Monday, January 16, 2023

Experimenting with a New Place


When I first moved to Texas and family back in Michigan saw some photos I'd taken the reaction was along the lines of "I didn't know there were trees in Texas!".

Well yes, despite the impression given by the westerns of my childhood, although it might feel when driving from Junction to El Paso, not all of Texas is desert and scrub-lands. Texas has a  whole variety of terrains and habitats to sample, but that's mainly because it's a friggin big state, and that means it's a looong ways to some of those places.

For crying out loud, on I-10, even with an 80 MPH speed limit on some of it, despite minimal stops to eat and shit it takes 16 hours to cross the state from border to border! 

That means as a resident living somewhere near the middle of the state that the amount of area I can cover in a reasonable week-long trip where travel is the tortilla on either side of the filling is somewhat limited. Couple that with the fact that Texas actually has very little public land, (an artifact of being it's own country for a while) and my casual trip options are limited.

Over a 40 year span this has resulting in over-utilization of many of my options.

Which finally brings me to the subject of this post.

Garner State Park is one of those places within my circle of reasonable reachability (When I mentioned the upcoming trip one family member estimated it was 2.5 hours away. I know I'm not the fastest driver out there, but it's actually more like 4 hours away.) but it's also a place I have avoided because it is a wildly popular destination.

Between 3 miles of the perpetually cool, spring-fed Frio River to tube down,

the landmark of Mount Baldy to climb,

and the resort-like atmosphere of paddle-boat rental, miniature golf, basket and volley ball courts, and even weekend dance-nights in the old CCC Pavilion, this is the kind of place people flock to.

In scary-large numbers.

(By the way, the last three photos were not mine but rather publicity shots from the web site.)

I mean Holy Crap!

This place has 513 campsites and 10 bathhouses spread over 7 campgrounds!

Not exactly my kinda place.

But it boasts 16 miles of trails on a variety of terrain and I was desperate to hike a spot within reach that I didn't already know like my own back yard,

so I ignored my personal cacophony of crowd-contrariety and started carefully inspecting the maps to find a campsite that had the potential to not suck.

The Rio Frio campground wasn't my first choice, but in December the Percimmon Hill and Live Oak campgrounds are shut down for the season, the River Crossing campground is mostly cabins, Shady Meadows is just too damn close to the main road, (Trucks are either gearing down to attack the climb or leaning on their jake-brakes to make the turn at the bottom.) and even their own web site warns that the Oakmont and Pecan Grove campgrounds are popular because of their proximity to most of the amenities and can get pretty boisterous.

So Rio Frio it was. 

But I kinda screwed up.

Notice that the Rio Frio campground is a mix of water/electric and dry campsites. Except they don't make much effort to distinguish the boundaries between them. I was looking for a dry campsite but in the process of cross-checking availability of nearby campsites (Hoping to have empty sites around me to keep from feeling crowded) I lost sight of the boundary between dry and serviced campsites and booked into 432 instead of 434. In my defense, because it's never my fault!, 436 was scheduled to be occupied and 425, 427, 428, and 430 were not.

Yep, ended up paying a few extra bucks a night for services I didn't really need, but it was what it was.

What it also was was grey and damp - all week.

That happens sometimes when slow systems sweep in across Mexico from the Pacific.

Hard to predict the weather when you're making reservations a month out.

Though it wasn't very conducive to good photography, and I had to keep my chair inside The Van when I wasn't sitting in it so the mist and fog didn't sweep in under my canopy and set the seat up to give me swamp-ass, it kept enough people away that, with a few brief exceptions, I had the trails to myself all week.

Although that could have been the timing too. Who the hell goes camping in mid December?

Anyway, more on the trail opportunities later.

For now I need to get ready for my next trip.



  1. I do not know where you are in Texas but after I saw your travel rig in the photo it told me a lot.. If you want I am willing to let you know of the thousands of acres scattered in Texas within any driving distance you might want to limit it too. I have been running around in westernish Texas and eastern New Mexico for over fifty years now.

    1. Thanks Barney. I've currently got my head buried in the middle of a project that will alter my travel rig, but once I come back up for air I'll be looking for spots again.

  2. Looks like you managed to avoid the crowds. Looking forward to hearing how the trails were. We've had an unusually warm winter in Wisconsin with an excess of mist, fog and grey.

    1. I often wonder just what the heck most of those people in the campground are doing with themselves all day (Just waiting around for sundown so they can sit, cold on one side, hot on the other, around a smokey campfire for a few hours?) because most of them sure aren't out there on the trails!

      Not complaining! Just an observation.

  3. Perfect time to hike and camp for people like us, that don't like crowds.

    1. Yep. Let's hear it for reclusive old farts!

  4. ...where travel is the tortilla on either side of the filling...

    Das ist ein *corn* tortilla, yah?

  5. ...the seat up to give me swamp-ass,...

    After five *arduous* years spent wresting a liberal-arts education from the Univ of NM at Albuq, I'd had my fill. But I crawled away with a certain smugness; I had rounded out the required courses with anthropology, economics, linguistics, statistics and journalism and, at the eleventh hour, discovered I could pull them together in the Dept of Geography.

    Historically, the degree was about landforms and the impact of meterological, seismic & other acts of nature. But, with time, it evolved to include the effect of societies.

    Though having escaped The South, where we went after Germany, and sworn never, EVER to return, it was, in later years, to serve as a resource for a variety of aphorisms. My fav was delivered by a dark-complected man who was my co-worker on my first stint of employment, in landscaping.

    One day, arriving late to the job site, I approached Lum Turner with the hail-fellow-well-met inquiry of, "How's it going, Lum?" He replied, "I'z wu'kin' ha'der dan uh cat cuverin' shit on momma's new rug ca'yin' du't fum uh myle away."

    Having by this time been in The South for going on four years, I was somewhat accustomed to the accents. But Lum's was distinctively heavy. As politely as I could, I ast him iffen he wouldn't mind repeatin' hisse'f. Even after a second hearing it still took me several days to unravel the syntax, it having been run together the way someone might say "dizmuzbeduhplais."

    I was a mere 15-year-old, but Lum's greeting set loose an interest in colloquialisms that continues to this day. An' up 'til now, ah hain't nebber seed nor heared mention uv "swamp-ass." Is that an original?

  6. Swamp-ass: (Official definition) That itchy, burning, gota-claw-it-outa-there-I-don't-care-who's-watching feeling you get between the cheeks when the creepy-crawlies start growing in the warm-damp of your crack after it's been wet too long.