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Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Trip to Shangri La

Dry Cypress Swamp View
 Wednesday was a day that started at the car dealership to fix a recall on my car and ended up in Shangri La - Shangri La Botantical Gardens and Nature Center. I had to figure how to get my car to the dealership - about thirty-five miles away from where I live.  I invited my friend, Natalie, to visit me and spend the day in Beaumont, Texas. She immediately agreed and said she had been wanting to visit a few places there.  I let her pick the places, with the agreement that she would first collect me from the dealership where I would take my car.

So last Tuesday evening she, her daughter, Ellen, her dog Zootie, and her cat, Angie, that acts like a dog, and is a great traveler, all arrived at my trailer. She had brought the cat so she could set off bombs in the house to kill an infestation of ticks.

Next morning, I left very early, and then Natalie and Ellen collected me from the dealership a few hours after I arrived.  We found Shangri La was actually in Orange, Texas, another seventeen miles or so, so we set out.  We weren't expecting anything much and were surprised to find a huge, beautifully landscaped parking lot. Then we took the path through the woods to the main buildings and were awed at their beauty.  The first building was a children's nature center and it had a pond in front of it with quite large native fish in the clear water.

One of the fish in the pond in front of the Children's Nature Center
The grounds are adjacent to Adams Bayou, a stream I've been meaning to paddle for a couple of decades. We found we could take a boat ride on the bayou that would leave in a few minutes, so we bought our tickets and went to find the landing. Beauty was all around. The main flowers blooming were Texas Star Hibiscus and Spider Lillies.


Texas Star Habiscus

Spider Lillies

There was a great little nature explorium that we checked out, along with a horde of kids on a field trip. Soon it was time to meet our guide and learn about the bayou, the grounds, and the educational "rooms" that were along the bayou.


On the boat listening to our guide

One of the many banana spiders we saw




Most of the buildings we saw looked brand new. We learned that they were. The place took heavy damage from Hurricane Rita and some damage from Ike.  I think some fifty thousand trees had been destroyed by Rita and Ike. The foundation  brought in a saw mill and made the lumber to rebuild.  The buildings are now mostly out of cypress and are really beautiful and need no finish on them.  The gardens are now mostly in the sun and I saw many understory plants burning up.

 One of my favorite things on the boat trip was getting to learn the difference between pond cypress and bald cypress. Then we were amazed at the champion pond cypress tree we got to meet.


Champion Pond Cypress - some 1200 years old
 We really enjoyed the trip but were starving when we got back on land,  so ate a lovely lunch of sandwiches before starting to explore the gardens and the rookery.  The gardens consisted of extensive grouonds, surrounded by small garden rooms containing large art pieces and  were tended by various garden clubs.  There was also a wonderful vegetable/flower garden in raised beds and several greenhouses containing orchids, bromeliads, and other tropical plants.

We spent several minutes just enjoying the  bench under the gazebo out in the middle of the large pond where the atmosphere was all shady peace. We finished by walking to the rookery and enjoying the few great egrets, cattle egrets and roseate spoonbills that were still nesting. Even with the heat, we had a wonderful four hours there.

Swamp View

Bormeliad
Pot People sitting in the vegetable garden
Natalie with cestrum and bells at the beginning of the botantical garden

Natalie and Ellen in the Gardens

Formal Gardens

Pond and Gazebo

Another view of garden

Baby Roseate Spoonbills in the rookery


This is a marvelous place and deserving of more visits.