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
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
Now you see the road. Now you don't. How
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.
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.
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.
PAGE 1: DESTINATION UNCERTAIN / PAGE 2: UNCERTAIN AGAIN
PAGE 3: CADDO LAKE / PAGE
4: JEFFERSON & LONE STAR
PAGE 5: DAVY CROCKETT NAT. FOREST / THE MAP / 3-D PHOTOS
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