour splashed enough red mud, gravel and rocks to cover the entire windshield for what could have been the rest of our lives.
       Now you see the road.  Now you don't.  How inconvenient.
       Ms. Intrepid didn't need me telling her to turn the windshield wiper water on but I did anyway.  I got one of them looks.  How she kept Nigel the Land Rover on a road she couldn't see is still a mystery.  But I'm leaning more and more toward that secret military weapon thing.
       As for not having enough coffee, who needed it?   A little adrenalin can go a long way.
       Just up the road a piece was an Historical Marker to Cheeseland, three miles to the right.
       "That's just like the Polly's Chapel sign", Ms. Intrepid said recalling last months highway marker suprise.  So off we went, but never found the place.  That's when we decided to try out the backroads of Davy Crockett National Forest.
Davy Crockett National Forest Texas      It didn't take long for the paved road to play out.  The road narrowed and Nigel the Land Rover started piling up the mud behind us and splashing it sideways in huge sheets -- even at 15 mph.   We crossed over a tiny little bridge slightly wider than the car and just a little longer. Then, as we were climbing up a slippery slope of road, a huge 18-wheel flatbed truck hauling an even larger piece of  road equipment with tires the size of Mount Everest loomed on the horizon.
       We surrendered all of the road we could which meant two of  our  tires were on the road and two in a gooshy bar ditch which was no match for Nigel the Land Rover.   I might was well get this off my chest.  Under such road conditions the odds of staying unstuck and free of calamity is equal to drawing to an inside straight in poker.  With all of the forward motion at your disposal you're still experiencing unintended lateral movement.  Ms. Intrepid kept reassuring me that she had everything well in hand.  Her knuckles, as white as bedsheets, wasn't a reassuring sign and I helped her drive as best I could with my mouth. 
       As we made another quick bend in the road Ms. Intrepid started chanting, "Oh, my god. Oh, my god."  We suddenly found ourselves straddling a long wooden bridge with no guard rails traversing a raging river.
       I wanted pictures of all this and asked Ms. Intrepid to back up.
       "Are you nuts?" she asked before realizing she already knew the answer. As we moved ever so slowly forward  I settled for a picture of the river below and another of the far end of the bridge. 
animation.gif (127941 bytes)        Adventure is one thing, but imminent peril at every turn is a fools errand.  We crossed another, more substantial bridge and just before I was about to surrender to cardiac arrest we arrived in Ratcliff on Highway 7 -- the road so beautifully paved I felt like kissing asphalt.
        From there on home I could breathe again.   Despite the ongoing rain, driving conditions now seemed ideal.  We had driven from the serenity of Caddo Lake to the extremes of Davy Crockett National Forest & Mud Hole.  I had shed a long-held prejudice and Ms. Intrepid proved to be a top hand at off-and-on-road driving.  Now all I had to do was preview and make selections from over 300 pictures; then commit publication.

Texas tourism, travel, lodging, restaurants, dining, shopping and history

      PAGE 1: DESTINATION UNCERTAIN  /   PAGE 2: UNCERTAIN AGAIN
PAGE 3: CADDO LAKE  PAGE 4: JEFFERSON & LONE STAR
PAGE 5: DAVY CROCKETT NAT. FOREST THE MAP3-D PHOTOS

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