Bonham State Park

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This was our campsite at Bonham State Park.  It’s a small but lovely park – only 21 campsites.  This ended up being one of my favorite camping trips with just Rosie and me.  The weather was PERFECT.  The nights were a little chilly and the daytime had a wonderful breeze.  We didn’t have the best campsite, but we got the last available one for this particular weekend so I’m not complaining – was happy we got one.  Sites 11 and 12, which accommodates RVs and tents, are definitely premium sites right on the water’s edge.

We didn’t get much hiking in for a couple of reasons.  With the recent rains, almost all of the trails were extremely muddy and some were literally under water.  Plus, Rosie has been limping lately on one of her front legs.  Not sure if it’s a minor injury or arthritis setting in, but we’ve been taking it easy on the hiking to give her leg some rest.  We did walk the park road, which circles the small lake, quite a bit, and we were both fine with that for this weekend.

I also made a few sun prints for the first time.  Sun prints are made by laying different things on a chemically treated paper that reacts to the sunshine.  I’ll write more about this in the next week or two and include some scans.  Making sun prints is a lot of fun, easy and fairly inexpensive – about $10 for 12 sheets and a small acrylic overlay.  It makes a great craft project when camping with kids, but adults like it too.

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the camping trip that almost wasn’t

A9R87quki_13leff6_2ccIt’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve last written, and I have a very good reason.  The dog and I went on a 4-day camping trip the weekend of October 6.  We re-visited Palo Duro Canyon State Park which is near Amarillo, Texas (very West Texas).  We had camped at Palo Duro at the end of last May but the heat index was in the triple digits, so we didn’t get to hike the Lighthouse Trail.  I wanted to hike that trail so much that I decided to return when the temps were much cooler.

Solo camping is hard.  You are responsible for everything – planning, packing, setting up.  I typically set aside the week before a camping trip to prepare and do things such as planning meals, buying groceries, packing for Rosie (food and treats), packing up the backpacks … yada, yada, yada.  Fortunately, my little camper keeps 90% of the camping gear ready to go any time.

We headed out early Friday morning for the 7-hour drive to Palo Duro.  It was a looooooong drive.  I really like to drive only four to five hours at the most in one day.  In fact, on our previous trip to Palo Duro, we stopped about 3.5 hours from home to spend the night at a hotel and split up the drive.   So much easier on me.  But since I had Friday off from work, I decided to drive the whole way.  I will not do that again.  From now on, weekend camping trips will be within four hours of my home, or I will take the time off to split up a longer drive.  Lesson learned.

When we finally arrived at the park headquarters, I noticed several red paper signs posted around.  It wasn’t until I pulled up to the gate to check-in that I could read the signs.  Trail systems closed.  Whaaaat?  That was the primary reason we had gone to that park – to get in some good hiking in the canyon.  Seriously, I thought hard about just turning around and going back home.  But I talked myself out of it and decided that I was going to stick it out and make the best of the situation.  As it turned out, the weekend was great.  There were more little challenges along the way, but as I resolved to do, we made the best of the weekend and had a great time.

On Saturday the trails were still closed, so we headed off to Caprock Canyons State Park, about an hour and a half away.  What a great park!  I actually liked it better than Palo Duro – easier check-in, beautiful visitor center, smaller and a lot less crowded.   A park ranger suggested that we hike the South Prong Trail since that trail has water for the dog.  It was a beautiful 4-mile hike that winds along a river bed with a small running stream of cool, clear water.  Rosie loved being able to walk in the water, drink whenever she wanted, and especially liked laying in the cool water when she got hot.  She’s probably wishing all hikes were like that one.

After the hike, I stopped in a little diner and ordered a ham and cheese sandwich.  While I waited for my sandwich, I munched on tortilla chips and homemade salsa.  Yum.  Chips and salsa is an entire food group for me.  And the ham and cheese?  I expected a cold sandwich which would have been totally acceptable because I was famished after the hike.  But this sandwich was one of those grilled ham and cheese sandwiches with Texas toast and mayo.  It definitely hit the spot!  We had a nice drive back to our campsite at Palo Duro, and after a shower and some relaxing, I fixed chicken sausage and sweet potatoes in the electric skillet.  Another great meal!

I woke up early Sunday morning and again wondered if we shouldn’t just cut our losses and head back home.  I didn’t have to work Monday so I’d have the whole day to do things around the house.  But I also needed to do some caulking on the camper and finish up the screen door I made for the door.  I had been procrastinating getting those tasks done for months.  So I decided that this was the best time and I could finally mark them off my to do list.  I finished my screen door for the camper, so now I can leave the door open to enjoy the scenery while I read before going to sleep.  I caulked around the door handle and several spots on the roof of the camper where I thought the water was leaking in between the walls of the camper.  And like magic, just as I was finishing up about 9:30, the park ranger drove up to let me know that the trails were open.  The trails are open!

I quickly packed up my and Rosie’s backpacks with LOTS of water as is strongly recommended.  I included some turkey jerky and a granola bar for snacks.  We hit the Lighthouse Trail at about 10 am.  That’s a lot later than I typically like to start out on a hike, but the weather was absolutely gorgeous with a cool breeze.  We ended up not needing near as much water as I packed, but I’m a strong believer in carrying much more water than you think you’ll need.  Rosie did great with her backpack that carries her water and bowl.  Everyone gets a kick out of seeing that big dog with her backpack along the trail.  As I like to say to them, “Everyone carries their own water on my hikes.”

That evening we ate pizza in town in Canyon, Texas, at a place called LaBella’s.  It had received really good reviews on Yelp and deservedly so.  I had a healthy side salad (love to get my veggies in!), homemade bread sticks, and a cheese pizza with diced tomatoes.  Not thin crust, not thick crust but in between.  Really good!  I ended up eating half the pizza Sunday night and then eating the rest for lunch the next day while driving home.  I love pizza so much.  And I loved that glass of wine which I so rarely indulge in.

So although there were many little “bumps in the road,” the weekend turned out to be a good one – awesome hiking, good food, beautiful weather.  We even managed to sneak in a new state park to check off on our State Park Quest.  It was on our way home on Monday that things took a particularly nasty turn, and I’ll save that for part 2.

 

 

#2 of 95 – Purtis Creek State Park

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You may remember that a few months ago I wrote about the quest to visit all the Texas State Parks.  At this time there are 95 State Parks, but there will be a new one in 2018 in the Palo Pinto Mountains, a short drive west of Fort Worth.

A few weeks ago, Rosie and I visited Purtis Creek State Park and checked that one off our list.  Purtis Creek is near and dear to my heart for a couple of reasons.  My uncle worked there for a number of years and retired from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department while working there.  (Oh yes, he has stories.)  Also, when the famous Canton Trade Days are going on, Purtis Creek is a great spot for camping and shopping at the town that turns into a flea market once a month.  Walking outside and browsing through all the booths and stalls are a favorite for me and Rosie.

So we camped out at Purtis Creek the first weekend of September, Labor Day weekend.  We got to celebrate Uncle Jack’s birthday with him and enjoyed some of his homemade “night time” wine, did some good shopping and walking at the flea market, and even got in a few short hikes at the park.  It was a great camping weekend.

One of my goals is to take a photo of me and Rosie at the State Park signs at the front of each park.  Although I consider myself a photographer with somewhat advanced skills, I am greatly challenged by selfies as you can see in this post’s photograph.  This photo session began with my standing in a fire ant pile while setting up the phone’s camera to operate by remote.  While trying to use the selfie stick, the phone fell out and the screen protector (not the screen, thank goodness) cracked.  After taking a few clumsy shots and deciding surely one of them would work, we got back to the car and I discovered I had lost the battery cover to my remote rendering it useless.  And even though this photo turned out quite wonky, I still love it.  It captures the madness that ensues when I try to take selfies with Rosie.

 

i blame this book

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You might know Chris Guillebeau for his extremely popular book, The $100 Startup, but to be honest, I haven’t read that one. I did just finish his book, The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life, and loved it.  Not only does he tell about his own quest to visit every country on the planet (wow!), but he writes about others’ quests that range from a mom in Oklahoma whose quest is to cook a meal for her family from every country on the planet to the woman who set the record for the most bird sightings.  He writes about the challenges, the motivations, and the logistics of the many quests that appear in his book.  I can’t remember what prompted me read this book, because to be honest, I usually steer clear of these kinds of books because they make me so dang jealous.  Truth:  People fulfilling their life dreams, whether it’s travels or service to a cause, can bring on a very depressing feeling of inadequacy.  But something got me interested in this book enough to get over my envy, and I’m so glad.  Chris did a really good job of describing quests that would take years and significant amounts of money but also writing about quests that would not take so many years and gobs of money.  Lots of ideas and directions.  And he offers a lot of useful advice about completing a quest and the importance of documenting the journey.  Good stuff.

So pretty much from the beginning of the book, I was wondering what I could take on as my quest.  As Chris writes, a true quest requires such things as a clear goal, some kind of sacrifice, and the quest needs to be challenging.  (His book contains a complete list of the qualities that make a quest.)  In the past few years I’ve started camping a lot with Rosie.  I guess you could say I’ve found a long lost love in nature.  I honestly don’t know who enjoys the camping and hiking more – me or Rosie.  We have an 9-day camping trip in October that starts here in Texas, winds through Arkansas, and finishes with a couple of nights in Oklahoma.  It will be camping heaven.  As I was reading Chris’ book, I thought the natural thing to do would be to incorporate all the camping and hiking in my quest.  Visiting all the national parks would be pretty tough for me as I do work a very traditional 8-5 job with limited vacation time.  However, visiting all the state parks in my home state, Texas, would be challenging but still very do-able.

So our quest began last weekend when Rosie and I visited Bonham State Park which is conveniently located about an hour and a half away from home.  We took a little road trip and actually got a couple of errands done on the way.  It was a very good day, and we’re off to a good start.  Of course, it’s just my luck to live in Texas, the second largest state next to Alaska (which is mostly inhabitable so I don’t think it should count).  Texas has almost 100 legitimate state parks.  Yikes! . There are a few State Historical Sites and State Natural Areas, and we will definitely make every effort to visit those as we travel along on our quest, but the principal goal will be to visit every Texas State Park.  We will be camping in as many state parks as possible, taking lots of photos along the way, and journaling about our adventures.  I am envisioning a beautiful book full of photos of Rosie and me with all of our state park stories.

Soon I’ll share my spreadsheet where I list all the state parks by location and proximity to home so that I could figure out which state parks would be a day trip, weekend trip, or would require a week-long vacation.  Because I definitely got the planning genes.

If you read Chris’ book and decide to take on your own quest, I’d love to hear about it and cheer you on!