Saturday mornings are often for sleeping in, but on at least one Saturday, roll out of bed and head out to enjoy a perfect start to a Beaumont weekend. Here's how:
Catch the sunrise and early morning at Cattail Marsh in Tyrrell Park.
Did you know that this hidden Beaumont wetlands area along Hillebrandt and Willow Marsh Bayous is part of the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail? People come from all over Texas, the U.S. and even other countries to peer through binoculars and cameras at more than 300 species of birds....and it's right here in our backyard. Egrets, ducks, roseate spoonbills, pelicans, migratory birds and plenty of gators to see, too. You can't drive on the gravel roads on the levees around the Marsh - which is also a City of Beaumont wastewater reclamation project - but park at the Marsh entrance, walk through the small turnstile at the fence and enjoy a morning stroll or bike ride in the peaceful silence.
Expect to say, "Oooh, see that over there?" a lot! (Go into the Tyrrell Park entrance and keep to the right on the loop road; you'll see signs for Cattail Marsh on your right. Open sunrise to sunset daily.)
Hungry yet? Time for breakfast at the Farmers Market.
Hope you put a cooler and ice pack in the car, because you'll find all sorts of produce, meats, eggs, flowers, preserves, plants and other goodies at the Beaumont Farmers Market. The number and type of stalls varies depending on the time of year, but it's a great way to shop local from vendors like Gentz Cattle Company in Winnie (grass-fed beef and seasonings,) Dan the Egg Man and Dietz Honey. Look for the enormous breakfast burritos (maybe nobody will notice the cheesy eggy stuff running down your chin,) pastries and fresh coffee at Katharine & Co's mini-Airstream trailer parked at the Market.
(The Market runs from May through November, 8 a.m. To 10 a.m. at the Municipal Athletic Complex covered basketball court, 6455 College Street. Get there early, bring cash in small bills and maybe a reusable bag to carry things that don't need to go into a cooler.)
Don't browse too long; there's a boat to catch!
Head back down College Street from the Farmers Market towards downtown, until the road runs you right into tree-filled Riverfront Park on the Neches River. That's where you'll board the Cardinal for a two-hour tour with Neches River Adventures on the "Last Wild River" in East Texas. "It used to cost 3 cents a head to get your cattle across the Neches," said our guide Captain Spud, who was full of stories about things like cypress pecky rot and banana-lubricated boat-building (you'll have to take the tour to learn about it.)
The company works with the Big Thicket Association to help people appreciate the ecological diversity along the river; you'll see everything from enormous freighters at the Port of Beaumont - we saw a blue heron take off from one of the piers - to a moment of silence when the motor's stopped and the boat is allowed to sit quietly deep in the back of one of the bayous, old logging lanes still visible between the trees.
(Neches River Adventures runs public tours aboard the Cardinal most Saturdays through November. Tickets are $10 - $15 and reservations are recommended. Call (409) 651- 5326)