Stampede along the Lone Star Trail!
Well, after getting "burned out" recently on letterboxing in New England and the mid-Atlantic (we actually skipped the last few big area gatherings due to fear of getting "overstuffed", and only took in one nice little mystery event hosted by Sunshine, Swamp Yankee, Hez & Grumpy), we weren't sure just how we were going to take to the even more prodigious box production that seems to be currently under way in some other parts of the country, but Pete had a few days vacation time that he needed to finally take in mid- October, so off we headed for the box-rich "oil fields" of Houston! Actually, we had our sights set on Sam Houston National Forest just to the north. We found it somewhat amusing that in a state as large as Texas, you only need to drive an hour or so north out of Houston to find yourself in fine camping territory along the Lone Star Trail, whereas for us here in RI, we have to drive 4 or 5 hours to get to a national forest, or even over 2 hours just to get on the Appalachian Trail at its very nearest point in CT!
Anyway, we packed up our backpacking gear, flew out to Texas, arrived in the pouring rain, and were immediately told we wouldn't be able to drive to some of the places we wanted to get to because of extensive flooding! Well, what to do? A quick change of plans got us heading towards San Jacinto Battlefield (just to get, Pete a little history lesson, since he hadn't been there when I visited last year), and then into a motel, where - sure enough - the local weather channel showed pictures of cars and houses almost completely submerged in water!
The next day, thinking our camping plans were probably shot, we wandered around the unflooded portions of the lovely Mercer Arboretum, planted a box there ("Trifoliate Orange"), and picked up a few other area boxes before heading north to see if the Lone Star Hiking Trail would really be as flooded as we now expected. Actually, it turned out to be not that bad at all! We found a nice piney campsite, and replaced the box we had left there last year that got burned in a forest fire, but this time with a little twist to try to encourage more folks, instead of mostly doing drive-bys, to get out and hike portions of the LSHT by progressively moving the box along with them "Beldin-style"! (see our entry for "Lone Star Surprise") We weren't going to have time to hike the whole 128-mile LSHT on this short trip, so we figured that maybe at least our little box could do it as part of a group relay effort!
Then, with only one day to hike along the LSHT ourselves, we quickly scuttled ourselves along to the eastern portions of the trail that were more severely flooded, with bridges out and such, but we had a great day anyway, hiking and letterboxing in the Cold Springs area, especially enjoying some of LSQ's neat quilt patterns, and getting to sample quite a few other sections of trail before camping out again near trail's end. So, even without having time to hike the whole trail, we did at least get to camp near both ends (and later even one more time in the middle! :-)
The following day at the "Great Book Adventure" hosted by Dewberry, TeamKing and friends in Tomball turned out to be our biggest "stampfest" ever, totaling over 200 new stamps! Not only was there a "busload" of stamps of famous Texans, as well as books sent in from all over the country, but Dewberry literally had us "rolling on our seats" as we hopped along the "children's lit trail", pulling boxes from behind toothbrushes, frogs, owls, bunnies, and even out of "Captain Underpants!" The historical fiction, mystery and other book selections were also well represented, and had us hopping around until just after dark, when the ranger threw us out of the park! (Actually, he was very nice about it, and assumed that we had just gotten lost in the maze of trails back there, which was pretty accurate anyway!) Too late to join the dinner crowd, and hot on the trail of a "Gryzzled Gryphon" clue that ended up being one of our favorites of the trip, we just grabbed a quick bite on the way back to the motel, and celebrated with great pumpkin pie milkshakes for dessert!
Well, what can you do after a terrific letterboxing day like that? How about going for a couple more! The next morning we met for "Snap, Crackle and Clues" in Houston Memorial Park, and once again Dewberry did a fantastic job setting out serial /cereal boxes and some of the best kolaches we have ever tasted! In the afternoon we sort of got sucked into an arboretum lecture on dichotomous classification systems, but it ended up being a blast as we applied binomial nomenclature giving Latin names to all sorts of things, including different batches of Halloween candy! And we ended the day with another blast as we saw thousands and thousands of bats fly into the evening sky as we collected "Austin Ain't Got Nothing on Us Now!"
Our last day in Texas ended up being a composite of a morning spent doing Halloween boxes left over from last year's gathering in Telge Park, northwest of Houston, and an afternoon of assorted boxes to the southwest of Houston, ending with "Moonlight on the Bayou", in preparation to fly out from Hobby Field the following morning. It was great to have this opportunity to see some of the folks I had met out in Texas last year and to meet quite a few others, as well as to see how nicely letterboxing is flourishing in this area that certainly deserves recognition as another one of "America's Dartmoors"! I only hope we can get back out there again someday to visit some of the parts we didn't get to this time ... and to hike the rest of that Lone Star Hiking Trail, too!
Wanda and Pete
Our Letterboxing Treasury
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