There are miles upon miles of great hiking trails within a short run from Beaumont, and they offer cheap entertainment for the entire family, especially the kids that are out of school for the summer. Hiking is not only good exercise, but adventure in the form of being outdoors.
The Big Thicket leads the way to more hiking trails than you can shake a stick at. The Big Thicket Visitors Center, located at the junction of Highway 69 and FM 420, is where you can find trail maps and tour the center that’s loaded with all sorts of information that you can use while hiking. The center also details a lot of the history associated with East and Southeast Texas. There is also a color brochure showing some of the wildlife and vegetation you might see along the trails. On one side you’ll find detailed maps of all the trails. On the other are photos of wildlife, flowers and birds. It’s free and definitely worth keeping handy along the trail.
The Big Thicket trails are a half mile to 18 miles in length. The shorter trails are recommended for beginners. Something like the Turkey Creek Trail, that snakes along for 15 miles, is perfect for experienced hikers. The longer trails are better for back packing and camping.
Other very nice hiking options are the 6 miles of nature trails in the Roy E. Larsen Sandyland Sanctuary. It’s located along the banks of Village Creek, a few miles east of Highway 69 on FM 418. Included in the 6 miles of hiking trails is a .8 mile interpretive trail. Entry is free, and the sanctuary is open daily from sunrise to sunset.
Hiking is simple and great exercise. The trick is not to overextend yourself. If you’re a beginner, take the short loop trails for about an hour long hike, and build up from there.
As a kid, my family was into tent camping, and it was almost always done at a state park or Corps of Engineers park. Camping then, like now, was a social affair. The parks were usually full on the weekends, so it wasn’t like we were roughing it out in the wild.
Just loading up the station wagon was a chore. And corralling four kids was nothing short of a miracle for my parents. But we usually had the right stuff for camping in comfort.
Looking back, the gear we had was not too much different than what I use now. The big difference now is user-friendly gear that’s compact and lightweight. The large cabin tents we had 40 years ago were made of heavy canvas that was supposedly waterproof (not). And they weighed what seemed like a ton. The modern-day nylon tents are made of lightweight materials that are easily assembled, well vented for air circulation and easy to take down. Oh yeah, most are water resistant and do a pretty good job of keeping moisture, in the form of dew and rain, on the outside.
I was always envious of the RV campers. They would pull up, set up the antenna, hook up the electricity and water and have all the comforts of home. On the other hand, it was always more adventurous to crawl into a tent and listen to the night noises of crickets, raccoons wrestling with coolers and the ever-present owls.
What I never really understood were the big motor-home rigs that pulled in and set up “camp.” The worst part was listening to their noisy generators. But on hot and muggy nights in a tent buzzing with mosquitoes, the thought of being inside a cool motor home was awfully inviting.
Pitching a tent and camping out along the bank of a river, creek or lake has always been a big draw for a whole lot of Texas campers. Within the past several years, I’ve done a good bit of canoe and kayak camping along Village Creek, the Sabine River and even along the Neches. There is nothing quite like paddling down a stream, finding a nice sand bar and setting up camp.
Try it. I think you’ll like it.