Friday, May 11, 2012

Denison TX to Fort Griffin TX

Thursday, May 10, 2012

We left the campground about 9 and made a quick stop at the Texas Welcome Center about 3 miles back – then we headed south following the Butterfield Trail as Ben had marked it on a Texas Topographic Map so it would show the smaller county roads!  You really do get dependent on the GPS and for the next 900 miles across TX we are going to follow somewhat closely the route of the Overland Mail Route as defined in the A C Green’s Book – 900 Miles on the Butterfield Trail. After one day of trying to negotiate the topo map, a regular TX travel book, and the Butterfield Trail highlights booklet – I am reading ahead tonight and making a few notes!
Few Bluebonnets at the Welcome Center - they are nearly gone along the roads
Our travels took us primarily west and a little south through Sherman, Whitesboro, and Gainesville.  Whitesboro had some interesting Civil War history with over 40 area residents being hung for their activities as Union sympathizers.  The Stagecoach stop here was at the ranch of the Diamond Brothers. The location is marked with a large memorial. 
Daimond Ranch was a Butterfield Stop

 The downtown areas of these small towns probably have not changed a lot and most of them had a “bypass” which we did not usually take so we could get the flavor of the area. This area of Texas is known for horse farms and there are many – beautiful farms and beautiful horses in the fields. 

Noon time brought us to Decatur where we drove around courthouse square. Their courthouse was very interesting and the businesses were bustling all around the square. 

Unique Courthouse in Decatur TX
 We had lunch at the Peppertree Diner.  Jane had an excellent beef taco salad. It actually had sliced grilled skirt steak in it!  Pinto beans, the steak, lettuce, tomato, in a shell with salsa and sour cream. I made the cook’s day when I took a photo of the salad.  Ben had a Sausage Sami – it was made from Emerich Sausage grilled with sauerkraut and mustard. He says it was very good.  The cases were filled with pie so we could not pass that up either.  One waitress, one cook, and a kitchen helper seemed to be taking care of everyone quite well…the place was full the entire time we were there. 
Jane's lunch
 Rosston was the next town and we tried to cut across a “Farm to Market” or numbered county road to follow the route in the book. About 50 feet down the small lane was a closed gate so we backed out and went to plan B…

We passed by the LBJ National Grasslands but never did find a road leading into the park and 3G was in and out of service so no way to check out a website. Right outside Decatur we crossed the Trinity River – if you have read Texas by James Mitchner you will recognize these rivers that are so important to Texas History. This area was also on the Chisholm Trail – so obviously a busy place in days gone by.
The next town of any size was Bridgeport. This community more than most has embraced their history on the Overland Mail (Butterfield) Trail. They have a beautiful sign as you enter the town and a Visitor Center that has a replica of one of the stages used by Butterfield. They had an area of the floor painted the size of the inside of a coach- hard to imagine 6 or more people in that space for long distances!
Jacksboro was next and the story for this town is they really wanted a stagecoach stop in their town. They were promised a stop if they built the 3-4 miles of road.  They did this but the stage kept taking the old road.  One night the town’s menfolk closed the old road with huge boulders. The next day the stage started coming to Jacksboro on their new road! 

Ben and Butterfield Stage in Bridgeport Visitor Center
 West of Jacksboro was Fort Belknap – one of the line of forts along the western frontier – the maps showed a campground here but when we arrived it was deserted.  We did get a good photo of the Sprinter coming back out of the deserted compound.   
Deserted Fort Belknap
 We crossed the next major river – the Brazos and headed further west.  We decided to try for Fort Griffin also noted as a campground about 35 miles further west.  Jane was skeptical as it was not listed in the TX State Parks book – but we thought the worst case would be we drive on to Amarillo where we knew there was a KOA campground. 

Beautiful landscapes
The land is rolling farmland with wheat, cattle, and wide expanses of mesquite. We get the feel of wide open spaces when we top a hill and can see for miles and miles.  We have had a very peaceful drive across some beautiful country and totally missed Dallas, Fort Worth, and all the cities along the interstate!

Right where it was supposed to be was Fort Griffin and it did have a nice campground – again with very few campers. In the loop we are in there are no campers and it looks like maybe 5 in the loop about ½ mile away that caters to larger campers with sewer connections.  We set up camp and settled in just as a soft rain began.  After cooking dinner we are spending our first night without any internet or TV…Ben came prepared with movies and some of his favorite TV shows on a hard drive….

It is still raining but we are snug and dry in the Sprinter.  Jane is writing the blog and downloading her photos. Ben is watching a movie.  Last trip I learned a hard lesson by not downloading and naming photos each night. It was a terrible job if I got behind a few days. First night we get to internet then it is easy to upload what I have kept up each night… Off to read and sleep in this gentle rain – sounds like it will be early to bed for this gal tonight!

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