a weekend away with my brother and his family
20.07.2012 - 24.07.2012 93 °F
And we are off- Friday...
At the beginning of the summer it was my goal to be out and about in the travel trailer as much as possible. After a disappointing June we finally made our way to Pedernales Falls State Park around the Austin area in Texas. The trip from our house on the east side of Houston took us around five hours. We took I-10 to Hwy 71 which eventually hit Hwy 290 and led us to Ranch Road 3232 which leads you to the park. On the way we stopped off at a Mikeska's BBQ place on I-10 near the intersection of Hwy 71. It was amazing! Prices weren't too bad, and the food made up for any additional expense over regular fast food joints.
We made it to the park around 3:30 and were assigned site 61. I had never been to this park and really only had the Texas Parks and Wildlife website and YouTube video to go off of as far as expectations go. It was gorgeous! Granted it was hot, but it is July in Texas. I have lived here since 1979 and have yet to encounter a "cold" July. Although the park headquarters are on a bluff overlooking the park, the campsite is actually in a shady wooded area of the park. Some campsites are more wide open than others, but my site was surrounded by trees. A suggestion- if possible try to get site 66. It was not only shady, but the picnic table was covered and had a ceiling fan installed over it. Our site had a picnic table, fire pit with grill and a lantern pole, but it was not shaded.
The first thing we decided to do once camp was set up was to head down to the river and cool off. It was in the 90's so a little cooling off was in order. We chose to go to the designated beach area which was a short drive from the campsites. Here we encountered a walk down trail to a pebble beach area. Not knowing what we were doing we packed down five chairs, towels, and a cooler of drinks. All of that had to be packed back up so as the days went on we limited what we took with us. The swimming area at this part of the park had a shallow rocky area, as well as deeper areas where the kids could swim. I don't believe the water ever got deeper than 4', but Texas has also been under drought conditions for the past year.
After swimming for a couple hours we went back up the trail (I mean up... there are some steep areas to this path when carrying chairs, towels, and a cooler) and headed to camp for a dinner of brats and chili dogs- kids favorites!!!!
The next morning after a hearty egg, bacon, sausage, and pancake breakfast we decided to hike the Twin Falls trail while it was still reasonably cool out. This trailhead can be accessed from the campground area and is shaded throughout. The walk was very nice. There are some rocky areas that require climbing so sensible shoes should be worn. My sister in law and I did not make the best decision in choosing flip flops. We made it, but it would have been better if we were wearing hiking shoes or tennis shoes. The Twin Falls trail comes to an overlook area where you can see the falls. They are beautiful and I would strongly suggest seeing them if you visit this park.
After walking the Twin Falls trail we drove over to see the main attraction- the Pedernales Falls. Again, the trail that leads down to the overlook couldn't be described as short, but it wasn't too bad of a walk. The trail was easy to go down until the scenic overlook, but if you are planning to go on the rocks down by the falls and look around wear sensible shoes (at this point my sister in law and I still hadn't figured this out, so the flip flops were still on). Our one regret on this trip was that the falls weren't running due to low water. There were some areas of water going over the falls, but mostly it was just rocks. The fact that the area was mostly dry didn't take away the beauty of them. The pockets of water around the falls were crystal clear and looked so inviting, but unfortunately they have been closed to swimming since 1977 (at least I believe that is what the sign said). We scampered and explored for a couple hours. The kids were loving all of the secret caves they found and overall it is a really gorgeous place.
After a day of hiking trails and seeing the falls we went swimming again. This time we went down the Trammel River Road to a beach area that is accessible from the main campground. The path continued, but we saw a cut off that led down the river and decided to take that route since it appeared to be a short cut. This time we were smart- small cooler of drinks, and no towels or chairs! This short cut was indeed a short cut, but was also pretty steep in areas again. We all had on our river shoes since the river bottom consists mostly of rocks, but the climb back up when we were headed home was pretty difficult at times- especially for little kids. The water in this location of the river felt cooler than the water at the beach area we had driven to the day before, and there were a few small rapid areas that were pleasant to sit under. When we got back to camp that evening there were five deer including two fawns hanging out in our campsite. The signs inside the park urge people not to feed the deer, but the way these deer came up to my kids while they were at the picnic table eating supper leads me to believe they have been fed many times before. The kids absolutely loved the deer. The deer returned multiple times throughout our trip at varied times throughout the day, but evening seemed to be their favorite time.
On Sunday my daughter was to be picked up from cheer camp in Austin. While we were off to Austin, my brother and his family decided to drive into Fredericksburg, TX and check out the Nimitz Museum (I would strongly suggest this if you have never been). Fredericksburg is a great little town with tons of Hill Country charm. The German influence that can be seen throughout the Hill Country is found in Fredericksburg, and there are several restaurants and pubs that you will find offering German fare if you are in the mood for some spaetzle. There are also several wineries in the region to tour if you enjoy wine tours as well. While my brother headed west, My family headed east to Austin and made it in a little less than an hour. We spent the day at the "bubble" on the University of Texas campus and watched everything the cheerleaders had learned during camp. Once we were finished with cheer camp we took the opportunity of having lunch and touring a few things Austin. We ate lunch at a really cool barbeque place called Stiles Switch BBQ. They were featured in Travel & Leisure Magazine and we decided to give them a try. The food was delicious, but for our family of 5 it cost us $86.00 for lunch. I guess we could have cut the price down a little had we not allowed the kids to have the banana pudding, but what is the fun in that? Stiles Switch BBQ is really good (especially the pork ribs), but if you are limited in budget you won't find fast food prices here. An interesting side note: where the barbeque restaurant is located not only is the first shopping center in Austin dating back to the 1950's, but was also the scene of the Emporium in the movie Dazed and Confused. You know- the movie that introduced us to Matthew McConaughey and his "all right, all right, all right" line. While in Austin we took in the University of Texas Tower (we were unable to go to the top since the tours don't run on Sunday) and the state capitol grounds. There are a ton of other attractions in the Austin area, but we were on a limited time frame so we only devoted one afternoon there. If you are bent on seeing all Austin has to offer I would suggest finding a campground or RV park in the city or even consider staying in a hotel.
After we returned from Austin my kids wanted to swim while I wanted to nap. We each got our own way.
Monday we devoted the entire day to the river since it was our last full day at the park. This time we decided to go down the Trammel River Road again, but chose to follow it to the point it meets up with the Pedernales River. In my opinion of the three different routes we took to swim in the river over the course of our weekend this by far was the easiest. It may be the longest, but it was the least difficult. The trail slopes down to the river which meant we didn't have a lot of stairs or climbing to do. Walking back up does require energy, but you don't have to navigate rocky terrain. This trail still requires good shoes- so wear your river shoes. This trail lead us to an area of the river we called "the Jacuzzi" because the rocks in a couple places formed circle pools where the water flowed in like a Jacuzzi. It was really nice. BRING CHEETO's! There are a ton of minnows and if you have Cheeto's the fish will eat them from your hand or in between your toes if you put them there. This kept my daughters busy for hours. They practiced a weird form of catch and release. They would catch the minnows, put them into a Ziploc bag for a while, and then release them after a varied amount of time. My son and nephew fished for perch or brim, but only caught a few- none of them worth keeping. This swimming area had shaded areas along the bank as well as wide open areas for those wishing to get a tan. I would say there were only about 5 other people in this area other than my family, but it was also on a Monday and Sunday afternoon the park had mostly cleared out.
While fishing in this area my nephew, niece, and her boyfriend found a little cut that they followed which led them right to Twin Falls. We all walked up this stream and were able to have a view of the falls from below. It was gorgeous.
Overall I would say this is a great park. The sites are spacious, the restroom/shower facilities are clean, and there are two park hosts that sell firewood and ice right at the entrance to the campground next to the dump station. Our site was equipped with water and electric, but there is also a primitive camping area if you are inclined to that form of camping as well. There are plenty of hiking trails, but I wouldn't suggest taking your bicycle down them unless you are a crazy accomplished mountain biker! The main nuisances at this campground were the flies and gnats. They were everywhere. We had six fly tape traps, two citronella candles burning and were all covered with off before they stopped "bugging" us. I would like to suggest a net tent to go over your picnic table/ cooking area, but with eight kids on this trip I know very well the tent would have rarely been closed so the bugs would have just followed us in. There were two shower facilities inside the campground with two sinks, three toilets and two shower stalls in each (hot and cold water). During the weekend the line to the ladies room was pretty long when it was peak shower time (right after dark before bed), but that was only on Saturday night. The rest of the time we were able to get right in and out. The TPWD staff were super friendly and helpful when needed and I can definitely see going back to this campground again. It would be amazing in the fall and winter when it is cooler, but I am not sure my kids would like to go without being able to swim.