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Past Adventures

Gem Trails of Texas : East Texas 2005 - Part I

The sights include :  More Texas Courthouse Photos, the World's 2nd Biggest Fire Hydrant in Beaumont, The USS Orleck, Swampy, the Swamp Monster, the Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation, the Johnson Rock Shop, Rock Hunting for the Texas Petrified Palm Wood in : Trinity County, the Lake Livingston area, Toledo Bend Dam, Newton County and Lake Sam Rayburn!

Forward : (As always, click on the picture for for a larger image and click on the links for photos surprises.)

         I hope you enjoyed the  Houston Curiosities - 2005  page.  I'll add more to this list as I find them.  The following was another lengthy adventure, so once again I divided the story up into a Part I and a Part II.  More Texas Roadside Attractions, GPS Data for Rock Hounds and Texas County Courthouse Photos were added since this trip.  Once again, I haven't been sending out updates, so please check here for the latest news on this site.  Now on with the story :

          Well, another Christmas break from school.  What to do?  I think its high time I explore what's out there in East Texas and of coarse make a Gem Trails of Texas out of it.  I was especially hopeful to fin some of that petrified palm wood.

          Although I was able to find a few pieces of the elusive Texas Petrified Palm Wood in my break between semesters late last May, I  still wasn't really satisfied.  So once again, I consulted my "Gem Trails of Texas" book by Brad Cross and my "Rockhounding Texas" book by Melinda Crow.  

          The books mentioned quite a few places in the Piney Woods of East Texas in which these Texas gems can be found.  Therefore, I decided to try my luck in the areas as described in the books.  And once again, I also made it a mission to collect more Texas Courthouse Photos, find the wild and wacky, historic and other interesting sites to be had in the piney paradise of Texas.  Oh yea, Buddy Bill will also be joining this expedition once I get further up north closer to the Dallas area.  so sit back, relax, put on your Bob Philips hat and become an armchair traveler once again.

Star Date 12/16/2005 - Friday

     Orange, TX :

          Due to the crazy nature of my routes to pick up new Texas Courthouse photos, I won't bore you with all the directions I took this time.  I decided to begin at the very southeast end of the East Texas region and zigzag my way up north.  The first stop was Orange, TX.  along the way to Orange the following Texas Court House Photos were taken :

The Liberty County Courthouse

The Chambers County Courthouse

The Jefferson County Courthouse

and

The Orange County Courthouse

            While in Beaumont,  I found the world's 2nd biggest fire hydrant.  The structure was originally build as a marketing device for Disney's 101 Dalmatians.   Today, it is  parked just outside the Fire Museum of Texas to promote their mission.

          Finally, while in Orange, I was able to visit the USS Orleck.  This was one of the many destroyers built here by the fine people of Orange to support our troops in World War II.  Here the story and the old navy vessel cab be found in their Ochiltree Inman Park

          Also while in Orange, I gave old Swampy a visit.  Old swampy can be found at the Air Boat Ride and Swamp Adventure tours on the North side of I-10 just before the border with Louisiana.  Heck, at this point, I decided to take the trip to the edge!  The edge of Texas that is, and hit the Texas Welcome Center on the west side of the Sabine river,  While there, be sure to check out their board walk out back and see what a real Texas swamp looks like!

     The Lake Livingston Area :

     My next destination was the Lake Livingston area for my first stop in hunting down that Texas Petrified Wood.  My travel took me north and then east while picking up the following Texas Courthouse Photos :

The Hardin County Courthouse

The Jasper County Courthouse

The Tyler County Courthouse

and

The Polk County Courthouse

          Once in the Livingston area, it was nearing grazing time.  So, I hightailed it to the Pickett House for some good ole home cookin for lunch.  The Heritage Village Museum was also nearby, but closed.  Then, I ran into some Indians. The Alabama-Coushatta Indians that is.  Actually, there are two different tribes here.  They do have a nice lake and camping grounds for visitors and guests.  It seems that they were also very active in the Civil WarRead for yourself. Well, not much was goin on here.  I guess they're all off to work or school or they are all pissed off and have gone bird hunting.    They do hold pow-wows, so check their website for more information :

The Alabama-Caushatta Website

     I hit their gift shop for a refrigerator magnet  and then continued east on on Hwy 190 to Indian Village.  I also noticed that logging is a big industry out here.  So watch out!

     The Johnson Rock Shop :

          Indian Village is home of the Johnson Rock Shop!  Its a little tricky getting there, so here's a map on their business card and if you get lost, just follow the signs on the utility poles to their really cool rock shop!

          I followed the path to the rock shop in back of the Johnson home.  One passed many petrified tree trunks growing out of the ground including a huge tree that had fallen many eons ago!  until coming to their little village of their rock shop.  I found a few slabs and rough South Texas Moss Agate (That I was unable to find in my Gem Trails of South Texas Adventure) to work with under their shed and also checked out one of several galleries they had. 

          Amazingly, I found a slab of Brazilian Agate in which the image of the Virgin Mary could be seen in.  If a Virgin Mary grilled cheese sandwich can pulled over $ 30,000.00  on E-Bay, and the image of the Runaway Bride on a piece of toast pull over $ 15,000.00 on E-Bay, then I should get plenty of dough for this :

The Virgin Mary in a Brazilian Agate Slab

          I found Mrs. Johnson and told her I was out to seek my fortune in Texas Petrified Palm Wood.  Back in their rough rock shed, I had found some palm wood that was highly silicified (Good for polishing) and others that were just very chalky or had that limestone look.  She stated the nicer pieces were found in Louisiana and the limestone looking specimens were found in the local area.  However, nicer specimens were sometimes found.  Well, I hope so, I certainly didn't want to come all the way out here for nothing!  I paid for my rocks and she wished me luck on my hunt as I left the shop.  Oh, if you go out there and you can't find the shop, then here's the GPS coordinate for the shop :

30 41.471 N and 94 44.403 W

          My first rock hunt was Site 63 "Trinity Petrified Palm Wood"  as discussed on pp.137-138 of Melinda Crow's book.  So I continued west and then north and realized that it was becoming rather late and there aint no real nice place to spend the night out here.  So I managed to make it into Huntsville for the night while obtaining the following Texas Courthouse Photos :

The San Jacinto County Courthouse

The Trinity County Courthouse

The Old Trinity County Jailhouse

and

The Walker County Courthouse

          While in Huntsville, I did manage to find Sam Houston, the father of Texas, gravesite.  I was a little uneasy while reading the hysterical marker due to a bunch of convicts keeping up the grounds at the cemetery.  Additionally, his stature which I have previously reported on was just on the south of the city, on the east side of I-45.

Star Date 12/17/2005 - Saturday

     Before I begin, Although both Melinda and Brad provide maps to the various sites that will be discussed.

     Trinity County Palm Wood :

           After the morning grazing and further study of my rock hounding resources, I finally got back on track again for my quest and made it out to the Trinity County Palm Wood Site.  Melinda discusses two county roads in which to search for this elusive wood in road cuts.  The first county road was FM 3188 in which one can pick up by traveling northeast out of town on Hwy 94 from Trinity, TX and then take FM 3188 east.  I never really saw any decent road cuts, but did find an area with some gravel in which I investigated at the following GPS coordinates :

30 57.259 N and 95 17.638 W

I only found a few pieces of red agates, jaspers and quartz which I only picked up for my tumbler.  I followed FM 3188 all the way till it dead-ended into an upper-class residential neighborhood.  Therefore, I turned around and tried the next site she discusses for the area.  For you rock hounds who may try this area, forget it!

          I got back to Trinity, TX and then took FM 359 southeast towards Onalaska.  I saw a few exposed road cuts on the south side and decided to investigate at the following GPS coordinates :

30 52.800 N and 95 13.852 W

I found what I believe to be a fern bud in addition more colorful agates, jaspers and quartz material for tumbling.  Although the traffic was quite light at this time in the morning, I did not find it safe so be careful if you decide to investigate this site.  At this point, I continued on and I really did not find any decent road cuts to investigate. 

          About 2 miles west of the Carlisle area or 10 miles east of Onalaska, I noticed a dirt road named "Barrett's Camp Road" heading south towards Lake Livingston.  I went ahead and took that road just out of curiosity.  Don't worry about the gate when coming out here.  At the following GPS coordinates :

30 53.192 N and 95 13.455

I found a small road cut in white sandy soil which yielded quite a bit of petrified wood, various agates, jaspers and quartz material for tumbling and yes! a few pieces of black petrified palm wood.  Here's some of what I found :

Trinity Rocks 1

Top : Petrified Wood, Black & Gray Petrified Palm Wood

Bottom : Various Agates, Jaspers & Quartz Materials for Tumbling

Trinity Rocks 2

Top : Petrified Wood

Bottom : Various Agates, Jaspers & Quartz Material for Tumbling

          I began to take notice that everything I found was found in the white sandy soil and not the orange/red/brown soil.  Keep that in mind when searching out here.  I didn't want to be greedy, so I moved on to the next site on the agenda.

     Sabine River Wood/Petrified Palm Wood - Toledo Reservoir :

          Ok, ok. The above is one long sub-title.  But this next site is Site 62 "Sabine River Wood" as discussed on pp. 135-136 in Melinda's book and Site 45 "Petrified Palm Wood - Toledo Bend Reservoir" as discussed in Brad's book on pp. 132-133.

          First of all, I don't know where in the heck Brad get his FM 473 road from in his map to this site.  FM 692 can be found just east of Burkeville, TX.  Simply take FM 692 north to the dam and park at any one of the dirt roads that run along the Sabine river just south of the spillway.  Around the River Bend area, I stopped at a convenience store to verify Brad's directions.  The local I found to help me out I had no idea what FM 473 was but, did know about the palm wood to be found, got me back on the road again and wished me luck. 

          I arrived at the spillway of the dam on the Louisiana side and parked my car on the dirt road at the following GPS coordinates :

31 10.306 N and 93 33.772 W

I walked the banks of the river and did find plenty of petrified wood, a few small castings of fossils and various agates, jaspers and quartz material for tumbling among the wash.  However, I never did find the elusive Texas Petrified Palm Wood.  I have a feeling that it has all been picked up.  Where could it be?  Well, here's a sample of what I found :

Toledo Bend/Sabine River Rocks 1

Top : Petrified Wood

Bottom : Agate, Jaspers & Quartz Material for Tumbling

Toledo Bend/Sabine River Rocks 2

Top : Petrified Wood

Middle : Casting of a small shell fossil

Bottom : Agate and Jaspers for Tumbling

            Again, I didn't want to be greedy, so I moved on to the next site on my schedule.  By the way, although there are warning signs of floods, it turns out that this part of the river was also a recreation place.  Plenty of people were out enjoying the water.

     Newton County Wood :

           From the Toledo Bend Dam area, the next sight was not that far away.  Melinda refers to this site in her book as Site 61 "Newton County Wood and Flint" on pp. 134-135.  After arriving back to the River Bend Village area, I took RR 255 west till it intersected with Hwy 87

           Well, I guess Melinda must have been drunk or on drugs for this site's write-up.  All I found was some interesting rock formations in the red sandstone.  Anyway, here are the GPS coordinates for her site :

31 05.674 N and 93 43.750 W

It was time for me to move on.  On to Lake Sam Rayburn.

     Lake Same Rayburn Wood :

          The next site worth investigating was Site 60 "Lake Sam Rayburn Wood" on pp. 130-131 of Melinda's Book.  This site is in the San Augustine Recreational Park on the northeast side of the river.  Brad also describes this same site as Site 46 "Petrified Wood - Lake Sam Rayburn" on pp. 134-135.  However, his site is on the southeast side of the lake.  I chose Melinda's site simply due to being closer to my routes to collect additional Texas County Courthouse Photos.  Before reaching her site, I collected the following :

Sabine County Courthouse

Shelby County Courthouse

San Augustine County Couthouse

Nacogdoches County Courthouse

and

Angelina County Courthouse

          I made it to the park from FM 1751.  I walked the shoreline and kept my nose to the ground.  I did find some petrified wood, some amber color calcite and various agates, jaspers and quartz material for tumbling.  The GPS coordinates in which I had stopped at are the following :

31 12.153 N and 94 4.837 W

San Augustine Park was really a nice park.  There were quite a few folks out fishing and participating in water sports.  It was getting late, the highways were hell and I figure the site discussed in Brad's book would yield the same.  So I made it back to Lufkin and found lodgings for the night.

          Is it a break time yet from this little adventure?  Why don't you take a little break,  grab something out of the refrigerator.  Do you need some help getting out of your chair?  Then come back and read Part II of the Gem Trails of East Texas Adventure.

       So, until next time, take care and I'll  See you... on the road, or in the workshop, (which is really just my garage) !!!!

                                                     Francis                        

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 Copyright 1999 by [The Texas Road Runners - Francis Kiefel]. All rights reserved.