Walk into the heart of Big Slough Wilderness and give your eyes a moment or two to adjust. This is a shadowy world of Spanish moss draped from sweet gum limbs that reach out over a river the color of weak tea. This is East Texas, the "other" Texas, as dark and moist as Big Bend is dry.
The 20-mile 4Cs Trail, like others in Big Slough's 25-mile system, introduces you to gentle hills, wet valleys, Indian burial mounds, and orchids flowering beneath ancient oaks. Dogwood blossoms shimmer in the soft East Texas moonlight, and the Neches River winds as slowly as an alligator on the prowl. If you'd rather float than tote your load, try the 8-mile canoe path on the Neches.
Prepare for humidity and warm weather in spring and fall, and steer clear of this place during the summer swelter. Ready your senses for the musky scent of dark earth and a background beat of insect song that's decidedly more Cajun waltz than cowboy two-step.
Where: 144 miles southeast of Dallas. Big Slough Wilderness is in Davy Crockett National Forest. The Neches trailhead providing access to the Big Slough is 15 miles southwest of Alto off US 21 on Forest Service Road 511A.
Maps: Realms of Beauty, A Guide to the Wilderness Areas of East Texas ($14.95, University of Texas Press, 512-471-4034) contains maps and trail descriptions.
Trail Info: Davy Crockett National Forest Ranger Office, (409) 655-2299.