While we were in Paris this last time, Mark had some old family pictures popping up on the computer screen in our kitchen. The screen is as big as a small television and too old to do much more than display our family photographs. As pictures danced across the screen, I was reminded of how frequently we camped when the kids were little. We camped in hot and cold weather. We camped with portacribs and potty chairs. We camped with Dad’s signature breakfast burritos and “sugar-powdered do-nuts”, a special camping treat. So many pictures showed uncombed hair and dirty faces stuffed with molten marshmallows. And those were just Mark and me. Those days seem so recent and yet so long ago.
Mark and I have often wondered if we would still enjoy camping now that our kids have left the tent, and last weekend we discovered that the answer is a resounding yes.
Texas has a fabulous collection of state parks, and these have always been our chosen camping venues. Our favorite is Garner State Park, located in the Hill Country of south Texas. The jewel of this park is undoubtedly the glittering Rio Frio, which cuts through stunning limestone cliffs and cools swimmers and “toobers” with its clear, spring-fed waters. The Frio is but one of the victims of the dastardly drought that has plagued our state for much too long, but we found a few places where we could still submerge ourselves in the water we so fondly remembered from the days when it flowed much faster and wider.
Our camping buddies were good friends and their dog, who happens to be the mother of our dog, Sawyer. My friend Martha and I headed out early on Thursday in a Griswald-worthy Suburban, teeming with camping gear, coolers, and two happy golden retrievers. We drove four hours to a tidy little rental cabin located just outside the park, where we spent the night before lining up at Park HQ the next morning.
The river in front of the cabin was pretty low, but the dogs found enough water to get wet.
That night we saw shooting stars AND fire flies. As my kids know, that’s all it took to make my weekend a complete success. I could have gone home happy if we had stopped there. But we didn’t.
Friday morning we selected the Best Campsite Ever and then set up the compound before exploring more of the countryside.
The Frio is lined with enormous old cypress trees. I love them dearly.
One of the little towns close to the park is called Utopia. We have long laughed at this little sign, proudly announcing the town and admonishing the inhabitants.
Somehow I don’t think the creator of that slogan went on to bigger things. But hey- my words aren’t memorialized on a road sign. Yet.
The men- folk arrived Friday night, happy to find their tents properly staked to the ground and their women and dogs in good spirits. We lay on a blanket and admired the amazing night sky, which was bright with stars and a smear of the Milky Way, something I had not seen in a very long time. The night’s sleep was not that great, however, interrupted by Sawyer throwing up in our tent, a layer of humidity descending on the campsite and turning our sleeping bags into sticky envelopes of steam, and little Molly in the campsite across from us, who decided she was done with camping with Dad and absolutely, not kidding, really needed her mommy. We couldn’t make out what Dad was saying to her, but he didn’t sound very happy, either. He clearly did not know about the magical powers of sugar powdered donuts.
Saturday was a gorgeous day of swimming, picnicking, splashing, napping, and reading cookbooks in our camp chairs. In other words, it was perfect.
Sunday morning, after devouring our breakfast burritos, we decamped and headed to Austin in order to deposit the abundance of camping gear at our lake house. Things looked pretty nice there, too.
We were totally psyched to find that camping was still fun, even without babies or kids or potty chairs. Of course, there was still some vomit to clean up, so it still had that tinge of familiarity.
Let’s keep it nice, y’all.