Our destination a rustic, isolated but decidedly unthreatening cabin in the woods, a friend and I headed east from Austin for a weekend at La Paz, an aptly named bed-and-breakfast perched on the banks of the Angelina River, a bit northwest of Jasper. As the vexations of the city grew faint in our rearview mirror, we laughed our way through 265 miles of the kinds of roadside diversions that enliven any car trip across Texas—an enthusiastic nut purveyor (“If your wife thinks you’re a geezer take some nuts home that’ll please her”), a dilapidated building just begging for trespassers with the huge, crudely scrawled warning “No Stoping!!!” Soon enough, though, we had passed into the majestic stillness of the Angelina National Forest, where towering conifers eclipsed the sun and the sliver of sky above seemed no wider than the road we were traveling. We had traversed the fabled Pine Curtain. Read the rest of Courtney Bond’s account of finding peace and quiet beind the pine curtain from the May 2014 issue.
Angelina River //Named for a Hasinai Indian girl, the peaceful Angelina has been witness to Spanish missionaries, French explorers, and cotton-loaded steamboats, which means you’ll have plenty to contemplate as you cast your line or dip your paddle into its mysterious depths.
Angelina National Forest // At 153,179 lush green acres, this swath of East Texas has almost as many activities as it does trees, whether you’re keen on riding horses, boats, or lawn chairs. The lovely Sam Rayburn Reservoir offers opportunities for pleasure boating and fishing, your reward for the latter perhaps a trophy-size largemouth bass; the lake’s Bird Islands, occupied by roseate spoonbills and great blue herons, will appeal to the binocular brigade. The Longleaf Ridge Special Area is a good spot for red-cockaded woodpeckers and DEET-pomaded campers, who favor the sites at Caney Creek and Sandy Creek. Hunters can stalk feral hogs and bullfrogs (daily limit of 25!) in the Bannister Wildlife Management Area, and hikers should check out the five-and-a-half-mile Sawmill Hiking Trail, a serene, deep-woods path leading to what’s left of the Aldridge Sawmill, a cool (but slightly vandalized) relic of East Texas’s once robust timber industry.
EAT + DRINK
Bring your own food. Seriously. Other than a delightful breakfast served on antique china at La Paz (yogurt with honey, granola, and fresh fruit; egg dishes and bacon; biscuits that may or may not come with a sample of the owners’ dwindling supply of mayhaw jelly), pickings are slim. That said . . .
Timbers on the Green // A respectable meal (great fried catfish) can be had at the restaurant at the Rayburn Country resort, where you can also golf, if so inclined. 2376 Wingate Blvd., Brookeland (409-698-2444)
The Stump // At this popular watering hole, motorcycles, pickups, and fishing boats crowd the parking lot, camo and ball caps constitute the dress code, and the distaff population is minimal. Just stick to the basics; this is a place where the menu touts the chips and queso as a “great light start to your meal.” 3819 Hwy. 255 West, Jasper (409-698-9495)
La Paz Del Rio Angelina Bed and Breakfast // A civilized respite in the pines, this hospitable place is a destination in itself. We loved the 113-year-old log cabin, set away from the main house and nicely appointed with a working fireplace, a kitchen, and a doll-house-like sleeping loft; out back are a big porch, fire pit, grill, and small playground for the kiddos (we spent more time on the seesaw than I care to admit). If you’d rather stick close to other humans, proprietors Paul and Anne Smith will be happy to welcome you to one of the lovely rooms in the big white farmhouse, which boast antiques and claw-foot tubs and flat-screen TVs—one even has an outdoor bed suspended from the ceiling like a porch swing. 850 County Road 51, Jasper (409-383-1301)
BEFORE YOU GO
Watch Bernie, Richard Linklater’s Carthage-set black comedy about a real-life—and exceedingly charming—murderer; read The Collected Stories of William Goyen and “The Soul of East Texas,” by Prudence Mackintosh (Texas Monthly, October 1989) explore the websites of Texas Parks and Wildlife and the U.S. Forest Service.
What we came home with: a three-day membership to the Sam Rayburn Country Club, i.e., access to the bar; a passel of pinecones; a Styrofoam bait bucket to keep our wine and sausage cold; a rusty bullet casing; walking sticks. What we wanted to take home: lots of homeless dogs.