In April before our trip to Germany, we went on a short getaway to a log cabin in east Texas at the Etheridge Farm Bed & Breakfast in Kountze, which is located in the Big Thicket National Preserve north of Beaumont. It sounded like a good idea when we made the arrangements to meet friends who were neighbors when we used to live in the Dallas area. We made the reservations and agreed to meet there and stay for three nights.
We stopped for lunch in Brenham, which is about halfway between Austin and Houston on US 290. We ate at Yumm! Sweets & Eats right on the square across from the courthouse, which was a nice place to stop, and my soup and sandwich was very good. On the way to the restroom on the sweet shop side of the place, I spotted this bicycle all lit up with white lights and had to take a photo, which really turned out pretty good.
While we were finishing our lunch, we noticed there was a guy across the street by the courthouse cleaning up stuff on the grounds, but he was dressed in orange stripes with a guard nearby that had a gun in a holster. Then we realized that they must be having the prisoners in the jail doing some work in the community.
Then a little later a county sheriff pulls up right in front of the window where we were sitting. He got out of his car and walked around the back to the rear door where he let out another man who was dressed in grey and black strips with handcuffs holding his wrists together. The sheriff escorted across the street over to the courthouse, so I assume that he must have been transported from a county facility to appear in court for a trial.
Usually there are lots of wild flowers around the Brenham area, but we didn’t get any photos this time since we were trying to meet out friends and didn’t want to linger too long. Also, it was somewhat overcast that day so the photos might not have turned out that good anyway.
Brenham Ice Cream is also located there and that’s a fun place to stop. We’ve taken the tour in the past, which was very interesting. Since they recently have had some issues with listeria contamination that is now being addressed, we decided not to get any ice cream this time.
I have included some photos that I took of our litle Cabin on Blueberry Hill. It’s named that because you can pick your own blueberries there on their farm, and in fact there were a bunch of blueberry shrubs growing just to the left side of the cabin.
There was a covered front porch with a swing at the end. Also, we noticed there were carpenter bees flying around and into holes they had burrowed into the wood beams above, and we were so sure about them although the owner told us that they will not bother us (and they really didn’t).
There was a cute little sign for the Cabin on Blueberry Hill, along with the obligatory Texas star hanging on the wall of the porch next to the front door. The overhead light was helpful too since it gets very dark out there at night, and they also provided some flashlights as well as if we needed to get around at night. For example, we had dinner in the main farm house the first night and needed to find out way back to the cabin after dark. Although they had a string of lights across the trees leading to our cabin, it was helpful to see where you were stepping too. You can see how they applied the logs over the former barn so it wasn’t really an original log cabin, but an adapted barn with a log veneer siding. They had lots of old stuff (“antiques”) throughout the cabin, including these things on the porch.
However, I don’t think the oil lamps or lanterns actually had wicks so they didn’t work. But they did leave bug spray which was helpful because there are lots of mosquitoes in this part of Texas since it’s more humid, and there are ponds nearby and quite a bit of standing water on the farm in places.
There were two bedrooms, but they were not enclosed like I had imagined. They were open at the top and there was only a hemp weave cloth covering the entry (no door) that you could criss-cross to cover it at least. But you could hear everything in the cabin (like our friends in the other bedroom). Our room had two twin beds so our friends could have the other one with the king bed (because they’re larger than us).
Inside the front door, there were several storage cabinets and entry way with steps down into the main living area. The bedrooms are the left and right. Also there was a little writeup about “The Cabin on Blueberry Hill” on the side wall.
The owner told us that this cabin used to be a barn, and it was converted into a log cabin. The chickens were where the bathroom is now on the left side. The horses were in the kitchen area where there was a small refrigerator, microwave, sink, and stocked cabinet with utensils and supplies.
There were several chairs available for sitting in the main part of the living area, with a dinky 12″ TV available with only local channels. Another negative was the lack of WiFi in the cabin or even a cell-phone signal which was frustrating. If you went outside you could get access to a 4G data network for internet as well as cell phone, but not inside. However, I figured out I could get a cell signal near the window in the bathroom so I setup a personal hotspot on my iPhone which provided me a temporary WiFi network inside the cabin which I used from my Mac laptop to access the internet.
The owner had several dogs that occasionally roamed the property. One of them apparently likes to catch rabbits, and we spotted some guts along the path near the cabin that one of the workers told us was a rabbit that the dog must have caught and ate the rest. We asked him if he could please clean it up so we wouldn’t have to look at it going to/from breakfast in the main house, which he did for us. Also, there was a cute little white dog that kept coming around, especially at happy hour in the evening, looking for attention (and handouts). Apparently, he belonged to a neighbor but comes over here often (we saw him every day). We had to give him some Cheetos.
We went hiking on several trails in the Big Thicket which was nearby and scattered all over the area in various sections. There were large pine trees with lots of pine cones on the trails, as well as pretty wild flowers like the thistle.
Big Thicket has four carnivorous plants which eat insects – pitcher plants, sundews, bladderworts, and butterworts. Of particular interest, we were interested to see the pitcher plants and we saw many of them on the Pitcher Plant Trail. We also walked the Sundew Trail but did not notice any sundew plants.
Pitcher plants are passive plants that do not use movement in the capture and digestion of insects. They capture insects by luring them to the mouth of the trap with color, nectar, and/or scent. After an insect lands on the lip of the flower and begins to enter the mouth, it comes to a waxy inner surface that causes it to slide down the funnel. Downward pointing hairs lining the lower portion impede their ability to climb back out of the plant’s trap. The bottom of the pitcher is filled with a fluid that drowns them and then because it contains digestive enzymes, decomposes the proteins and soft body parts so that it can be absorbed into the plant for nutrition. Only the insect’s exoskeleton remains.
Each morning we enjoyed a lovely home-cooked country breakfast in the lodge dining room that was prepared by the owner, Ann Ethridge, along with guests who were staying in other cabins. Also, we chose to have dinner the first evening as well, and it was very good also. The second night we drove down to Beaumont where there were lots of choices for dinner. She was very hospitable and friendly, and runs the place herself with some additional help for maintenance, etc.. Although she is in her 80’s, she seems quite active and handles everything quite well since her husband passed away several years ago.
We were planning to play golf at a course nearby, but unfortunately we went back home a day early because our friend was having some medical issues. Almost immediately after we arrived, he started having problems with strong allergy-like symptoms which caused him breathing problems and discomfort. It became even worse overnight and he was not able to sleep much. In fact, the second night he spent most of it in the recliner in the living room since it was worse lying down. He uses a CPAP machine to help him sleep during the night because of his sleep apnea, but because his nose was so stopped up he could barely breathe when it was on. Also he had heart bypass surgery in the past and takes pills for his heart as well as anti-depression medications, but he forgot to bring them along with him on the trip.
Because the rooms were not completely enclosed, his breathing problems (and related complaints) prevented us from having a peaceful night as well since it was interrupted many times because of his situation. He was convinced that there was something in the cabin that was causing it, although we didn’t have any problems. So our friends decided they wanted to go back home earlier than planned, and we also decided to leave as well since we had intended to spend the time with them. The owner was very understanding and didn’t even charge us for the extra day. When he returned home, his symptoms seemed to disappear, so we don’t really know what caused him to have the problems that he did. Anyway our visit was shorter than planned.
Although it was nice to see them, we’re starting to realize that traveling with them might not work out. Also they have physical limitations that even makes walking somewhat difficult, and we really like to be active, so we can’t enjoy many things with them anyway. We have tried quite a few getaways with them in the past several years, but each time there have been some issues because of their limitations. After each trip we have realized that it might not have been a good idea, but then we have tried it again with similar results. But this time, we couldn’t even sleep very well ourselves because of their breathing noises, night conversations, and depressed mood.