Tag Archives: Texas state parks

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