The Shack Burger Resort in Cypress, Texas

The Shack Burger Resort in Cypress, TX

I occasionally write about unique eateries that I come across in my travels.  In the past I have written about Hillbilly Hot Dogs in Lesage, WV (see link), Voodoo Doughnut in Portland, OR (see link), Lambert’s Cafe – the Home of Throwed Rolls in Sykston, MO (see link), the Wigwam in Ravenna, KY (see link), Fat Smitty’s Burgers in Port Townsend, WA (see link) and dozens of other unique places.  Last week (Feb.  8, 2017) we were introduced to another fabulous place called The Shack Burger Resort in Cypress, TX.  Much like Fat Smitty’s in Washington or Hillbilly Hot Dogs in West Virginia, this is a quirky themed eatery (or in this case, a resort…).

The Shack Burger Resort storefront – Texas style fun
Outdoor eating area at The Shack
The Shack
The Shack Road Sign
The Shack Playground

The place is huge and includes a giant playground for the kids, which includes two old school buses and more. Funky art and rustic decor  surround the resort.  Its setting in an almost rural area of Houston makes it even more fun.

The Shack Bus – one of two
Dino accompanies granddaughter in play area at the shack
Awesome burgers at The Shack – this one is the Dang Dang with their Dang Dang Sauce

Of course, decor and quirkiness are a great draw, but if the food is so so, one may not want to return.  Not the case at The Shack.  Their burgers are huge, flavorful and there is a great variety to choose from.  For those that like to imbibe, there is also a full bar.  And their Fried Pickle Chips are to die for!

The Shack Menu
Restrooms this way

As I noted above, the place is quirky.  For instance, the Men’s Restroom is totally quirky/rustic.  A really nice touch…

The Men’s Room had wooden Saloon Doors for the stalls and an old rustic sink for washing hands.  There was art on the doors and on the walls.  No themes….just quirky all the way!!

Men’s Stall Door in restroom
The Rustic Sink in the Men’s Room
Restroom Wall Decor in Men’s Room at The Shack
The other stall door in the Men’s Room
A nice 70s style mural painted on the wall outside the restrooms

Everywhere you look there was fun art and unique kitsch.  Here are a few more shots of this fun place.  Definitely worth a visit if in the Houston area.

A painted trailer in the front yard of the lot
Grandkid fun in an old bathtub and by an old truck
A portion of a wall mural on the indoor dining section of The Shack
One of many offbeat random paintings to be found on wood, fences, beams and doors at the Shack
A nice place for R & R at front of The Shack
Have a seat
Wall Art at The Shack
Painted Fences and Pink Flamingos
A bottle cap adorned arm rest on one of the couches
Selfie Fun at the Shack
Cowboy Stop Sign at the Shack
More outdoor seating
The Shack



Uncertain Revisited: A Tour of Caddo Lake

It was a few years ago when I first visited Uncertain, TX (You can see my March 2012 Post here.).  As a matter fact, it was on a cold day in February 2012 when I stopped by to see it for my first time. The real draw for me initially, was the name of the town, but the bigger draw ended up being the beautiful swamp-like setting of Caddo Lake.

This past weekend (Feb. 10, 2017) I had an opportunity again to visit this beautiful setting, this time with my daughter and her three children. Unlike my visit to Uncertain before, we had bigger sights set on seeing Caddo Lake and some of the swamp.

Our guide, Aaron Applebaum with Mystique Tours
Hanging with Aaron on our Swamp Tour

Upon arrival, we noticed that there was a group of people in a boat taking a tour of the lake and that looked very appealing. We continued driving around until we got to the main dock area and the tour had just arrived back and we were able to talk to the guy that ran the tour on the boat, Aaron Applebaum (see more at on their Facebook Page.).

A scene from Bald Cypress Swamp in Caddo Lake
Caddo Lake

Now, I am not one that usually will spend $25 per adult for any kind of thing as I consider that to be fairly expensive. But the opportunity to take a ride into the swamp on a boat and see the beauty of the swamp, birds in their natural habitat and to hear some of the history, coupled with my daughter wishing they could do it was a little bit too much and so we decided to pitch in and we took a boat ride into Caddo Lake with Aaron…just my daughter, my three grandkids and me. This is one of those instances where it was well worth it!

One of Many Bayous in the lake
Bald Cypress Swamp
Check it out…8 year old Landen driving in the swamp while Aaron looks on.

Our guide and boat driver Aaron grew up in this area and currently resides in Uncertain. His father was also a boat guide on the lake for many many years and so he knows the lake very well. Not only was he informative, he was also courteous, and fun. There was one spot where he even let the three young children drive the boat in the lake. And that without him touching the steering wheel!!

I truly enjoyed the one hour tour

Eerie Sunshine through the trees

We enjoyed a lovely February Sky

Honestly, the views from the shore are pretty impressive, but once you are in the midst of the lake and floating through the various bayous and channels amidst the bald cypress trees, there is nothing that can express the awe and intrigue.

Caddo Lake, largest Natural Lake in Texas
Daughter Marissa enjoys the tour of Caddo Lake

This lake, Caddo Lake, is the largest naturally formed lake in the state of Texas. Scientists believe the lake formed when floodwater, blocked by massive log jams on the Red River, backed up into the Cypress Bayou watershed. Caddo Lake was artificially dammed in the early 1900s, when oil was found, and for flood control in 1914.  A new dam replaced the old one in 1971.

Another scene from Caddo Lake
Boaters heading out to fish on Caddo Lake

The lake covers about 26,810 acres of cypress swamp, depending on rainfall.  According to the Caddo Lake State Park Website,  the lake’s average depth is 8 to 10 feet, while the deep water in the bayou averages about 20 feet. Aaron tells us that much of the lake only has a depth of around 4 to 5 feet.

Enjoying time with my granddaughter Joselyn
Old Lakehouse….used to serve as a place to drink on the “Wet County” side of the lake

The lake has its own “roadway” with marked signs that guide and direct those taking their boats and pontoons through the lake. These are areas where a dredge has cleared all of the stumps so there is room for the boats to pass and not scrape bottom. Having been on the lake for many years, Aaron knows the route very well and was able to traverses without any problems whatsoever.

A blue heron flies by on Caddo Lake
A Great Egret relaxes in the swamp

In terms of seeing wildlife, February is probably not the best time to go see the lake. We were fortunate enough to see two or three blue herons, a couple of egrets, some turkey vultures and even caught a glimpse of a cormorant, which they call water turkey in the region.

A Blue Heron caught in the act of swallowing its dinner. Had to be a big fish as it struggled for a while
Another Egret sits in the shallows as the wind blows its plumage
A Turkey Vulture, also called a buzzard, flew way overhead
A blue heron flies into the trees

Apparently, in the summertime, there are opportunities to catch glimpses of alligators and other wildlife on these boat tours. But the benefit of our trip in February, was low humidity, cooler temperatures and no mosquitoes! Doing without those skeeters was probably the best part of the tour (besides the expert guiding by Aaron.)

A serene capture of an egret in the swamp (photo by Marissa Noe)
Sun shining through the trees
Caddo Lake Institute was founded by singer Don Henley

We learned during the tour that the famous singer Don Henley, of the Eagles, owns a house on the lake and we got to see that. Apparently it’s been used for a couple of music videos. Henley is originally from the area and actually caught his first fish in Caddo Lake while a youth.  He loves the lake and the natural habitat in the area and has provided funding to help conserve the lake.  The Caddo Lake Institute  (CLI) is a non-profit scientific and educational organization founded in 1992 by Henley with the mission of protecting the ecological, cultural and economic integrity of Caddo Lake, its associated wetlands and watershed.

Uncertain Inn
A typical rental cabin in Uncertain

The village of Uncertain also has a number of little resort cabins that can be rented and one can drive around and see all of them. Many of them have themes. One section had four cabins all with Moon in the name. Others had frogs in the name. But they are all very unique and would be a fun place to stay for a week sometime.

Swamp Plank Trail near one of the many rental cabins. (Photo by Marissa Noe)
Watch out for Bigfoot in Uncertain (photo by Marissa Noe)

Overall, this was a wonderful adventure for all of us.  Thanks to Aaron for the tour and thanks to all of the residents of Uncertain that make this place a worthy destination.  you can be certain of a good time in Uncertain!!

Cabin Signs…Spatterdock is one rental group
Blue Heron
Yes, there is a Church of Uncertain!!
Bigfoot sighting in Uncertain!!
Panoramic view of Caddo Lake


Bike Trails: Dawkins Line Rail Trail – Royalton, KY

This is the fourth post in a continuing series of Bike Trail posts. Like the back roads of America, the recent interest in bike paths and rails-to-trails paths provides a new insight on “back roads”. Each Bike Path post will include surrounding information, vehicle support info and trail ratings as provided by my wife Julianne. One bike pump equals a “poor” rating while five pumps equals an “excellent” rating. We’ll also provide links to the RTC TrailLinks overview of the trail. Complete Trails Overview Post is HERE

BlackPump3halfDawkins Line Rail Trail – Swamp Branch, KY (Click here for Trail Post with photos)

Click here for RTC TrailLink Details

DSC_4703Kentucky’s longest and best Rails to Trail Bike Trail is the Dawkins Line Rail Trail which runs 18 miles from Royalton, KY (near Salyersville) to Hagerhill, KY (near Paintsville).  The trail also has another 18 mile extension currently under construction.

DSC_4663This was the first trail that Julianne rode on her own. We ventured out ot this trail on a weekend in early June 2016.  It was kind of scary as it is in an area that, in many places, is void of cell service.  The roads for a support driver really meander away from the trail as well. But, according to Julianne, it is a beautiful trail to ride on.

Map of the Dawkins Line Bike Trail
Map of the Dawkins Line Bike Trail
Royalton, KY Post Office
Royalton, KY Post Office

Our drive from Lexington took us southeast down the Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway from Winchester through Stanton and Campton and then into Royalton, just a few miles south of Salyersville, KY. This is a beautiful drive through the mountains of Southeast Kentucky.  Royalton is on Kentucky Highway 7 which runs south from Salyersville.

Royalton Trail Town Sign
Royalton Trail Town Sign
Royalton Trailhead
Royalton Trailhead

Royalton is the main trailhead for this 18 mile trail.  It is also home to the Rail Trail Festival, which we just missed the day before. There were still remnants of the event remaining in the main park area in Royalton. These included the “Got Muchies” Food Truck.  I got a kick out of it and asked the owner of the truck if he knew it was misspelled and he said yes.  He also said it was the painters’ mistake, but he was in a hurry and needed the truck and so decided to keep it as is.  Too dang funny!

The Got Muchies Truck
The Got Muchies Truck
One of the signs at the trailhead for Dawkins
One of the signs at the trailhead for Dawkins

The main trailhead, as noted above, is in Royalton.  The route has three or four places along the way with parking lots and trail information.

The trail is predominantly crushed limestone but smooth to ride on according to Julianne.

Dawkins Trail
Dawkins Trail
One of a number of Dawkins Trail Trestles
One of a number of Dawkins Trail Trestles

The trail has a number of nice trestles and bridges and the first one is only about 6 miles down the road for a driver.  Basically, I had to leave Royalton and take KY 1635 west and up a hill to KY 867 which follows the Licking River.  I traveled east on KY 867 to SE Licking River Road (KY 7/KY 867) and turned right toward Ivyton, where it turns into Gun Creek Road.  A couple of miles down the road, Gun Creek heads northeast and there is a point where the Dawkins Trail crosses over the road.

Julianne crosses over the road on a trestle bridge near Riceville, KY
Julianne crosses over the road on a trestle bridge near Riceville, KY
Julianne makes her way down the Dawkins Trail near Ivyton, KY
Julianne makes her way down the Dawkins Trail near Ivyton, KY
One of many signs on the trestles
One of many signs on the trestles
KY Hwy 1888 near Ivyton, KY
KY Hwy 1888 near Ivyton, KY

KY 867 after Ivyton eventually meets KY 1888 (Burning Fork Rd.) and I headed north on that road.  I then made my way to Riceville, KY(via KY 1867) until I got to KY 825.  From there, KY 825 follows Dawkins northbound for quite a way eventually getting to Swamp Branch, Leander, Old Ratliff Rd. and then into Denver.

One of a only a few places where the trail crosses over the highway...this one north of Ivyton
One of a only a few places where the trail crosses over the highway…this one north of Ivyton
Junction with KY 825 near Swamp Branch Road
Junction with KY 825 near Swamp Branch Road
The road to Swamp Branch trailhead goes off of KY 825
The road to Swamp Branch trailhead goes off of KY 825
Good signage for crossings on KY 825
Good signage for crossings on KY 825
Dawkins Trail near Collista
Dawkins Trail near Collista

At one point 825 crosses under US 460/US 23 near Paintsville, near the Lower Greasy Post Office and into Collista. The trail ends just past Collista where KY 825 intersects with KY , near Hager Hill.

End of Dawkins Tail near Hager Hill, KY
End of Dawkins Tail near Hager Hill, KY
Signage near Collista, KY
Signage near Collista, KY
Julianne after 17 miles on the Dawkins Trail
Julianne after 17 miles on the Dawkins Trail