Hidden among the pines, The Blue Hole is preserved as a Texas treasure

The Blue Hole, a privately owned swimming hole in the Angelina National Forest, is located in a former quarry in rural Jasper County.

Nestled in the Angelina National Forest in Deep East Texas, 36 miles southeast of Lufkin, is one of the hidden jewels of Texas. The Blue Hole, as it’s known, is a brilliant blue-green-colored lake surrounded by the craggy white sandstone cliffs of a former rock quarry.

First opened in the late 1800s, rock was removed from the quarry and transported by the Rockland, Jasper & Northeastern Railway Company for use in the Sabine Pass and Galveston jetties extensions, according to an article published by The History Center in Diboll.

Once known as Kyle’s Quarry, the 12 acres were flooded in the 1920s and has been a popular spring-fed swimming hole for decades, the article stated. A 1918 University of Texas publication noted the distinct coloring of the water is from the sandstone, containing quartz and chert, as well as layers of clay.

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An unfamiliar place: Making sense of the current political landscape

Our political panel in Austin included Ted Jarrett, Josh Phoebus, and Major General Tom Carter.

Time and again the current presidential campaign has defied tradition, shedding any familiarity to previous election cycles. After a brutal primary season for candidates, the two presidential nominees and their running mates are ramping up the rhetoric.

The next 100 days are sure to mired in mudslinging, with more tweets, nicknames, and distractions from the real issues facing the nation.

Not all political discourse is petty. This weekend, I had the great opportunity to moderate a round table discussion in Austin, Texas. Three panelists with extensive backgrounds in politics and government provided a fascinating look at what is steering the national conversation into uncharted territory, including what one panelist called our “Kim Kardashian culture” that invents drama for entertainment.

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WATCH: Millions of bats take flight over downtown Austin

Crowds of people gather every Summer evening around dusk to watch as many as 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from the world’s largest urban bat colony, the Congress Street Bridge over Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin, Texas. Click the video below to watch.

Behind the Scenes: My annual tie tribute

Each year, I dust off this necktie as a tribute to my grandfather, who I give credit for encouraging me to pursue a career in journalism.

I’ve really grown to love this tradition. Every year, I pull this necktie out of the closet and wear it on or around my grandfather’s birthday. He retired it from his collection and “passed it down” to me when I was in high school, a few years before he died.

Sunday would have been “Paw Paw’s” 91st birthday. He deserves a great deal of credit for sparking my interest in journalism. We would watch the news together when I was a kid and he would save newspapers so I could read them at his house each weekend.

“Paw Paw” even encouraged me to try out for KPLC 7 News Teen Reporter program almost 20 years ago and gave me feedback when I wrote for the Lake Charles American Press teen page.

He was an extremely intelligent man, a loving grandfather who never knew a stranger, and could cook like nobody’s business.

Do you have any special ways you honor the memory of family members? Continue reading

How to capture spectacular shots on your next flight

The romanticism of flying isn’t lost on commercial flights unless you willingly let it become routine. I fly several times a year and still find each opportunity to take to the skies an exciting adventure. Sure, I find myself reading, listening to music, working, and sleeping at times, but I’m intentional about dedicating a few critical moments on each leg of my trip to simply enjoying the view.

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‘Virus hunter’ astronaut shares details of science mission to Space Station

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins trains for spacewalks at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. (Source: NASA)

In July, a self-proclaimed ‘virus hunter’ astronaut will launch aboard a Soyuz rocket to the International Space Station, embarking on a four month, science-intensive assignment to the orbiting laboratory.

NASA’s Kate Rubins is counting down the days until the scheduled July 6 launch of Expedition 48/49, which will be the first spaceflight for the molecular biologist. Before her selection to the space agency’s astronaut corps in 2009, the 37-year-old helped developed the first ran a biomedical research lab that studied viral diseases like Ebola, Marburg, and Lassa Fever. Rubins even traveled Central and West Africa to conduct research and supervise study sites, her biography stated. Once aboard the orbiting outpost, she is planning to conduct several biological and human research investigations.

Rubins will spend four months in low Earth orbit along with crewmates Anatoly Ivanishin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. The trio will join NASA astronaut Jeff Williams, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka, who are already on orbit.
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Cross 10 bucket list destinations off your list in one trip to the Canadian Rockies

Cross 10 bucket list destinations off your list in one trip to the Canadian RockiesThrow a dart at any map of the Canadian Rockies and you’ll suddenly find dozens of worthy additions to a bucket list of the world’s most breathtaking destinations.

Summertime and winter visits provide totally different experiences. Below, you’ll find some of the must-see points of interest in western Alberta.

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Will people know the color of your heart?

I was very honored to have the opportunity to speak to the graduating seniors of my alma mater, Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. On Thursday, May 5, NSU threw a ‘Fork Em Farewell Crawfish Boil’ for seniors and their families. As a board member for the NSU Alumni Association, I was asked to share some advice for these soon-to-be graduates as they set out into the world.

Here are my remarks:

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New spacecraft named after astronaut killed in E. Texas space shuttle tragedy

The next Cygnus spacecraft to visit the International Space Station will be named S.S. Rick Husband, Orbital ATK announced Tuesday. (Source: NASA)

The next Cygnus spacecraft to visit the International Space Station will be named S.S. Rick Husband, Orbital ATK announced Tuesday. (Source: NASA)

The next cargo spacecraft to launch to the International Space Station will bear the name of an American astronaut killed in the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy over East Texas.

An Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo resupply spacecraft bearing the name S.S. Rick Husband will launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida on March 22.

Husband served as commander of the STS-107 mission aboard Space Shuttle Columbia, which broke apart during reentry over East Texas on February 1, 2003.

All seven crew members perished in the accident, just 16 minutes before the scheduled landing in Florida. Continue reading

Where to find the best gumbo in Texas

Judging the Official Texas Gumbo Cook-Off was no easy task.

Texas is proud of its culinary heritage — a figurative and literal melting pot of cultures and signature dishes known the world over. Drawing discerning foodies from around the world, the Lone Star State is no longer catering only to those with a taste for barbecue.

Kitchens are serving up creations by world-renowned chefs and recipes handed down for generations are known in every corner of the state.

It appears our palate is expanding again, with help from Texas transplants from Cajun country. On Saturday, March 5, I got to help judge a ranking of the best gumbo served up in 2016. Continue reading

East Texas Symphony presents ‘Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant’

Narrating "Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant" with the East Texas Symphony was an opportunity to share my love of the performing arts with young audiences.

Narrating “Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant” with the East Texas Symphony was an opportunity to share my love of the performing arts with young audiences.

Have you ever heard of a “Zipperpotamus,” a “Panthermometer,” or a “Pop-Up Toadster?” These imaginative animals come to life illustrated in the children’s book, “Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant” were brought to life in the East Texas Symphony’s Family Concert on Saturday, February 27.

I had the great privilege of serving as narrator for the poetry, written by Jack Prelutsky, which inspired the musical arrangement composed by Lucas Richman.

The concert in Tyler’s Liberty Hall featured many of the Symphony’s resident performers: concertmaster Mark Miller on violin, Zachary Mansell on cello, Rebecca Wenck on clarinet, Andrew Merideth on horn and Maria Guénette on piano. Continue reading

Remembering a pioneer in East Texas television history

Hudson Collins, the first chief engineer of KLTV, has died at age 94.

This week, we learned of the passing of KLTV’s first chief engineer, Hudson Collins, who lived a long life of 94 years. While I never had the opportunity to meet him, I’m fascinated by many of the details of his pioneering career.

An engineer is an important position in any television station, but he holds the distinction of being a true pioneer in local television.

After speaking with his family, former colleagues, and even the workers at a Whataburger restaurant, I quickly developed great admiration for “Hud,” as he was known. Continue reading