Kleb Woods | Texas Nature Preserve

Location: Tomball, Texas
Submitted By: Corey Beavers
Website: coreybeavers.com

The world often isn’t gracious toward the people who choose to live in it differently than is expected. Situated in Tomball, a suburb of Houston, Texas, the historic family land of the Klebs is just west of the town and was farmed by generations of this German Texas family since 1854. The character after which the site is named in Elmer Kleb, who was the last resident of the land and who lived there on a section of the parcel until his death in 1999. He released the land to the public as a nature preserve as part of a deal to satisfy his tax debt to the state.

The preserve is a quiet place still, thick with oaks, cypress, and dense scrub. In fact, it’s hard to believe the place was ever a farm. The home where Elmer was born still stands, now accompanied by a visitor center and maintenance building.

While there, I sampled two new wild edibles – American Beautyberry and Barbados Cherry. The beautyberry was everywhere and in season, and it was a nice benefit of the long season and lush plant life in that part of Texas.

Etowah Indian Mounds | Cartersville, GA

Location: Etowah Indian Mounds near Cartersville, Georgia
Submitted By: Corey Beavers
Website: www.coreybeavers.com

October is here, and fall is the season when Georgia makes it up to you for it’s summers. Habitually, fall weather draws the family to one of our favorite nearby haunts, the Etowah Indian Mounds. Built by an ancient culture that predates the Creek and Cherokee, the mounds have endured for centuries and are one of the best preserved mound sites in the southeastern US. The history is captivating, but even with it set aside, the site is a beautiful place to sit along the Etowah River, stare across the miles toward Rome, or feel the constant breeze at the top of the chief’s mound.

It’s easy to imagine that the site of the mounds was once an ideal spot for a village and to picture all the activity that must have taken place there in the water of the Etowah. Enormous trees stand along the riverbank, trees whose days must reach back to a totally different time. Though I’ve yet to do it, it would be a good day to paddle the river to the mounds and stop there for lunch and a couple hours hanging in a hammock along the river. Hard to beat a lazy plan like that!

It’s quite rare that we get a picture of all five of us and that no one is hamming it up for the camera!

Talladega National Forest | Pinhoti Trail

Location: Alabama’s Talladega National Forest
Submitted By: Corey Beavers
Website: coreybeavers.com

One of my favorite aspects of backpacking is getting to introduce new enthusiasts to it. Over the years, I’ve had the privilege to introduce half a dozen young men to this worthwhile pursuit, and this trip was a long awaited opportunity to take my fourteen year old nephew and eighteen year old brother on their first and second backpacking trips respectively. Tackling a 24 hour Greyhound trip each way from and to his home in Houston, my brother and I laughed at the fact that he literally spent more time on the road than we did in the actual woods.

For this trip, we chose a section of the famed Pinhoti Trail, a trail that traverses a good chunk of Alabama before cutting northeast into Georgia. I’ve been gradually exploring west into Alabama in recent years, and I have been very surprised at what an overlooked place of beauty it is – particularly the northeast corner of the state. Our hiked portion of the trail was on a stretch known as “Section 10” where the trail passes through the Talladega National Forest. A place of contrasting woodland beauty, the trail passes through areas of both managed and un-managed forest. After miles spent in low, dense growth, the trail will suddenly lead up and out into airy, almost western looking, mountain forest. Up there, the grassy forest floor is interrupted only by straight dark pines, offering beautiful views and mentally surprising contrasts.

We stopped for a short while at an old cemetery and church tucked just off trail, Shoal Creek Baptist Church, to inspect the tombstones, some of which dated back to Civil War era, and wander through the open church. Few places could offer more of a contemplative setting, I think. A remote grave site provides such an abrupt opportunity to consider one’s own life, purpose, inevitable future, and held beliefs.

Our camping spot was on a hilltop of the peninsula that sticks out into Sweetwater Lake. Although usually plagued by character building hardships, this backpacking adventure was one of surprising peace, disrupted only briefly by our firsthand encounter with the creatures called “seed ticks“. Otherwise, beautiful weather, unbeatable temperatures, scenic vistas, and nearly complete solitude. Happily, my nephew has joined the ranks of enthusiastic backpackers, and I see more remote adventures in our future!