27 February, 2024

Enchanted rock state natural area - Hill country, Texas

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is 20 mins away from a town inspired by German heritage - Fredericksburg. This large granite dome is challenging to hike, but this hike gives beautiful 360 degree views of Texas hill country.


Enchanted Rock is 425 foot pink granite dome , also known as Batholith rock. Batholith means, a large mass of rock that forms when magma rises and solidifies. 


16710 Ranch Rd. 965Fredericksburg, TX 78624

Hours: 10 am to 10 pm (please check website for the latest hours)

Reservations are recommended through their site while visiting the park. Entrance fee is $8 per adults and children under 12 years are free to enter.

Legends about Enchanted Rock:

Tonkawa tribes used to be scared that some ghost fires flicker at the top of the dome and there are some frightening sounds coming from the stone.

Scientists later confirmed that dome glitters on clear nights after rain due to the reflection from collected water. The dome also groans and creaks as temperature changes.

Activities in Enchanted Rock State Park:


There are 11 miles of hiking trails here. 

Summit trail climbing to the top of the rock is the most popular one. This 0.8 mile challenging trail might take 45 mins to 1 hr. Take your time climbing and stopping in the middle to enjoy the 360 degree views. 

Please don't under estimate this trail. Carry enough water and any snacks. Plan to hike on a cloudy day or when it is not too hot. 

Echo canyon trail is 0.7 mile moderate to challenging trail where you can checkout the giant boulders and other exfoliation features of little rock. 

Rock Climbing:

This park offers rock climbing for enthusiasts. The rock climbers should check at park headquarters to get the park map and understand climbing rules. 

Stargazing :

Enchanted rock has many legends and mysteries. This is one of the best places for star gazing. This is designated as International Dark Sky park.

This page tracks real time sky darkness. This will help you to know the days with clear skies to observe. 

This park also offers camping, picnicking, wild life watching, interpretive exhibits and a park store. 

So, that's a good place to visit in Spring break if it's not too hot. You can also spend some time in Fredericksburg.  You can stop by Llano and visit museums. Also, if you have time, drive the Peach loop if you are interested to watch wild life. There are some observation points on the way. 

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Until next time,

21 February, 2024

A Quick Guide to visit Caddo Lake State Park in East Texas

 Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.

Caddo Lake State Park is located near Karnack in east Texas. It is quite remote location, but this state park has one of the largest flooded Big cypress tree forest. 

This is one of the largest natural lakes and swamp land. The Gigantic Bald Cypress trees adorned with grey Spanish moss reflecting on the water is a beautiful scenery. 

If you search for photos of this state park in Google, you will be awed with the serene, mystic feeling you get watching them. The reflections of trees in water, the twisting lake in Bayou, and the Wild life around draws many tourists here.

 But, to enjoy the beauty of the lake, you should rent a canoe/ Kayak or signup for the guided boat tours.

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Here is a quick guide to Caddo Lake State Park

How to Reach?

Caddo Lake State park is 2.5 hrs drive from Dallas and 45 mins from Shrevport, Lousiana. 

Where to Stay?

Marshall is a small town with many good options to stay. This is budget friendly. You can also rent cabins inside the state park which you have to reserve ahead or get campsites. 

Jefferson, which is 45 mins from Caddo lake is popular as the most haunted town. There are many vintage and historic bed and breakfasts to stay here.

Boat Tours and Canoe/ Kayak Rentals:

If your accommodation has kayaks already, it's great. If not, checkout Riverbend Outfitters or Johnsons Ranch Marina for rentals. 

If you are like me, who is not good at kayaking, you can try booking a tour with Richard. We contacted Rich through email and blocked our tour ahead of time. It was around $40 per adult and $20 per kid in 2023. 

The tour was amazing. We stayed in marshall and reached the Shady Glade Marina by 10am. The tour is 1.5 hours. Rich explained about the geography of land, how  the swamp was formed, how this part was covered in water and used for cargo transport, the trees, the wild life, movies that were filmed there and so many interesting facts.

Rich also does photography tours. This lake changes a lot with seasons. We visited in the late fall, still there is little orange on many trees. The bald cypress trees look mystic with Spanish moss on them. We saw many birds as well on our tour, but no alligators (kids little disappointed).

We would love to visit this place again in spring as we can see the whole lake filled with blooming lotuses everywhere. That would be a beautiful scene to watch.

In summers, it will become hot and humid. This might not be the best time to visit. 

They provide map to the people who kayak/ canoe. But these trails or pathways on water are not easy to follow using map. Be extra careful so that you don't get lost.


Caddo lake State Park has a few great trails along the lake and around. 

Caddo Forest trail is 0.7 mile moderate trail that goes through the woods. Don't forget to carry bug spray.

Pine ridge loop is 0.7 mile moderate hike on the hills. 

Saw mill pond:

One of the must see locations in Caddo lake state park is Saw mill pond. You can walk along the wooden broadwalk to view the lake, and wild life like turtles and birds from here. This is a good location for pictures. 

Activities around Caddo Lake:

Caddo lake national wildlife refuge is home to 400 yr old bald cypress trees, many bird, mammal and reptile species. They have hiking trails as well with 9 mile hike to Wildlife observation point. 

You can try ghost tours at Jefferson, which is around 30 mins from Caddo Lake. Enoch's stomp Vineyard and Winery is just 20 mins away from Jefferson downtown.

Broken bow is a nice tourist town with a lake, fishing and unique stores and homemade ice cream. 

Daingerfield State park is 1 hr away. It's beautiful to hike during the fall season. The fall foliage around the lake is great.

Tyler state park is also famous for fall season, which is around 2 hrs from Caddo lake.

Food near Caddo Lake state Park:

Shady Galde marina has a basic restaurant overslooking the lake, which is great. 

Big Pines lodge in Karnack is famous for cat fish and Jalapeno hushpuppies. Bayou landing serves cajun fare. Riverbend Restaurant on Caddo is great place to dine with lake views. 

McGarity's Restaurant and Saloon is a bar with lunch and dinner options at Jefferson, known for excellent service. 

So, that's about Caddo lake. See you in my next travelogue about Daingerfield State park.

Until next time,

12 February, 2024

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus - [Book Review]

 Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.

Book Details:

Title: Lessons in Chemistry

Author: Bonnie Garmus

Genre: Women Fiction, Literary fiction

Publisher: Doubleday

Print length: 400 pages

Source: A copy from local library


#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • GMA BOOK CLUB PICK • Meet Elizabeth Zott: “a gifted research chemist, absurdly self-assured and immune to social convention” (The Washington Post) in 1960s California whose career takes a detour when she becomes the unlikely star of a beloved TV cooking show. • STREAM ON APPLE TV+

This novel is “irresistible, satisfying and full of fuel” (The New York Times Book Review) and “witty, sometimes hilarious...the Catch-22 of early feminism” (Stephen King, via Twitter).

A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR: The New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, Oprah Daily, Entertainment Weekly, Newsweek

Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing as an average woman. But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute takes a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans; the lonely, brilliant, Nobel–prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with—of all things—her mind. True chemistry results.

But like science, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show Supper at Six. Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (“combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride”) proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn’t just teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo.

Laugh-out-loud funny, shrewdly observant, and studded with a dazzling cast of supporting characters, Lessons in Chemistry is as original and vibrant as its protagonist.

Purchase Link:


My Review:

This is the story of Ms. Elizabeth Zott, one of the very few women scientists / chemists in 1960s in California. It is interesting to read about women in that time period, their challenges to raise above patriarchy.

Ms. Zott revolts against all the societal norms of those days. While women studying and researching is rare in those days, they were not given importance in research field even though they prove to be worthy. It is like struggle at each step of her life. She overcomes it with a big of arrogance and sometimes, ignorance.

When Calvin Evans, a bright scientist becomes her partner, she sees the bright side of her life. She feels happy to having been considered as an equal to a man for the first time. But, Calvin dies leaving her pregnant. With just dog as her companion and with the help of her good neighbor Mrs.Harriet, she manages to raise her child Madeline.

After Calvin dies, she is fired from her job and she had to work in a TV cooking show to make ends meet. Her attitude, her knowledge in Chemistry make the show 'Supper at Six' unique and a hit. Will she get back to her research? Will her daughter Madeline dig about her father's past? What are those important things in Calvin's past that made him a great scientist? The details are in the climax.

What is great?

The freedom of expression and being highly opinionated for women in 1960s is not much heard of. So, when Ms. Zott expresses her opinions about being atheist,  her feminist ideas, her passion for chemistry, it is unbelievable and admirable. 

It takes courage to express yourselves when the whole world thinks you are wrong. I like that part in this book.

I like how a simple cooking show can inspire a lot of women. This book seems like written in 1960s with the thoughts of current generation. This might be one of the reasons why it became popular.

The narrative is good, and relatable. I loved the book cover and the title is very apt indeed.

What might have been great?

I couldn't understand Ms.Zott's ignorance or lack of awareness about pregnancy. Especially being a scientist, she should have known about this more than anyone. Those times during her pregnancy, doctor checkups and her labor - I cannot believe the way she takes it all easy.

I understand that Ms.Zott is straight forward and highly opinionated, which is fine. But, I couldn't imagine how she would have lived in such a society with that kind of attitude. I couldn't relate to such character really.

This is a great women's fiction and feminist novel. I would recommend this to all book lovers who love such fiction.

My Rating: 5/5

About the Author:

Bonnie Garmus is a copywriter and creative director who has worked for a wide range of clients, in the US and abroad, focusing primarily on technology, medicine, and education. She’s an open water swimmer, a rower, and mother to two pretty amazing daughters. Most recently from Seattle, she currently lives in London with her husband and her dog, 99.

Until next time,

05 February, 2024

Homecoming by Kate Morton - [Book review]

 Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.

Here comes the first review of the year 2024. Happy new Year!

Book Details:

Title: Homecoming

Author: Kate Morton

Genre: Mystery, thriller, fiction

Publisher: Mariner Books

Print length: 547 pages

Source: A copy from local library


Adelaide Hills, Christmas Eve, 1959: At the end of a scorching hot day, beside a creek on the grounds of the grand and mysterious mansion, a local delivery man makes a terrible discovery. A police investigation is called and the small town of Tambilla becomes embroiled in one of the most shocking and perplexing murder cases in the history of South Australia.

Sixty years later, Jess is a journalist in search of a story. Having lived and worked in London for almost twenty years, she now finds herself laid off from her full-time job and struggling to make ends meet. A phone call out of nowhere summons her back to Sydney, where her beloved grandmother, Nora, who raised Jess when her mother could not, has suffered a fall and been raced to the hospital.

Nora has always been a vibrant and strong presence: decisive, encouraging, young despite her years. When Jess visits her in the hospital, she is alarmed to find her grandmother frail and confused. It’s even more alarming to hear from Nora's housekeeper that Nora had been distracted in the weeks before her accident and had fallen on the steps to the attic—the one place Jess was forbidden from playing in when she was small.

At loose ends in Nora's house, Jess does some digging of her own. In Nora's bedroom, she discovers a true crime book, chronicling the police investigation into a long-buried tragedy: the Turner Family Tragedy of Christmas Eve, 1959. It is only when Jess skims through the book that she finds a shocking connection between her own family and this once-infamous crime—a crime that has never been resolved satisfactorily. And for a journalist without a story, a cold case might be the best distraction she can find…

An epic novel that spans generations, Homecoming asks what we would do for those we love, and how we protect the lies we tell. It explores the power of motherhood, the corrosive effects of tightly held secrets, and the healing nature of truth. Above all, it is a beguiling and immensely satisfying novel from one of the finest writers working today.

Purchase Link:


My Review:

This book starts with 2 parallel stories of different periods in Australia and then connects them cleverly. 
Isabel Turner plans a picnic to celebrate Christmas eve with her kids John, Matilda, Evie and the new born baby Thea. Unfortunately, they all show up dead by the pond. 

While police investigate and interview multiple people, they realize it might be due to poisoning, but they cannot find even a single evidence for it. Baby Thea disappears and her remains are found after 1 yr. 

Jess, a journalist in London, travels to her home town to visit her grandmother Nora after getting a phone call about her sickness. Jess tries to find out the reason which made Nora anxious before her fall. She gets to know from the housekeeper and others that she has been worried about something lately after receiving a letter from someone.

How Nora and Isabel are connected? What did Jess find out about her family history and an incident that changed Nora's life is the remaining story.

What is great?

The narrative is wonderful. It's immersive. The way the author reveals the secrets of each character is amazing. 

It's definitely a perfect thriller. Not like an on the edge thriller where incidents happen fast, but a slow burning thriller with unexpected events unfolding very nicely at the right time.

I enjoyed reading this book and it deserves all 5 stars.

My Rating: 5/5

About the Author:

KATE MORTON is an award-winning, New York Times and Sunday Times bestselling author. Her seven novels - The House at Riverton, The Forgotten Garden, The Distant Hours, The Secret Keeper, The Lake House, The Clockmaker's Daughter, and Homecoming - are published in over 45 countries, in 38 languages, and have all been number one bestsellers around the world.

Until next time,

02 February, 2024

The Perfect Day trip to Talimena Scenic byway

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.

Talimena National Scenic Byway is a 54 mile mountain drive in Ouachita National Forest. 

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Our Love for Scenic Drives:

We love scenic drives and we have covered most of the scenic drives in Colorado a few years ago. While Mt Evans Scenic Byway is amazing as the North America's highest paved road, Pikes Peak Scenic byway makes you see jaw-dropping scenery on the drive. 

The Million Dollar Highway is spectacular to drive in between the red mountains and beautiful views. The Skyline Drive in Canon City is the most underrated one. 

The Trail Ridge road in Rocky Mountains National park is really a pride of Colorado. Watching the mountain goats, and snow capped peaks on the way, it is quite dangerous as well at a few places without guard rails. These are other scenic drives in Colorado.

Ross Maxwell Scenic drive in BigBend makes you feel like you are driving through ancient untouched rough terrain. The Scenic drive in Capitol Reef cannot be matched to any scenery we have seen so far and the dirt road scenic drives - Capital Gorge and Grand Wash are once in a life time experience to drive. 

The US route 89 between Zion and Bryce Canyon is the most amazing road to drive. The breathtaking scenery of the majestic red rocks, tunnels and mountains leave us astonished at the beauty of the mother Earth.

The winding roads surrounded by mountains is always a treat to watch. Since we moved to Texas, Talimena scenic byway is nearer to us now. 

Talimena Scenic Byway:

Talimena Scenic byway got it's name by combining the starting and ending names of towns that it's connecting - Talihina, Oklahoma and Mena, Arkansas.

 Fall is the most popular time to visit and fall foliage peaks around End of October or first week of November.

How to Reach?

It can be reached in 3.5 hrs from Dallas, Tx (200 miles) or 3 hrs from Oklahoma City (180 miles).

You can check Rental Car options here.


We stayed in Mena, Arkansas as we couldn't get accommodation in Talihina, Oklahoma. 

Best Time to Visit?

Late October to Early November is the popular time to drive this road. The fall foliage is wonderful during that time. 

We visited a week late, still fall colors are good, but it would have been good to drive in the first week of November / last week of October.

Scenic Drive:

We stayed in Mena, Arkansas. We started our drive from Mena to Talihina through Arkansas highway 88 and Oklahoma state highway 1.

There are many scenic view points marked on the way to stop and enjoy the panoramic views. The drive is 54 miles long. Without stopping, It takes around 1hr 10 mins to drive.

There are 22 scenic vista points, but these are the best.

  • Grand view vista

  • Panorama Vista

  • Shawnee Vista

  • Sunset Point Vista

  • Queen Wilhelmina State Park

Rich Mountain Lookout tower:

It is not allowed to climb on the tower, but it's great to watch this fire tower (2681 ft) from nearer.

Rich Mountain lookout tower

Queen Wilhelmina State Park:

This is the top destination on Talimena Scenic drive. Once, it's known as 'Castle of the Sky', there is an old lodge built in 1898. The mountain views from the lodge are great and there are some hiking trails and the Lover's leap trail is one just mile long.

Mountains around Wilhelmina State park

There is a 2 story rock building - Wonder house, which is interesting to watch.

Wonder House


There is an old locomotive near the parking area.

The Heavener Runestone is located 30 mins north of scenic byway, where there are some mysterious characters carved by Viking Explorers. A fun side trip if you have time.

If you are into history, visit Horse thief springs and Pioneer cemetery.

The scenic drive ended at Talihina, OK. Here are some good restaurants near Talimena Scenic drive :

  • The Queens Restaurant inside the lodge at Queen Wilhelmina State Park
  • The Ouachitas
  • The Skyline Cafe

We drove to Caddo Lake State park after this scenic drive and visited Beavers bend state park on the way. Broken Bow is a beautiful bustling town on the way. Broken Bow lake and Beavers Bend state park near Broken Bow are a nice stop.

Will see you on my next travelogues covering Caddo Lake state park, Beavers Bend state park and Daingerfield State park.

Until next time,

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