Monday, March 13, 2023

Squeezing the Last Out of My State Park Pass


My Annual Texas State Park pass was set to expire at the end of January.

Yes, it's easy enough to renew the thing on-line, but I have stuff coming up that may limit my camping opportunities for a few months. That would be long enough to get us into summer and I don't usually camp around here during the summer what with the heat and too many free-range rug-rats running around!

Since the pass is an annual thing that expires 13 months after the purchase date (they round the expiration date up to the last day of the following month so plan on buying it early in the month to get the most days out of it. Buy it early in February and it will expire at the end of March next year.) I can't see spending money on it during times I'm not going to be using it. But at the same time I have a few weeks left on my current pass and I can't see wasting that either.

So it was time for a trip and South Llano State Park won the coin-toss.

I've been here before and would have liked to get campsite 21 because it is somewhat off on its own, but it was already booked. In fact I checked out as far as the reservation system would let me, some 9 months or so, and it was booked solid all the way out, which seems a little fishy.

As a fall-back I decided to try site 19 because it is only flanked by another site on the one side, and has quick and easy access out the back of the site to the trail-system.

It worked out pretty well and I'd book it again.

The adjoining site 17 is mostly out of sight behind the tangled vegetation to the left in this photo and the overflow/walk-in camping parking lot to the right was also out of sight yet reachable by slipping out the back corner of my campsite (kinda off there behind my right shoulder) and from there the park's trail system was waiting for me.

While I was sitting there in my chair chilling that first evening I glanced over and for a brief moment thought I was seeing the ribs of a tiny little skeleton laying nearby.

I found it mildly amusing that A) I was fooled by the trickery of my eye and a handful of dead leaves still attached to their stem and B) technically it was a skeleton, just of a plant and not an animal.

Unlike my December trip to Garner State Park, mid January here at South Llano was more sun than wet clouds.

And bum foot or not, in my usual "what the hell was he thinking?" fashion,

my first hike of the trip attacked the climb up into the hills flanking the river head-on.

Despite being winter and chilly enough that I was juggling layers, there was plenty of color and interest for those willing to slow down enough to notice.

Last time I was here the hike-in camping area had been all but abandoned and didn't even show up on the reservation system,

but there has clearly been some refurbishing done since and the four or five backpacking sites have been added back into the reservation system.

Although - the brand new, probably expensive, map-board they put up just outside the hike-in camping area

probably could have used a little proof-reading - - Unless they really do mean for people to shut the hell up during the day!

And yes, being a detail-kinda-person I notice things like this.

By the time I came back down out of the hills it was well into the allowable hours to go into the protected turkey roost area near the river. (open for people access between 1000 and 1500) In fact it was late enough that I kinda had to hustle to get back out before the 1500 deadline.

Back when this was a working ranch the pecans along the river bottom provided a nice additional income. Now they have aged past their prime but still provide plenty of habitat and roosting perches.

But it's the wrong time of day for turkeys which are still out and about on the prowl, but spotting this Osprey was pretty cool.


  1. That looks like a good campsite. Was your first preference occupied or just taken off-line on the reservation system?

    1. Not sure if it was occupied or not. I didn't need to walk by that part of the campground so didn't. I've degenerated to the point where I feel like I'm on display when walking around like that so I've stopped doing it if I don't have to. Actually I've always felt like I'm on display and being judged when in public. It's just that now as I'm getting older I don't put myself on display if I don't have to. And the site was still in the reservation system, it was just always listed as unavailable, as it it had been reserved for every available day.