Tag Archives: TP&W

Proud of ‘Ike’s park’

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

EISENHOWER STATE PARK, Texas – Every so often I feel the need to extol the virtues of enjoying the great outdoors in our great state.

That urge has overtaken me yet again.

I offer this brief missive aiming to entice fellow North and Northeast Texas to enjoy the state park system that I continue to believe is one of the major accomplishments of our state government which occasionally draws barbs from me.

My wife and I ventured to Eisenhower State Park, just outside of Denison, right on the Red River and in this region the local news media refer to as “Texoma.” This place is a jewel. It’s clean, well-managed, with well-marked hiking and biking trails. We did pick up an empty Coke can on one of our hikes through the park, prompting my wife to wonder out loud how someone who ventures to one of these places to “enjoy nature” could possibly toss an aluminum can into the bushes.

Summer break is coming up for students all across Texas. That means, of course, that demand on these parks will increase dramatically during the summer. Listen up: If you intend to camp at nearby Eisenhower State Park, you’d be wise to book your campsite soon, perhaps even right now!

Gov. Greg Abbott has lifted many of the mandated restrictions brought to us by the COVID pandemic. That doesn’t mean you can ignore safety measures recommended by infectious disease experts, a point that Abbott has sought to make. Texas Parks & Wildlife officials continue to disallow public use of office. TP&W staffers are still masked up and keeping their distance from those of us who venture to the park.

I want to make another point about Eisenhower State Park. It is named in honor of a great American, the nation’s 34th president, Dwight Eisenhower, who was born in a modest home in nearby Denison. Ike went on to do a couple of pretty big things. He helped defeat the 20th century’s most evil tyrant during World War II and then got elected to two terms as president of the United States. He famously warned us during his farewell address in 1960 to guard against the “military-industrial complex,” which even at the time was an amazing admonition from a man who bore the title of general of the Army.

The National Park Service has put together a wonderful exhibit at Ike’s boyhood home. That, too, is worth seeing … along with the state park that bears his name.

Take my word for it: spending time away from the hubbub and hassle of today’s news provides great therapy for the soul. The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department has answered that need with this – and many other – wonderful parks.

NOTE: This blog post was published originally on KETR-FM’s website, ketr.org.

Happy Trails, Part 184: Finding a hidden jewel

I really enjoy discovering places I didn’t know existed.

Fairfield Lake, just about 100 miles south of Dallas, is our latest discovery.

Texas Parks & Wildlife runs a state park here. Our GPS told us we had “arrived” at our destination, but we had to travel another 10 miles or so before we stumbled upon the park headquarters building.

We got to our RV campsite. We hooked up our RV. We had something to eat. Then we walked to edge of the lake. Holy smokes, man! This place is beautiful.

Our retirement journey has taken us to many places around the country. This ranks up there with the best of ’em. Just think, too, that it’s on the edge of our neighborhood! Who knew? Not me, kids.

Fairfield Lake State Park opened in 1976 after Texas Power & Light built a dam to store water to cool a power plant nearby. The lake comprises 1,460 acres in Freestone County.

Our goal is see every state park in our TP&W system of parks. We have a long way to go, having visited only about 25 or so out of the state’s system of more than 90 parks. We might be delayed in getting to all of the sites. Why is that?

Because of something my wife told me: “This is one park I definitely could come back to if we just wanted to get away for a few days.” There you go. We can’t be everywhere all at once.

It’s a gorgeous place. I’m all in.

Littering provokes militancy

SEA RIM STATE PARK, Texas — I am married to an anti-littering militant.

I have known it for the nearly five decades of our married life, but I saw it on full display on a morning walk along the Texas Gulf Coast.

We sauntered onto the beach from our fifth wheel. Immediately, she became incensed at what she saw … and what she began to collect on our stroll. I figure we must have picked up close to a 40 pounds of trash on our walk of several hundred yards.

I am proud of her, as you might surmise.

The point she made struck home with me. Why come to the great outdoors, enjoy nature and then soil it with this kind of trash? We understand fully, though, that a lot of trash washes ashore from offshore — from seagoing vessels and from the oil platforms one can see from the beach.

In the early 1980s, the General Land Office launched its anti-littering campaign, labeling it “Don’t Mess With Texas.” The phrase over time has been perverted to connote some sort of macho statement about Texas and Texans. However, it means simply that we shouldn’t toss litter onto our landscape.

I get it, and I assure you my bride certainly gets it.

Let me be clear on this matter: We are proud supporters of our state parks. We intend to see them all before we no longer are able to haul our fifth wheel around our immense state. I also am proud of the way Texas Parks & Wildlife cares for our parks. TP&W does a stellar job of keeping them well-groomed, which makes them so attractive to us.

It’s no one’s fault here at Sea Rim State Park that the beach is littered with too much trash. The fault lies with the nimrods who come here, as my wife says, to “enjoy nature” only to sully it with their trash. The fault also lies with the seagoing vessel crews and the dipsticks who work on those platform way out there on the horizon.

To those who aren’t as careful as they should be about disposing of their trash, be forewarned: Don’t mess with Mrs. Kanelis.

Cabin fever is overpowering

I am making an admission with this blog post. It is that the coronavirus pandemic has afflicted me with a serious case of cabin fever.

The image with this post is of the fifth wheel my wife and I own, along with the pickup. The picture was snapped a year ago while we were parked for a couple of nights at San Angelo State Park.

But … here’s the deal: Texas has closed all its state parks. That means we cannot take our recreational vehicle for a trip to any of them. Nothing is open. The Parks & Wildlife Department shut ’em all down. It’s only temporary.

However, you have to understand something about my wife and me. We are ardent supporters of our state park system. We purchase a state park pass each year to waive our entrance fee into any of the parks throughout our state.

We can’t use it. TP&W has extended the park pass for two months past its expiration date, and we’re grateful for that.

In the meantime we’re stuck at home. That RV is parked about three miles away. Our truck is in our driveway. We don’t even drive the truck much, given that Gov. Greg Abbott and the city of Princeton have closed practically all outdoor activities, most businesses.

Cabin fever is the pits, man. Although it’s surely not nearly as perilous as the fever associated with COVID-19. Accordingly, I am grateful that our family has been spared the disease, although we hear from family members that they’re going stir crazy, too. We feel their pain.

The stay at home directive has shut down anything we can do with the RV. A private RV park is out of the question as well, as nothing in any community we would want to visit is open to visitors.

Do you get my drift? We are ready for the “social distancing” we’re all observing will have the desired effect and will reduce the infection rate sufficiently to allow Gov. Abbott and other officials to give us the “all clear.”

When we hear it, we’re likely to hit the road open as soon as is humanly possible.

Cabin fever is the pits.

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.

Happy Trails, Part 154: Why didn’t we come here before?

SEA RIM STATE PARK, Texas — I am kicking myself in the backside.

My wife and I lived in the Golden Triangle for nearly 11 years before we relocated way up yonder to the Texas Panhandle. That 24 years ago.

Today we arrived at a Texas state park jewel about 40 miles from where we used to live. Sea Rim State Park is a marvelous place to sit, relax, listen to the sounds of the surf and to just veg out.

That’s what we’re doing this evening as we settle in for a couple of nights on the Texas Gulf Coast.

I am not much of a beach guy. But we did visit the coast a few times during the Gulf Coast segment of our long journey through life together. We would drive to Galveston, entering the island community from the ferry that left the other side of Boliver Pass. Or . . . we would head the other direction from Sabine Pass, toward Holly Beach, La., which I used to consider was one of the coast’s hidden treasures.

Sea Rim is a wonderful state park, and part of the Texas Parks & Wildlife network of parks. We have spent a number of nights at many of those parks as we’ve continued on our retirement journey.

Sea Rim is a small-ish park, as far as Texas state parks go. I understand it has sustained considerable hurricane damage in recent years. Monstrous storms named Rita, Ike and Harvey all inflicted serious damage to Sea Rim, in that order.

But the park is clean. It’s tidy. This weekend it’s busy. I heard that the state’s Beach Clean-Up Day will occur Saturday. I’ll have more on that later.

I regret not coming here before now. Better late than never.

Gator alert: Stay away from this site

SEA RIM STATE PARK, Texas — We have just been advised that we are living for a couple of days among one of God’s more fearsome creatures.

A Texas Parks & Wildlife ranger informs us that this state park, right on the Gulf of Mexico, is home to at least one alligator.

She described him as a 5-footer — with three legs. “Do you suppose he lost his leg in a fight with another gator?” I asked. She didn’t know.

It doesn’t matter. I am going to presume the gator still gets around just fine. He inhabits a certain RV campsite, No. 10. “He’s there sometimes,” said the TP&W ranger.

Good to know.

So, with that I’ll inform you — and we’ve already told Toby the Puppy — that we ain’t going anywhere near the site. We’ll stay close to our fifth wheel for the time we’re here.

The gimpy gator — and those who park their RV there — can have it all to themselves.

Happy Trails, Part 133: Free room and board?

LAMESA, Texas — I am about to let you in on a little secret, although it’s likely not a secret to veteran RV travelers.

If you want to park your recreational vehicle free of charge, just look for those “public parks” in your RV directory.

We rolled into this West Texas town with a population of about 9,400 residents. We had called ahead when we saw a listing in our RV directory that caught our attention. It was a “public park.” So I called. It turns out the RV park is part of the municipal park system.

The lady at City Hall told me we could stay here for free for a maximum of four nights. It has water and electric hookups; no sewer, but . . . we can take our waste water with us to the next location.

We have found some of these public parks on our travels over the past three or four years. We stayed at one of them in Sayre, Okla.; if memory serves, the nightly rate there was $10, which we considered a heck of a bargain.

While traveling in Texas, we prefer to stay at state-run RV parks. Given that we’re big fans of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, we like supporting the state park system. The parks where we’ve stayed over the years have been well-manicured, well-appointed and generally quite gorgeous.

We buy a state park entrance pass once a year to waive our entrance fees. Since we’ve made ample use of the state parks, the pass is worth the investment.

But tonight we’re getting some free room and board at a city park. Keep this kind of thing in mind if you’re like my wife and me and enjoy the open road in your RV.

If you venture to Lamesa, here’s a tip: The locals pronounce the town name La-MEE-sa, not La-MAY-sa.

It must be a Texas thing.

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.