Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Camping Trip: Fun and Tragedy

I'm home!!  But just barely.  I have some stories to share with you.
Thursday we took things slow and packed up for the trip to Garner State Park.  This is one of our favorite places to visit no matter the time of year.  It's apparently the favorite of a few other folks because it's the numero uno state park of Texas.  During the summer it can be so full that people will wait in the parking lot for up to four hours just to get in.  Yeah.

The forecast on Thursday called for blue skies and high winds with a wind advisory for people in high profile vehicles. Hey!  That's us!  Gusts of up to 35 mph.  Let me tell you what a 37' long travel trailer does in high winds: it becomes a sail.  It was a white knuckle trip the entire way.  Oh and Interstate 10 runs east/west.  The sun became blinding at sunset as it scorched our retinas as we came into San Antonio.  Blind and pulling a sail in high winds.  We arrived at the park around 8pm.

Found a perfect spot.  Unloaded the trailer and went to the front to get a map just to make sure we were in the right spot. On the way back to the trailer we saw 7 skunks!  I've never seen so many of the stinkers.  At least not alive.  I've seen that many as road pancakes but that's different.  One of the skunks moved different than the others and was a lighter color.  We figured he was just old.

Exhausted, we had some sandwiches and went to bed.  And it got cold that night!  The ranger told us the next morning that it got down to 28 degrees.  I am so glad we have a furnace in the trailer.

Friday was cold when we got up but it warmed to a nice 70-something during the day.  I had to go check in since we arrived after the park had closed the night before.  On the way back from signing in I saw a porcupine in the middle of the road!  I've never seen one in the wild before.  That's the weird looking "skunk" we saw the night before.  It was actually a porcupine.  Very cool.

We started the day with eggs, bacon and toast (thanks to Chef Chuck for cooking) and a sugar free Rock Star.  Then it was off to see the beautiful Frio River.
Charlie (10 years old) at the river.  You can see all the way to the bottom even in the deepest parts.

Charlie and Rachel (15 years old) exploring.
One of the first things Rachel did was set up her hammock for some R&R.

My pretty girl by the pretty Frio.

It's so beautiful here.  I would live here if I could.

Some of the cypress trees are so old and HUGE!
I tried to talk this bass into coming back home with me for dinner but he was suspicious and swam away.

We could see the schools of fish swimming in the cold, blue water.

Time to go for a hike.  I waited on the dam for the family to get ready.  Looks like I'm sitting on the water.  There was no way I was getting in that ice water!
Sitting on the dam.
 We chose the Bird Trail to White Rock Cave for our Friday adventure.

There were beautiful views along the way.  More than once we had to sit down on a rocks to catch our breaths.  Climbing uphill is tiring!  This flatlander was struggling.
I'm usually the one who carries the backpack but Charlie offered to take over pack mule duty.  Thanks, Charlie!

More beautiful views

The lovebirds. Smile, Chuck!
We made it to the top!! 1864 feet.  Notice the hill in the background.  That's Old Baldy.  That will mean something later.  Just notice it for right now.
You know, I just assume that the kids enjoy hiking as much as I do.  I've never really asked.  They just grumble from time to time but they also have a lot of laughs.  I think when they get to the point when they feel like they are not going to survive that maybe (just maybe) I've pushed them a little too far.  We always feel a great sense of accomplishment after finishing one of these challenging hikes.
There were no survivors on this hike. (Drama queens)
Made it to the cave!!  Charlie was ready to do some exploring but only if someone went in with him.  I looked inside but that's enough for me.
Then came the fun part: the hike down.  There were still some loose rocks and I did a lovely split on some rocks on the way down.  It was like I was in slow motion but there was nothing I could do to stop myself.  The only thing bruised was my pride.
You can see by the tilt of the trees that we are on the side of a hill.  I keep wanting to call it a mountain but I know I would be corrected.  It's a mountain when you live in Houston!
And here is the mountain hill that we climbed from ground level.  The best kind of exercise is the kind that is fun.  I know we burned up the calories but it was so much fun that we didn't even realize that we were getting our exercise.  OK, there were a few times we felt the burn.  Those steep climbs up did a number on my legs.  The steep climbs down were killing my toes as they hit the fronts of my shoes.  And my hips let me know that they were doing their fair share to keep me upright.

To reward our valiant quest of hiking to Painted Rock, we went out for dinner at a place called The Leakey Feed Lot. (pronounced Lake-ee)  Boy was this place a dive.  The window behind us was a piece of plastic screwed into the wall with Great Stuff squeezed around the edges.
And what kind of food would you expect to be on the menu?  How about chicken fried bacon?  I kid you not.  Well, yes, we ordered some.  And let me just say that what was eaten can not be un-eaten.  We all felt terrible that night.  Except for Charlie, the Iron Gut.  The bacon seemed raw.  Never again. 
That night we made a campfire and sat around watching the stars.  We also had some visitors: skunks!  It only took one to raise its tail in a threatening gesture for us to scramble to safety.  We also got to hear some coyotes yipping in the distance.

Saturday we had breakfast then headed out for a hike.  Stopped by the pavilion where they were setting up for a wedding.

Then we found a geocache on the side of a "hill."  It took some effort to get there but we did it.  The climb to the cache reminded us that our legs were a little sore from the hiking the previous day.  So we walked back to the river. 

Charlie decided to try to make a bridge of rocks across the river.  He gave up when he was giving it a test and fell in the cold water. (Old Baldy in the background)

The kids then swam across that freezing cold river on a dare.  I can't believe they did it.  This water is cold in the summer.  Today it was like ice water. They made it across and back while gasping for air.

Chuck and I decided to explore around the base of Old Baldy while Rachel chilled in her hammock (yo) and Charlie played with some British girls he met.  They were moving tadpoles and minnows from a small puddle to a larger one so they wouldn't die.

While exploring around Old Baldy, we heard some pebbles falling and heard some people yelling for "Dale."  We figured there were some kids goofing off up there.  Chuck and I talked about how we want to hike that hill next time we come for a visit.

We walked to the park boundary and started making our way back around the large boulders.  A guy stopped us and asked us if we had seen a guy in a pink shirt.  "No," we said.  He told us that he had fallen from the top of Old Baldy and they were trying to find him.  Holy crap!  That's 1700 feet up!  And right before the guy had stopped us I had just told Chuck that I wondered how many accidents happen at this park each year.

We were trying to figure out what we could do to help when we heard someone yell that they had found him.  Good!  Except we didn't hear "Dale" answering back.

Then emergency vehicles started to arrive.  Then a helicopter landed.  Then the helicopter left with no Dale inside.
Then a girl fell to the ground and started screaming and crying.  Dale had been found but he was not alive.  My heart broke for that poor girl.  The crowd began to disperse.  We wanted to do something (anything!) to help but what do you do?  I went back to the camper and got some washcloths and put hot water on them and brought it back to the crying girl and Dale's friend.  Dale's friend had seen him fall off the cliff and was in shock.  He was unresponsive and just sat there with his arms crossed. Apparently they had been standing too close to the edge.  Boys.  The girl said that Dale had asked her to marry him the night before (or said he wanted to be with her forever or something like that).  I just felt so helpless.  Those poor kids.  Dale was 18 years old according to the papers.

Emergency personnel were finally able to get to Dale (who had fallen 300 feet) and bring him down where they loaded him in a hearse.  It was a very sad way to end a beautiful day.  The kids who were camping had family from Houston driving there to pick them up.  There was no way they could drive after that.  Friendly campers worked together to take down their tent and camping gear and load it in their car.

By the time the drama was over it was cold and dark.  We went back to the camper to talk with the kids and give them a hug.  We were all a little shaken up. 

We got a fire going and cooked up some hamburgers and hotdogs.  Chuck and I shared a much needed bottle of Happy Camper wine.

We went to bed in a somber mood.

Sunday it was time to pack for the long trip back home. None of us were ready to leave.  I did get to find a clam fossil while there! How cool is that?
Time to leave.  Every time it gets more difficult to leave this place.  I love this area so much. 

On the way home we had trouble with the electric brakes on the trailer seizing up. If Chuck even touched the brakes the wheels on the trailer would seize.  Once he turned on the "blinker" on the truck and the trailer jolted every time the blinker light came on.  So it was another white knuckler on the way home. 

I think that was the tensest camping trip we've ever been on.  Well, maybe when we evacuated for Hurricane Rita was a little more tense.  It took us 36 hours to get to Garner State Park on that trip.  But this was a close runner up.

I think I'm ready for a hotel trip next time.  We have some maintenance issues to work on with the trailer before we go camping again.  There's a leak that we can't trace that is getting part of the carpet damp.  The brakes are seizing up.  Other than that it's fine.

Friday was wonderful.  Hiking and relaxing by the river.  There's nothing like it.  But it's always good to get home and sleep in your own bed. :)

Life: Always an Adventure.


  1. You have a great time everywhere you go.
    You seem to take the good times with you.
    Or create them where ever you find yourself.
    Even helping strangers.
    You are a real trooper!
    Awesome chick! Great post!

  2. Wow, Kelly...what an experience. Sorry you and the kids had to see such a tragedy. We had a death experience while out with the kids a few months ago and it was hard for all of us:(

    Glad you got in some family time together, though. I really want to try camping one day!

  3. Jeff has been to Garner many times with the boy scouts and loves it - I've never been but it sure looks pretty in your pictures. So sad about Dale, though...I've often wondered if people really fall from mountains. Yep. :(

  4. I say again...my life is so BORING compared to yours!! I always love seeing the trip pics...and I had to laugh...your DH looks like mine in pictures!!! No smile :-) He always tells me..."I AM smiling. It's all in the eyes".

  5. wow.

    You are a great healthy rolemodel for your kids (she types still shocked and focusing on the fun).



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