The beauty of nomad life is the ability to pack up camp and leave. Unexpected weather change can usually be handled with a move on down the road. But the deal is, “unpredictable” is the new weather norm. High winds, flooding, and snow are sweeping across the country much like the fires do in the summer. By the time you travel to forecasted clear weather and set up a camping site the winds shift bringing strong storms.
This month I traveled to the south and central regions of Texas because of historic snowstorms in the traditional winter havens in Arizona and California. When my beach camp on South Padre Island Beach Preserve disappeared under unexpected storm waves and strong winds I instinctively headed to the woods for protection.
Shelter in the Forest
One of the closest and most beautiful places to shelter in the forest from the starting point of South Texas
Young loblolly pines are maturing in forests of oak and beech surrounding old logging lakes. Hiking trails meander through abandoned homesteads, mills and buildings erected for trail life during the 1900-1920’s lumber boom. Spacious, impeccably maintained and monitored campground facilities meet every need.
I was drawn to Davy Crockett rather than Sam Houston, Angelina, or Sabine National Forests because of a childhood memory of the Davy Crockett TV show. Driving from Southern Texas Hill Country north to Austin then east to Houston that song looped in my mind along with images of the beautiful rolling hills and forests featured in the old black and white TV show of the “King of the Wild Frontier” Davy Crockett.
I settled into the Radcliffe Lake Recreation Area in the national forest just outside of Lufkin and Kennard Texas after a long day of driving interstates across Texas.
The Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) built the camp in 1936 and preserved all the charm and character of that era.
The grounds stretch around the small 45-acre lake with ample room between sites and plenty of electric and plumbing services to pamper campers. There’s also space preserved in gorgeous locations for walk-in, primitive tent camping.
In fact, the fingers of the Lakeside and Loblolly Loops have a tent group campsite on the point of a neck of the lake surrounded by several large primitive camping sites. There are ample potable water outlets on the loop.
It’s a good on-grid experience for us boondockers who camp only during the week, if ever, in an established campground.
Long History As Gathering Place
Imprints from centuries of life in the forest flow from early Native American settlements to a booming logging business at the turn of the century and now, to today’s small, beautiful, and peaceful on-grid campground.
Facilities for Groups
An amphitheater and two large sheltered picnic pavilions facing a roped-off swimming area vibrate with the history of weddings, revivals, church services, and easy, simple fun. There’s fishing, swimming, and boating on the quiet lake. Boat motors are not allowed. The icing on the cake? A concession area similar to a church kitchen. Can we say reunion?
The camp is enveloped by over 160,000 acres of national forest. The 20-mile Four C Hiking Trail explores lower and upper pine and hardwood forest, boggy sloughs, and upland bluffs with scenic overlooks. The Big Slough Wilderness on the route has abundant wildlife and primitive campsites for backpackers.
Check out local history at the CCC Camp-888’s reconstruction of the 1690 Mission Tejas chapel north of Ratcliff on State Route 21. A few miles further north showcases Native American history at the Caddoan Mounds State Historical Park.
My Experience in Ratcliff Recreational Area
I arrived at Ratcliff camp in a shroud of mist seeping through the humid forest. Sunset colored the hovering fog over the lake. The site I selected backed up to the woods at the far edge of the campground. During the week there were only three RVs in the entire water and electric hook-up loop and only one tent camper down by the lake.
Shelter from the Storms
I was so grateful to be out of the shifting sands and pummeling winds and waves of the beach storm! The abundant wildlife, rustling pines, and tree frogs in the pines created the perfect soundtrack for the vista of gently rolling forested hills. A soft fog enveloped our teardrop nestled in the pines as Rocky and I settled in for a deep, hard sleep.
We woke to a steady but gentle rain. A
My Gut Said ‘Move On’
In spite of the beauty, electric and water hook ups, and clean bathrooms with real flushing toilets and hot showers I couldn’t settle. My gut pressed me to move camp after hiking. I would rather snuggle in with a good book on a cold, rainy afternoon nestled in a gorgeous forest than act on nomadic instincts.
I popped onto Wi-Fi during my first break for gas and received a text alert for severe weather in the Daniel Boone National Forest where I had camped. Unexpected, strong storms hit suddenly. It ended up lasting two days. Roads closed due to flooding.
Searching national forecasts to find
Home Sweet Home
I’m grateful to be sharing this particular tale in front of a roaring fire in my home base in Norman, Oklahoma where we have freezing rain and snow in the forecast.
My teardrop is packed; gas tank is full and ready to go. My nomad gut is feeling a tug from southeastern Arizona. Fortunately my overly analytical brain is keeping my gut snoring gently by the fire’s warm glow.