Winter 2016 in Lajitas Texas

2016-Spring (140)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOnce again it has been a VERY long time since my last post. I am now vowing to NEVER wait this long… The longer I let it go the more daunting it becomes and the more I procrastinate…. So here goes…

 

Lajitas2016-Spring (246)We arrived in Lajitas in November, a few days before thanksgiving. As we crested each hill, spotting the Chisos, then Lajitas Mesa, we really felt like we were coming home. Some of our dear friends who winter down here greeted us with a campfire and dinner upon our arrival… So thoughtful June and John and good to see Kim and Bill! It was a bit quiet, much of the gang hadn’t arrived yet. Of course that didn’t stop us from meeting some new ones right away… Becky and “Smart Bob” Farley helped fill some of the void.

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADue to Chris’s work schedule we spent the whole winter here in Lajitas. We tried to get out as much as possible on the weekends when he had time. It was fun revisiting some of our local trails again and even better when we got to explore new ones. Of course we hit our local Mesa trail and one of my favorite lookouts overseeing the Contrabando and Fresno Divide…

Then there were some new ones…

2016-Spring (158) 2016-Spring (147)Like Mule Ears… off Ross Maxwell drive, actually went all the way this time… Nice views…

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Like Pine Canyon.. A first time in Pine Canyon on a rainy day was a hoot… Really interesting to find yourself in a forest in the middle of the desert. We also spotted traces of the bear family people have reported seeing in this area… Unfortunately all we saw was scat… Still hoping for our first bear sighting in Big Bend…

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Like Devils Den… an impressive hole in the earth…

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALike Juniper Canyon, 12.5 round trip with an elevation gain of 3100, greatest in the park! Oh yeah and the somewhat challenging dirt roads to get there (for me anyway!).  I was actually proud of my riding that day.

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Like exploring off trail in the Chisos… tried to make it to the Window but not quite.  Had fun trying to get there tough…

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Like Apache Canyon and the impressive rock corral in the middle of nowhere…

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Like the Indian Head area behind the Big Bend Motor Inn… Nice view of the Chisos and the Window…

 

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When Chris did have time sometimes he just wanted to get out on his bike and explore on his own…

 

 

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other times he rode with friends… and sometimes he took me out to see some of the cool finds I could actually get to. Moon Valley was a fun ride, slight challenge but awesome topography.

 

 

 

2016-Spring (147) OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI never tire of the views around here and really love my back yard! It makes for a pretty amazing free gym!

I love my gym… Hiking is really my exercise of choice and I have plenty of workout partners and places to choose from. Gloria, Chris, Kim Valerio, Deb, Barb, Robin and John Walker, their friends Rosanna and Bill, Sandy and Larry, Chris and Rizaun, and the list goes on… a few new faces here and there. Lots of trips to my favorite spots with different groups…

 

I often hooked up with Gloria hitting the trails and racking up the miles. She was training for a 30K through the State Park so she was happy to entertain me with some long treks!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGloria and I had several adventures exploring trails just outside the campground and off the West Contrabando trail head and East Contrabando trail head. On one such occasion I even spotted “contraband” in a dry arroyo along the Waterhole Trail. When we got back I reported it to the State Park Police and a few weeks later they recovered what turned out to be a kilo of marijuana. Never a dull moment!

 

Bob and Gloria

Bob and Gloria

2016-Spring (28)I took Gloria and Bob “Waldo” to one of Chris and my favorite overlooks… They had never been there before and loved it! We showed Smart Bob some of our favorite trails as well… The Contrabando/Fresno overlook, Mesa de Angilla, and of course the North Lajitas Mesa. That would be my first of four treks up to the top of the North Mesa this year.

 

2016-Spring (197)Second time was with Robin, John, Rosanna, Bill, and Kim…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016-Spring (240)Third time was with Sandy, Larry, and Leslie…

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fourth time was with Kurt Herson, CeCe and Tex’s son, Gloria, and Steve, a new friend. Chris was tired of taking posterity shots so no proof we actually were there!

Burros Better 20160310_113038_resizedUnfortunately or fortunately… I had to play with my friends often as Chris was pretty busy much of the time with work… Made several trips with the ladies to Presidio or Alpine to shop and/or play. On one occasion, CeCe and I happened upon a herd of burros who didn’t want to get out of the road.

2013-10-11 001 0782013-10-11 001 086I really enjoyed our hike to the Hot Spring via Daniels Ranch with Gloria, Kim and Rizaun.

 

 

20160303_141020_resizedMy uncle Gary passed away on January 2nd and I immediately flew off to California to be with my mom and help out. I stayed in California for 3 weeks… It was a difficult time emotionally, sad… But we also kept very busy trying to organize his estate… Although we did a lot while I was there and I felt that I left mom in a good place… There was still much to do when I left… I can only continue to provide her with moral support and advice by phone…

 

 

 

 

 

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy friend June was waitressing at Longdraw, the pizza joint, a few days a week. She scheduled a trip to visit family and I offered to fill in… Timing was a bit off with my uncle passing but I have had the chance to do some waitressing this winter. I hate to admit it but I have really enjoyed it… Nancy the owner is great to work with and I have really enjoyed getting to know the locals. Always a new adventure!

june pool thirsty goatOf course there is never a slow moment off the trails as well… Always a group doing a happy hour, a pot luck, going to pizza, listening to music, visiting the “porch”, going for 2fers, Mexican train dominoes, Phase 10 and Zombie Dice by the pool, the pool, campfires, scotch tasting….2013-10-11 001 054

 

Scotch What? Thanks to Bill and Rosanna we did a little sampling of the Johnny’s one night… And a little McCallan… And then some dancing… And then a twisted knee… Alright…what happens in the RV park stays in the RV park!

 

 

 

 

And of course my surprise Saint Patrick’s Day early birthday party!  If your gonna turn 50, you have to start celebrating early! Thanks guys.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 2013-10-11 001 048It has been a great winter… We will miss our Texas friends and winter home but it is time to move on.  Looking forward to seeing our friends and family back home! We will try and bring some sun and warmth with us. We are SOOOOOOO excited for Chis to be free of work so we can actually do more traveling like our original plan… 3 times is a charm.  Heading home to sell the house and start our new life!

Categories: Texas | Leave a comment

On the Road Again… Well Sort Of…

IMG_0337We left Home on October 23rd excited to play in our new home and escape the cold and gray of Rochester winters.  On the road again is a relative term since we will actually not be “traveling” all that much.  Chris is working full time until the end of April limiting our travel flexibility and joint play time.  We are optimistic however, that regardless, it will be a great winter!

We took 4 weeks to make our way to down to Lajitas and our winter home.  Along thee way we familiarized ourselves with the new rig and got used to our new space.  Loving it by the way! On the way down we utilized our free Thousand Trails membership that came with the purchase of the rig.  We had heard about the club before but never really felt inclined to explore it further due to fees and restrictions.  Since it was free we had to try it out.

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We spent the first week in Tennessee along the Natchez Trace. “The Natchez Trace Parkway is a 444-mile drive through exceptional scenery and 10,000 years of North American history.  Used by American Indians, “Kaintucks,” settlers, and future presidents, the Old Trace played an important role in American history”(National Park Service). We stayed in our first Thousand Trails park and were pleasantly surprised.  Far from “resort amenities” but perfect for free! Next time through, when we have more time, we would like to explore the Trace more as there are numerous historic sites, and rumor has it great motorcycle riding and hiking opportunities…

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter we learned we had to exit the Thousand Trails park system for a week in between stays we modified our plan. Our next leg of the trip brought us into Arkansas.  We decided to stay near Hot Springs again as the location was perfect distance for one day of towing and it was on our route toward Texas.  We managed to get out a little,  spending a day hiking a section of Hot Springs National Park we didn’t get to the last time through.  Of course we had to stop by Superior Brewery… They are now serving their own brews and we got to try them all! One night we even took a brief motorcycle ride after Chris finished work.

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe left Hot Springs and made it to Lake Whitney Texas where we stayed in another Thousand Trails Park. Again, the amenities weren’t the best but we were happy with our spot.  We had good cell service so we used our hot spot to stay connected and so Chris could work.  There were also numerous trails that we explored on a daily basis.  The girls got their daily exercise!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEach day we set out to explore different sections of the park.  The lake was very pretty and refreshing for some! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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We found some typical water features… and some not so typical…

 

 

 

 

 

We also happened upon many industrious, large, creepy spiders who preferred to build their lairs across the cedar trees along the trail. There were a few times we almost fell prey to their handiwork!

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOf course the nasty weather blew in over the weekend when Chris actually had some time to get away and play… we escaped the campground anyway and took in two nearby Texas State Parks.  Lake Whitney SP just reopened in October after suffering serious damage from a tornado in May. They did a good job of cleaning up and we managed a nice short jaunt on the Two Bridges Trail.  It started to rain so we tried to outrun it.. We drove to Meridian State Park about 30 miles away.  There we tempted fate and took the Bosque Trail that looped the lake.  Well, as luck would have it the rain caught up with us and when we were at the furthest point from the truck it started… We actually had fun hiking in the rain!

Kathy and TonyI have heard that dogs and babies can be chick magnets for young men… It is amazing how having dogs has the same effect for RVer’s, they are the greatest conversation starters… We met two really nice couples while staying at Whitney Lake Thousand Trails and of course it was the dogs that got us chatting.  We joined Kathy and Tony one night for wings and beer… who knew they had wings in Texas… Hoping to cross paths with Nan and Tom and Kathy and Tony some time in the future!

Last stop was Abilene TX for an overnight on our way to our final winter resting place.  We stopped at Grant and Blanca’s and had a great dinner (as usual) and visit with the family!  Thanks again guys!

 

LajitasAs we drove down 118 from Alpine and got our first glimpses of the Big Bend…we felt like we were home… Hello Lajitas Mesa….

 

Categories: Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas | 2 Comments

Home for the Spring and Summer 2015…

Wow… feeling overwhelmed as I sit down to update the website.  Message to self.. keep up with the blog more frequently!

20150627_134909_resizedIt all started one rainy day on our way down to Texas last Fall.  We were curious about what was out there in the way of Toy Haulers and innocently started our search for our new home on wheels.When I last posted we had just arrived home after spending the month of April working our way back to New York while seriously shopping for a new rig.   Interestingly enough we landed where we began.. the first rig we looked at last Fall in Texas would become our future home…We did extensive research over the winter and had a short list of what we were most interested in. It was very helpful actually getting into all the of the manufacturer and models that were on the top of our list. It was the Grand Design Momentum 380TH that won out! We ordered a 2016, built to our specs, and picked it up in Ohio in June!

We have been home since May enjoying our friends, family and temperate NY summer weather. Chris has been working his butt off… full time since May 1st. One of these days we will officially be full timers! According to Chris that can’t happen soon enough! Although far from full time employment, I was able to pick up some work while we were home too. I actually enjoyed my time filling in as PPS Director in Newark CSD for a maternity leave.

IMG_0301 20150604_145423_resizedOur plan once again was to get the house ready to put on the market.  Once again life got in the way and there was just never enough time to do all we wanted before listing…  First item on the short list was to restore our back yard sanctuary. A cold, snowy winter and an unattended rust spot on a side wall had us return home to a collapsed pool. BUMMER!  MacGyver to the rescue… Some elbow grease on both of our part and a few hundred dollars “Frankenpool” was alive! A new liner, parts from another pool and new coping rails we thankfully didn’t install the year before…better than new!

It’s amazing how quickly time goes by… There were lots of celebrations while we were home starting with Siera’s Sweet 16. Leave it to Stef and Pete’s daughter to celebrate with a costume party in May.  Chris and I went as who other than Princess Buttercup and the Dread Pirate Roberts…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next on the party list was Chris’s moms 80th birthday. The whole family got together at a cabin on Keuka Lake to commemorate the occasion. It was great to see Mike, Carri and Chase who came in from North Carolina. Although it was a short weekend a great time was had by all!

Dennis has got to learn how to relax...

Dennis has got to learn how to relax…

P1050560Another big milestone that we got to celebrate was Chris’s BIG 50! His choice was to go camping for a long weekend in the Adirondacks and tackle the highest Peak in New York, Mt. Marcy. Brenda and Dennis, Brennis if you will…, joined us for the weekend.  We had a great campsite on Lake Pleasant just outside of Speculator.

P1050545 - Copy P1050550 - CopyWe enjoyed one of the many super moons of the summer over the lake and the girls got to cuddle in the truck camper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When Brennis left we headed further north and set up camp just outside of Lake Placid.  We had a great site… The girls even had a little fun…

 

 

 

P1050586P1050597We actually did Mt. Marcy on Chris’s official birthday. It looked daunting from below… especially with the clouds… With 16.5 miles and over 9 hours of hiking we couldn’t escape the rain.  We got caught a few times but it didn’t stop us!  P1050611

 

 

Tired and proud… Us two old farts made it! Amazing views from the top!

 

 

 

 

 

Brenda contemplates 50...

Brenda contemplates 50…

Staying warm by the fire...

Staying warm by the fire…

 

Chris wasn’t the only one to turn 50 this year. Stef did it quietly in the Spring before we got home.  Rich lived through a great surprise party thrown by Tonya in May. Brenda decided to have her own party. I know… hold onto your hats… she wanted a bonfire at the farm to celebrate… She got what she wanted and everyone had fun staying warm by the fire.

P1050406 P1050418Soooo excited… In July my dad came to visit for a few weeks.  After a few days we headed to New Hampshire to visit the Mazzella gang then onto Acadia National Park with my sis and dad! We had a great week of reminiscing and creating new memories (ok…corny but true).

Of course there were lots of other things…

P1050371IMG_0311Natalie visited Rochester several times.  We had fun making copious amounts of sushi one weekend.  Stef, Brenda and I did a girls weekend at Nat’s place too.  Always fun going into Troy for the Farmers Market.

 

 

IMG_0320My aunt Wendy came in for a few weeks to visit and to take care of some business.   We had a good time and fit in some good food and fun.  She enjoyed a girls sleep over at Brennis Farm and meeting all of the annimals.

 

 

 

 

 

P1050367 20150612_171012_resizedOf course Chris and I had to check out the new local breweries… We got picked up by another couple at Knuckleheads in Webster and wound up back at their house…Who could refuse an invite to an Irish Pub in someones basement…  OK a little weird. Then there was a visit to Swift Water and Lost Borough Breweries.  Not really any need to mention Lost Borough, they have a lot of work to do…

IMG_0333AF6E78EA-AC4B-4EDA-9411-30D54E0E3F56I was fortunate enough to visit my sister and nieces again in October, thanks Ang and Dan! We celebrated with a traditional New England Lobster dinner! Yummy. So many opportunities to get together with family.  We were lucky to see Mike and Chase the night before we left!

Like I said… I really need to do updates more frequently… There were so many more things I am sure I am forgetting or that we just didn’t capture on film.  Many fun nights, pool parties, and dinners with friends and other family members… Now it’s time to head out and find warmer pastures for the winter. We are very excited to spend time in our new home on wheels.  See everyone in the spring!

 

 

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Arkansas and the Ozarks-Homeward Bound April 2015

We left Lajitas on March 28th with conflicting emotions.  Our hearts were heavy leaving our friends, however we were excited about being back on the road and exploring some new territory, albeit for a short while.  We had the month of April to play, Chris having the month off before a year of full-time employment.  The plan was to spend some of our time “new home” shopping, and the rest of the time exploring more of Arkansas, specifically the Ozarks.

An small leak in our black tank dump valve (yuck!, who said rv’ing is all glamorous) is responsible for our quest for a new home (RV)… An innocent stop for parts at an RV dealership near Austin Texas on our way out in the fall somehow “inspired us”… Over the winter we did some serious research and soul searching… do we really need a new camper?  After much deliberation we decided we did! Our route home was designed to included many stops at dealerships along the way to view a variety of specific models.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur first stop was in Texas Hill Country to check out a few state parks that came highly recommended. Chris had to work for the first few days but we managed to fit in the sights between Sunday and a few afternoons.  First stop was Lost Maples State Park where we managed to do 8 of the 11 miles of trail. It seems many parks have a “Monkey Rock” and Lost Maples was one of them. It was quite pretty with a nice creek that ran through much of the trails.  The girls had a blast running around in and out of the water… We eventually got busted for having them off leash by a park ranger… Sometimes its hard to follow the rules…

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGarner State Park, although highly recommended and said to be “the nicest state park in Texas” by some, didn’t make the grade in our book.  We hiked a few miles of trail, investigated an interesting moth (or was he investigating us???), and checked out Crystal Cave. We just didn’t see it… very open and exposed trails with a fair share of garbage, limited views (compared to what we are used to), graffiti in the cave… Oh well… you win some you lose some.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe last afternoon in this area we opted for a motorcycle ride. We headed out on a popular ride in the area called The Three Sisters.  A nice ride but once again we have experienced more interesting, scenic, and exciting.  I was happy though… it had been quite a while since I was on my bike. We were happy to move on… or so we thought.  As luck would have it we broke a spring on the rear axle of the trailer. Ok, some luck involved…Chris caught it when we were at a rest stop and we avoided crashing on the I35 doing 70mph. After about 5 hours, a roadside service call, much labor on Chris’s part, and about $350.00 we had two new springs and were ready to roll!

 

The next few days were allotted for restocking supplies and checking out some RV dealers in the Dallas area. From here we headed to Russellville Arkansas, our first stop in the Ozarks. What a great area!  Lots of state parks, national forest areas, waterfalls, and nice motorcycle riding.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe weather was beginning to prove a bit challenging.  We started to see lower temperatures, gray and some rain.  In between the inclement weather we managed to take in quite a few sights. First stop was Petite Jean State Park.  Though a bit foggy and wet, we managed to hike about 6 miles and got to see much of the park highlights.

 

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe explored the overlooks above the Cedar Creek Falls… See the young girl at the bottom?  She posed for us when she spotted us on a cliff above. We found some interesting rock structures and stopped to check out the Mathers Lodge, pretty impressive!

From there we hit the Seven Hollows trail.  It became evident early on what a hollow actually was.  We felt like we were on some quest working our way through hollow after hollow, each having its own personality. We happened by a pretty impressive rock arch and a hidden “Grotto”.  Nice park and a good day even if we got a little wet.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe next two days we headed out on the motorcycles.  The first day we fought the fog and drizzle but had a good time none the less since the roads were fun to ride and there were some pretty things to see.

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe happened upon a few of the prettiest blue butterflies frolicking in the woods. Ok, so I happened upon them when I went behind a tree to go potty.  From then the hunt was on and Chris chased them around for 20 minutes trying to get a picture.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe second day was much better.  The weather improved and we got some good information from the National Forest Ranger station.  We were off to find a few waterfalls and Pedestal Rocks/Kings Bluff Trails.  First stop was Falling Waters, a bit off the beaten path…but best swimming hole ever! Too bad it wasn’t swimming weather.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe found Pedestal Rocks/Kings Bluff and hiked the 4 miles of trail.  This is where we started to discover the “tick” issue in Arkansas.  Never have I found so many tics on myself as I did when we were in Arkansas.  It all started on this hike, not fun and very freaky.  I think I found 5 on myself after this short hike! For the next few weeks we felt like things were crawling on us all the time. We became hyper-vigilant wherever we went, especially with the girls.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATicks aside, the hike was ok… Again we have seen so much better.  It was good to stretch our legs and we did grab a few shots to document the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALast stop of the day was Haw Creek Falls, located in a small campground on the way home.  Not bad.  Apparently this area is loaded with waterfalls.  Next time we will make time to hunt for more!

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMt Magazine State Park is home to the highest peak in Arkansas.  Of course we had to check it out.  Again, not much to see… We did several of the trails, hit the “epic” highest point, Signal Hill, then checked out the lodge.  Here we found another crazy moth… They grow them big in these parts!

Our second stop in Arkansas was right on the Arkansas Missouri border. We were about 10 miles from Branson MO, an Ozark town in southwest Missouri known for it’s famous boulevard lined with theaters. Although historically the shows were mostly country music, the current venues are more diverse.   It was quite the spectacle… but not our thing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was here that we hooked up with some travel friends we had met last year in Lajitas.  Alissa and Kendal live just outside of Eureka Springs and have similar hobbies and interests.  We spent a few days hanging with them and having them show us around their stomping grounds.  Of course the weather was not cooperating… We took a short hike in Beaver Dam on the Dogwood Trail before the rain started… oh well off to try some local beer and grab dinner!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe were happy when Alissa and Kendall decided to join us at Cricket Creek ACE (Army Core of Engineers) campground for a night and to do some riding.  They are big dirt bike riders and know the area well. I warned them I was a bit lame on the dirt but they were great sports and took me along.  I did good for me but definitely slowed everyone down.  It was fun and the perfect challenge for me… I was actually sad we had to head home! It was great getting together with them and we look forward to seeing them again! They will be our neighbors in Lajitas for the month of January!

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANext stop was supposed to be Lake of the Ozarks area but the weather was not lending itself to any major sight seeing in the foreseeable future.  We changed our plan and decide to stop near Meramec State Park about 80 miles south of St. Louis.  We spent the day exploring the park but were put off once again by the ticks… We wound up walking the roads in the park after finding numerous ticks on us and the girls after a 1 mile trail.  It was a nice little park with quite a few caves and some pretty blue/purple flowers…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABest part of this stop was The Public House Brewery that we visited that evening.  Decent beers, nice atmosphere, nice people…

Next stop Joliette Illinois.  We picked this location as it was somewhat central to a few RV dealers we wanted to check out.  It was also not far from Starved Rock State Park that was highly recommended by a couple we met in Arkansas.  We spent several days here checking out campers and one full day at Starved Rock. The more we shop, the more we change our minds… oye…

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStarved Rock was better than expected and one day was the perfect amount of time for exploring it. The park runs along the Illinois River and is home to many canyons and little waterfalls created from erosion along the river.  We managed to see much of the park in the 8 miles we walked. We happened upon a very cool waterfall on one of the spur trails.

 

 

 

 

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Now it was time to get serious! Off to Elkhart Indiana (RV capital of the world) for an RV show and some serious shopping!  We had the chance to visit several of the factories where the RV’s we were interested in were made.  The production lines were impressive.  We had private tours lasting almost 2 hours… It was great seeing what goes into the products and the quality of the workmanship.  A little tidbit of trivia… the production lines run Monday-Friday from about 5 AM to about 1 PM.  Many of the workers are Amish and have their own farms and families to tend to in the afternoon. We stayed in Howe Indiana and unbeknownst to us, Howe is home to a large population of Amish families.  It was amazing how many horse and cart’s we passed on the back roads and in town.

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Not our Picture…

We weren’t in Indiana long but of course managed to check out one brewery in Elkhart. Iechyd da (Iechyd da is a Welsh toast which literally means “Good Health.” It’s like saying Cheers, Salute, Na zdrowie or Prost!) is a small town brewery with friendly staff and patrons.   The beer was tasty and cold and we had a good time chatting with some locals.  Go figure, they all worked in the RV business… so we were doing research, right?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was only one more stop left on our journey home.  We had always wanted to stop and see Cayahoga National Park in Ohio. Cayahoga was located relatively close to a few dealerships that had the make/models we had narrowed things down to. We spent only a brief time in the park, which was located with a rural residential area.  It was raining and cold so our plan to hike some of the trails was thwarted.  We did check out a few sights, one of which was a very cool waterfall.

We had to see things one last time… It was here that we finally made a decision… Ok, we narrowed it down to two models by Grand Design. It was between the 350M and the 380TH.  You will have to stay tuned for where we landed!

We made it home safe and sound.  Thankfully the house was in good shape.  The only real problem was our pool that didn’t make it through the winter.  Ahhhhh, the pleasures of home ownership…We needed some summer projects… NOT!

We will be off the road for about 5 months… Plan to head back out the beginning of October 2015.

Categories: Arkansas, Missouri, Texas | Leave a comment

Last Licks in Lajitas…

Overall it was a very wet winter in Texas considering the desert setting. Not complaining since we missed a long, cold and snowy winter back east. We saw several hard rains and many little sprinkles… The upside was temperatures that were cooler, making for better hiking and outstanding spring blooms. We have never stayed as long as we did this year but even the regulars commented on the spectacular wild flowers this season. We tried to take a picture of every new one we saw… It was amazing. Every day it seemed like 1 or 2 new flowers popped up and each new trail seemed to highlight a different one…

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChris had to work full time for the last 6 weeks of our stay here. That didn’t stop us from taking advantage of our weekends or enjoying evenings with friends.

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was always a dinner or pot luck, a happy hour, pizza, or just a day on the Terlingua Ghost Town “porch” drinking beers and listening to the locals jam… Never a dull moment!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe explored our backyard by trying to forge new trails out and around the Lajitas Mesa. Some days we were successful others, not so much…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARegardless it was always pretty..

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The things we would come across on trails in the middle of nowhere never ceased to amaze us. The McGuirk (proclaimed founder of Lajitas) ranch on the Contrabando Waterhole trail was yet another one…

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Often times our girls joined us and always had fun chasing lizards, birds, javalinas etc… They enjoyed their view from the top of the mesa!

 

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The golf course… OMG dad you gotta play a round here one day!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASometimes I would give Chris a “get out of jail free card” and he would venture out on his bike exploring on his own. I was always jealous when he came back with pictures of remote areas he was able to see.

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping busy when Chris wasn’t around didn’t prove to be a problem! I found many things to do. Sometimes it was a girls night at CeCe’s drinking wine, having a fire, playing cards, or chilling in the hot tub… Thanks CeCe. Thank you June for keeping me moving and going to the gym in the morning! Looking forward to keeping that habit for next winter! Yes, both the wine drinking and the gym…

We had the opportunity to meet lots of our friends family members this year. We enjoyed getting to meet CeCe and Tex’s kids and grandkids. Of course it was another chance to eat, drink and laugh.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe also met John’s mom (Dorothy) and sister (Marie).

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI enjoyed a great day trip to Big Bend NP with June and the ladies. First lunch at the Basin then a dip in the Hot Springs. I decided to cool off in the Rio Grand before heading home. Yup, that’s Mexico!

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWithout actively trying, I became a bit of a “trail” leader and organized several “BO” hikes. For those with a sense of humor, that acronym was penned by my loving husband and stands for “boobs only”. We managed a good hike at least once a week…

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARobin, Kim and I trekked up the Lajitas Mesa…

 

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We also did a beautiful loop in the Fresno Canyon area before Robin had to leave…

 

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Another day we enjoyed a loop through the Lajitas trails ending on the Mesa de Angila trail… Great day with Gloria, Brandi, Deb, and Barb! Learned about some of the blooms and exchanged lots of stories.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALots of people left throughout February and March. There was still always someone willing to play! Gloria, Brandi, Sandy and I did the Fresno Canyon loop again one day… Just a great hike and it’s fun to bring new people on it.

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe last trek of the season was a long one. Gloria, Sandy and I repeated a through hike from West Contrabando to East Contrabando that Chris and I had done a few weeks before. 12 miles and all smiles!

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA different perspective of the McGuirk ranch when I revisited with the ladies… Also couldn’t resist a shot of the cowboys from Kentucky we met along the trail…

 

 

It was really hard to leave… Til’ next year my friends…

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Hanging in Lajitas

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWell, our posts have and will be less frequent as we have been stationary for some time.  We landed in Lajitas on January 8 and plan on remaining here through the end of March.  Location, location, location… The weather is right and we are between Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park, offering us multiple options for exploring on foot or motorcycles.  Even though we have been in this area several times we never fail to find new things to do and see.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith more rain and moisture than we have experienced in previous years, there has been a lot more flora adding color to the already awesome landscapes! The company isn’t bad either.  This is truly a home away from home and we have many friends to play with! With Chris having to work full time for the next month or so… we cannot think of a better place to hang our hats.

 

 

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What have we been up to you ask… Never a dull moment.  There are the never ending social events… there was the Super Bowl party, Thursday pizza dinners at Long Draw, Pot luck’s, 2’fer1 Burger nights, working out with the girls at the gym in the morning, happy hours, Hanging in the sun with cards and wine…

 

2015-02 111 2015-02 110Sometimes you have to get out of Dodge… I hitched a ride to Hobbs NM with Larry, Polly, CeCe, and June to due some gambling.  Lets just say what happens in Hobbs stays in Hobbs, especially my money! We had a lot of fun though; from our potent margaritas with our lunch to being posers in the hotel gym and casino…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere really is so much to do around here.  We love the fact that we can hike right out of our camper and the girls do too!  We were very surprised to find a water source for the girls to play in!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOf course every town has resident goats… right?  The white one is the mayor of Lajitas.

 

 

 

 

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Lots of hiking, sometimes just with a girlfriend like Deb…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes with the crowd…It was great doing Grapevine Hills again and playing around balanced rock.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

Sometimes just across the street contemplating the views of the Rio Grande and Mexico…

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASometimes in canyons down the road in Big Bend Ranch State Park…

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Sometimes an old favorite in the National Park, Lost Mine… Love the views from this spot!

 

 

 

 

 

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I even got my tree picture again… took the same shot our first trip down here in January 2009.

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChris never misses a chance to get out and explore some less traveled roads on his own…And he even makes sure to bring me once and a while!

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe hosted a Valentines Day Pulled Pork dinner.  Thanks to everybody for bringing something. Lots of regulars from our Texas group and an old friend, David Moffitt, who we met in 2009 in Stillwell. So nice to reconnect with him! Nobody went home hungry, or thirsty for that matter! Some of us stayed out listening to a pretty good band that was playing for “Bike Fest” which was hosted in our RV park. We were able to enjoy the sound from the comfort of our own campsite.  Even the light drizzle didn’t dampen the mood!

 

 

2015-02 1302015-02 123Finally… how many times can you say you happened upon a hummingbird bander in your yard?  After returning from the gym one morning that is exactly what happened. Kelly Bryan, from West Texas Avian Research Inc. used our neighbors hummingbird feeder to catch a beautiful male Anna’s hummingbird. While he checked its band, took his weight, checked on his health, and documented his results he answered our questions and posed for pictures.  He even let my friend June hold him before releasing him… Very cool experience!

This is the longest we have stayed down here and have a ways to go… If the past month is any indication, there is little to complain about! As I watch the news, see pictures of the Northeast, and hear from friends and family I feel pretty lucky right now. Stay warm everybody back home!

 

 

 

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Landing in Lajitas

After leaving South Llano River State Park we headed west… Unable to go to Big Bend due to power outage in that area and lack of a reservation, we were just looking for a place to stay with power/service until we figured things out. The minute we got on the road the winds picked up and we were Rockin’ and a Rollin’. When we saw the sign for The Caverns of Sonora and RV park we made a game time decision to stop after only traveling about 50 miles. Yeah on that decision! After getting set up we took a cavern tour.

Sonora Caverns are privately owned and have only been toured since the 1960’s. When we started down into the caves we were a bit worried it didn’t seem like much. On the signs and website it touted they were “internationally recognized as one of the most beautiful show caves on the planet” and a National Landmark. As the tour ventured further into the cavern it became apparent that this was indeed something special…

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Our stop was well worth it. Not only did we get out of the wind and see a very worthwhile cavern, we heard from our friends in Lajitas that there was a spot for us. Even better… Right next to them!

Our plan is to stay in this area for at least a month if not 2 or 3. There are many things to do, the winter weather is generally perfect (although this year there have been some weather challenges… Not complaining considering the weather throughout much of the states…), and we have a great group of friends to hang out with. As we drove down route 170, the last leg of the trip, we actually felt like we were coming home as this is our 4th time in the area.

It is amazing how fast time flies when you’re having fun! Our days have been full even when the weather didn’t want to cooperate.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAShortly after getting settled the party started. CeCe and Tex bought a beautiful house just above our RV park, La Casa de Vistas… And boy are there ever views from every inch of their wrap around porch! They had the gang over for a football party… Some competition among the ranks made it even more fun. Oh yeah, and the bloody Mary’s and food weren’t bad either!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe love to hike right from our site and took advantage of that right away. We took the girls on a long loop out back, finally some sunshine! They had a bit too much fun and scraped up their paws a bit running around off leash. They had to lay low for a few days after that one but they were happy.

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Chris wanted to do some maintenance on his bike and the clouds and cool air rolled in once again… I decided to take a ride into Presidio with June, John, Di, and Greg. We had a nice lunch and did some shopping. On the way back we had to stop on the big hill for a quick peek.

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALajitas borders Big Bend Ranch State Park. We have wanted to explore more of this park but never wanted to pay the daily fees. With our Texas State Park Pass we now have that opportunity. Our first trip was a loop including the Contrabando West Trail, Dome Trail, and Fresno Divide trail.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis loop traversed a wide range of topography and provided ever changing views. Our route passed through the Cinnabar Mine and Mine Camp ruins. Prospectors in the early 1900’s took advantage of mining for cinnabar (the brilliant red ore of mercury) and produced “quicksilver”, a commodity of the time. It was really odd hiking in the middle of nowhere and coming across information placards…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATalking about the road to nowhere… Chris took off on his motorcycle one day and actually went there! This place is a Mecca for dirt bike riding.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI even made it out to try my skills on some dirt. Chris was impressed at how well I did having not been on my bike on that kind of terrain in a long time. I am looking forward to more chances to improve my skills.

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Sometimes you don’t have to be on dirt to have a good ride… We spent another day cruising into Big Bend and making a loop through Maverick road (took a peek at Santa Elena Canyon), to Ross Maxwell (the views never disappoint), then into the Chisos Basin where we said hello to our friends to just finished lunch. A different view of the window…

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATime for another trek out in our backyard. This time we hiked up to the western mesa behind the RV park. Great views all around… Can you see our camper? Can you see CeCe and Tex’s house? Our reward was another afternoon of football, cards, food and drink with friends.

If this isn’t enough so far… I have been getting up and working out at the resort gym with some of the ladies several mornings a week. There is always something going on… From a girls day shopping in Alpine to a guys day beer tasting at Big Bend Brewing in Alpine, we are never bored!

Oh, and we can’t forget the awesome Taco and Margarita night at Larry and Polly Don’s! Thanks for a great evening. Again good food, drink and company. Good thing I am working out and hiking or I would be the size of a house.

Tune in for more….

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Pedernales Falls State Park and South Llano River State Park

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sun finally came out the day we were moving and it was a sight for sore eyes! Thankfully we were only going about an hour west so we were able to enjoy a bit of the afternoon. We have really been enjoying the campsites in the State Parks and our new spot didn’t disappoint. It was very spacious and fairly private… except for the spur trail from one of the park trails that ended in our backyard…. We used that trail ourselves to do a little exploring and checkout Twin Falls before settling in to a campfire. We figured it would be a while before we could enjoy the outdoors again….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs expected the cold and gray returned with a vengeance… The next four days would have us feeling as if we were home in western NY. The first day we took advantage of a local laundromat. The place was empty and we were done in no time which gave us a good excuse to check out Pecan Street Brewing on our way home. What a cute hometown restaurant and brewery. The beers were ok, but we were warm, dry and not in the camper! Their portobello fries and fish and chips were quite yummy! Yeah, no dishes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWednesday was New Year’s Eve and time for a roadtrip. We left the camper behind and packed up the truck for an overnight in Abilene to visit our friends Grant and Blanca and their children. The travel was far from easy… We thought the freezing rain on the way there was bad… but the ride home proved to be worse. For the first hour the roads were a sheet of ice. The trek was worth it! Blanca made a delicious and festive spread for dinner! We enjoyed meeting and chatting with some of their friends and family, playing games with the kids and of course getting to know their new baby “Jeffery”. Thanks Schmitt family!

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“They” (the weather guessers) say it will eventually clear up… But what do “they” know… Our confidence level was low… Friday was yet another cold, wet day but we killed it! We took a roadtrip to Longhorn Caverns. Wow, pleasantly surprised! The cave tour was more than we expected, not Carlsbad, but what is?

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe were assigned “sweep” for our group so we were able to have some fun taking pictures. Lots of history in this cave including Indians, kidnapping/murders, parties, prohibition bars, the handiwork of the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps), and now weddings and events. There were also tiny little bats we had never experienced before called Solitary bats because they preferred to hang (literally) alone.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn our way home we stopped at Save the World Brewing, a Belgian Inspired microbrewery. We had so much fun we forgot to take a picture! Good beers and great people! The back story… A couple of physicians decided to learn the brewing craft, quit their jobs and opened a brewery where all proceeds are donated to various causes. Pretty cool! A souvenir glass came with your first glass of beer!

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA2015-01 108On Saturday we finally headed out for a hike. So nice to hit trails from our campsite! We did a 5.5 mile loop with a very cold river crossing. Not the most scenic of trails but a good leg stretch and the girls love every opportunity to get in the water! We decided to check out another brewery that came with high regard when we were at Save The World. Jesterking Brewery is a farmhouse style brewery with a wide selection of guest beers. When we got there people were parking all the way out to the road… This place was a bit different from our intimate experience the day before. There were huge lines to taste at several locations on the property, two different music venues, a wood fire pizza stand, and about 400 or more people scattered across the grounds… Both of us were a bit tired so we opted to select 4 bottles to taste another time and headed home. The artwork on their bottles was pretty amazing!

2015-01 142 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur last day at Pedernales was a sunny one, yeah! Having been here for almost a week it was high time we actually saw the falls. At first we thought it was just another wide River with a few water fall features, ok… As we got closer and actually walked on the rocks it became apparent why Pedernales was a State Park. Wow, really interesting pools, falls, pot holes, and fun climbing rocks! We had a great time negotiating the rocks and water for a couple of hours. This was one area that would have been way easier without the girls! Thankfully we made it out without any twisted ankles since we have no health insurance for January (long story, stupid state website!…).

2015-01 131 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter frolicking on the rocks we headed out to meet our friends Robin and John for some traditional Texas BBQ. They too were traveling through the area and suggested we meet for dinner at Saltlick BBQ just outside of Austin. Great to catch up and very good food! Would stop there again just for the ribs!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was time to move on and we chose South Llano River State Park on Junction Texas. Our plan was to stay for a few days staging for our trip down to Big Bend. Unfortunately we were unable to get internet, hence Chris couldn’t work from there… The park staff were great and refunded us for one day. We had an awesome site too! We made the most of our short stay and freakishly nice weather. We had a fire and hiked several of the trails.

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis park had the most wildlife we have seen in one location in a long time. We spotted turkey, deer, armadillos, piglets, and numerous birds. The park had several bird blinds set up with water features and other things to draw the birds in. This park was also home to a wild turkey roosting area. One of only a few in the states. From 3 PM to 10 AM a large area was off limits to all except the turkeys(not the kind that include Chris).

The plan to get to Big Bend has been thwarted by yet another weather event… An ice storm caused power outages due to downed power lines a few days ago… We were unable to call and when we finally were able to make contact with the campground, there was no availability until January 18th… What to do, what to do…

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Christmas in McKinney Falls State Park, Austin Texas

After a less than comfortable drive from Huntsville (wind, wind, wind,… Did I say wind…) we arrived at McKinney Falls State Park. Reviews were very good but we were skeptical due to its close proximity to such a large city. Huh… We were pleasantly surprised. We got a great site with accessibility to all the trails from our door.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA common theme of our journey thus far has been the crappy weather however we were lucky enough to string together few nice days here. We spent the first few days exploring the park. Or first trek was to the Upper Falls. Although the waterfall wasn’t as impressive as the images online, the swimming hole/falls area proved to be much more than expected. On a hot summer day, this place must be sooooo crowded.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn Christmas Day the sun was shining and we were looking forward to exploring more of the park. Wow, amazing how many people opted to visit the State Parks with friends and family on the holiday. We took the Homestead Trail adding the Flintrock Loop Trail for good measure.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur walk took us through the Lower McKinney Falls and the remains of the old McKinney Homestead. It felt like a Christmas miracle seeing the sun for a change. Big smiles all day! We ended our day with a very yummy dinner of grilled lamb chops (thanks for sending the grill parts Tonya and Rich!), roasted squash, mashed squash, and broccoli salad.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had visited Austin before and checked out the Capitol and river park trail. This time we decided to check out one of the eclectic entertainment districts, 6th street. We started with a walk admiring the skyline then cruised the city streets. We visited a few local establishments and sampled a few beverages from the area. There was a lot of energy as night fell.

Friends of ours who live in Abilene were planning on visiting for a camp out Saturday… Saturday became a “rainout” and plans changed. We all decided to scratch the camp out and moved to plan B. We will be driving to their place to ring in the new year! A road trip from our road trip.

Off to Pedernales State Park, west of Austin near Johnson City, Texas.

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Huntsville State Park, Texas

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHuntsville State Park (SP) is located between Dallas and Houston. The park is situated around a small lake, Lake Raven. We arrived to a pretty empty park and found a great site right on the water. Expecting the weather to take a turn for the worse, we took a quick picture as we set up to capture the awesomeness of the spot. This would be our first camping stop in our Texas State Park tour.

 

 

 

 

2014-12 204We did have a few more opportunities to enjoy our great site!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHuntsville”s claim to fame is that it is home of Sam Houston a general and politician who fought for Texas’s independence. The visitor center boasts having the tallest statue of an American Hero, standing 77 feet tall. Of course we had to take a posterity shot… Have to document all of the “est’s” (biggest, tallest, smallest, weirdest, you get the idea…) along the way.

Huntsville SP had over 20 miles of trail accessible from our campsite, Nice!  From these trails there was also access to the Lone Star Trail, a 129 mile recreation trail that meanders through the Sam Houston National Forest.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe have found some of the fauna to be quite interesting.  A new sighting this trip has been the Beautyberry Bush and its vibrant purple berries.  The weather has been challenging at best however the mushrooms don’t seem to mind…  There were a few days that gave us hope we had traveled far enough south and west to outrun the cold and damp but many more that proved us wrong (Ok, friends and family back east… Yes, I am complaining….).

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn between the raindrops we managed to hike every inch of the trails in the SP and briefly visit the National Forest trails. See the camper across the lake in the background? 2014-12 192We made a few trips into town for movies and did some car touring of the surrounding area.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnother perk of the Texas State Park Annual Pass is that you can fish within the state parks without a license. We took advantage of our waterfront location and casted a few times. No fish for dinner… No surprises there for those who know Chris! By the way…there were numerous signs warning of alligators but not a one that we could find.

We had some motorcycle parts mailed to Huntsville with an expected delivery date of Friday. The Christmas mail rush must have slowed it down as it didn’t arrive. We decided to stay until Tuesday in hope that it would show up. We checked on Monday… Nothing… Oh well… We packed up on Tuesday morning expecting to leave the package behind. As we pulled out of our campsite a text came in that it was at the post office. Whoooo hooooo ! Believe it or not the post office was even on our route to our next destination!

Although not all awe inspiring, we had a good week putting on lots of miles trying to get back in shape (round is “A” shape, not “IN” shape).

Off to the Austin where we will spend Christmas this year. Looking forward to checking out some more Texas state parks.

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