A few months ago I was on the Texas Land Conservancy website looking into a property I wanted to get onto near Angelina National Forest. Unfortunately that property was closed to the public and so I went digging into their website a little more to find out just what public lands they had available that I could get onto. That’s how I ended up coming across the Spring Weekend at Ivy’s. I emailed the TLC first to ask if their $50 pricing included the entire weekend for the whole family and it did! I sent the link to Chris and after a brief conversation I officially paid the money and signed up for the weekend!
The Ivy Payne Preserve in Elkhart, Texas is only open a few times a year to the public as well as for permitted hunters during certain hunting seasons. Back in the 1980s Ivy Payne wanted to preserve the property for the future and that’s where the TLC came into the picture. It’s one of the few properties the TLC outright owns, as they are generally in the conservation easement business and now the landownership business. I wasn’t sure what to expect once we arrived but it turned out to be such a lovely time, meeting likeminded conservation oriented folks from all over the state. We ended up driving up on Saturday morning because a line of heavy storms made their way throughout the entire state on Friday evening and we didn’t feel like driving and setting up a tent in that weather. Nonetheless, it was a very full weekend!
The pavilion near the entrance, which was perfect for socializing and has a full kitchen as well as two bathrooms and two showers!
Some huge summer grape (Vitis aestivalis) leaves.
A northern crab spider (Mecaphesa asperata) hiding in a plant—super cute!
A surprising find, grass-leaved ladies’ tresses, (Spiranthes praecox)! I have some photos I took with my camera I’ll share at some point in the future.
A scene from one of the hikes the first day. There are several guided hikes or you are welcome to hike on your own throughout the preserve. I really appreciated the guided hikes as we could all converse and learn from each other, and point out the interesting things we found.
Black tupelo gall mite galls (Aceria nyssae)
I’m not totally sure on this fungus but I think it may be Calocera cornea, club-like tuning fork!
A spider caught my eye and it turned out to be a northern black widow (Latrodectus variolus). I’ve come across a couple of these in the wild before, just in plants like this, and it is always a bit of a treat. Previously I only ever saw them when lifting the lids to sample groundwater at a gas station I used to track for groundwater contamination at my previous job. Lift the lid and carefully manuever around the dozens of black widows hiding in there! (ick!)
Sadly, I think this luna moth (Actias luna) caterpillar may have been trampeled by the group as we hiked along. I was at the end of the group during this particular time and came across it off to the side. Maybe it made it…or maybe it became bird or ant food.
The view from the end of one of the trails.
Back at the pavilion there were games and luckily two kids there who Forest got to play with during the weekend!
We went on a second hike in the afternoon down to an area called Teacup Falls, a small waterfall along the creek on the north end of the preserve. Forest really wanted to play in the water and so he took his shoes off and then I spent the next ten minutes just waiting for him to bust his butt on the slippery rocks. Thankfully that didn’t happen!
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) blooming in the pipeline right of way.
Sunday proved to be a much better day than Saturday was, weather-wise, and we set off for a late morning hike with the group to explore another area of the preserve.
Forest pretending to be a tree after seeing our host do the same! It was cute!
Engelmann’s Milkvetch (Astragalus distortus var. engelmannii)
The kids looking for shark teeth in one of the creeks. There were no shark teeth but because they were supposed shark teeth that had been found years earlier in a pond we’d visited the previous day, the kids were dead set on looking for them in the creeks!
The pipeline ROW as probably my favorite spot because there were so many insects flitting about from bloom to bloom. The butterflies were very active on Sunday since it was warmer and sunny.
I didn’t share everything here and will be sharing some other plants and insects here in a bit, photos from my camera. I will definitely visit this preserve again in the future, possibly for their fall weekend! I absolutely recommend it, the food and people were amazing and the property was so very special to see!