Travel

Texas Countdown and the Rodeo

I have about forty days left of living in Texas now. When we first received the news that we would be moving to Florida, but I made the decision to stay in Texas a couple extra months to complete the school year, I knew I wanted to make the most of the time I had left. I have not been impressed with living in Corpus Christi that much, but I knew there had to be so much I was missing in such a giant state like Texas. Also, so many people LOVE Texas, so I knew I needed to explore more to see what all the hype was about.

I came up with the following list so I could have multiple “Texas” experiences, while also being budget-conscious. Texas Bucketlist

  1. Texas Rodeo
  2. Enchanted Rock
  3. Austin
  4. Hamilton Pool
  5. Rivertubing the Guadelupe River

Since making this list, I’ve completed two items. You can read about Enchanted Rock by clicking on the link above.

The second event I have checked off my list is the Texas Rodeo. I was invited by a good friend to attend the Tejas Rodeo located in Bulverde, Texas. Bulverde is just north of San Antonio, and it was definitely worth the drive from Corpus for this very Texas experience.  IMG_4163

From start to finish, the rodeo was a great time! It was $10 for each adult, children were free. They also offered food and drinks for purchase. Seating was metal bleachers surrounding a large arena where all the fun took place. VD7aQApWSdSYVR8xKfNd6w

We saw men and women compete in bullriding, roping, mutton bustin’, and barrel racing. I wasn’t a fan of the roping part of the show, but I LOVED the mutton bustin’. Are you familiar with this fantastic show? They tie small children to sheep as they attempt to cling on to sheep. This is to mimic bullriding for kids. You have not lived until you’ve seen a 4-7 year old on the back of sheep trying not to fall off. It really made my night.

I definitely think I would have warmed up to Texas sooner if I had this experience a year ago. I wish Corpus had a weekly rodeo like Bulverde! I’m also pleased my cowboy boots finally got some use. Stay tuned for future posts as I complete my Texas Bucketlist!Texas Rodeo Tejas Rodeo.png

Travel

Texas Car Camping Part 3

I’ve fallen in love… and not with my husband.

I have found a new love in car camping and hiking. The simplicity of the experience and freedom it allows me is everything I didn’t know I was missing.

I told you how I prepared for my trip in my post Solo Car Camping. I told you about the first night in my post Texas Car Camping and my second day in my post Texas Car Camping Part Two. Now I’ll detail my third and final day of my weekend away.

As the sun began to rise Saturday morning I was feeling all sorts of things.

  1. I felt a stiffness in my shoulder that I wasn’t sure if it came from sleeping on it wrong or if it was from climbing in and out of the cave the previous day.
  2. I felt the four blisters on my right foot and the one on my left from hiking 13 miles in new shoes.
  3. I felt excited to move on to Enchanted Rock State Nature Area where I would hike to the summit of a massive pink granite dome.
  4. I felt a little gross and dirty from not showering for a few days. Thank goodness for dry shampoo and baby wipes.
  5. I felt disappointed this would be my last day of my adventure and I would have to return to work on Monday.

All of these feelings energized me for the day ahead. I hit the road by 7:45am to drive the 1.25 hours to my destination. I arrived 30 minutes after their opening time of 8:30 to this sight: About 50 cars lined up on the side of the road trying to enter the park. I underestimated the number of people who would be interested in hiking and this fantastic natural location so early in the morning. Watching every car briefly stop to talk to the park rangers lined up at the entrance only to either continue on down the road or u-turn and head in the opposite direction, I finally got to the front of the line. They already reached their max capacity for the morning, but I was offered a voucher that guaranteed admittance at 1pm when they reopened.

With a little over 3 hours to kill, I fortunately had many options to occupy my time before I would be able to return to the park. I decided to travel the 17 miles to Fredericksburg, TX. What a fantastic town! This destination is known for its German immigrant culture mixed with Texas pride. There are tons of shops, restaurants, wineries and entertainment to keep you occupied for days! The town was bursting with activity and tourists participating in egg hunts, shopping and sight seeing since it was Easter weekend.

I’m not really much for large crowds or spending money so I did some quick research and found a nearby wildflower farm that was free to visit. Sign me up! Wildseed Farms was perfect! You can’t help but admire all the Texas Bluebonnets lining the roads as you travel through Texas, and to have a location with acres of them growing in on place was absolutely gorgeous. They have a shop, winery, an event venue, cafe, and of course the fields. If you’re in the area, you really need to make it a priority to stop.

As the time drew closer to 1pm, it was time to head back to Enchanted Rock.

It was worth the wait.

My intentions were to hike to the top of the dome and then complete a loop around the base of the mountain as well. You can see the trail map here. The climb to the top was tough, but doable. My shoes gripped the granite easily and even a simple tennis shoe would probably do the trick. The views were breathtaking. Nature truly is amazing.

My feet and blisters were not happy though. I laid down and smiled through the pain.

After basking in the sun at the top, I finally decided to make my descent, skipping the longer hike I had planned and headed home.

I don’t think I could have had a better time on this trip. Everything exceeded my expectations. I know there were a few people concerned for my safety, but not once did I feel unsafe. Cold? Yes. But never, unsafe. I really need to get that sleeping bag for next time.

Travel

Texas Car Camping Part Two

My first night in the car fell somewhere between enjoyable and a learning experience. In case you didn’t catch on in my first post, it was a little chilly in the car that night. Despite the cold, I woke up to a beautiful sunrise! vjWcOlpAQE+aCuTMUsrcuA

I had intentions of departing by 6:30 am, but I ended up leaving later than that since it wasn’t even sunrise yet, and I didn’t really feel like packing up in the dark. When I did finally roll out of “bed”, I was able to pack up my supplies in under 15 minutes, including eating my breakfast of pre-made hard boiled eggs and set out to my next location, Colorado Bend State Park. IMG_3943

Today’s itinerary included hiking Gorman Falls and Tie Slide Trail, and a cave adventure tour I booked through their website here. And here is a map of the state park, and all their trails.

I headed straight for the park headquarters upon arrival at the state park. I had my fingers and toes crossed to reserve a campsite for the night and I was super lucky that there was one site left! With my accomodations taken care of, I was behind schedule and didn’t have time to hike to Gorman Falls before my cave adventure, but I did have time to complete the Tie Slide Trail. This trail has lots of trees for cover from the sun and leads to a beautiful overlook of the Colorado River.

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Following this hike, I snacked on some grapes and headed back to the headquarters to meet my tour guide for the cave adventure. I’ve been in a cave before. I’ve toured the Natural Bridge Caverns outside San Antonio, TX and I’ve toured Diamond Caverns in Kentucky. Both of these tours were spent on your two feet the whole time and the most strenuous part might be going up and down stairs. The cave adventure I was about to participate in boasted a majority of crawling and a more raw experience than I had any history with. And an adventure it was!! The guide provided helmets and knee pads, which came in handy again and again as we spent the entire tour on our hands and knees and I bumped my head numerous times as I crawled around this primitive cave. It was AMAZING! I’m still not sure how I fit down this tiny hole and then climbed up through a different, but equally tiny hole. Yjh1g8i+SkOsVal8Qv9V7w

I cannot recommend this experience enough! It was well worth the $25 price tag, if anything, it was a bargain! J3Z1Zy2wTRCGKxele0tvfg

Our tour left from a different part of the park than I was expecting, so instead of going back to the trailhead for Gorman Falls, I decided to just hike from where I was at Cedar Chopper Loop. This added many, many miles to the amount of hiking I had originally planned, but I was feeling ambitious. I took Cedar Chopper Loop to Dogleg Canyon Trail and peeped this awesome canyon. naH1mcANQRuCeTuSyq4i8w

Dogleg Canyon Trail to River Trail and got to see a closed to the public cave entrance while using chains to traverse this tricky spot:IMG_4031

River Trail to Gorman Falls which got very slippery at the end as you descend down to the base of the waterfall. Ur15jHixSpC6TUs2djATAkXN+okRlqiPbYdz2YwUg

Definitely worth the struggle though.

I reached Gorman Falls and according to my Fitbit I traveled 10 miles by foot so far. My feet were preaching every step of that data. I still had to hike back to my car. Who’s idea was it to not drive to the trailhead? Mine. It was mine. No one to blame but myself.

Old Gorman Road to Cedar Chopper Loop got me back to my car the fastest. Once I was back in the RAV4 I headed to my campsite for the night where I quickly got my bed together, made my dinner and then did some stretching next to a curious armadillo.

Even with the cold that night, I slept very fitfully out of exhaustion. But I found a new love in hiking.

What do you or don’t you love about hiking?

Travel

Camping for Rookies

I have been camping probably hundreds of times in my life. I would go so far as to call myself a seasoned camper. Despite all of these trips and excursions into the woods and mountains, apparently it wasn’t enough times to prevent some very rookie mistakes this last weekend.Camping for Rookies-2

My husband proposed the idea on Friday. Randomly, he recommended we go camping on the beach for one night on Saturday. It sounded like a great idea to me! I couldn’t wait to wake up to the sound of the Gulf of Mexico, play with our kite, and bury my feet in the sand. The one perk of living in South Texas may be that you can comfortably go to the beach in February.ow+9znWlQ6ysOxaBmj3Tpw

Saturday came around, we took care of some household chores, loaded up the truck, and set out for the beach and our overnight camping expedition. The last time we went camping was over New Years, so we were looking forward to disconnecting, even if it was only for the night.

Well, we hit our first road block early into the trip. We first headed to Mustang Island State Park where I read it was free to camp on the beach. A quick 20 minute drive and we were pulling up to the entrance, only to find it was closed. They are still doing clean up after Hurricane Harvey that hit the coast in August 2017. Well we quickly reassessed our situation and headed in the opposite direction to the Padre Island National Seashore. This is a National Park, and luckily since he is active duty military we get an annual pass into national parks for free-I love free. Civilians can purchase an annual pass for $70. About 30 minutes in the opposite direction and we were in the park, our spot scouted on the beach, and we were setting up camp for the night.

Cue snag number 2. I started cooking dinner. Grilled chicken and a salad were on the menu. I immediately realized I didn’t have any aluminum foil to cover the chicken in the pan. Not a big deal, but it would’ve helped the chicken to cook a bit faster, especially since it was incredibly windy. Ten minutes into cooking and I noticed the flame was out on our stove. Fabulous. I thought it was due to the wind, but it was due to the butane fuel can being empty. No biggie, we have a spare in our kitchen gear. Not a full can though. It was about 3/4 empty. So five minutes into trying to cook with that can, and we were completely out of fuel. As a last ditch effort to salvage the protein for our dinner, we put the pan on the campfire. It turns out, cooking on the beach over a campfire, on a windy night, and no cover for your pan, will only lead to your food being completely covered in an extraordinary amount of sand. Making it inedible.

Snag number 3. We have a rooftop tent. This completely genius invention is a tent that can be mounted on- you guessed it- your roof! It is a GAMECHANGER! It’s probably a million times more comfortable than a ground tent, and takes about 30 seconds to set up.

Check it out:IMG_0634

Typically we keep our sleeping bags and pillows in the tent. Everything folds up so nicely and conveniently! Well, as I mentioned before, we went camping over New Years. Since our trip was about four nights long, our linens were due for a wash. In our haste, we remembered to get the sleeping bags from the linen closet, but not the pillows. Balling up a thin hoodie to serve as a replacement pillow is not ideal.

Overall this trip, while it could’ve been better, was still a great time. We learned that we definitely need to not get complacent with our camping prep and just assume we have everything we need in our pre-packed gear. We also learned that the trip is about being together, even in unideal circumstances. And we learned that sandy chicken is gross. I don’t care. I still got to wake up to the sounds of the waves from the Gulf of Mexico crashing onto the beach, just feet from where I was sleeping. YrssAQyUSF2Q0UY+%FzneQ