Captain Tasha orders the crew of Q to depart without her. She wishes to remain in Port Winslow for a thorough R&R with Larry and Loreen.
One missing detail from yesterday's blog post: Marilyn and I visited Velma Brotherton, a Winslow author. She writes both fiction and history. We carried a box of her most recently published book up the hill from her mailbox. She signed one for us. I was taken by her account of Ned Christie, a Cherokee who suffered a grave miscarriage of justice. You can read the story: The current e-version of Saddlebag Dispatches is free on-line.
It is a curvy mountain road that takes Q south to Lake Ouachita - our camp at lake's edge is just south of the little town of Wachita (same pronunciation as Ouachita). Ranger Ronald welcomes us before we solve the puzzle of how to pay our $11 camping fee. He reassures us that our findings are correct. Like Big Brushy campground, many of the camps are now day-use-only. Not sure of the reason, but there is a post at Big Brushy with a high water line well above campground level.
When it isn't freezing outside people catch catfish here. They aren't noodling for catfish in the way they do further south, but use pool noodles to float bait and to serve as indicators for a catch. Not so hard to imagine after Alex builds a campfire using free fire wood left over from camping season. Ranger Ronald stops by one more time to be sure all is well. We are the only campers. The campfire invites me to get out the ukulele and torture a few chords. Tolerant Alex. We see a bald eagle and a great blue heron. The eagle does another fly over in the morning.
Data: 30 degrees overnight, but 40 inside Q. Full moon light bathes Q, but the sleepers don't notice. We awaken to bright blue sky and all the sunshine we've been missing for the past few days.
More scenic roads towards Louisiana and the Lake Bistineau State Park. Here we meet Ranger David who welcomes us to a spot near the bath house. That is to say warm showers in heated, well lit bathrooms. Alex discovers miniature desiccated frogs on the floor. They must have sought moist shelter as the temperatures dropped, only to be stranded as campers left and there were no more showers to keep them moist. We note massive fire ant mounds just outside the shower, but the ants aren't out to threaten our toes. We stop to pay the camping fee on the way out. Ranger Jett confides that the system is down for a reason that he is only free to explain away from work.
Lake Bistineau is not far from Shreveport, LA. The lake was a steam boat channel created by a log jam in the Red River in 1793. The lake is currently mostly drained for the season.
The photos show the water mark on the tree knees. The setting sun makes the weird view beautiful. The campground has plenty of moss nicely waving in the breeze. All of this conspires to create dreams of alligators and catfish.
Q crosses into Texas at The Toledo Bend Reservoir - the Sabine River marks the boundary between Texas and Louisiana. Our camp is Neches River Bluff overlook - inside the Davey Crocket National Forest. The book says we could see deer, raccoons, bobcats, but no. It's free! And it is warm. 72 degrees inside Q this evening. The Natl Park book describes this campground as semi-developed, but the only evidence is the vault and trail head signs. Inside the outhouse, a gazillion lady bugs roost. Uncertainty about their bitey nature encourages efficiency.
Texas, I have misunderstood you. You are curvy, forested, and not overloaded with people in cars (except near the larger cities that we circumvent). Historical markers occur every few miles along highway 7. The last of our holiday letters/cards are sent from Crockett, TX, a sweet little town with a central square and Santa in a pickup truck.
Today's destination is the Enchanted Rock. But when we arrive, we find a line of cars more like might be expected at Disneyland than out in wild America. Explained by 70 degrees of warmth on a December Saturday.
The Ranger kindly answers our questions about the value of the wait and tells us that there is a campground about 7 miles south, but beware there is a bar and band playing there late. What? We don't look that those kind of people? After a stop at a fine little grocery store, we explore other options including Kerrville State Park on the Guadeloupe River. It is pretty crowded and noisy, so we opt to drive another 50 miles to be amazed by Lost Maples State Park.
How to value a good night's sleep? It could be measured in a 25 degree temperature drop brought in on 50 mph winds. I thought we'd be lulled to sleep by the sound of the stream gurgling. The winds rocked the Q cradle bringing deep, restful sleep.