Hiking,  Outdoors,  Texas,  Travel & Places

Upland Island Wilderness Explorations

Last weekend Chris and I met up in Lufkin, Texas to attend at Zoo Brew fundraiser at the Ellen Trout Zoo. Chris has been working in Beaumont again and one of our field coworkers lives in Lufkin and his wife was part of the Zoo Brew committee. It sounded like a great event and diversion for our weekend so Chris and I went and enjoyed ourselves. We didn’t get to see a lot of the zoo animals as most were put away to avoid being stressed too much. However, we saw and heard the zoo’s many peacocks. I’m pretty sure they need to invest in some peacock birth control; peacocks were everywhere and they were loud. If you’ve never heard a peacock they sound a bit like a distressed cat.

The following day our feet were itching for hiking so we headed for the Upland Island Wilderness in Angelina National Forest. Somehow we both ended up not bringing our laptops, each assuming the other would have theirs so researching the forest with a map and where to go was a no-go. However Chris knew where the sign was on the highway for the entrance to this particular area and so we drove down there and hoped for the best.

I know government agencies are spread thin these days, particularly lesser utilized parks, but is it that difficult to put a map of the forest service unit at the trail heads and campgrounds? We checked several places that we found display boards to see where we might find a trail or to even differentiate between some of the private inholdings that border the forest service lands, and found maps were nonexistent. Frustrating!

We came in from U.S. 69 and turned on what Google is calling Jasper County Line Road. We looked for somewhere safe to drop off my truck so we could ride together in Chris’ truck and found a small parking area maybe a mile or two down the road. I was a little bit skeptical of the site, a sort of parking area/campsite, but at least at the end of the day my truck was still there with tires in tact and no broken windows. After I jumped in his truck we first tried going down one road that headed south towards the Neches River only to find ourselves facing private property signs. There was a two-track that appeared to be on forest land that we could have hiked down but decided against it.

Back on the main road we came to these pitcher plants on the side of the road where a seep was flowing from the side of the hill. We had encountered a few more no trespassing signs here and there along the roadway and at this point we didn’t see any signs so we decided to get out and walk up the hill a bit and scope out the pitcher plants.







After our short excursion into the woods we got back into the truck and kept on driving down the road. The road teed and ran into more private lands, hunting clubs warning trespassers their area were wired with cameras. Chris and I had walked through a few hunting club lands on the Florida Trail. While the trail officially goes through these areas and we were ok to be there, there’s an uneasy feeling whenever you run into hunters because you never know how they will react to hikers. Needless to say I wasn’t interested in being anywhere near hunt club lands.

We took a right down the road towards the river again hoping to run into a forest service sign. Finally we saw the ubiquitous brown and tan forest service sign telling us we were entering the Bouton Lake Campground. Quickly we found a message board and a few campsites but again we were thwarted with no map or more information other than something saying the Sawmill Trail was closed in a few areas with bridges that were out of service. Well, that was a start, there was a trail somewhere if we could only find it. Finally we found a big open field on the east end of the lake with a few campers (including one guy who reminded us of our backpacking friend from the AT and FT, Speaker). I got out to investigate the possible trailhead and indeed it was the Sawmill Trail! Score!

Upland Island Wilderness
The first couple hundred yards of the trail were wide and fairly clear but it was soon evident that few people went too far down the trail and that maintenance did not occur often.

Sawmill Trail

Upland Island Wilderness
Downed trees, overgrown shrubs and grass, poison ivy and Smilax reaching out to grab you, this trail had it all.

Upland Island Wilderness
Since we had no idea how far the trail went and where we might end up we just walked until we couldn’t find the trail any longer, which happened to be at a clear cut area bordering private property. Suddenly the trail became so thick and any signs of people following a path disappeared. Shot gun shells along the path insinuated the only people who really used the trail were hunters.

Chasmanthium latifolium

Upland Island Wilderness
We ran into a couple of really large pine trees where the trail sat above the Neches River on a bluff.

Upland Island Wilderness

Upland Island Wilderness
Found an interesting gall. Someone really needs to come up with a gall identification book. Of course only like the nerdiest of nerds, like us, would probably buy it, but still. Someone publish a gall book!—-or better yet publishers, I’ll be more than happy to team with with an expert in galls and take photos of galls. *hint hint* (For the uninitiated into insect galls)

Upland Island Wilderness
We found a patch of green dragon, Arisaema dracontium. One of the plants had a spent flower and Chris was planning on coming back to take photos of it but we must have passed the patch of plants on our return back to the truck.

Upland Island Wilderness
There were several beech trees that had been marked upon. Apparently this place does get a bit of activity from time to time, probably not recent times though. Some people need to learn to leave what you find.

After we hit the overgrown section of trail that was impossible to follow we stopped for lunch at the beech tree.

Gotta throw in a self portrait.

Spiranthes vernalis
It’s always a good day when you find an orchid. Spiranthes…Chris says vernalis and since he’s more orchid knowing than I am I’m going with it.

Upland Island Wilderness
The trail got confusing in one spot on the way back; we’d detoured around treefall and other debris on the way in but forgot how we’d approached going around it so we made a bigger detour and went to check out a slough nearby.

Upland Island Wilderness
There was evidence of feral pigs rooting around.

Upland Island Wilderness
This area was a little muddy but not too bad and the best part of walking in areas where water comes through is that typically the walking is clear and free from debris.

Upland Island Wilderness
A side creek coming off the east end of Bouton Lake.

Once we returned to the truck we weren’t sure where we were going to go and just followed the GPS to see what roads we could take, also checking for private property signs along the way. Eventually we came to a two track that didn’t have a gate and no signs were posted so we decided to take the chance and get out. A creek was nearby and Chris was looking for azaleas.

I’m not quite sure which Asclepias this is….anyone? (Future self on 4/17/20—it’s A. variegata)

We followed the creek bed for awhile, climbing the steep slopes up to the top when there was no sand bar to jump around the water.

Chris pointed out a green tree frog, Hyla cinerea, clinging to a plant. I was a little surprised to see it there as I’m used to seeing them in marshes and really wet-wetlands.

Finally we moseyed on down the road driving slowly and entering more pine uplands instead of bottomland hardwood areas.


Jack in the Pulpit
Chris walked past some jack-in-the-pulpits and I pointed them out to him as we quickly explored another creek.


And more galls!

It was getting towards late afternoon and we both had two hour drives back to our respective end points for the day—home for me, and Chris’ home-away-from-home hotel.

I would definitely love to go back through here sometime with a map to scope out a few more interesting and rare habitats.


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