Everything started with a destination considered “boring” by many people (including myself), Dallas, the texan capital of cowboys and country movies. Before the flight, I am throwing careless a pair of jeans and a tshirt in my suitcase ready to enjoy the famous ribs served by the room service and “explore” one of the Walmart supermarkets across the hotel.
My plans takes an unexpected turn, when one of my colleagues, Carlotta suggest a road trip to an wild, uncertain lake, located in eastern Texas, 5 miles away from another famous state, Louisiana.
At the end of the day, I ended up having one of the best time in U.S, a life time experience and a story worth to be shared. Not bad at all!!
But let me take you into it step by step:
Plan the trip, rent a car, ready for fun
We met in the Intercontinental hotel lobby at 7 am, ready to plan the day ahead. Two of us more interested in science rather than nature decided to pay a visit to Nasa space center in Huston while the other three including myself we kept our interest in the Planet Earth which has so much more beautiful things yet to be discovered.
Jeff Larsen, one of the employee of the Enterprise car rent is on his way to the hotel with a great offer for us: A black Dodge (american traditional car) for only 50 $ per day. The car is fitted with a GPS (essential when you are exploring a new destination), a large truck (for girls photoshoot) and lot of fun guaranteed.
Jeff didn’t mention thought what type of gasoline this American monster likes to be fed and our quick stop to the Gas station is extended for more than half an hour, tying to figure out the refueling procedure. My attempt of calling Jeff fails unsuccessfully as I don’t have the US country code required by my roaming plan while locals are watching me surprised having no idea what am I talking about. In the end of the day they live in the best country of the world, why they would require to memorize such details? The cashier borrows us the landline telephone and we manage to get in touch with Jeff without a country code. Ufff what a relief!!!
After this struggle we deserve an energy boost and what can be better than a texan breakfast filled with sugar and calories? Dunkin donuts, Denny’s, Wendy’s and few other american fast foods operates hapilly together under the same roof, attracting their costumers with the smell of traditional fries and burgers. Beside that its a good opportunity to make some texan friends, being them even a little bit “stoned”.
A short coffee break on the rocking chairs and we fit perfectly in the texas scene, totally prepared for what is yet to come.
Heavenly landscapes and 3 hours drive with pleasant music and great company until the GPS announce the entrance to the Caddo lake state park, our final destination. The travel brochures advertise the park as having a “hidden” entrance but I have to admit that we are totally lost in this green paradise looking for the welcome gate. We stop for a while, trying to establish some “human” contact but the place looks like one of the ghost towns so famous in US. Few ranches beautifuly aligned along an adjacent street could be our only chance of getting some information but who is brave enough to knock on their door? Its well known that americans make use of the legal fire arms whenever an “invader” dares to step on their property. We are just paceful cabin crew in search of adventure but try to tell that to a texan country man who haven’t seen a tourists on these lands for generations.
Caddo lake and the Uncertain town
Finally we figure out the park entrance and we imortalize this moment of glory with few girly pictures.
We continue our drive towards the park center information where we pay the visit fee and make the necessary arrangements for renting a canoe. 2 flags are waving proudly in front of the entrance: one is obviously the U.S flag while the second one, so similar with the Chile flag is aparently the texan ensign.
The middle age lady is sharing robotic some useful information about the place and after more than 15 minutes of free speack I interrup her monolog inquiering about something highly more important: the crocodiles. While doing my research I came across to some articles relating crocodile encounters and I was one step away of canceling the whole trip.
The lady is raising my moral instantly saying that I have nothing to worry about: “We don’t have crocodiles on this parts of the country” (I exhale relaxed)…”we have aligators” (I hold my breath trying not to scream of panic).
In the end, why shall I be afraid of those tiny innocent creatures which can reach up to 453 kg and 4.5 meters (15 feet)? They don’t have a special preference for the human meat and rarely attack people unless they feel in danger.
After we fill in some informations regarding the home adress and P.O box (my colleagues thinks this information is required in case we decide to sail to Abu dhabi with the rented canoe while I am certain that our bodies will be wraped and sent to the provided address in case of aligators attack), we pay the fee for 2 hours lake sail (20$) and we receive the key number 10 used to unlock our canoe and the life jackets included in the price.
The view is stunning and I am in doubt eighter I am still on Earth or a spaceship sent by my colleagues from Nasa flown me outer space, on Pandora planet (Avatar movie).
Soon, my lovely friends will remind me that whatever this place is, the law of gravitation still applies and a wrong move might flip the tiny canoe on the water, offeeing us the inedite experience of swimming with the aligators…free of charge.
I decided to wait for them on the dock after a little bit less than 30 minutes floating in uncertain waters, far away from my crocodile buddies. Muddy and wet I try my best to refresh myself with some “boiled” water from the car parked close by the lake and get some rest on one of the canoe safely anchored on the shore.
New friends are coming along: some of them noisy and restless, others old and (re)tired.
This is how I met G. the park caretaker, a man in his 60s, the time putting its mark on his completely white hair and beard but leaving untouched a pair of blue shiny eyes and two dimples on his cheek. From him I found out that Caddo is named after the Native americans (Caddoans) who lived here until their expulsion in the 19th century. Proudly, G. explains me that the region is populated by unique cypress trees drapped with Spanish moss which is unlikely to be found anywhere in the world.
G. is here for his last patrol and takes the opportunity to say Goodbye to the place which has been his home for years. He is ending a long career in the nature, feeling sad but peaceful.
Carlotta and Shiraj have finally end their adventure on the lake, coming back with some SF stories about their encounters with the aligators meant to scare me even more.
We all agree about one thing essential for survival in this moment: fresh, cold water.
The road to Uncertain
Outside of the park a signage indicates the Uncertain, 3 miles. Intrigued by the name we follow the street ignoring the opposite direction which supposed to take us back to the hotel. A creppy gas station appears on the way and we don’t think twice before pulling the break, mesmerized by the big letter printed on the cooler: ICE
Luckly we escape alive and refreshed with some drinks without drawing the attention of the “bad guys” who wanders the city sometimes. I keep wondering how the native vampires of my country managed to land in US with just a pair o wings of themselves.
Not far away is located the Johnson’s Ranch Marina, the oldest guest house in town, which offers a panoramic view over the lake, sports activities, funny banners and it is run by one of the coolest american I ever had the chance to meet: Billy Carter and his wife Dottie.
More uncertain things to share
As we are about to find out, Uncertain is a small city in Texas with a total surface of 1.3 km square and only 100 habitants which not surprisingly they know each other well. Hosting a foreign tourist on these lands is not very common, fact which determine Billy and the squad to greet us warmly and do their best to offer us a full texan experience in our short stay.
More than that, Billy offer us a free ride with the motor boat on the lake just because “he like us very much”. I hesitate in the beginning, afraid of a potential encounter with my favorite reptiles but I feel ashamed to refuse Billy’s kind offer, jumping ASAP in one of the rotating chairs fitted on the boat. What we are about to witness is depicted from the Twilight movie or other fantasy story, which can’t be fully described in words.
What seems to be a beautiful walk in the park actualy represent the locals nightmare, a fast spreading weed which threaten to kill the life below the surface. It might look picturesque for the tourists but in reality the aquatic fern is wasting oxygen so essential for the fish survival and other creatures living on the lake (turtles, storks, egrets).
Talking about fish…once I am back to shore my new teens friends are teaching me the first lesson about how to catch a pray. It isn’t my lucky day though, few fish slyly slipping from my rod taking with them the small treats that was supposed to fool them into death.
Billy calls us inside for a chill beer and a quick chat. If we had the wrong idea that this place is long forgotten by the world, now its time to learn the truth. Johnson’s ranch and Caddo lake are often visited by National geograpich and Discovery chanel and few of the Uncertain residents were even actors in a movie with the same name: Uncertain
You might think that locals life spins arround the lake and Johnson’s ranch but the movie shows a different side of the story. Some people with criminal record left Lousiana behind, finding refuge in this heavenly place were the police dont really care about their past. What happens next? Guns and fire.
One thing is Certain though: it is here were I met the most kind and warm people in U.S and I won’t think twice before coming back.
More uncertain things to share?
One of Billy friend’s, Carter, is still driving this old generation Ford. No idea how old it is but surprisingly is still functional and… quiet cool. Anyone interested in a ride?
Most of us live on top of an oil bag covered with sand (UAE) but did you ever imagine that oil may be found beneath a lake? Caddo lake is rich in oil and while this gas station is fed directly from the soil, the tree is soaking in the same product which threaten to destroy the fragile ecosystem of the lake. No wonder why smoking is not allowed.
We are ready to go but not before of hugging our new friends and making them a promiss: the world will know about their story.