Since we’re rooted in Texas, I like to talk about Texas.
Full disclosure, I’ve only been to East Texas once, but it was enough to know what it’s all about. I stayed in Huntsville for a weekend, and I did so much in the area.
My favorite part was the Sam Houston National Forest. It’s over 160,000 acres of tall, green, dense pines. For someone who’s only lived in the Hill Country or along the coast, this was such a shock. It’s kind of humbling, actually, seeing these things that are so much bigger and more majestic than you.
I went in through Huntsville State Park, which has miles and miles of hiking trails.
For more nature, you can hit up nearby Lake Conroe or any of the other lakes and creeks in East Texas.
Texas is chalk full of history. We’ve been under six flags, including our own, and won a lopsided revolution.
Our first president was Mr. Sam Houston, and the town of Huntsville doesn’t let you forget it. Huntsville loves Sam Houston. It’s home, of course, to Sam Houston State University, and every year around his birthday in March, there’s a festival where the town basically shuts down and gathers for history, food, music, and more.
If you’re not there for the festival, you can still become an expert on the president. His bagillion foot-tall statue towers over I-45 coming into Huntsville from Houston. In town you can visit the Homestead, which has the “Steamboat House” where he died, his law office, and more. You can also visit his grave at Oakwood Cemetery.
More in Huntsville
One of the most fascinating parts of Huntsville is its prison system. It is home to the big daddy- Texas State Penitentiary Huntsville Unit, as well as six other units. It’s here in Huntsville that convicts in Texas are executed. You can’t really tour the prison, obviously, but there are ways to learn about it and its past. There’s the Prison Museum in town, and the cemetery. I must warn you, the Captain Joe Byrd Cemetery is moving and haunting. Not haunted (I mean I guess it could be) but haunting because the experience just sticks with you. It’s where death row inmates and unclaimed deceased inmates are buried, dating back to the 1800s. Some have unmarked crossed. Some have marked crosses. Some are marked, but only with prison number, not name.
While you’re there, keep an ear out for the prison sirens. Every hour, they do a prison check, and they use a city-wide siren system to help keep everyone on the same page. One siren announces the head count is beginning, and a second announcing that it’s over, but if you hear a third siren, that means someone hasn’t been accounted for or something went wrong.
Also, Huntsville is home to a guy that lives in a boot.
More in East Texas
As I’m not super well-traveled in this part of the state, I know it has a lot to offer! There’s of course the forest and plenty for outdoorsmen to do. If that’s not your thing, head south to Houston where there are endless goings-on.
If Houston isn’t your thing, hit up towns like Nacogdoches, Palestine, or Tyler.
I guess if Texas in general just isn’t your thing, Louisiana is just a hop, skip, and a jump across the Sabine!