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A Romantic Weekend in the Backwoods

Romantic Weekend in the Backwoods at Caddo Lake State Park


A Romantic Weekend Back in the Day

When we were younger and had a nest-full, I agonized relentlessly about leaving the kids at home while my husband and I were off on a romantic weekend away.
Would they remember to do their homework? Would they forget about a project that was due? How would my mother get them to all their activities?
And mostly, how well would they b-e-h-a-v-e?
Oh, well. In the end, my man always prevailed in convincing me that a weekend away from our kids wasn’t going to kill them or us.


Our Batteries Needed Charged

One of the most promising selling points of the new iPhone 11 is the fact that its battery life is longer than its older counterpart. Apple is hoping you and I will be willing to plunk down a big chunk of change to avoid the frustration of constantly plugging in our tired, worn out models whose batteries get depleted more often.
Which is exactly why my man heavily marketed the idea of a romantic weekend getaway back when we could least afford them and when it required the most effort to make them occur.  Our batteries need to be charged, he would say. We need to visit about something other than the kids’ schedules and how much the new air conditioning unit is going to cost. Won’t it be nice to sleep in and take a walk in the woods, just the two of us? The kids are going to be f-i-n-e.
And then he threatened the little angels within an inch of their lives. If they weren’t good for the grandparents, he instructed, life might be a lot less grand for them when we all got back under one roof.


A Romantic Weekend Now

Now that our nest (small apartment) is empty (of the kids and dogs), romantic weekends are a lot easier to arrange.
We can start planning on Wednesday and be off to somewhere fun by 5:30 on Friday.
No reminders to post on the fridge. No last minute runs to Sam’s for the things I thought of in the night that just might be needed by the kids or their caretakers. Yard to mow before we leave? Not that either.
Just throw our stuff in a bag, plop our giddy, adventurous selves into the car and head west. North sometimes. South, absolutely. Or, in this case, east.
East Texas romantic backwoods adventure, here we come!


Stop at Buc-ee’s 

No romantic weekend in Texas would be complete, or even start off on the right foot, without a stop at Buc-ee’s now, would it?
As my friend, Robin says: Rullah? That means everything from no-way to are you kidding me.
So if you live in some other state, and you’re reading this, there’s a chance you’re thinking we must be crazy down here in the Lone Star State. Do all Texans go beaver-nuggety over a stop at Buc-ee’s, you ask?
To which we would be tempted to respond: Rullah? You bet your polished alligator boots, we sure do.
And everyone has their own personal favorite Buc-ee’s roadie snacks. Sometimes, for us, it’s Jordan almonds and an Icee. Other times, we purposely plan to partake of the barbecue sammich with pickles and onions. We always join the throngs of tourists who stop for those clean restrooms, and then I make a swipe through the gifts area. Who would ever think a convenience store would be such a fun place to find great gifts?
This time, we got shirts.
Just settin’ the stage, y’all. Romance is on its way now, baby.


A Romantic Weekend in the Backwoods of East Texas


GPS – the Great Problem Solver

Gosh. How many times have you heard this one: Remember when we had to read maps? 
Nothing spoils a romantic weekend quicker than not being able to find your way. When newlyweds, we used an atlas. Later, we printed pages of one-liner directions from the Internet.
Now, we have a sweet little thing called G-P-S.
Who really knows how many marriages have been saved by this one amazing invention?


Service is Spotty

However, service is spotty in the piney woods of East Texas, y’all.
For which we did not think to plan.
About the time we were getting close, the sun went down, the moon came up and the service bars disappeared from the upper left corner of our phone screens.
Twice, we backtracked down a long, dark road until we could get service enough to screen shot where we were trying to go. It was going to be a little hard to have a romantic weekend if we can’t even find our way through the backwoods.
And then, we made it!


Log Cabins, Pine Trees and a Teensy Meltdown

Once we finally spotted the entrance sign to Caddo Lake State Park, we turned left and headed down the dark, narrow, asphalt path, through the tall pines.
We were both a little sleepy, both a little tired of being in the car, but both just mostly glad we had found the place and would soon be hitting the hay.
Fortunately, I had checked us in online a day ahead, which turned out to be a big help. Because when we got there, the ranger had long since left the station. However, our last name was posted on the board outside the office door, with instructions for us to head on over to Cabin #4.
Through the light of the silvery moon, we located the circle of cabins and found ours. Oh, my goodness. It was so like I had expected it to be!
Dark logs, tall chimney, trees towering overhead, a substantial picnic table, a welcoming porch with two big wooden Adirondack chairs, and an old screen door. The top half was screen, the  bottom half was wooden slats, and the old metal handle appeared to be the 1933 original.
Really, it was all just perfect. If The 3 Bears were looking for a place to sleep in the backwoods of East Texas, Mama and Papa Bear would have deemed this one j-u-s-t r-i-g-h-t.
Only thing is, there did appear to be one little problem.
Cabin #4, our little love shack in the piney woods, with all its rustic ambience, had no f-r-i-d-g-e.
Hence, the meltdown.


Rethinking and Regrouping

Oh, it was a mild meltdown, but, still. I had planned, romantic, upscale-camping menus, y’all.
With, like, expensive cheese and Trader Joe’s crackers and a chilled bottle of white wine from a vineyard we visited not long ago.
This no-fridge-thing was threatening to throw a wall-eyed kink into my plans for our romantic weekend in the piney woods.
Oh, well, Mike said. Nothing is going to ruin our good time, My Love. (Something like that.) Let’s just throw the sheets on the mattress, crank down the air, and roll with it, he encouraged. (Exact words.)
That’s some real good hillbilly love talkin’ right there, my friends. I’m gonna use that if I ever write a romance novel.


Not Our First Time

This is actually not the first time we’ve ever stayed in a State Park cabin, now that I’m thinking back. We vacationed once at Lake Brownwood State Park with some good friends, where we rented the Fisherman’s Lodge. But I guess we were all busy having fun with the kids, because I don’t remember any of us knowing about the deep history of the place we stayed.


History with an Update

With names that start with A to Z, Texas operates 99 state parks and historical sites, 29 of which were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps back in the days of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal work programs. It’s amazing to think about all the men who were able to keep their families afloat during the Depression while building parks for us to enjoy all these years later.
I think it would be a great idea to stay in the historic lodging at all of the CCC-built parks, from Balmorhea, where 15 million gallons of water flows through the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool, to Palo Duro Canyon, where the cabins are built right into the landscape itself.
Here, at Caddo Lake, we are at the very easternmost Texas state park built by the CCC, just a few miles from the Louisiana border.
And the air conditioning works really, really well.

A Little Bit Like Camping

It feels a little bit like camping (which I love) without having to back a trailer into a tight spot (which Mike does not enjoy one bit). Since we had to bring our own sheets and towels, I’m thinking this weekend might satisfy that part of me that loves to camp.
And if we can find some ice somewhere, fashion a fridge out of our insulated bags and manage to microwave some of the grub we brought, these few days should satisfy that part of my man that likes to eat.


Inside the Cabin

Here’s a before-and-after look at the bed, along with other pics of the inside of the cabin.
Next time, I think I’ll pack a heart-shaped red velvet pillow to doll-up the bed. LOL


A Romantic Weekend in the Backwoods at Caddo Lake State Park

Read the fine print when you reserve. If it says “microwave,” but doesn’t mention a fridge …


A Romantic Weekend in the Backwoods of East Texas

Standard state park bed: mattress, frame, mattress pad, two pillows.


A Romantic Weekend in the Backwoods at Caddo Lake State Park

Bring your own: sheets, quilt and fluffier pillows.


A Romantic Weekend in the Backwoods in Deep East Texas

Look – there’s even a LOVEseat.


A Romantic Weekend in the East Texas Piney Woods

Log cabin bathroom – basic, functional and clean.


Romantic Weekend in the Backwoods of East Texass

Pets are allowed in other places in the park, but not here at the cabins.


Breakfast Under the Pines and a Swampy Boat Tour

Every Texan knows Texas is big, and vast, and multi-cultural and all kinds of wonderful.
But we also know that we could spend several lifetimes going from north to south, east to west, and never see it all.
I remember looking at photos of Caddo Lake, and thinking, how can that be in Texas? It looked about 500 times times different than the part of Texas where I was raised. But it’s also a little over 500 miles away from that part of Texas, too. So, there ya’ go. That’s what I’m talkin’ about. The pure vastness found in the biggest of the lower 48 surely brings out the adventurous spirit and puts romantic notions into a blonde(ish) head like this one.
Well, we finally got the chance to see what was previously known only by website photos, and I couldn’t wait to take a boat tour through this swampy lake with its tall, mossy cypress trees.
I won’t say too much about the photos below, because the pictures mostly speak for themselves.
But I will tell you that the yogurt stayed cold under ice, it felt fabulous to forego the makeup routine for a whole weekend (it was the backwoods, after all), and our boat tour was every bit the awesome Texas adventure I had hoped for it to be.


Romantic Weekend in the Backwoods of East Texas

See the cabin’s welcoming porch behind me?


Romantic Weekend in the Backwoods of East Texas

Johnson’s Ranch operates personalized tours in small Go-Devil boats, perfect for skimming over swampy bodies of water.


A Romantic Weekend in the Backwoods at Caddo Lake State Park

It’s a beautiful, quiet morning on Caddo Lake.


Romantic Weekend at Caddo Lake State Park in deep East Texas

The water gets high enough during extreme floods to soak the wooden planks of this marina.


Romantic Weekend in the Backwoods of East Texas

Cypress trees form a literal maze among the 30,000 acres that make up Caddo Lake’s swampy wetlands.


Romantic Weekend in East Texas at Caddo Lake State Park

Parts of the lake serve as a garden for interesting plants and flowers. The stem in the forefront is often seen as a dried part of pretty floral arrangements.


Romantic Weekend in the Backwoods of East Texas

Posts and markers help boaters find their way through the lake.


Romantic Weekend in the Backwoods of East Texas

And here’s the moss you always hear about.


Romantic Weekend in the Backwoods of East Texas

The lily pad and the the lily – portions of the lake are completely covered in these beauties.



Romantic Weekend in the Backwoods at Caddo Lake State Park in East Texas

Meet Angie, the best tour guide on Caddo Lake.


Romantic Weekend in the Backwoods of East Texas

In the late 1800’s, steamships traveled through this very channel, bringing goods and supplies as they came.


Romantic Weekend at Caddo Lake State Park in East Texas

These two ol’ lovebirds were so relaxed and happy on this beautiful morning on Caddo Lake.


Romantic Weekend in the Backwoods of East Texas

Thought you might enjoy seeing the inside of Johnson’s Ranch Marina. Ya’ got beer in the case and a flag perched in the paper towels. Need anything else? Nah.


Historic Sites 

Next, we headed a few miles up the road to see where Lady Bird Johnson grew up.
Ever since we moved to Austin and toured the LBJ Presidential Library, and, of course, enjoyed the bluebonnets every spring, I’ve had a real appreciation for the wife of President Number 36.
In addition, our son has moved to D.C., making a new life for himself in the Capital of the United States, so I’m attempting to beef up what I know about all.things.presidential.
Just in case he becomes one, you know.
Well, back to Lady Bird.
I recently started reading First Women, Lady Bird Johnson, An Oral History, and A White House Diary. Told ya’. I’m rampin’ things up in my reading repertoire, y’all.
In one of those books, I learned that Lady Bird’s real name was Claudia, and that her mother died when Lady Bird was only six years old. After that, she lived in this big mansion with her dad and a relative of his who came to share the residence and help raise young Claudia. But, after the relative became ill and was bedfast much of the time, Claudia helped take care of her instead.
Later, when Lady Bird met Lyndon Baines Johnson, he was the gregarious yin to her very shy yang, and it took hardly any time at all for him to coax her into marriage.
The rest, as they say, is history.


Romantic Weekend in the Backwoods of East Texas

Stately and set back off the road, this is where Lady Bird Johnson grew up in Karnack, Texas.

Backwoodsy Bites

Did you ever sing that little alligator song with your kids? You know, the one that has all the verses about the monkeys swinging from the tree, teasing Mr. Alligator, can’t catch me?
Well, maybe it was that song, or maybe it’s just that we had liver and onions at our house on Sunday instead. Whatever. I was hesitant about eating alligator. Yet, you know. This was our romantic post-anniversary weekend in the backwoods. We just had to, right? I mean, how often is this opportunity going to arise? We live in Dallas, for crying out loud. We eat salads and drink smoothies.
But my dear man persuaded me like he was LBJ or something, and all of a sudden, we were pulling up in the parking lot at Big Pines Lodge and Waterin’ Hole.
You know where this is going, right?


Glad I Tried It

Well, I will say that this was a great place to sit on the patio and watch the boats whiz by. It really, really is. Let me also declare that the sweet tea here at the Waterin’ Hole is out of this world. No doubt about that at all.
In addition to those two wonderful recommendations, I’m absolutely sure that the appetizer we ordered is the front-running favorite of many East Texas culinary connoisseurs.
It just wasn’t mine.
BUT, that said, I’m truly glad to have tried it. I can’t blog about being adventurous and go home without having tasted alligator in a hush puppy, right?
Also, frog legs.


Romantic Weekend in the Backwoods of East Texas

Big Pines Lodge and Waterin’ Hole. What a perfect name for this iconic Piney Woods find.


Romantic Weekend in the Backwoods of East Texas

Frog Legs and Onion Rings, the ultimate romantic backwoodsy lunch in East Texas.

Back to the Cabin 

Not that we were pooped out or anything, but a little snooze was sounding pretty good after our early morning on the lake and that big plate of onion rings. So, back to the cabin we went.
Considering the history behind this place, isn’t it kind of humbling to even drive through the entrance?
I wonder what went through the minds of the CCC masons who stacked these stones. Would they have been able to fathom the impact of their work on the generations that came after their own?
Well, I bet if those hard-working guys could see us two Texans today, enjoying every minute at this place, they would be quite proud of their accomplishments. During the most stressful season of their own lives, they created some of Texas’ most beautiful places to relax.
There’s some food for thought, right there.
But food was the last thing on our minds at that moment. It was time for a very romantic, backwoodsy, deep-dreaming nap.


Romantic Weekend in the Piney Woods of East Texas

Half of the twin stone structures that lead visitors into Caddo Lake State Park.


Romantic Weekend in the Backwoods of East Texas

Sturdy logs, strong foundation, shade overhead, and great air conditioning. That’s the stuff of these cabins at Caddo Lake State Park.


Romantic Weekend in the Backwoods of East Texas

You have to be a pretty enthusiastic book lover to travel with an after-nap reading stack like this one.


Hiking a Trail

After our wonderful siesta, we bought more ice for the makeshift fridge, snacked on the cheeses and crackers, read, discussed our future, and had a great night’s sleep.
By the time the next East Texas morning rolled around, we were rested and ready to go.


Romantic Weekend in the Backwoods of East Texas

We were the only pedestrians in sight. What a great for a hike in the Piney Woods!


Romantic Weekend in the Backwoods of East Texas

All roads lead to adventure in Texas, my friends.


Romantic Weekend in the Backwoods of East Texas

There were several trails to choose from, and the map was super easy to follow. Yay!


Romantic Weekend in the Backwoods of East Texas

Tree limbs overhead, pine cones underfoot. East Texas is a very scenic place.


Romantic Weekend in the Backwoods at Caddo Lake State Park

Early morning sun shining through the pines.


Romantic Weekend in the Piney Woods of East Texas

I think I’ll post this photo on my social media platforms with a caption contest.

Hit the Road

After our hike, it was time to clean up, pack it out and hit the road for home. Our romantic weekend in the backwoods was coming to an end.
We decided, however, not to rush back, but to take the road a little less traveled through Jefferson, another East Texas treasure.
This little community must surely be the B&B capital of the world, because there are so, so many. We drove down nearly every street in town, windows down, ooh-ing and ahh-ing all the way at the pure quaintness of the place.
Hopefully, we’ll have a chance to go back and see some of Jefferson’s historic homes from inside the front door during the town’s 37th Annual Candlelight Tour of Homes.


Romantic Weekend in the Backwoods of East Texas

If you enjoy a town full of these, you’ll love Jefferson, Texas.


Back to the Real World

You know, as we got closer to Dallas, with its skyscrapers in our view, I thought a lot about how things have changed so much over the years. The biggest change was moving from small town to big city. Whereas I once pushed a cart full of groceries, I now order a few things on the Instacart app. Our full house has become a cozy empty nest. A romantic weekend is much easier to organize.
And yet, the really important things have stayed the same.
We still enjoy each other’s company, love to see new things, worship a loving God, and we miss the kids every minute we’re not with them.
However, there’s not nearly as much laundry to do when we get home.


Encouraging a life filled with everyday intentional adventure, and a battery-charging romantic weekend getaway to the backwoods of East Texas,

Minor League Baseball in Texas is Major League Fun




PS: A few other posts you might like:
Is This Your Love Language?
Love the Ones You’re With
A Wedding and a Love Story

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  • Mary Anne MacMorran
    September 21, 2019 at 4:48 pm

    I loved reading about your adventure in the piney woods of east Texas. Caddo Lake has a mysterious beauty that you captured quite well. Here’s to romantic get-aways!

    Mary Anne