Finding yourself in East Texas: land of Texas Star flowers, cowboys and...

Finding yourself in East Texas: land of Texas Star flowers, cowboys and big skies

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Texas Wildflowers
Texas Wildflowers

EAST TEXAS, April 2, 2014 – For northerners seeking a dose of warmer temperatures, green grass, bright wildflowers, and slower pace of life, East Texas is a literal “breath of fresh air.”

Triangulated between San Antonio, Austin, and Houston, East Texas is nothing short of springtime heaven. Owners John and Taunia Elick have been working for years to create an experiential vacation opportunity for those channeling their inner cowboy or cowgirl. Located several miles down a long gravel road dotted with deer, armadillo, and coyote among the wildlife, the ranch offers a retreat from the sounds of highways and honking horns.

The 1,800 acre working cattle ranch boasts 13 fresh water lakes that are stocked with bass for catching and releasing – or eating.  Food comes from six organic gardens and the ranch’s fresh longhorn beef.

Activities are plentiful ranging from UTV rides through the fields and forest to learning to handle horses the way cowboys do on a real working ranch. The eight rescued and historic guest homes scattered across the property are ideal basecamps for those looking to slow down.

Texas Ranch Life Wild Turkey – Lacey Elick l.v.e. Designs for Texas Ranch Life

Those visiting Texas from late March through early May will enjoy an explosion of color across the region. Wildflowers such as Blue Bells, Indian Paintbrush, Blue Eyes, that Ladybird Johnson dubbed “DYF” or Damn Yellow Flowers (because she could never tell the varieties apart) are a site to behold.

Texas star, Lindheimer daisy - Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center -
Texas star, Lindheimer daisy – Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center –

A driving tour around Washington County is the best place to see the spectacle of floral color. Getting off Highway 290, the main thoroughfare, and onto the back roads of the area will create picture-perfect moments to make your photos the envy of your Facebook friends

Food is an integral part of rural life, and something they do quite well in East Texas. Shredded pork, brisket, and chicken are never far away. Stopping at dirt road eateries covered with rusty tin roofs and brimming with hospitality is the path to culinary bliss.

If you find yourself in the tiny town of Washington (don’t blink) on a Saturday night, try to find a seat at R Place. A big-city chef has taken over a former roadside grocery and serves up an ever-changing menu that will excite the palate. Picky eaters need not apply; you get what’s served, no substitutions.

Image Courtesy of R-Place Website

Just feel lucky if you get in.

No trip to Washington County would be complete without a stop at Blue Bell Creameries. Blue Bell has been mixing ice cream for a century in Texas and they’ve perfected the art. Tours are offered daily and provide a behind-the-scenes glimpse into how one of America’s favorite treats is made.

Image Courtesy of R-Place Website
Bue Bell Icecream – Image Courtesy of R-Place Website

Children of all ages will agree that the end of the tour is the highlight – a free ice cream of their choice. Families searching for a destination that pleases the crowd will love Washington County for its kid-friendly options. Couples trying to escape and connect will enjoy the B&B culture and wineries thriving in the area.

Outdoor enthusiasts looking for cycling, horseback riding, and off-road adventures may just call the house sitter and buy a ranch. Just be aware that high summer (June-August) can be hot – triple-digit hot! But, never fear, fall is equally as euphoric as spring when the leaves turn and the temps are tolerable once again.

Notable persons from East Texas (Wikipedia):

Matthew McConaughey, Longview, Gregg County
Sandy Duncan, Henderson, Rusk County and Tyler, Smith County
Forest Whitaker, Longview, Gregg County
Sissy Spacek, Quitman, Wood County
George Foreman, Marshall, Harrison County
Ross Perot, former U.S. presidential candidate born in Texarkana, Bowie County
Lady Bird Johnson, former First Lady of the United States, born in Karnack, Harrison County
Sam Houston, former President of the Republic of Texas, former Governor of Texas, retired in Huntsville, Walker County
William B. Travis, famous commander at the Alamo, settled in Anahuac, Chambers County

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