Most Recent Trips or Adventures
Report (Oct '08) - Caddo Lake / Uncertain, Texas
Anna and I were trying to decided on a weekend trip to celebrate
our 15th wedding anniversary. Nothing with too much driving for
a two and a half day trip. Anna came up with the great idea of going
back to Caddo Lake. We love this lake, and it has been over 3 years
since we were last able to go. Anna called our favorite B&B
cabins there, Hodge Podge Cottages. It was late notice, but we were
in luck. They had just had a cancellation on one cottage about 10
First, I would like give you a little info on Caddo Lake. It's
a very special place!
||Caddo Lake is a 26,000
acre lake that is situated half in Louisiana and half in Texas,
near Marshal. It is the only naturally formed lake in Texas.
It is also an internationally recognized Ramsar
“Wetland of International Importance”. The eastern
half in Louisiana is more of a normal open lake, but the Texas
side is a vast cypress swamp of bayous and lily pad covered
ponds. The only way to navigate the western Texas side is by
using marked and cleared "boat roads"
through the maze of cypress trees. It is this western side
of the lake that we love. It is truly a beautiful place. You
will find it being described as being a "mysterious and
intriguing Texas treasure" or "one of the best kept
secrets of Texas". This is especially true in the spring
when everything is a vibrant green, and wildlife abounds.
a Texas State Parks video on Caddo Lake:
history on Caddo:
In the 1800's Caddo Lake was a major depot and shipping port
for the steamboat traffic running up to the northern most
port at Jefferson, Texas. Then in the early 1900's oil was
discovered under the lake. In 1911 the lake became the site
of the first ever underwater oil drilling operation, conducted
by Howard Hughes Sr. It was on this lake that he perfected
many of the practices that later made him successful and very
rich. A couple of decades later Caddo became the site of a
vast freshwater pearl harvesting company. In the time since
then Caddo has become a popular site for the filming of movies
and TV show (just watch the Burt Reynolds' movie Gator).
And it has always continued to be a retreat and paradise for
fisherman and nature lovers.
||Our favorite area is
around the small community of Uncertain,
Texas. There are three different stories (that we've heard)
about how the town came by the unusual name of Uncertain, but
no one seems to know for sure which one is true. There are only
about 150 full time residences here. They make their living
running B&B's and rental cabins, as fishing and hunting
guides, giving lake tours, and in the general tourism that comes
from visitors to the lake. In general
they're a very welcoming and friendly group of people.
On this visit to Uncertain we stayed in
the "Shipwreck" house at Hodge Podge Cottages. This
is a unique cottage, now sitting a few hundred feet from the
lake, that was constructed out of an old custom built 9-1/2
ton houseboat. The houseboat was built out of 1/4" steel
plates from old railroad cars. The renovated houseboat is
now a cozy weekend get-away for two people or a small family.
at Uncertain didn't include a lot of activities. The idea was
to relax and spend time together for our anniversary, after
all. We spent much of our time enjoying the unique cottage,
laying in a hammock under the trees, or stretching out in the
sun to enjoy the peace and quite. We, of course, took a couple
of walks along the lake.
We have a couple of favorite restaurants that we have really
enjoyed in the past. But it seems that every restaurant near
Uncertain has closed or changed hands since our last visit.
Our favorite lunch stop was always the Shady
Glade Cafe. They had a wonderful traditional patty melt
and home-made onion rings. They were so large we always just
split both the sandwich and rings. Sorry to say, the onion
rings are gone, and the patty melt (although still huge) was
nothing more than a cheese burger with grilled onions. Still,
I would say that this is still a good stop for a hand made
juicy hamburger. Or stop at the popular Caddo Grocery for
Our choice for dinner was closed. So we tried the new restaurant
in town, the Uncertain
General Store & Grill. I was planning on their advertised
catfish dinners. Anna order a ribeye steak, and was very pleased.
I sampled the her's too, and agree that they did a very good
job on the steak. However, the catfish I was first given was
horrible and I ended up sending it back (very usual for me).
The fish was just mush inside a salty breading. Disgusting.
They apologized, including the owner, and brought out a new
batch. These were better but still just barely average, and
still quite salty. We'll go back. But we will stick with steaks
and burgers. If you want catfish in Uncertain go to the Big
Pines Lodge, although it has changed hands too and the reviews
are just so so now.
||Our big event for Saturday
was to take a lake tour on the Graceful
Ghost. A true wood-fired steam driven paddlewheel boat
that has been giving tours on the lake for almost 20 years.
We had never taken this particular lake tour, and had always
planned to do it one day. When we found out that they were ending
their tours and moving the boat out of Texas, we immediately
bought ticket for that day. The only ticket available were for
the 5pm sunset tour. We
|learned that this was actually the
last official cruise tour for the steamboat. As we took the
1 1/2 hour tour many people were out on the lake taking pictures
of us, or of the Ghost on her last lake tour. It's
kind of a passing of an icon of Caddo Lake. Anna and I were
very glad to be a part of the final tour! Only wishing that
we had also taken a tour or two during our earlier visits.
Sunday morning we stopped at Marshal to visit the famous
Marshal Pottery factory, only to find out that they are not
open on Sundays. Oh well. We decided to go ahead and return
home from Marshal. Taking our time and traveling only back
roads all the way home. Stopping a flea markets, junk shops,
and anything else interesting on the way home. All in all
it was a very relaxing and great weekend!
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Report (Sept '08) - Texas & Oklahoma Pan Handle
Anna and I are both starting new jobs or new positions
at work soon. So we decided to take some time off for some traveling
while we could. We had planned on a whole week. But Hurricane Ike
changed those plans. With my company's headquarters being in Houston,
my time off got postponed. Most of the other employees in my department
had to evacuate town, or lost power and phones for many days.
We started off on Wednesday. Making our vacation only 5 days, instead
of 9. With the hurricane tearing up south and east Texas we also
changed our travel plans (we had planned on San Antonio and the
central Texas coast). On the spur of the moment we decided to visit
Anna's nephew in the Oklahoma pan-handle. We've never visit him
at home before. Besides, neither of us had never spend much time
in the pan-handle area. We were always driving through on our way
somewhere else, but never stopping to see the sights.
After loading up the dog, we left Wednesday morning heading north
to Oklahoma City and then west on I-40. After that, is was back
roads and state highways for the rest of our trip (not much else
in the pan-handle of Oklahoma). As we were leaving the Interstate
we stopped at an Indian trading post and found a very interesting
map of the old Indian tribes that Anna's father will love.
Not to far down the two lane highways we started
seeing several very large and spectacular field of sunflowers.
We stopped to admire the sight and for some pictures, but
the light in the middle of the day was horrible for pictures.
on, we stopped at two local wineries that only use Oklahoma
grapes. Anna picked up a special variety wine and a couple of
sweet dessert wines. I wasn't much impressed with either wineries
(wines from the last one were just all too sweet for me).
||One place on the way
that I had wanted to stop at for some time was the Gloss (or
Glass) Mountains State Park of Oklahoma. These are a range of
small mountains (or large hills depend how you look at it),
that get their name because of all the crystallized gypsum and
selenite that cover their surfaces. None of the material is
gem quality, and it is a state park, so there is no collecting.
But seeing these brilliantly red
mountains rising up from the Oklahoma plains; with their
glittering white coatings of gypsum and sparkling selenite
crystal shining in the afternoon sun was an amazing sight.
Unfortunately our time was limited, and some of the trails
have been washed out be recent torrential rains. So, after
a short hike, and all too soon we had to move on.
of our reasons for moving on was to have time to also visit
the Little Sahara State Park. The last time we visited this
park was when Anna and I first started dating. It was part
of our first outdoor road trip together. The Little Sahara
is basically what it sounds like. About 1600 acres of sand
dune covered desert in the middle of Oklahoma, with dunes
reaching 75 feet high. Not having the time to rent a dune-buggy,
we settled for a short walk and some pictures.
stop was cut short when Anna was stung a couple of time inside
her mouth by honey bees. They had crawled inside a soda can
that Anna picked up for a drink. In the past Anna has had
bad allergic reactions to bee stings and we usually carry
an "epy pen" with us for emergencies. But, of course,
we didn't have one this time. Anna took a couple a Benadryl
capsules and kept a mouth full of ice. I loaded her in the
car, and started burning up the road to get to the nearest
town with an hospital emergency room. That was Woodward. Luckily,
this time, Anna's reaction was pretty minor. But we decided
to stay in Woodward over night, just in case.
Everything turned out alright with the bee stings, and we
left in the morning to meet John in the little town of Goodwell,
where he is attending Oklahoma Panhandle State University.
We had a nice, but short, visit with John. We all went to
lunch. Then, with him being a poor college student and all,
we took him to the grocery store and tried to get him to fill
up a shopping cart with food (not beer). The three of us also
toured the No Man's Land Historical Museum. A nice
little museum on the pan handle just off the college campus.
They have everything from old household and farm equipment
to exhibits on Indian artifacts and local fossils.
Saying goodbye, Anna and I were on the road again. Planning
to stay in Amarillo for the night. All
way from Woodward to Amarillo we pasted numerous windmill
farms. They seem to be spouting up everywhere. North of Amarillo
we also started seeing small herds of prong horned antelope.
I've always had a fascination with these animals, and wished
we could have gotten closer for some better pictures.
We also had a lot a fun driving through the town of Dumas, Texas.
Pronouncing the name "dumbass", and making fun of the
names of the businesses in town. Names like Dumbass Towing, the
Dumbass Laundry, and .... well you get the idea. We kept looking
for the Dumbass Lawyer's sign, but we must have missed it. We're
sure there's one in town somewhere. In case you're wondering, this
is a take-off from the movie Shawshank Redemption and their talk
of the author Alexander Dumas.
Arriving at Amarillo we stopped by the visitor information center,
grabbed a hotel, and headed out for Thai food for dinner. It's amazing
at the number of Thai restaurants in Amarillo. Most are right together.
Several with good recommendations. Amarillo also has what seems
to be Texas' only authentic Laotian restaurant. We choose the Thai
House, and were quite pleased with the food (but the atmosphere
was kinda crappy).
||In the morning we visited
Lake National Wildlife Refuge, and planned to tour the Alibates
Flint Quarries National Monument that afternoon. At the
wildlife refuge we saw flocks of wild turkeys, mule deer, pheasants,
prairie falcons, black tailed prairie dogs, and millions of
mosquitoes. I got my first ever good close up pictures of mule
deer that morning! I would love to spend more time here with
By the time we arrived back in Amarillo we were not sure
that we could make the Flint Quarries by the time the tours
started. So we changed plans. Instead, we went to lunch at
Sky for what was reported to be a very good hamburger.
We were not disappointed! They turned out to be some of the
best burgers that we have had anywhere in the US. Definitely
in the top 3 or 4. Anna had a plain burger, and commented
several times on how good it was. I went for my first ever
green chile cheeseburger. The cooked green chiles had an excellent
flavor, and the combination on a cheese burger works better
than I expected. Wonderful!
After our burgers we went on to the famous Cadillac Ranch.
You know; the place where the guy buried several cadillac
cars standing upright in a field back in the mid 1970's. Over
the years they've been spray painted by visitors so many times
that the paint is several inches thick in places. We snapped
a few pictures of the cars and loaded the dog back in the
Back in town we stopped at several
other roadside landmarks. A big talk texan man in Canyon.
And the Big Texan Stake House, where you can get the free
72oz steak for free if you can eat it in an hour. After our
burgers we didn't think we were up to trying the steak, so
we opted for dessert instead (along with a few more pictures).
Dinner was at El
Tejavan. It was reported to be more strongly Mexican food,
and not Tex-Mex. This is proving to be more difficult to find
in northern Texas than in Houston where we are used to living.
The reports turned out to be very true. Just a glance at their
menu proved that. Everything was excellent! We ate way to
much. Especially me; as I ate everything on my plate including
the crumbs, and that much food would have normally made two
whole meals for me. I would definitely recommend El Tajavan
to anyone traveling through Amarillo that wants a true taste
of northern Mexican food.
||The next morning saw
us driving south to visit Palo
Duro Canyon. This is the second largest canyon in North
American, after the Grand Canyon of course. I have wanted to
visit here for some time. The canyon is, of course, huge. We
only got to tour the area around the Texas State Park. The area
reminded Anna and I a lot of northern Arizona and the Painted
Desert there. It's full of wind sculpted hills, spires, and
rock faces. All brightly colored in reds and yellows.
|The canyon itself has a large flat bottom, covered
in west Texas scrub vegetation. As with most wild places it
take some hiking to get to the best places. Alas, as it always
seems, we were short on time and settled for a few walks out
into the canyon floor. I have to say the the Texas State Parks
have done an excellent job here. There are tons of nice camp
sites and amenities that don't spoil the wildness of the canyon.
Anna and I left talking about coming back for a camping trip
in the state park (in cooler weather when the rattlesnakes are
all denned up).
That afternoon saw
through the little town of Qitaque (quit-ee-kay), and into
Canyons State Park. This canyons area is still real a
part of the same canyons as Palo Duro. Just further down the
river basin. Again, these canyons are amazingly beautiful.
I'm surprised that they are not National Parks. In fact, Anna
thought that Caprock was much prettier and more interesting
than Palo Duro.
The unique claim to fame for Caprock is that
it is the largest native american "buffalo kill"
site found in North America. But the vista and landscapes
of the wind and water carved canyons are the true attraction.
Another interesting aspect of Caprock is the numerous massive
gypsum outcroppings in the park. Some 2 or 3 foot thick veins
(layers) of pure gypsum.
The time was getting late, and we were tired and hungry when
we left the park. Because of this we stopped sooner than we
expected that night in Childress. We ate a quick dinner in
a BBQ drive through recommended by the hotel clerk, and collapsed
into bed early. The next day, our last, was uneventful. We
kept looking for something to do. But couldn't find anything
worth a side trip or stopping for between Childress and Denton.
So we arrived back home in the early afternoon, with a nap
in the near future.
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