Woodalls Open Roads Forum: Family Camping: Trip report: miles and miles of Texas!
Open Roads Forum Already a member? Login here.   If not, Register Today!  |  Help

Newest  |  Active  |  Popular  |  RVing FAQ Forum Rules  |  Forum Help and Support  |  Contact

Search:   Advanced Search

Search only in Family Camping

Open Roads Forum  >  Family Camping

 > Trip report: miles and miles of Texas!

Reply to Topic  |  Subscribe  |  Print Topic  |  Post New Topic  | 
fickman

Fort Worth, Texas

Senior Member

Joined: 07/09/2007

View Profile



Posted: 09/13/13 03:51pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

We just returned from a 9-night, 1,800 mile trip. We homeschool, so we were able to plan our trip after Labor Day to avoid the capacity crowds at some of the popular destinations we wanted to see. Almost all of our destinations were new experiences - even for DW and me. This was our initial adventure in our new-to-us popup. I thought I'd share some of the things we enjoyed.

Heading out
On Tuesday, September 3, we pulled the groggy kids (6, 4, 3, and 1) out of bed and loaded them (still in PJs) into the van. We left our driveway at 5:50 am and were able to make it from Fort Worth to Brownwood for breakfast. We found a great diner called Skillet's with an excellent breakfast buffet.

I really enjoyed the drive down 377 through Brownwood and Brady, avoiding interstates and big rigs for most of the day. I kept the cruise control on 65 mph and really didn't see much traffic in any direction. The drive from Junction through Leakey towards Uvalde on US 83 is absolutely stunning and was a beautiful part of Texas that I'd never seen before.

Garner State Park (Frio River) near Uvalde, Texas
The Frio is everything it's advertised to be. Crystal clear. Cool water. Great swimming areas (we visited three distinct areas during our stay). We especially enjoyed the rock beach area with the rope swings. . . great for all ages of kids. If you go to the first primitive campsite downstream from the dam, there is a place to cross the river and walk a few hundred feet for a completely different swimming experience. It was also fantastic, but our littler swimmers were a little intimidated at the depth here even with life vests on. We found a third great swim area by hiking a trail behind the dance hall. Basically, anywhere that the river has some depth and a current is great for swimming.

Our friends stayed with their four kids in one of the cabins (central heat/ac, two full beds, kitchen w/ fridge, bathroom, shower) in Old Garner, mere feet from our campsite. I knew that this is party town all summer, but starting Labor Day afternoon, if you can go during non-peak season, it was a great atmosphere. We met another very nice family, saw plenty of tent campers, other popups, and others. It was peaceful but still vibrant and active.

One warning, there are TONS of skunks in this park. They're so used to people that they don't seem to spook easily, but they're always there in the shadows just beyond your lantern light. We only smelled one - another camper's dog didn't leave one alone and paid for it. We felt bad for them - they left after one night. We also saw porcupine, armadillos, turkey vultures, and raccoons that were all pretty comfortable existing just on the fringe of each campsite.

Fredericksburg, Texas
We had private accommodations in the driveway of a close friend just outside of city limits in the country, so needless to say, that was fun for the kids to be reunited with their friends who moved away in June. We spent the weekend taking it easy, doing some laundry, and playing outside. We did go to Old Tunnel State Park to watch a bat emergence, and it was a great show (especially for free!) The elevated seating area is free, or you can pay $5 (I think) per person to go to a lower seating area. Each offers a slightly different experience and the volunteers say both have their pros and cons. We and the kids enjoyed watching the sunset over the Texas hill country with a slight chill in the air as the bats moved in perfect unison out of their dwelling and off to hunt for the night.

Our next plan was to head to Mustang Island State Park near Port Arthur for some beach fun, but the weather looked terrible, so we headed west to. . .

Balmorhea State Park
This was beautiful! And it was a perfect time to visit. The park only had a handful of campers, all of whom were in excellent moods. My theory is that a combination of the cold waters of the San Solomon Spring pool, the mountain scenery, the lack of a crowd, the warm afternoon sun, the cool nights, and being on vacation just made everybody as friendly as could be.

The pool was fun, but the little kids would have done a lot better if we brought some pool rafts or lounge floats of some sort. The water is deep and by the end of the season, the bottom where you can touch is VERY slippery. The Ranger told us they clean is before Memorial Day and it's got much better traction. The 3.5 million gallon pool is fed by the spring that actually emerges in the pool (15 million gallons / day). It then feeds a natural wetlands area and is finally used by surrounding farms in the area for irrigation. The water is a consistent 70-72 degrees F. We got the most use out of the diving boards. My four year old son even went off the high dive (10')!

This park has turtles, sea turtles, fish (in the pool), and plenty of prairie dogs and rabbits.

We have family in Odessa that we visited the next day, but on the way home, we stopped by Monahans Sandhills State Park for a couple of hours. Our consolation to the kids for not going to the beach was to approximate the beach experience with water (the spring) and sand (Monahans). . . only separated by about 130 miles. They had a blast, and the ranger at the park was one of the nicest people we ever met. He had already shut down the register a little early to go to a meeting and couldn't sell us a plastic disc for sliding down the hills, so he just loaned us two of his personal discs and told us to drop them back in his carport as we left. It made the day. My 6 year old DD said she actually liked the desert sand more because the "ocean wasn't there to make the sand stick to you". lol

We used the very convenient shower facilities to clean up and headed back to Balmorhea. FWIW, this is the warmest I would consider visiting this park. The loose sand on the southern faces of the dunes was still pretty hot, but everything else was enjoyable.

The next day we planned to swim 2x, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. After the morning swim, we decided the kids were kind of done with the spring and called an audible that turned out to be GREAT:

- We drove into the mountains, through Alpine, Texas (stopping long enough to sit in the stands of historic Kokernot Field. I've wanted to see this ballpark since I learned of its existence. It didn't disappoint. In fact, I thought I'd have to settle for looking over the walls, but the college team was having practice and they let us sit in the stands while we ate our snack.

- We then traveled through Marfa, but it was pretty much asleep on a Tuesday afternoon

- We then went back to Fort Davis and visited the actual fort, which is worth a stop if you have time.

- We then ate dinner in Fort Davis and had a great Mexican food meal at the de Leon restaurant, followed by dessert at the Drug Store.

- We then went to the MacDonald Observatory for a star party! Unfortunately it was cloudy and drizzling, so we couldn't look through the telescopes, but the inside program was still captivating and we had no regrets. In fact, we'd spent time stargazing the night before and our kids were ecstatic when the scientists focused on many of the same things we looked at with their virtual sky software. (We had seen the Milky Way stretched from horizon to horizon, more stars than I've ever seen, I pointed out basic constellations, and we could see Venus and Saturn, including the silhouette of Saturn's rings with binoculars). I kind of geeked out at the observatory and could've spent a king's ransom in the gift shop with a little less restraint.

Abilene State Park
We'd been here before, but only on Labor Day weekend before. It was so quiet and peaceful. There was only one other RV and one tent camper in the whole place. we stopped just to break up the drive home, but we're glad we did. Deer here are very used to people and came out of the woods to greet us. There were also more songbirds than I ever remember hearing in one park. It was a nice way to end the trip. One cool moment was when the kids built their own seesaw out of logs that were lying around in the campsite. It worked pretty well!

Towing report
The popup towed very nicely. I kept it at 65 and avoided interstates whenever possible. In the hills (from Brady to Uvalde) I had to lock out 6th and use M5. Other than that, I actually had ample power in 6th, even at 1600 RPM. (It's VERY hard to stay at 65 mph when the speed limit says 80, but I managed.) My reward was fuel economy. . . I got 14.6 towing in the hills and 15.3 towing on the flats. . . .and we usually only get 16.5 mixed non-towing!

Camper review
Going back to a popup from a TT is a little more work on setup and takedown. . . especially for the one-night stop in Abilene, but this camper was exactly what our family needed. Easy to tow, easy to backup, and plenty of room on the inside with the slideout dinette. We had three kids in one king bed, the baby on the dinette with a bed rail, and DW and me on the other king bed.

We only had one kid ask to come home. . . my oldest daughter. We woke up one morning and she said, "Daddy, I will want to just go home next if you keep this camper so cold like this all the time!" So, I'd say the A/C was more than adequate. We couldn't be happier!

If you saw my threads before leaving, I was anxious about a few things. We put new tires on the camper and bought a Coach Net membership for peace of mind. Thankfully, we didn't need Coach Net. I'll never know if we needed the new tires, but I'm glad the ones we bought held up with no drama.

Conclusion
The real bonus? The kids are already asking about our next trip! 1,800 miles over 9 nights and we didn't even scratch the surface of what Texas has to offer.


DW, DD (2007), DS (2008), DD (2010), DD (2011), and me

2010 Chevrolet Express 3500 LT
6.0 liter V8 SWB 12-passenger van

2008 Fleetwood Utah Popup Camper


352

Oxfofd, Fl

Senior Member

Joined: 04/20/2004

View Profile


Offline
Posted: 09/13/13 04:13pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

MEMORIES. That is what life is all about. Hope you continue to enjoy.

Sam and Gail


1937(BAD BOY)pontiac,all steel,chevy 350,dyno=405hp,650 holley double pumper,ps,pb tilt wheel,heat & air,
700 r4 tranny,headers,3" exhaust with flowmasters
just a good ole southern redneck country boy

Come visit with us and swim with the Manatees


muelldawg

Phoenix, Arizona

Senior Member

Joined: 06/17/2010

View Profile



Good Sam RV Club Member

Offline
Posted: 09/13/13 05:08pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

My son and I stayed at Balmorhea SP on our return from Corpus Christi, TX to Phoenix. Wonderful park. Will be camping there again Sep 30.


Richard & Marilyn
2010 Jayco, Jay Feather, Sport 16.5 feet
2010 Ford F150, V8, 5.4 liter


TomHaycraft

Round Rock, TX

Full Member

Joined: 08/05/2012

View Profile



Good Sam RV Club Member

Offline
Posted: 09/13/13 05:49pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

You have your priorities in the right place! What an awesome experience.

Texas is an incredible (and incredibly large) place. One year with our trailer, camped every month since purchasing it in August 2012 (some months twice!) and there are 1 to 2 year's worth of parks we haven't visited, and that is almost exclusively State Parks. I haven't even begun to research all the COE parks.

Thanks for posting your report. Commendable with the 4 kids, and 4 kids who want to do it again.


2009 Silverado C1500 CrewCab - Timbrens
2013 Springdale 247FWRLLS - Reese Sidewinder - TST 507 TPMS

fickman

Fort Worth, Texas

Senior Member

Joined: 07/09/2007

View Profile



Posted: 09/13/13 06:16pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

TomHaycraft wrote:

Texas is an incredible (and incredibly large) place. One year with our trailer, camped every month since purchasing it in August 2012 (some months twice!) and there are 1 to 2 year's worth of parks we haven't visited, and that is almost exclusively State Parks. I haven't even begun to research all the COE parks.

It was telling that we were that far from home. . . then drove even farther on the day trip, and in Alpine we saw the sign that said we were only 130 more miles from the ENTRANCE to Big Bend! lol

We'll wait for the kids to be a little older to summit Guadalupe Peak and enter Big Bend. . . and from every indication from the very beginnings of my research, Big Bend is the type of trip that you really need to spend some serious time planning before you go.

We should be primed for that elusive beach vacation in the spring. . . either Matagora Bay (a county park there) or Mustang Island SP. I hope to do a few weekends and maybe another week here or there around North and East Texas through the Fall and Winter.

I forgot to give kudos to the state reservation line. They made switching our Mustang Island SP reservations to Balmorhea SP and our Mother Neff SP reservation to Abilene SP extremely easy. About five minutes on the phone and a very meager $2 processing fee.

texasclarks

Morgantown, WV

Senior Member

Joined: 02/10/2008

View Profile





Offline
Posted: 09/13/13 08:30pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I do love Texas and especially the Hill Country - seeing the bats emerge is pretty darn cool. Highly recommended for anyone who will be going through the Hill Country.

Good report and glad you could be making memories with the kids. We will be heading back to Texas in December but this time to El Paso...8 hours from San Antonio or 10 hours from San Diego...yes...Texas is a BIG state!


Posts are for entertainment purposes only and should not be construed as endorsement or recommendations. YMMV!

Steven & Stacie, plus 2 ('02 & '07)
'04 Suburban 2500, Quad Seats, 8.1L, 3.73
'09 Rockwood 8313SS

Texas not just a State, but a State of mind!


michigansandzilla

Michigan

Senior Member

Joined: 02/09/2013

View Profile



Good Sam RV Club Member

Offline
Posted: 09/15/13 02:06pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

fickman wrote:


Conclusion
The real bonus? The kids are already asking about our next trip! 1,800 miles over 9 nights and we didn't even scratch the surface of what Texas has to offer.


Sounds like a lovely trip! I am not at all familiar with Texas, but I feel the same way about Michigan. There's just so much to see that it's almost pointless to visit other states unless it's for a REALLY big trip.


2012 Shadow Cruiser 280 QBS
2010 Ford Expedition XLT 4X4
3 growing kids and 2 big dogs


fickman

Fort Worth, Texas

Senior Member

Joined: 07/09/2007

View Profile



Posted: 09/16/13 09:44am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

michigansandzilla wrote:

fickman wrote:


Conclusion
The real bonus? The kids are already asking about our next trip! 1,800 miles over 9 nights and we didn't even scratch the surface of what Texas has to offer.


Sounds like a lovely trip! I am not at all familiar with Texas, but I feel the same way about Michigan. There's just so much to see that it's almost pointless to visit other states unless it's for a REALLY big trip.

I spend a week in Kalamazoo and Benton Harbor every year for work and we always take one round trip drive to Wixam. I'd love to camping in Michigan. . . if only I could fly the family, van, and camper up there to start a little closer! lol

We are starting to talk about some longer trips, but we bought the Texas state park pass for the next 12 months, so we'll probably try to maximize that for now.

TXcampingfamily

San Antonio, TX

Senior Member

Joined: 07/04/2008

View Profile



Good Sam RV Club Member

Offline
Posted: 10/24/13 07:34pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Add Inks Lake to your Texas State Parks must see list. It's our favorite!!


Gin & Mike + 2 TD (tax deductions)
2009 Fleetwood Fiesta Bunkhouse


Reply to Topic  |  Subscribe  |  Print Topic  |  Post New Topic  | 

Open Roads Forum  >  Family Camping

 > Trip report: miles and miles of Texas!
Search:   Advanced Search

Search only in Family Camping


New posts No new posts
Closed, new posts Closed, no new posts
Moved, new posts Moved, no new posts

Adjust text size:

© 2014 Woodalls | Terms & Conditions | PRIVACY POLICY | YOUR PRIVACY RIGHTS