Saturday, July 31, 2010

Day Trip - East Texas history trail along The King's Highway, El Camino Real

From time to time, I go visit historical sites. Not that I am a history buff, but someone who appreciates the past to understand the present. Residents of Montgomery County have a very real and close connection to the origins of the nation of Texas. The daughters of the American Revolution have preserved history in a way where we can step back into the past on location and imagine what happened there. El Camino Real, The King's Highway, or otherwise known as the Old San Antonio Road existed from the 1600's, winding through the great east Texas forests of tall pines and hardwoods, providing a means to travel through East Texas to San Antonio. Part of it is less than two hours away, on state highway 21. This segment was just part of a highway from Saltillo, Mexico to Louisiana. It was a key road for travel and goods transport throughout early Texas history. 

The Daughters of the American Revolution placed granite markers every five miles along the highway in 1918. What I like to do is to travel down the road and stop at every marker. You get a one mile notice in advance, look at your odometer and be ready to stop in one mile. I like to get out of the car, but some people just read the markers from inside the car. A marker like this is difficult to read even when outside your automobile.

You can start at Crockett, Texas.  I will show you some of the places you will likely want  to stop at along the trail, but remember there are many more than I will show. It will take you through part of Davy Crockett National Park.

One of the places you likely will want to stop is at the Caddo state park to see the burial mound of thee Caddo Indians. This highway was originally part of the old American Indian trails of East Texas.

And here is one of the mounds inside the park.

A number of the markers are not so old and much easier to read.

Imagine the Indians coming to visit this mission. The word was out that there were gifts and the white man was trying to teach them their religion.  They would come through the thick forest and suddenly appear without notice, without warning and sometimes while nearby, hunting game and not exactly the best smelling of the animals in the forest after running along the trails.

And then in another era, you could hear the sound of running horses as the stagecoach approached. Then the red dusty travelers would get out of the coach, tired and ready to freshen up and sleep the night, all the while threatened by the presence of local Indians and the wildness of bears and wolves nearby.

There is beauty and interesting images to see all along the way. This is one very old barn that caught my eye.

Some old springs are located in this forest where the Indians and the settlers stopped for water.

Peaceful farms dot the landscape, providing opportunity to smell the countryside, and watch cows and horses calmly grazing on a summer afternoon. Hay had just been harvested when I went through in July.

Remember that Texas was a nation only 160 years ago. That is six or so generations, but many of our great grandparents saw those days during their lifetime. 

Now its your turn to go on a ride down that road. From The Woodlands, you can take I45 to Huntsville, head northeast on SH 19 to Crockett, then proceed northeast on SH 21 to Alto or even further to Nacogdoches. Plan on at least a half a day trip, if not a full day. This time, I took this outing as part of a trip back from Tennessee.

Recommended references:
1. The Handbook of Texas Online
2. Texas State Library and Archives Commission