Father’s Day Camping

I booked a trip to Galveston State Park at the beginning of the year for this past weekend.  It was Father’s Day and I wanted to spend it camping with my daughters.  After driving through Houston during rush hour we were a bit rattled, so we got set up and kicked around the beach for a bit before dinner.  We went back that evening to see what all came out and there were dozens of sand crabs as well as some different crabs in the gulf.  The next day, we spent almost the entire day on the beach.  With plenty of sunscreen and a portable cover we were only minorly red.  Abby and I did a lot of exploring catching sea crabs, minnows in a freshwater shallow area near the dunes and coming upon a sea snake in the water.

That evening we decided to explore the city a bit.  We ate dinner then went for some ice cream.  I kept a careful eye on the weather and each forecast had about 60% chance of rain after 10.  All radars clear.  We went for a walk after the ice cream and noticed the horizon getting darker.  By the time we arrived at one of the jetties the clouds had gotten much closer and more menacing.  I decided we needed to head back, but the storm came in really quick.  I finally got us back to camp expecting to see our tent a little moved, maybe even the rainfly off and stuff wet.  To my horror it was completely flat.  When I finally inspected it, all the poles on one side were snapped in half and even one point poking through a seam in the rainfly.  Much of the stuff inside was soaked.  Our neighbor came over to inform me they had laid it flat since the believed the high winds would blow the ten away.  It wouldn’t have of course, at most it would have been pushed into the large RV right next to us.  With the help of my oldest daughter, we were able to get everything packed except the now tangled mash of poles and made our way to a hotel for the night.

I’ve reached out to REI to see what I need to do to get new poles.  We love our tent and plan on making a sign that says “Just let me fly away” for it.  Despite everything, it wa a good trip.  Everything but the destroyed poles and driving through Houston.  We witnessed two accidents within a mile of each other with one happening right behind us.  I’d like to go back at some point.

2014…What a year!

Can we just take a step back and appreciate how much difference a year makes?  This time last year, my divorce was almost final.  I was not entirely sure what to do with myself.  I felt lost.  My apartment felt too big.  I missed my kids.  2013 had been a nightmare.

I woke up from the NYE party my buddy Jeremy throws, in a chair at his house.  I gathered myself together and started making plans.  I saw the Secret Life of Walter Mitty and booked my first trip of the year to SLC.  Jeremy’s 40th Bday in NOLA. After that, solo camping, camping with my daughters, road trips to Memphis, Corpus Christi, San Antonio and even Disney World.  Lots of happy hours with my friends and even a few dates in there. ;^)

So, what is 2015 going to bring?  I’m not entirely sure.  Something else I learned was to live with few expectations.  Enjoy where you’re at with those you are with.  I do hope to travel more by myself, with my daughters and with those special to me.  I hope to write another post like this in a year talking about how much more amazing 2015 has been.

Solo Camping

This past weekend marked the first time I went camping alone.  In the past, I had gone with my family, even just me and the girls, but never alone.  After months of putting my social network together, some dating out of my system and getting myself emotionally ready, I headed out.  I bought a State Parks Pass for $70 the last time I took the girls camping.  With it, you get your day use fee covered which is $7 per adult and 10% off at the shop.  It does not take long for the pass to pay for itself, assuming you visit more that a couple of time per year.

My inaugural trip was to Enchanted Rock.  It is a massive pink granite outcropping in south Texas.  There are miles of hiking as well as a great view from atop the dome.  All that was available was primitive camping which is on the west side of the park.  The ranger checked me in recommended Moss Lake as it has a better view and I would agree.

My first hike in was difficult to say the least.  I had packed all my gear for one trip in.  I had my tent, air mattress, sleeping bag, chair, clothes and other gear all tightly packed.  The total weight was somewhere around 40-50 lbs.  That needs to get significantly lighter.

I took the trail suggested by the ranger which was up summit to Echo Canyon pass.  What I was unaware of was you make it about halfway up the summit before turning down into the canyon.  Once you make it all the way us, then you have to maneuver over large boulders and a creek to reach the bottom where it finally levels off.  Doing that hike without the pack would have been difficult, with the pack almost made me want to turn around and go home.  I had to rest a couple of times, but I pressed on.

It was definitely worth the walk.  I got to see the moon and sun rise from my tent.

While I was there, the wind was pretty strong starting in the evening and continuing overnight.  My little tent held up well.  There were plenty of bugs, but I came prepared with a natural cedar based bug repellent and sulfur.  If there were chiggers out there, they did not bother me.  The mosquitoes also kept their distance.  The only trouble I had was with the gnats.  It was hard to stand still and not get a dozen in my eyes, noes and ears.  The bug repellent did not seem to help either.  All told, I did not get eaten up so I count that a success.

I walked the entire look trail, back through the canyon and up on top of the dome all on Saturday.  While making it around, I met a small group making it to their campsite.  They offered me a seat and a beer so I stopped and chatted a while.  While I was here specifically for solitude, I think one of the best aspects of camping is the the social element.  Most of the time, people are very friendly, open and they are from all over.

I stayed at the top to watch the sunset and then the stars come out.  You are no far enough away from cities to prevent light pollution, but you can still see quite a few stars as well as satellites.  I wanted to stay and watch the moon rise, but it was getting late, very dark, windy and a tad bit cooler.  I made it down in the dark and back to my tent unscathed.  The next morning after striking camp, I decided to take the outer edge around the Little Rock because I just did not feel I could make the climb out of the canyon with my pack.  It’s about a mile longer, but the terrain is much easier.

I left about 9am and went to the town of Llano where I got fuel and breakfast.  I ate at the Hungry Hunter.  The food was good and the price was reasonable.  I headed out and went to Dinosaur Valley State Park.  I wanted a patch since I’m collecting them from the parks and I wanted a little more hiking.  I took the trail up on the ridge, past Wildcat Hollow Falls and back down to the river.

I got a little turned around at the end, but found my way out.  It was really hot and rocky, but the view was amazing.

All totaled, I must have hiked about 15 miles over some challenging terrain.  I learned that I need some lighter gear.  I want to make other trips up higher mountains, so getting in shape an minimizing the weight on my back will be necessary.  It was an amazing weekend and I look forward to future trips with friends, family and solo.


Camping is always an adventure.  And by adventure, I mean tortuous decisions of which comforts to sacrifice.  I joke but the purpose of camping; at least to me, is to get out of my comfort zone and see what’s really important.  This past weekend we decided to go camping, so I gathered up the equipment while my lovely bride gathered the food.  After a couple of hours, everyone is packed and the cars loaded so we headed to the closest state park.  When we got there the nice asked if we had reservations.  When I answered in the negative, she looked shock, hurt and so very sorry for me.  They were all booked up as were all state parks in a 200 mile radius.

Anyone with kids knows you cannot plan too far in advance, so you walk a fine line between losing money and disappointing you children.  Undaunted, my courageous partner and I swung into action and made call after call to any and all camping sites we could find on our handle held computer phones.  We finally located a spot at Lake Lavon just past Wylie, Tx.  We arrived, got out and found the hurricane force winds were going to make this especially challenging.

We unpacked, wrestled the tent up and noticed it had a pretty severe lean in the wind.  I found trees close together, so I tied up a tarp to act as a windbreak, took down the tent and put it up again behind my makeshift wall.  Now that we felt the tent would not collapse on us, we got all the beds made.

To make this long story less long, I’ll just summarize.  Army Corp parks don’t have good bathrooms, teenagers like to talk way into the night, Lake Lavon is a good place to find spiders, 50 mph wind gusts wake me up, I hate air mattresses, always make sure the lights are off in your vehicle.

We had meant to be out for two days, but I found one to be more than sufficient.  The best part of the whole things was meeting Joe.  He’s a volunteer out there and is the friendliest most helpful person you’ll meet.  If you know little about camping, pitch you tent there and feed him a meal and he’ll help you out.  He’ll also entertain you with his guitar and harmonica.