Tag Archives: Texas state parks

Parking It, Part 2: Make way for the flames

AMARILLO, Texas — We had every intention this morning of parking our fifth wheel RV at Copper Breaks State Park just south of Quanah, in Hardeman County.

Then something got in the way.

Fire, man! Flames! Lots of ’em.

We knew about the fire that had broken out. We called the state park office to inquire about any fire danger. That was four days ago. The ranger said the park was open “at this moment.” There was no imminent fire danger, she said, “right now. But you would do well to call us as you get closer to your departure date.”

Deal. Then I forgot to call ahead before we set out from Collin County.

About an hour or so on the road, the phone rang in the truck. Texas Parks & Wildlife headquarters in Austin was on the other end of the call. “I’m so sorry to tell you but Copper Breaks is not accepting any arrivals today” because of the fire danger. She asked if we had any alternate preferences. I mentioned Lake Arrowhead State Park near Jolly. “Hold on, I’ll get back to you,” she said.

Lake Arrowhead had limited availability; only water sites were left. We decided to come all the way to Amarillo.

The point of this blog, though, is to say a good word about TP&W’s alertness, that the agency was able to get in touch with us and inform us of the danger in plenty of time.

You might know already that I am a giant fan of the Texas state park system. We do all we can to support it financially. We enjoy the amenities. The parks are well-groomed. They are customer friendly.

TP&W also is willing to keep a sharp eye out for those of us who forget to do their due diligence before hitting the road.

Parking It, Part 1: The journey continues

I want to introduce to a new series of blog posts I intend to write on High Plains Blogger.

You know already about the series I write about the joys and occasional challenges of our “retirement journey along those “Happy Trails”; I also chronicle our life with Toby the Puppy and the “Puppy Tales” series; I like sharing the good times and the struggles of my journalism career, which truly gave me the “Time of My Life.”

I now have a new series to inaugurate. “Parking It” chronicles our journeys through the massive Texas state parks system, which my wife and I are glad to support with our tax money and with our annual purchase of Texas State Park Passes.

The state has 51 state parks. We have managed to visit 16 of them in our fifth wheel recreational vehicle. I am reluctant to declare my goal would be visit the rest of the state parks in the Texas Parks & Wildlife network. I’ll just declare our intention to get to as many as we can … and leave it at that. We just intend to stay at state parks whenever we travel in-state. Given the vast size of Texas, there remains a lot of this huge state to see.

When we do I’ll seek to offer a brief view into what we see and experience at the parks we visit.

Do I have a favorite so far among those sites we’ve visited? Not really. We have managed over the years to haul our RV to some state parks more than others mostly because of their convenient location.

San Angelo State Park is one site we’ve visited several times. We used to park our RV in Amarillo, even for a time after we moved from the Panhandle to the Metroplex. Now, though, we have moved our RV closer to us. However, when it was parked in Amarillo and we planned an in-state sojourn we found that San Angelo was a nice first-night stop en route to points in any direction from the South Plains location.

We returned today from two nights at Lake Bob Sandlin State Park, which is about a two-hour drive east of us. We had been there before, so we know the lay of the land.

Here is a cool thing to share: We have moved to a region of the state — in Collin County — that is within an easy drive to many, many parks.

TP&W does a wonderful job maintaining its park system. The staff at any of the parks is helpful. They personify the best in customer service, at least that has been our experience. I would be inclined to report something different if it occurs; so far, so good.

So, as our retirement journey continues and we continue to enjoy the Texas state parks system, I plan to take you on that journey with us. I hope you’ll enjoy the ride.

This amendment issue is worth all Texans’ support

It’s not often that a Texas constitutional amendment election gets my juices flowing, but this year is going to present one for my wife and me.

Hey, we’re retired these days and we spend time cruising around Texas hauling our fifth wheel recreational vehicle behind our pickup. When we travel in Texas, we make it a point to spend as many nights as we can at one of the state parks.

So, the Legislature has decided to send a measure to voters this fall that dedicates a lot of money to maintain and improve our state park network.

I am all in on this one!

According to the Texas Tribune: In a big win for outdoor enthusiasts and day trippers alike, legislation that would ensure that the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission always get the maximum amount of money they are allowed to receive through a state sporting goods sales tax has passed both the House and Senate and heads to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for his signature.

The 1993 Legislature approved a law that dedicated 94 percent of sales tax revenue to the state parks, with 6 percent going to the Texas Historical Commission. In the years since then, the state has been forced to use that revenue to balance the budget, depriving the parks system of money it needs for maintenance, upkeep and improvement of the system.

The constitutional amendment would ensure the state spends as much money as possible on parks, according to state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, author of the bill.

My wife and I recently moved to Collin County. We live with easy driving distance of several first-class state parks. We have enjoyed Lake Tawakoni, Lake Bob Sandlin, Eisenhower and Lake Arrowhead state parks.

We are — and this is not an overstatement — gigantic fans of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and the state park system. We have enjoyed many of our state parks over the years. We purchase the annual pass that waives our entrance fees; we see it as an investment in what we believe is a first-class network of parks.

We obviously aren’t alone in making ample use of our state parks. TP&W Commission Chairman Ralph Duggins noted in an email that pressure on the parks is coming from a booming population and said that “this bill will give voters the chance to assure their future with a predictable, dedicated and sustainable funding stream.”

I am often highly critical of state government. Not on this matter, though. The Texas state park network is worth all Texans’ support.

Happy Trails, Part 125: Great RV neighbors

COPPER BREAKS STATE PARK, Texas — I had intended for this blog post to be a high-minded tribute to the Texas Parks & Wildlife department’s state park system.

Specifically, I intended to write about how easy it is to back into TP&W park sites. I would pull our 28-foot fifth wheel up to the site, straighten the truck/RV assembly out and back it all in. Slick, man! No sweat!

For some reason I don’t yet know, it didn’t work out that way.

I want instead to devote most of this post to the neighborliness of RVers. I’ve experienced their friendliness and willingness to offer a hand. This time an angel named Jim stepped up and said, “Hey, do y’all need help backing in?”

We answered simultaneously, “Yes!”

We offered him the keys to the truck. He took ‘em and back the rig into our spot.

We learned that Jim and wife, Brenda, have been traveling for two years full time in their RV. They’re originally from Hereford, Texas, just about 30 miles southwest of Amarillo. They’ve been just about everywhere in this country, Jim said.

He also told us he began backing up semi trucks when he was 13 years of age. His father hauled cattle in these big rigs, Jim said, so he got indoctrinated early. “Yep, that’s Hereford, all right,” I said with a weary chuckle.

I do not intend to speak ill of TP&W and its system of state parks. Indeed, the agency does make its back-in RV sites quite accessible – even more for brain-dead RVers such as yours truly. My wife and I are huge fans of the Texas parks system and we visit them whenever we can when we’re traveling in-state. Copper Breaks is a lovely site just south of Quanah in Hardeman County.

Maybe I’ll do better the next time I have to back our RV into a site. Not this time. I’ll chalk it up to, oh, a long day on the road. Yeah, that’s the ticket. I was tired. That works as an excuse.

Now that we’re here, we intend to relax for a few days. We can do that now that we’re retired.

Happy Trails, Part 43

MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK, Colo. — Oh, how I love parks. National parks, state parks, municipal parks. You name ’em. I love ’em.

We’ve spent a good bit of travel time visiting and staying at public parks. They’re quite friendly to us recreational vehicle users. What’s more, the National Park Service has this wonderful perk it extends to us older folks. It’s called a “Senior Pass.” It gets us into national parks for free — for the rest of our lives.

Texas’s state parks system also allows us free entry, but it’s not a lifetime pass. We have to renew it annually. It’s worth it for us, given that (a) state park overnight RV lodging is cheap and (b) the state parks in Texas generally are places of beauty.

We ventured to Mesa Verde National Park, which is about 40 miles west of Durango. It features 1,000-year-old — and older — cliff dwellings carved out of canyon walls high up in the mountains. It’s about a 20-mile drive from the park entrance to where one can see the dwellings. It’s a winding, highly scenic excursion along the way.

If I had one gripe about our national parks, it’s that they aren’t exactly pet friendly. We found this out on another trip to Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas and at Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico.

We had to sneak Toby the Puppy along with us to Mesa Verde’s exhibits. He wasn’t allowed to walk along any trails, but since we didn’t see “trails” as I understand the meaning of the word, we took him with us along paved walkways toward the exhibits; then we would pick up him and pack him through some of the dwelling exhibits.

Shhh! Don’t rat me out … please.

Our travels are going to take us to many more of these federal parks. I believe we’ve been to 17 national parks already in our 46 years of life together. One of my unofficial bucket-list objectives is to see all of them before I’m no longer able to travel long distances.

So … the adventure continues.

Happy Trails, Part 19

You might know already that I am a big fan of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.

TP&W runs our state parks. The park system offers a nice perk to those of us who live in Texas. We are able to purchase a pass that enables us to enjoy the parks without paying an entrance fee, which isn’t steep by any means, but it adds up over time if you use the parks frequently.

My wife and I now are fully retired. We’ve been spending a lot more of our time sleeping in our recreational vehicle. Thus, we are pulling our RV to state parks around the state and are enjoying the parks without having to shell out entrance fees every time we arrive at park entrances.

As we ramp up our RV use, we intend to make ample use of our state parks.

I’ve griped long and loud over many years about Texas government. I am, though, a big fan of the state’s park system. We have a couple of first-class parks in the Panhandle: Palo Duro Canyon and Caprock Canyons. We haven’t yet hauled our RV onto the floor of PD Canyon, but we have stayed at Caprock Canyons and have enjoyed the park immensely.

Later this summer, we’re going to camp at Lake Arrowhead State Park near Wichita Falls, Lake Bob Sandlin State Park east of Dallas and Village Creek State Park in the Big Thicket in Deep East Texas. We’ve already discovered several other state parks: Goose Island in Rockport, Garner in Uvalde, Lake Casa Blanca in Laredo, San Angelo State Park, Stephen F. Austin near Houston, Balmorhea near the Davis Mountains.

Am I a cheerleader for the state’s public park system? You bet I am. I encourage everyone I can think of to use the parks. They’re a treasure that make me proud of my state.

We’ve only just begun to enjoy them.

State parks are the way to go

This is the latest in an occasional series of blog posts commenting on upcoming retirement.

GARNER STATE PARK, Texas — The picture attached to this blog post tells the story: this place is as tranquil and quiet as it appears.

This park is nestled in the gorgeous Hill Country of Texas, just north of Uvalde, which is the hometown of the person after whom the park is named.

I refer to the late John Nance “Cactus Jack” Garner, the former vice president of the United States during the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. It was Garner who once famously declared that “the vice presidency ain’t worth a bucket of warm piss.”

They didn’t call him Cactus Jack for nothin’, you know.

My wife and I have decided that state parks are the way to travel through this vast state of ours.

We have purchased a state park pass, which for a year allows us access to any state park in the state without paying an entrance fee. The nightly fee for camping there in an RV varies: $15 to $20.

I’ve complained for decades now about Texas state government. It spends too little on this, too much on that. It devalues public education and seeks on occasion to legislate morality.

Blah, blah, blah.

I am a big fan of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the agency that runs our state park system.

Our state parks are second to none. Well, perhaps that’s just my opinion, given that I haven’t been to state parks in every state in the Union. I’ll just settle on declaring that Texas’s state parks are inviting.

They’re well-appointed, clean, well-groomed. Park staffers are full of that legendary Texas hospitality.

There’s a decent chance my wife and I — along with Toby the Puppy — will visit most if not all of them as we continue to enjoy this new lifestyle called “retirement.”

Trying to make up for lost time

canyons

CAPROCK CANYONS STATE PARK, Texas — I’m kicking myself in the backside.

My wife and I moved to the Texas Panhandle more than 21 years ago. We’ve had a wonderful life here. We’ve been able to enjoy much of what the region has to offer.

Why the kick in the kiester?

It’s because it took us so damn long to get into the back country known as Caprock Canyons. I’m telling you, this is a truly gorgeous part of the world.

I’m preaching to the choir that’s already been here. For those of you haven’t yet had the opportunity, I encourage you to spend some time here, to enjoy the solitude and the splendor that the Almighty provides for you.

Of all the things Texas state government does well, I rate its care and maintenance of its state parks system to be among its greatest triumphs.

During our more than three decades living in Texas, we’ve visited a lot of state parks from the Big Thicket in East Texas to the red rocks of Palo Duro Canyon on the High Plains of West Texas … and many of the parks between them.

Caprock Canyons’ splendor takes our breath away as the sun comes up and the air is still relatively cool.

If you’ve been living in the region for a while and you haven’t seen it yet, shame on you!

I can say that because I am shaming myself for waiting so long.

Trash: Biggest pet peeve in the world

trash

CAPROCK CANYONS STATE PARK, Texas — What is wrong with this picture?

Time’s up!

It’s that empty water bottle someone must’ve tossed aside while walking along the Canyon Rim Trail.

This might rank among the top three pet peeves of my life; the other two might be the sight of someone talking/texting while driving a motor vehicle and someone talking too loudly on a cell phone while sitting in a public place with other people who have zero interest in hearing about the person’s big-money business transaction.

I have done my share of griping about Texas state government during my 30-plus years living here. The state too often seems run by partisan morons who cannot seem to get it into their thick skulls that they represent all Texans, not just those who voted for their election to whatever public office they hold.

Texas government, though, does a lot of things right. One of them is the development and maintenance of its state park system.

I’m telling you, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department runs a first-rate state park network.

Caprock Canyons State Park, just outside Quitaque, is one of the jewels.

So, what did we see this afternoon while along the Canyon Rim Trail? That damn empty water bottle.

Earlier in the day, my wife went through our campsite and police it of myriad articles of trash that others had tossed aside. They just couldn’t bring themselves to walk a short distance to the nearest Dumpster.

The water bottle tossed along the rim of the canyon reminded me of a series of roadside signs my wife and I see as we drive southeast along U.S. 287. Just as you enter Estelline in Hall County, you cross a riverbed and the signs read, in order: Real Texans … don’t litter … Texas highways.

Hmm. One might hope that “real human beings” wouldn’t want to litter one of Mother Nature’s true gifts to us … which looks like something like this.

beauty