When I set off for Toledo Bend Reservoir out in East Texas to do some reporting for my September 2016 travel column, I had one goal in mind: I wanted to catch a largemouth bass. My trip happened to coincide with the announcement that the 185,000-acre lake—the largest man-made body of water in the South—had just been named the best bass-fishing lake in the country by Bassmasters for an unprecedented second time in a row, so I was feeling pretty good about my odds (spoiler alert below).

The water may have been what lured me all the way out there (Toledo Bend straddles the Texas-Louisiana line), but the Sabine National Forest sure wasn’t giving an inch in the local popularity contest either, and I found myself drawn into the dense curtains of loblolly pines to explore recreational areas like Red Hills Lake and Indian Mounds. Though I hunkered down in Hemphill in the evenings, I took as many back roads as I could find during the day, out to Willow Oak and Milam, San Augustine and Patroon, and yes, even to nearby Louisiana, the only place I could get cell service (Verizon customers be warned).

Here are a few of the many Instagrammable moments from my wanderings, which I hope entice you to plan your own East Texas excursion soon.