East Texans Find Fun, Beauty On Nature Trail
By JACQUE HILBURN-SIMMONS
Dennis and Donna Spivey, of Caddo Mills, wanted to give their grandchildren an unforgettable experience in the great outdoors, so they planned an overnight trip to Tyler State Park.
They weren't disappointed.
"We were doing s'mores, and a raccoon came calling," Spivey said Saturday with a grin. "We had a fire going, and it just walked right up. He didn't want to leave. I guess he was a scout for the rest."
The clan shooed it away, sort of.
After everyone retired for the night, the rascal returned with a friend, snatching the marshmallows and chocolate from the cooler, Mrs. Spivey said.
The midnight munchers seem to have made a lasting impression on the grandchildren.
"It was a little scary," Kaylee Lowrance, 12, of Garland, said. "It kept coming toward us as we were eating our chips. I think this (camping) is cool."
The Spiveys, and their young charges, were among 16 campers who rolled out of bed bright and early Saturday to participate in a wildflower nature hike along the park's Black Jack Nature Trail.
Most every Saturday the park offers a variety of family friendly activities, ranging from the nature hike to feeding "Roscoe," the park snake.
"We try to have a variety of things for people to do," Tyler State Park Interpreter Boyd Sanders said. "Some are geared toward adults, some more for children."
Activities vary each week, according to season, but all are geared toward helping people learn more about nature.
Park officials said the flowers featured right now along the trail typically bloom all summer, but there is a bumper crop this year, largely due to the rain and prescribed burn held in early March.
The flames helped suppress the weeds, clearing the way for new seeds to sprout, the interpreter said.
"And when the sun hit them, they started to grow," Sanders said.
The result was a random burst of colorful blooms -- light purple ruellia, sunny yellow sunflowers, brilliant red standing cypress, known also as Texas red star.
Proud grandma Nina Clyburn of Ben Wheeler couldn't wait to show off the scenery to her grandchildren and family.
"We like the flowers and we like to walk and enjoy nature," she said, checking to make sure everyone had water. "We'll be back this afternoon to see the snake."
There was just one sight little Macie Clyburn, 5, wanted to see on her walk.
"A turtle," she said.
No turtles turned up along the trail, but there were plenty of unusual flowers, interesting bugs and learning opportunities.
Sanders pointed out the most important plant in any setting: poison ivy.
"Eighty percent of the people are allergic to it," he said, pointing out its characteristic three leaves and red stem.
Participants learned about the various residents of the forest, including little buzzing bumble bees, which aren't aggressive toward people unless provoked, Sanders said.
"When you have a bee come close to you, just stand still," he said as a yellow and black bee hovered near a wide-eyed, slightly nervous Ms. Clyburn.
As the insect went on its way, there seemed to be a collective sigh of relief among many group members, including Alissa Silva, 16, of Holly Lake Ranch, who participated in the tour with her parents and siblings.
The teenager, who is considering a career in journalism, used the occasion to practice her nature photography.
"I learned a lot about flowers," she said afterward. "It was pretty interesting and some of the flowers were pretty cute."
The Spiveys seemed especially pleased with their weekend in the woods, which seemed to tucker out the grandchildren and inspire a few ideas for their home landscaping.
Spivey predicts there will be another project added to the to-do list back home.
"She'll be looking for seeds on the internet," he teased.
To learn more about the various activities offered at the park, call 903-597-5338 or visit the Tyler State Park page on Facebook. The park is located at 789 Park Road 16, Tyler.