We started our trip in Rusk in order to inspect a 600-acre tract of land along the Angelina River that has been in John's family for over eighty years.
There are magnificent tall pine trees, hardwoods and the Bagley family hunting camp, shown below.
We took a long walk around the property on Thursday morning. The dogs wore their packs so we would have water bottles available. (They also usually stay closer to us because they know they are "working" when they are wearing their packs. You notice I said usually!) Here is a photo of them on our walk. (Notice that John is enforcing usually.)
Like the rest of the State, East Texas has been hard-hit by the drought. Cherokee County (where Rusk is located) normally receives 45 inches of rain per year. This year it has so far had only a little over 18 inches. Trees of all varieties have died, or their leaves have turned brown or fallen prematurely. Burn bans are in effect, and all outdoor fires are prohibited.
There was a serious forest fire in this area in September, but fortunately only about three acres of the family property were affected. (John says this is the first time there has been a forest fire on this property since the Bagley family has owned it.) This fire started on an adjacent property near another hunting camp, and before it was contained it had traveled for seven miles and burned over $7 million worth of timber. You can see the fire damage on the trees in this photo.
The adjacent property was more severely impacted, and when we were there a "salvage cut" was in progress. Because the trees were killed by the fire, they were being cut so that the forest can be replanted in the spring.
It was a sobering sight, and unfortunately this wasn't the first or the last evidence of fire damage that we've seen on this trip. We certainly won't complain about not being able to roast hotdogs or have a campfire when a stray spark can do such damage.