Tag Archives: glamping

Accidental Adventure

(This post is also way behind schedule – We did this trip in January. I’ve been busy – don’t judge me).

Hubby and I bought a camper a few months ago and have already gotten some pretty good use out of it. Our maiden voyage was spent on the beach on a driftwood collection mission. The following weekend we were in the frozen tundra of North Texas, attempting to camp at Palo Duro Canyon State Park.

This time our plan was to camp on McFadden Beach, near the Texas-Louisiana Border. However, when we arrived, there was hardly any beach to speak of. It seems that the beach had been eroded away, and the road that used to be there was broken up and scattered in the water. Whelp….instead of heading home, we thought ‘we are so close to Searim State Park, we might as well give it a shot.’

It was pouring but we knew that the rain was supposed to stop around 6 pm, so we didn’t want to go home defeated. I tried to make reservations by phone and online while Hubby drove through the rain on the way to the state park, but the phone recording said “go to our website to make a reseservation” and the website wouldn’t let me make a reservation for the day of. It would only let me put in the next day’s date. So we had to make the drive to the park and hope that they had a spot for us. Even if they didn’t, we have a state park pass so we get in for free. If they didn’t have any camping sites available, we would check out the park while we could and THEN drive home defeated. (We know when we’ve been beaten).

Luckily though, there were plenty of spots for us to pick from. We hooked the camper up in the rain, walked the dogs in the rain (yes, we had 2 dogs with us this whole time, too!) And then turned on the tv in the camper to wait out the rest of the storm.

When it stopped raining the sky turned a beautiful orange color from the low clouds, which changed to pink and then purple.

Orangy-Pink Sunset

campground sunset

Runaway2
Our adorable little camper – no, it’s not a pop-up. It really is that tiny

It was stunning. We took the dogs for a walk and as we were headed to the beach we heard the loudest clam of thunder we have ever experienced (it set off car alarms and I could feel the shock wave IN MY TEETH). After checking out the beach for a  little while, we went back to camp and cooked some dinner. We had to eat in the camper with the dogs because it was so cold and windy, but it wasn’t nearly as chaotic as I thought it would be, considering that one of the dogs that we had with us is an 80 pound 2 year-old yellow lab with almost zero table manners.

The next morning we got up to see the sunrise over the beach (this is a great spot because you get sunrise AND sunset pictures at the beach!) and it was spectacular. Low tide was at 5:30 am, so the tide was out and the water was like glass. Birds were everywhere on the beach, probing the wet sand for worms and crustaceans.

Searim Sunrise

We came back and ate breakfast, then took the dogs for a walk along a boardwalk that goes through a marsh, while we birded some more.

redheads-wmLuke, the yellow lab, tried to chase the American Coots as they crossed over the boardwalk from one area of the wetland to the other, but then he suddenly got the overwhelming urge to go swimming. (He is a water dog after all). So he stood on the boardwalk, staring at the water and then just jumped right in. Hubby had a hold of the leash so Luke couldn’t go swimming after the Coots, but the look on his face said it all. “I’m in deep trouble.” After jumping in, he instantly turned back around and tried to get back onto the boardwalk but couldn’t make the jump so he stood there in the water with his feet up on the boardwalk with the guiltiest look I’ve ever seen on his face. We pulled him out and I couldn’t control myself. I think I laughed for about 10 minutes solid. I couldn’t even get my camera up in time because I was laughing so hard all I could do was try to not pee myself. Of course after that, he smelled absolutely terrible. If you’ve never smelled mud from the bottom of a swamp or lake, you can count yourself one of the lucky ones. It’s horrific. And after that little stunt he pulled, we had to load up into the truck and head out so we were stuck with stinky swamp dog for hours!

Before we headed home we went to check out the McFadden National Wildlife Refuge, which is an adjoining property. Basically, since the 1980s when people learned that it’s a bad idea to drain wetlands and build on them, they turned this whole area of the Texas coast into a wildlife refuge because there’s not much you can do with the land. Good for the animals! We drove around in the refuge for a while and I attempted to get photos of Luke looking like the majestic water dog he’s SUPPOSED TO BE but instead his A.D.D. kicked in, he leaped into the water, and started chasing any duck he could see. Needless to say, this did not improve his…aroma.

Bird List for the Weekend:

Osprey, Brown Pelicans, Laughing Gulls, Snow Goose, Killdeer, Redheads, Lesser Scaups, Willets, Black-bellied Plovers (non-breeding plumage), Piping Plovers, Northern Shovelers, Belted Kingfishers, Purple Martins, Caspian Terns, and Hudsonian Godwit. So far for the year, we have IDed 56 species.

#Opt Out (Freeze Out)

(Ok, I know this is WAY LATE but that’s what happens when you have photos on one computer and write a post an another…)

Typically, every year Hubby and I “opt out” from the jumble of Thanksgiving and Black Friday and use that time off of work to head out to the middle of nowhere and camp. (Even REI does #optoutside so you can share your photos from your hiking adventures, rather than getting run-over by a crowd trying to get the cheap tvs at Walmart for Black Friday.) A year ago we went to Big Bend National Park, and this year we decided to go to Palo Duro Canyon State Park outside of Amarillo, Texas. It’s the same amount of time in the car, and neither of us had ever been there before so we wanted to give it a shot. After we had booked our trip we discovered Run Away campers, and fell in love. They are affordable, they are comfortable, and they are TINY! We ordered our little Range Runner model camper (it’s actually the largest model they have at 6’x8′) from Florida and it was delivered just a few days later! We were excited to get it before our camping trip because that meant we would be able to glamp (glam camp) instead of being in a tent, which had been the original plan. The first chance I got, I called the Park Service phone number for reservations, but they were out of RV camp sites! I was sad, but I thought, ‘One last trip of rocks in the back and waking up stiff. After this, we will use the camper.’ But as we got closer to the date, every time we checked the weather it was looking worse and worse. The high for the day dropped from being in the 40s to being in the low 20s with freezing rain. It was going to be miserable. We were going to cancel, defeated and depressed. Until Hubby got the idea to check the RV site availability again. Lo and behold, other people had checked the weather too, and cancelled their trip so there were spaces available! I did a happy dance and we started planning for the trip once again. We left before the crack of dawn on Thanksgiving Day since it was a 9 hour drive, and got there just in time for the park office to tell us that the weather is going to get worse, so they will probably close the office over the weekend. “That’s fine,” we told them. “We have a tv and a stack of movies.” But we had no idea what we were in for.

The rain turned to sleet, and the sleet turned to ice. We tried hiking around our camp site a little bit but the mud was caking onto anything that touched it and making a huge mess. I was afraid of slipping and hurting my back so I was being extremely careful. We got back to the camper to thaw out and ended up having to heat up canned soup inside the camper because it was too miserable to cook outside.

From Thursday night to Saturday morning we watched 3 of the Planet of the Apes movies and Season 2 of Scrubs. We got a little bit of cabin fever so we bundled up and headed out to do a little birding once the ice stopped falling. There was a thick layer of ice on every surface. Walking through parking lots was difficult because it was so slippery. But I got some great bird shots anyway! We saw a huge flock of turkeys (30 or more) and each bird had ice frozen on its back. We went to a birding station and the Cardinals and Finches had frozen feathers also.

female cardinal Gold Finch male cardinal turkeysWe headed back to camp to hike around a bit more (now that the ground was frozen, the mud wasn’t an issue) and Hubby saw the Park Host come by to fill the bathrooms with toilet paper. He went to go talk to them and they told his that the road to get out of the park was closed and we wouldn’t be able to get out until noon on Sunday! That was a problem. With a 9 hour drive, that was cutting it close. What if the roads didn’t improve and we were stuck longer? The last thing I wanted was to get home at 2 am and have to go to work the next day. So Hubby and I loaded up into the truck and checked the road for ourselves. He has all wheel drive so we weren’t concerned, and any point that the road looked icy, we would get out and check it before driving on it. (The road to get out of the park goes up through the canyon, so if you lose traction on the icy road, it’s quite a tumble down). The road seemed fine as we headed up, and I had him stop a few times so I could get pictures of the beautiful ice-covered grasses and yucca and barbed-wire fence.

frozen grassI even heard coyotes howling VERY close to me and I was so happy to hear them. Every time I hear coyotes, I’m the only one around for miles (while Hubby sits in the warm car!) and it seems like they are singing to me. I even saw one of the singers a few minutes later!

coyoteWe finally made our way to the park entrance and saw that the gate was wide open. The park host had told us it was closed and locked and we couldn’t get out! So we looked at each other and came to this conclusion: If the road freezes, it will be over night. The road is passable now, but in the morning there is no guarantee. So we got out while the getting was good and headed to Amarillo to spend the night.

We headed back down the park road and hooked up the camper. In 20 minutes we were back on the road, carefully heading out of the park. The highway was frozen so we took it slow and then pulled into the parking lot of our destination: The Big Texan steak ranch. Part of our plan on this trip had been to eat at The Big Texan because it’s an icon! It has been on tv shows like Man vs. Food and Day Tripper because they do the 72 ounce steak challenge. You have to consume a 72 ounce steak, a baked potato, a shrimp cocktail, salad, and a bread roll, all in 60 minutes. Of course, we weren’t going to be PARTICIPATING in the steak challenge, but we still wanted to eat there. Also, as it turned out, The Big Texan has a hotel ON SITE so we didn’t have to go anywhere by the end of the night! The parking lot was an ice rink so I was really happy we didn’t have to get back on the highway and find somewhere else to stay. (Also, I just saw on their website that they now have an RV park too, so that’s good to know in case our next trip to Palo Duro gets cut short again!)

The next morning, before heading home, we stopped at Cadillac Ranch.cadillacs3cadillacs

It’s literally a bunch of Cadillacs from the 1940s-1960s that were jammed into the ground in the 1970s as an art installation. The thing is, it’s legal to do graffiti art at this site. I guess that’s kind of the point – everyone is an artist if they are given the chance. We had never seen it before, and we might never come back to Amarillo again, so we had it on our list of must-dos while we were on the trip. We trudged out to the cars through the snow and ice, took a couple pictures, and got back to our heated car as quickly as possible. But I noticed some interesting things while we were there: there are so many layers of paint on the cars, that it looks like the cars are melting.

frozen paintThere had been people out at the site spray-painting in the snow and ice, so that the frost on the cars was painted orange and blue. The snow on the ground was also used as a temporary canvas, saying the typical “So-and-so Loves So-and-so” and happy holidays. Also, even the barbed-wire that surrounds the property had been painted. It was surprisingly beautiful.

Once we were done at Cadillac Ranch we headed home, stopping in Dallas to see some family, and then making our slow trudge home (the drive from Dallas to Houston is supposed to take 3 hours, but for any number of reasons, it always takes 6).

Our trips are always adventurous even if they don’t go as planned. I guess that’s how I know I love my Hubby too, because instead of being ready to kill each other by the end of the trip, we were planning our next adventure!