|Published Mar/Apr 2006
Left: Bluebonnets cover the fields around Athens, Texas, in early spring. Betty Abendroth, AB Graphics photo
Blueberries, bluebirds and bluebonnets add vibrant color in the springtime to northeast Texas, where you’ll find plenty of
attractions and museums.
By Rona Distenfeld
|ou catch a glimpse of bright blue through the trees. Then another. Then you spot the birdhouse, a neat wooden box with a pitched roof. This is Keith Kridler’s Bluebird Trail in Mount Pleasant, Texas.
Bluebirds are the first sign of spring color you’ll find here from late February through May. A map of the trail is available through the Mount Pleasant/Titus County Chamber of Commerce. Spend a morning driving between Mount Pleasant, Pittsburg and Mount Vernon in northeast Texas to see colorful pastures and many signs of spring.
Add to your palette of primary colors with 1 million yellow daffodils at Sleepy Hollow Daffodils, also in Mount Pleasant. This amazing showcase of more than 700 varieties is the largest daffodil trail garden in Texas. Peak bloom time is late-February to mid-April.
In addition to offering glorious spring color, this area also is lake country. Try fishing for largemouth bass, stripers, crappie, bream and catfish in Lake Welsh, Lake Monticello and Lake Cypress Springs. No fishing permit is necessary when fishing at Lake Bob Sandlin State Park, and you’ll also find an abundance of beautiful wildflowers that are in bloom.
John Wayne fans will love the Legends and Lawless Museum in Mount Pleasant. In addition to seeing exhibits about the heroes and villains of the Old West, visitors can browse through old clippings, photos, movies and memorabilia about “the Duke.”
After a hearty dinner at Bodacious Bar-B-Q, music fans can join the locals for a Saturday night at the Pleasant Jamboree. You’ll see a diverse line-up of talentand maybe a future star (Lee Ann Rimes used to sing here).
Plane and train enthusiasts come together at the Northeast Texas Rural Heritage Depot and Museum in Pittsburg. The collection includes a flying machine built in 1902, a telegraph station and an 1890s steam engine. Other train memorabilia, from photos to station orders, will delight train buffs.
At the end of the day, head to The Gatherings in Cookville just northeast of Mount Pleasant. This charming, private carriage house is a full apartment that sleeps four. Join your hosts, Rex and Patsy Lamb, for a delicious full breakfast with homemade treats, or have it delivered to your door. Then spend some time just sitting in the bench swing under the pecan tree enjoying the quiet.
From the biblical garden at the Kavanaugh United Methodist Church to the literary garden at the public library, Greenville celebrates flowers. Join the annual Master Gardener’s Tour to view private gardens usually closed to the public, or drive down Park Street and view the blooms fronting the beautiful historic homes. There’s always something blooming in the Heritage Garden near the courthouse, too.
Just outside of town, the Mathew’s Prairie Nature Preserve is 100 acres of never-plowed land. This is a haven for wildflowers of all types. The preserve is adjacent to the Hunt County Extension office.
Dairy Manor is your home here for a pampered retreat. This beautiful Southern colonial house is a favorite wedding spot, and the four bedrooms offer luxurious comfort. Breakfast is a gourmet treatyou’ll see why so many brides, businesses and private parties hold catered events here.
Blueberries thrive in the sandy soil around Athens, Texas, and so do the bluebonnets and other wildflowers. Spring dogwoods, azaleas, Indian paintbrush and countless other blooms are a prelude to June, when the first ripe blueberries are ready to pick.
There are five berry farms in the area, but the berries at Echo Springs Farm are among the biggest, sweetest and firmest you’ll find. According to Texas A&M, their unique flavor comes from the underground springs used to irrigate the bushes. Stop by and fill a bucket (or several) and taste for yourself.
A trip to the square serves up more taste treats. After lunching on the tasty wraps, pasta and sandwiches at Pendulum, be sure to visit New York, Texas, Cheesecake Co. for dessert. One bite and you’ll see why they ship their cheesecake all over the country.
But there’s more to do here than eat. Spring color abounds at the East Texas Arboretum and Botanical Society’s 100 acres of pasture, marsh and swampland. Shady walking trails make it easy to see it all.
Four miles east of town, the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center is home to the freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame and museum. Visitors also can view exhibits of freshwater fish found in Texas, practice casting and fish for catfish or trout.
Stay in one of the private cabins at Embracing Acres and you can put all that practice to the test on their private, stocked lake. Or walk the trails through their woods and just enjoy the beauty of spring in northeast Texas.
Rona Distenfeld is a new contributor from Austin, Texas
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