No place like home at Twin Oaks

Sabine Parish is heavily wooded in west-central Louisiana, a favorite place of loggers and foresters for its pine stands and some hardwood bottom land that provides much to the forest products industry.

Tucked in the piney woods in the northern part of that parish is a 60-acre tract with a winding spring-fed creek and miles of emerald, moss-covered trails that look as though they belong in the land of Oz rather than Louisiana.

The place is called Twin Oaks, a name that comes from two large white oak trees that once stood atop a hill near the trailhead.

“I love it out here,” said R. Valmore Byles, owner of the construction company R.V. Byles Enterprises. Now retired, he and his wife, Mary, live in Many.

The Byleses bought the first 40 acres of the property in 1996. A few years later, they added another 20 acres. So far, they’ve cleared about two miles of trails. Val Byles, 79, often takes along a rake to clear the path as he and Mary stroll the trail that meanders along the creek, through the regrowth and loops past a pond.

Beside the pond is a cozy camp and covered porch where the Byleses have long enjoyed their forest land. Even before the camp was only a porch and shed-like restroom, it was Mary’s favorite place for the high school English teacher to grade papers. She quipped some of her students would hope she was headed to Twin Oaks after they turned in their assignments.

Now retired, Twin Oaks is just one of her favorite places to be.

Mary Byles, 62, knew the area well when she was a child. The land had been owned by extended family of the generation before her. Soon after buying it, she wanted to find the pond. The acreage had been logged many years before but not replanted. The wild, unmanaged growth made the search for the pond difficult.

“I said, ‘I know there’s a pond back here because I remember it,’ ” Mary recalled telling her husband.

Finding the pond was a challenge, Val Byles said.