Winslow on the Shire

We travelled to Pagosa Springs for Mary Lou to attend an art class. We all stayed at Winslow on the Shire just outside of town. It’s an amazing facility. It has 11 bedrooms on 4 floors. It’s furnished in sort of Victorian funky, but it’s quite nice.

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Here’s the view from the kitchen window with the San Juan mountains in the distance.

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Not a bad view
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Horses grazing right out back

We spent the first day in Pagosa Springs, including the balloon festival. (see previous post). On Monday morning, the artists got to work.

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Art class in progress

They painted in the mornings and we had afternoons free to venture out. Pagosa Springs is a beautiful place. The river flows right through town.

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Pagosa River

When we were there, the aspens were justing starting to show their fall colors.

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Aspens among the pines
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Young aspen up close

During class I took slipped out to see Chimney Rock National Monument, which is nearby.

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Chimney Rock

Here’s some of Mary Lou’s finished work from the class.

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Rooster
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Longhorn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Girl in the Chair

It was a great week.  We all had a good time.  We visited Carlsbad Caverns on the way home and it was great, but I didn’t take photos – just enjoyed.

That’s all for now. We have another trip planned, so stay tuned.

Jim Hogg Park, Georgetown

On Friday June 15 about noon we realized we had no plans for the weekend. Let’s go camping! But, can we find a spot close to Austin and get a reservation starting today? We tried Texas State Parks, but they don’t allow same day reservations, at least not on their website. Jackie, who we met at Garner State Park Garner State Park – Day 2 Hiking, had suggested  Jim Hogg Park on Lake Georgetown. It’s a Corp of Engineers Park and only 30 miles away and they do take reservations on their website for the same day. So Jim Hogg Park it was. With my Sr. National Parks Pass it was only $39 for 3 nights.

For the first 6 months of using our RV we retrieved it from the storage lot and backed into the driveway at home for loading and the reverse for unloading. Not an easy task since our street is narrow and there’s little room to swing the Jeep to be in front of the trailer when its time to stop turning due to neighbors trees and mailboxes. But on our last trip (Goose Island State Park) we just dumped it at the storage lot and unloaded it there into the Jeep. This seemed easier so this time we put all the food and supplies into the Jeep, drove over to the storage yard and Mary Lou stowed it away while I hitched up. The refrigerator gets cold pretty fast. This is a lot faster and less hassle than backing it into our driveway.

We arrived at Jim Hogg Park around 3:00. We had campsite #9 on the lower loop. COE campgrounds are reserved by site number, but there were no waterfronts or water views left.  We felt lucky we got in at all.   But #9 was a nice spot with a big oak tree for shade, lots of green grass and a covered picnic table.

Oak tree

At the time we arrived most of the campsites were empty, but they filled up over the next 4 hours.  We sat there under the shade of the oak tree with a cold beverage and watched the RV show.

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Campsite 9

We liked the 2 story pontoon.

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Pontoon with slide

After we were settled we took Chloe for a walk and checked out what the rest of the loop looked like.

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Campsites we might have had with just a little planning

It was a little breezy where the loop was exposed to the lake, but nice. You can see the dam in the photo above.

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Every campsite has a covered table

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We also explored the fishing piers. As you can see below, the lake, like all lakes in Central Texas, has risen recently. This dock needs a little adjusting.

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Contemplating the high water

Our usual routine on these weekend trips is to do a hike one day and some paddling the other.  There aren’t a lot of trails at this park, just one that goes all the way around the lake – 26 miles!  We decided we’d just do a mile or two and then turn around.  And so we did.

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Good Water Loop Trail

We picked it up near the entrance station for the park and hiked counterclockwise.  The trail starts out wide and flat but quickly becomes dark, narrow and rocky and it weaves through the cedar forest.  There are no real elevation changes, just gentle ups and downs. For most of the section we hiked you don’t get a very good view of the lake, but we found this spot and it became our resting and turnaround spot. All of the submerged vegetation was on dry land a month ago.

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Taking a break

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I spotted something red in the woods and it turned out be an old lantern.

 

 

 

 

Here’s some flora from the trail.

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Juniper berries

It was an okay hike but would never make it into anyone’s top ten. On Sunday we planned to inflate the kayak and do a little paddling but we woke up to rain. The rain cleared but it stayed breezy and we kept deferring to later in hopes that the wind would subside. As it turned out we never did any kayaking, not that we couldn’t have if we were serious about it.

As we’ve come to discover, these parks close to the city empty out at noon on Sunday. We still had one more night, so, like we did at Goose Island, we moved to a waterfront site, #56. Sometimes we also dump our tiny 30 gallon grey water tank as part of the move, but it wasn’t necessary this time. We chose a site not out on the windy point, but on a bay. It was nice. But it looked like we were about to get some more rain. And we did.

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Campsite #56 and rain a comin’

That shower did roll over us but it only rained for a short time.  We had invited our son, Joe, to drive up for a dinner visit and I put the chops on the barbie.

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While we were hanging around the campsite, a wedge of many hundreds of white pelicans flew over.  By the time I grabbed my camera it was too late for a high res photo, but Mary Lou captured them on her iPhone. It was very impressive. One of the biggest flocks of birds we’ve ever seen.  This photos shows just the beginning.  They just kept coming.

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White pelicans

After they passed over they made a left turn and began gliding to land. I thought they might come back around and land in the bay, but they must have set down on the main lake as we didn’t see them again.

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Joe’s a fishing fool and wasted little time in wetting a line. He didn’t have any luck here.  But here’s some of his work from Lake Austin recently.

Joe Fish

But we took time to catch up and had a fine meal.

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That’s it for this adventure.  I’m off to San Francisco for a business meeting and will meet Mary Lou at the Seattle airport thereafter for our next adventure. Stay turned for the details. As always, I refuse to live an uninteresting life….

Goose Island State Park – Part 2

Strong thunderstorms and possible tornadoes were headed our way and looked to arrive around 4:00 AM. We’ve seen what even small F-0 tornadoes can do to trailer parks and decided we’d need a better option. As we prepared to call it a night around 10:00 PM the line of thunderstorms was still over Mexico, but heading our way.  We did our nightly dog walk and decided that if we had to seek shelter, it would be the restroom building.  It’s made out of cinder blocks. There really wasn’t any other choice, but still this building looked pretty stout. We walked down to check it out, it was about 5 campsites away, and found a large group of tent campers packing up by flashlight. It turned out to be a wise idea.

At 2:00 AM both of our iPhones went off with a loud alert sound, the same one they use for Amber Alerts, with which you may be familiar. TORNADO WARNING. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. We jumped into our clothes, grabbed rain jackets, flashlights, Chloe and iPhones and the three of us walked to the restroom building. Mary Lou, being the more risk averse or smarter (you pick), sheltered in the lady’s room. At this point there was neither rain nor wind, so I hung out just outside the men’s room where the roof extends forming a small porch.

A look at my weather radar app showed it would hit us in a few minutes – and it did. We had heavy rain, thunder and lightning and strong winds.  I was ready to duck into the men’s room at any time but it never came to that. After 20 minutes or so the line of thunderstorms passed and all that was left was a little light rain.

Interestingly, no one else joined us. They either stuck it out in their RVs or sat in their cars, the latter being the tent campers. Anyway, it was over and we made our way back to the RV, which was now in a huge puddle and went back to sleep. We did each have a shot of Jameson’s to calm us down, a habit we picked up following earthquake aftershocks in Southern California.

In the morning I peeked through the window to see if the puddle had returned. It had and was bigger than it was before.

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Might be a little rough getting into the Jeep from this side
The other side was worse. It doesn’t show real well in this picture, but our campsite had turned into a small pond. The water outside of the trailer door was about 2 1/2″ deep and too big to jump over. While it had rained all week in Texas, this storm was the first of 2 knock-out punches that caused all the flooding in Central and Gulf Coast Texas.

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Passport Lake
Hmmm. Problem or opportunity? As we looked around, we could see folks packing up. It was Sunday morning of a three-day weekend, so some of them may have planned to leave. But, I had a feeling folks were bailing out. I proposed the idea that we might now be able to get a spot on the bay front, which was already full when I made the reservations months ago. And so we did. We did a light pack up and headed over to the bay front, taking the opportunity to dump our grey water in the process. We can last 3-4 days without dumping, but this gave us room for another shower. We only have 30 gallon tanks (all 3).

Once we got settled into #7, it was time to relax. The waters of St. Charles Bay were maybe 20 yards from the back of the rig.  There was a stiff breeze blowing right off the water.

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Lemons into lemonade
I watched who I assumed were locals casting into the surf. As a fairly experienced fisherman myself, decided to give it a try.

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Casting into the wind
There were many failed casts where my bait ended up 6 feet in front of me, but eventually I was able to get it where I wanted to be, conditions being considered.

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Waiting for action
We fished for probably 6 or 7 hours.  Beer was consumed and lunch was eaten. It was quite pleasant. We saw two fish caught all day. Neither was very big and neither was caught by me. But that’s fishing.

Here’s a shot to the north where you can see the Hwy 35 bridge that goes to Rockport.

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Bridge to Rockport
Here’s a couple of shots of our campsite.

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Site #7
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Each site had covered picnic table.

It was nice to be on the beach, but Monday we had 200 miles to drive home and there were predictions of bad weather in the afternoon. So, we hitched up, dumped tanks and headed out. Fortunately, we had no mechanical problems on the way home.  No spare either.

As we drove through Gonzales TX we saw that the Guadalupe River had overflowed its banks and flooded a large area that included a golf course, park and baseball facility. It didn’t affect Hwy 183 so for the time being we were okay. As the weather continued to deteriorate, we decided that we’d grab a quick lunch in Lockhart and keep rolling. It was cloudy with no rain when we entered the restaurant but while we were eating we got FLASH FLOOD WARNING message and the sky opened up. We just stayed where we were and waited for it to pass.

It was mid-afternoon and our plan had been to take the trailer home for a good cleaning before we returned it to the storage yard. But with rain and the threat of severe thunderstorms approaching we decided to take the trailer directly to the storage area and offload our clothes and food into the Jeep. The weather continued to deteriorate as we approached Lakeway.

tornadoes

As we got nearer we received alerts of tornado warnings in Lakeway. It seemed wise not to drive into the area right then so we pulled into a large parking lot in Bee Cave to wait it out. After 30-40 minutes it seemed to brighten up ahead of us so we resumed driving towards the storage yard.  We arrived there without anything other than light rain and backed into our spot.   But, before we could unhitch the sky opened up again and we jumped back into the Jeep to wait it out.

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Serious rain
It rained like this for over an hour.  We considered all of our options but there wasn’t a better one than waiting it out.   And then it passed on by.

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After the storm
This was the second of the big storms that went through Central Texas and this line of thunderstorms and tornadoes created the major flooding in Texas. We finished unloading the trailer and went to see how our house looked.  It was generally fine. We had some standing water 2″ deep in low spots in both the front and back, but it soaked in after a few hours.

So, this wasn’t the best of camping trips. The weather was lousy and the conditions at Goose Island State Park weren’t that good. I don’t think we’ll go there again in spring or summer. Not to mention the flat tire that ended up having to be replaced at a cost of $200. But still, we had some fun and it was an adventure. As you may know, we refuse to live an uninteresting life.

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We’ll be back soon with another adventure!

Goose Island State Park – Part 1

For our Memorial Day Weekend trip we chose Goose Island State Park on the Texas Gulf Coast. There was the threat of rain all weekend, but we decided to go anyway. The other option being to sit around the house and find maintenance tasks to occupy our time. As is often the case, we pack up in the morning and head out around 10:30, so we don’t get very far before it’s time for a lunch stop. Today we stopped at Black’s Barbecue, a Texas legend in Lockhart.

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Oldest BBQ joint in Texas, since 1932. Open 8 days a week!

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While the food was excellent, there are so many great BBQ places in central Texas it’s hard to tell the best from the really good. As we left Lockhart we drove by the Caldwell County Courthouse, built in 1894 in the Second Empire architectural style.

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Caldwell County Courthouse

It’s just under 200 miles from our house to the gulf and we made good time until the low tire warning came up on the dash.   We were about 5 miles from Victoria TX and had 26 lbs left, losing about a lb per mile.  We figured we could find a tire shop, get it fixed and be on our way again quickly.

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Flat tire

Wrong again.  We found a tire shop but after two hours of unsuccessful patch attempts they pronounced the tire unpatchable. So they mounted the spare and we resumed our journey.

We arrived at Goose Island State Park about 4:00 in a light rain. We were surprised when the park attendant came out to our rig under an umbrella to check us in. We were further surprised when the first thing he said was “the mosquitoes are really thick”.  We could see them landing all over him and had to roll the window up and down as we checked in to keep the little buggers out of the Jeep. We found our spot and backed in. Note spare on left rear.

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Lantana Loop #114

The next morning, after thoroughly spraying with insect repellent, we ventured out. The weather was great.  It was a beautiful campsite with shade from large oaks and large grassy spaces between the campsites.

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Big Tree

Near, but not actually in, the park is the simply named Big Tree.   It is over 1000 years old.   We drove over to see it and were the only ones there.  Well, except for 1,000,000 mosquitoes.  The wildflowers were pretty amazing.

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It was a brief visit due to mosquitoes getting in your nose and ears and buzzing around.  They managed to find places to land and bite that were either missed during the spraying or they just didn’t care.  We drove over the bridge on Highway 35 into Rockport and then on towards Port Aransas.  We’ve been there before in our pre-RV days and weren’t surprised by the ferry crossing.

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Mike and Chloe wait for the ferry

It’s a short ride and it’s free. It just crosses the deep-water ship channel. You can easily see the shore of Mustang Island across the channel.

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Ferry Crossing

Mustang Island is a resort-y kind of place with restaurants, shops, beach condos and a beach you can drive along and/or camp on. Due to the recent heavy rains, a sign posted declared Beach Driving Conditions: Poor.  You can see why below.

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Beach Driving Conditions: Poor

But the Jeep has 4 wheel drive so off we went.  We slipped and slid in the wet sand but just enough to make it fun.

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4 wheeling

Although the wind was blowing a good 15-20 mph right off of the water, there were brave souls out on the beach.

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Braving the winds

There are posts that separate the driving area from the camping/day use area and folks have taken to decorating them.

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We also came upon this row of brightly painted houses

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Painted Houses

We returned to Goose Island by the same route and had no issue getting on the return ferry quickly, but due to the 3 day weekend, the line to take the ferry onto the island, as we had done in the morning, stretched out 5 miles. We guessed those people had at least a two hour wait to get to across.

We’d done our auto hike, so the next day we decided we needed to hang by the beach.  We went over to the picnic area in the park and set up a day camp. We were right on the water in a grassy site.  The wind was coming off the water,  but it was pleasant and we had a great view into St. Charles Bay.

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We watched the birds as they fished and had the place to ourselves.  Here are some wildlife shots.

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There were also a few fan boats taking customers out to fish. We hadn’t seen any of those since we were in Florida in 2013.

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Fan boats, noisy but cool
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Yes, Chloe got to go.  She loves/hates birds.

Farther out tankers and other large ships would pass from time to time. Check out the people, standing in the shallows, fishing.

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It was a pleasant day and after we’d had enough wind we headed back to the campsite. On either side of us, kids were playing outside, but we found the mosquitoes so annoying we hid in the RV and enjoyed dinner and a movie. We were watching the weather as there were warnings of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes overnight.  More on that in Part 2……

 

Emma Long Metropolitan Park

On Monday, when everyone else was at work, we took the Passport for a visit to Emma Long Metro Park. Emma Long Park is an Austin city park on Lake Austin. It has about 20 water and electric campsites, about half of which are lakefront, a large group camping area and a day use area. During warm summer weekend days, the day use area is packed with swimmers, but not today. There were maybe 5 campsites occupied and no one in the day use area.

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Lake Austin

Lake Austin is created by a dam on the Texas Colorado river (not the Colorado river). For most of the lake, it’s not any wider than the river was before the dam. Across the lake are beautiful mansions. We had a great spot right on the water. Two days before there was a big hailstorm in the area. Because of that storm, we’re getting a new roof on our house. Whoever was camping in the next spot had a rough night, too. Looks like they just abandoned what was left of their tent and dining canopy and ran for safety. A free standing truck camper was knocked off of its stand as well.

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Storm damage

But the storm is long gone and it was a beautiful day. We rented a campsite for the night, but the plan was to do lunch, dinner and campfire by lake and then go home.  The plan worked out well. First, we needed lunch. Nick, Lindsey and Miss P ate in the trailer.

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Lunch in the trailer

We brought along the inflatable kayak and we all did a little paddling.

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Chloe, Mary Lou and Nick

I watched Miss P so Nick and Lindsey could go out. My only job was to keep her on the blanket.

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Nick and Lindsey

Mary Lou is happy as long as she’s holding Penelope.

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As the day turned to evening, Nick tended the campfire while we started thinking about dinner. It proved difficult to sustain until Nick came up with some dry firewood.

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Nick and Lindsey

We were treated to nice sunset.

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Sunset on Lake Austin
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The camp

It was a great day at the lake.   That’s all until next time.

Jacob’s Well Natural Area

During a visit to Austin by my son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter we took a trip to Jacob’s Well Natural Area, just north of the village of Wimberley. Jacob’s Well is an artesian spring. The water is pushed up from the Trinity Aquifer roughly 140 feet below the surface. In former days when the water table was higher, the spring actually gushed above the water surface.

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Jacob’s Well

During the off season, which was when we were there, the area is unattended and swimming and diving are prohibited.  However, these other visitors were sure that this rule didn’t apply to them and they took turns jumping from rocks into the spring.  It is about 30 feet deep at the mouth, which is about 12 feet wide, before it takes a lateral turn, so there’s plenty of depth for jumping as long as you hit the center.  I’ve heard there are lots of jumping accidents but there were none today.

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Lindsey, who’s an accomplished amateur photographer, ventured down to water level through a slot in the rocks to get some great shots.

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The spring flows into Cypress Creek.

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Cypress Creek

We took the opportunity to  take some baby photos there, as we did everywhere.

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Miss P
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Mom and Grandma

We were about half way back to the car when thunder started and the sky opened up, but we had a nice visit to Jacob’s Well.

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Huntsville State Park

Over the Easter weekend we camped at Huntsville State Park, north of Houston. It was a bit of a drive, 185 miles, from our Lakeway home. But we’ve wanted to camp here since attending a wedding at the park in January and all the closer Texas State Parks were booked. We arrived after dark, not something we like to do, and picked a waterfront spot. It was a little challenging backing in the darkness, but we got help from fellow campers and got it done. The spot fell away towards the lake and we had to lower the tongue jack down all the way to get the rig level. But when we awoke the next morning, we were in the edge of a small cove and had a great view of the lake.

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Raven Lake looking upstream

We had an interesting campsite that was the first one on a loop. The waterfront sites are shallow and have side-by-side vehicle parking.  Also, our table and fire ring were on the other side of the trailer. At first thought not to be the best, but as it turned out it was pretty nice since we had no neighbors on that side.

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Prairie Branch Loop #145

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Our wrong-sided space

We always start with a little campground tour and found the trail head for the Prairie Branch Loop. As you can see in the photo below, this park is heavily wooded and beautiful. A pleasant change from the other Texas State Parks we’ve visited. We decided to do this hike later – and we did. See below.

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Mary Lou and Chloe investigating the trail

Since leaving California I’ve missed pine trees but here they are. These are loblolly pines and are spectacular.

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Loblolly pines

We did a little jeep exploring and went over to the day use area on the other side of the park. There’s a small store, boat rentals and swim beach. Since it was Houston-typical hot and humid, it was in full use.

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Day use area

In the mood for some serious relaxing, we returned to the camp site, put out the awning and enjoyed the view. If I recall, cocktails appeared at some point.

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Chilling by the lake

There were a couple of brief showers that caused us to schooch up against the trailer to avoid getting wet, but they were short-lived. We got a chance to use our outdoor kitchen again.

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Lunch, anyone?

While we were sitting in hot muggy weather around the campfire, a cold front moved through. The temperature dropped 20 degrees and a light breeze came up. It was lovely. That was the end of the hot muggy weather and in fact there was rain predicted for later.

The next morning after breakfast we headed out to do the Prairie Branch Loop. We chose to do the loop counterclockwise heading first through the forest and then returning along the lake. There are a number of creeks, including the Prairie Branch, that meander into the lake creating a swampy area. They built these boardwalks that we really liked. Chloe was less fond of them as her rear feet would slip through the spaces between the boards.

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Into the forest

Some wild flowers along the way and an orange fungus growing on a downed log.

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Orange fungus

We reached a second boardwalk and checking the map discovered we had missed the turn to loop back along the lake and were now at the confluence of Alligator Branch creek. But is was nice so we were happy we did.

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Alligator branch
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Looking upriver

Although we saw no gators, there are signs around warning of their presence, including one on the fishing pier that requested Please Don’t Tease the Alligators! We briefly considered continuing on the trail to do the full 6 mile around the lake walk, it was still early, but we hadn’t brought our packs or enough water for that. We backtracked until we found the loop trail that followed the lake and took it back to the camp. It was a short 2 mile hike and we thought we might do another after lunch. That never happened.

There were a few kayaks and canoes on the lake and we planned on taking ours out. Each time we thought it was time, the wind would come up and we’d defer. In the end, we never did. I was a little disappointed, but got over it. We just hung around the camp enjoying the view.

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That night there was a prediction of rain. When we got back from our evening dog walk we noticed the huge family camp next door was deserted. In the time we took the walk they had packed up three or four tents, dining canopy, bikes, lights and were gone.  We assumed they were fleeing ahead of the weather.  The prediction of storms was fulfilled as a monster thunderstorm rolled right over us in the middle of the night. We were snug inside the trailer and the thunder and heavy rain were awesome. Unfortunately, there were lots of tent campers in the park, and I’m sure it was less pleasant for them. In the morning we walked the loop and everyone was packing up. By 1:00 90% of the campers were gone.

We pulled out around 3:00 and were greeted by this bunny on the way, after all it was Easter Sunday.

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The real Easter bunny