Unexpected Joy

I consider myself a fair weather camper. I like it cool at night, warm during the day, and I really like my air mattress. I don’t camp in storms, hail, or freezing temperatures. At least, not by choice. A handful of times, I’ve found myself camping in these situations. Most of them were not at the top of my list of great camping experiences, although, they have persuaded me to improve the quality of my gear. But one in particular, turned out to be one of the best camping trips I’ve experienced so far.

We arrived at Colorado Bend State Park on a Friday night in January around 10pm and found an empty site. The night sky was brilliant and beautiful and although we could hear the river in the distance we couldn’t see it. It was freezing, but we went to work and pitched our tents. Soon, we had tents up. Even though we couldn’t feel our fingers or toes, we crawled into our sleeping bags and tried to sleep. It was a clear, beautiful, and very cold night. We did not stay warm.

The next morning we woke to a layer of frost on the inside of our tents. Even though it took an hour for us to feel our hands and feet again, it turned out to be a beautiful day. We found this in our backyard:

Our backyard
Good Morning

My daughter went underground and explored caves with her Girl Scout Troop and a couple of guides, with nothing more than a light on her helmet, some knee pads and a pair of gloves. I never thought I would have any interest in going into these caves. I was actually looking forward to sitting in my chair reading my book while I waited on them to complete each cave. I am certain, though, had it not been for recent knee surgery, I would have been in that cave with them. I am already planning our next trip.

Kyla exiting Turtle Cave

In the evening, back at the campsite, I took a short walk by the river.

Saturday night, we stayed warm. A few suggestions for keeping warm: change your socks before you go to bed and make sure they are wool socks, wear something on your head, layer your clothing, and, my favorite, hand warmers.

Determined for adventure the next day, we went on a hike to Gorman Falls. If you go to Colorado Bend State Park, do not leave without visiting the falls. I was intimidated by the three mile hike there, but the majority of the trail was easy. The last 50 feet were a little challenging and probably not what my physical therapist would have recommended, but the view was worth every step. These pictures do no justice. This place is so magical, I wouldn’t have been surprised if I had actually seen a fairy, or two.

Gorman Falls

Gorman Falls

Gorman Falls

It’s impossible to regret the experience of camping in below freezing temperatures when I walk away from this realizing what I might have missed out on waiting for the perfect time and the perfect weather. If I go on backing out of situations just because the conditions are less than ideal, I’ll miss out on, well…life. I’m thinking this might have been one of those bits of wisdom that I might have lost along the way. Now, I’m trying to say yes more often.


Let’s Keep These Beautiful Parks Open

Texas State Parks are hurting financially. Suffering a $4.6 million shortfall, some of them may face closure. The best way we can support these beautiful parks is to visit them. If you are not a camper, make it a day trip and explore the hiking trails and beautiful scenery. Many of them are less than a couple of hours away. Pedernales Falls is 35 miles west of Austin. We can usually travel to Inks Lake within 45 minutes. I hope my pictures and blog posts will inspire you to visit at least one state park this year. I promise you will not be disappointed.

Life Is Better Outside

I wonder sometimes why it took me so long to get back into camping. I camped with my family as a child every summer at Inks Lake State Park. For a week we would live outside. I loved exploring. I loved the water, sitting under a tree or by the water, catching frogs and turtles, or just watching and taking it all in. I always made new friends. Everything was better outside, the food was better, the games were more fun, reading, sleeping, you name it. People are better outside, too.

I knew this as a child. Get home from school, go outside. Bored, go outside. Angry, go outside. Sad, go outside. Lonely, go outside. When my girls were babies, if they wouldn’t stop crying and I had tried everything else, I would take them outside. Most of the time it worked like magic. They would calm down, open their eyes and look around. I’m like that, too. When I go outside, I feel better. There is something about being a part of nature that feeds my soul and renews my spirit. I feel more spiritually connected when I’m camping than at any other time. I have certainly never found that inside any building. The more I separate myself from nature, the more anxious, sad and fearful I become. Going outside changes all of that. Suddenly anything feels possible and I am part of something bigger, more meaningful. I am connected, peaceful, and happy.

So I’m trying to remember all the wisdom I held as a child and forgot when I became an adult, but this one is pretty simple. When life gets too overwhelming, if I’m feeling unbalanced, anxious, or disconnected, the last thing I need to do is surround myself with four walls. All I really need to do is go outside.