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Conquering Eastern Texas

Saturday, December 26, 2009
Well folks, come to find out, TEXAS IS HUGE. But not too huge for us. With our "game-plan" all made up we headed down the coast (avoiding the overwhelming Houston at all costs) to Baytown where our GPS calmly directed us to "drive 500 feet; board ferry" (after making sure the ride was free, you can imagine how exciting this was for us) in order to view the only Battleship to have survived both World Wars before being retired as a memorial. We spent the day roaming around the grounds of this Texas landmark and memorial site and basking in the 65degree sunshine.

From here we continued south along the coast to Goose Island State Park, just north of Rockport, where we experienced Big Tree, the oldest coastal live oak tree in Texas and well, probably THE WORLD! Estimated at more than 1000 years old, this huge, looming tree has survived years and years of hurricanes and weathering. Ranger Mike, who we would spend the evening singing Christmas Carols with while roasting S'Mores, told us all about Big Tree with the most adoration we've ever seen between a man and a tree.

Our next stop was a bit northwest - Goliad State Park, home of the first cattle ranch in Texas, where we learned about the historic Spanish Missions established by Spanish Franciscans in the early 1500s through the 1700s to "civilize" the Natives and spread Christianity.

Northwest of Goliad we went to *dundundun* THE ALAMO, lest we should forget to "remember the Alamo!" This experience was really incredible as we stood on the ground that the Texans fought with such ardor to defend from Mexico, leading directly to their independence.

After wandering around San Antonio we headed WEST, west, west.. through miles and miles of baren but oddly beautiful and fascinating desert land. Never before had we experienced such emptiness for so many consecutive miles. The towns, when we would find one after a hundred miles, were small and simple. I (Kendra) found this a bit unsettling as I tried to comprehend just how much empty space this was. The emtpiness "emptied" into the hillcountry after a bit, leading us to Enchanted Rock State Park - what a treasure! We keep entering these places with no idea where we're going other than a photo and a blurb in a Texas State Park only to find that they're beautiful beyond description; an entire, multidimensional experience. Enchanted Rock, one of the largest exposed underground rock formations in the US, was just this. We climbed 425 feet to the top where we caught our breath in unbelief. How could it be possible to climb such a short hike and see so much in what had seemed such a baren land? The wind at the top was frigid but we took our time, resting in the calm of the surrounding country. We spent the afternoon quietly hiking the "Loop Trail" that took us around incredible rock formations, absorbing as much as we could of this land, so different from anything we'd wittnessed before.

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