30.07.2012 - 06.08.2012 99 °F
A Road Trip With My Daughter...
As summer began to draw to a close I wanted to take my nine year old daughter on a “girls” camping trip since my husband had to work, and my two other children were off for two weeks on their own adventure. I decided that we would go to Guadalupe State Park in Spring Branch, TX since it was not only a state park I had never visited, but also because it is centrally located to several day trips I wanted to go on with my daughter. Our plan was to spend seven nights at the park, so early on Monday morning we set off. My husband was apprehensive about us traveling up there alone, so he followed me just to make sure I was able to pull our travel trailer and set it up and left the following day.
Setting Up Camp:
We drove the five hours from our home to Guadalupe State Park. This park is right in the heart of the Texas Hill Country, and is pretty close to civilization. It was only 8 miles to a HEB grocery store and 3 miles to a Valero gas station. The park is accessed from Park Road 31 and leads to the Park Headquarters. The Rangers were friendly and we had no difficulty checking in. Since it was a Monday the park wasn’t crowded at all. The Rangers originally assigned us to Site 76 in the park, but informed us if we arrived at the campground and found another spot to be more to our liking we were welcome to change. After getting to the campground we determined that Site 50 was more in line with what we were looking for. All of the sites were shaded with picnic tables and fire pits, but there is only one bath house in the campground. Site 76 required that we walk through a wooded trail to get over to the other side where the restrooms were. Since it was just my daughter and I, I made the change to Site 50 because of its proximity to the bath house and park host. I knew my nine year old would be unwilling to walk down a wooded trail at night to go to the restroom, and I liked the idea that the park hosts were there should I run into any trouble. Our site was level and easy to pull into- which was a blessing since I had to back the trailer in for the first time.
After setting up camp it was time to check out the Guadalupe River. The park has a designated river parking area and another overflow parking area. There are picnic tables, grills, and another bath house all located for park guests to use. The river is easily accessed from the parking lot and they have stone steps carved into the side of the hill leading down to the river. Once there, visitors find a pebble/rock beach area where they can set up canopy tents, beach chairs, coolers etc for the day. The water on this part of the Guadalupe River is not nearly as cool as people familiar with floating the Guadalupe in New Braunfels may be accustomed to. It took me by surprise how warm the water was actually. The swimming area has some shallow rapid areas, but most of it is between two and three feet deep. The bottom is rocky so make sure you wear river shoes. The water wasn’t moving fast enough the week we were here to tube the river, so we went to the Dollar Store a couple miles from the park and purchased some regular blow up pool floats. All of our river time from that point on consisted of us floating around the river on our floats and my daughter catching minnows using our standard bait- Cheeto’s. The river was uneventful during the weekdays with approximately twenty to thirty people maximum there, but on the weekend it really drew in a lot of day trippers who set up camp on the river banks and livened up the atmosphere.
Day Trip: Gruene Hall in Gruene, Texas
We drove less than an hour from Guadalupe State Park to Gruene, Texas (pronounced “green”). This town is home to Gruene Hall which according to its website is the “oldest continually running dance hall in Texas”. This area outside of New Braunfels, TX was a great area to visit. The town has antique and gift shops, a general store with a variety of souvenirs and food stuffs, as well as several different options for lodging if you were to choose to stay. There are several restaurants to eat at, but we chose the Gristmill located right behind the dance hall. The food was outstanding and reasonably priced. We were seated in an outdoor area of the restaurant that overlooked the Guadalupe River. Although it was a really hot day, the area we sat in was shaded and had a cool breeze coming through that made it a really pleasant lunch. The only thing I regret was there wasn’t a concert happening for us to catch at Gruene Hall. We have checked the upcoming shows and have intentions of traveling back in November to celebrate our anniversary there. For a list of events and more information on Gruene Hall you may want to visit their website www.gruenehall.com
Day Trip: Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park
My daughter and I also chose to use one of our days to visit the LBJ National Park and his ranch which was home to the “Western White House” during LBJ’s presidency. It again was about an hour drive, and on this day trip we did everything. We started out our tour in Johnson City, Texas at the National Park Visitor Center. Here we toured the center, walked through the Johnson Settlement, and toured LBJ’s boyhood home. I was amazed at the size of the house he was raised in. For a turn of the century home (the 20th century) it was much larger than I expected from its appearance outside. Here we listened to stories of LBJ’s early life and the situations he encountered that would later form his political platform and legislation. For lunch we stopped in at the Silver K Café across the street. I really didn’t expect much at first glance, but the food was exceptionally good- especially the fried green tomatoes and spinach gorgonzola soup…delicious!!!! We then headed fourteen miles west to tour the LBJ ranch. This is a combined state and national park. We checked into the state park headquarters where they gave us a car tag and a CD to accompany our driving tour. We started out our tour by visiting the Sauer-Beckmann Farm which is a “living history” farm. The hosts were decked out in their pioneer apparel and we watched woman present milk in a variety of stages from cottage cheese to yogurt to a buttery type spread. The final product didn’t smell too appetizing, but I am assuming if I was hungry enough it would be okay on bread. We then drove through the park and followed the stops at the CD's prompting. There was a school house, the cemetery where LBJ and Lady Bird are buried, the hangar that houses a smaller Air Force One that would taxi the Johnson’s from Austin to the ranch, and then finally the house. To tour the house I had to pay $2.00, but it was worth all two hundred pennies. The park ranger was hilarious, but from what I figured out it was easy to be funny since LBJ himself provided so much amusement in his own personal ways. If you are ever in this area do whatever you can to at least take in the LBJ Ranch portion and pay the money for the house tour. It was fantastic. The National Park Service website has information on hours, things to do, and location of the LBJ Ranch.
Day Trip: Luckenbach, Texas
I think it would be difficult to find anyone over the age of 30 who hasn’t heard the Waylon Jennings/Willie Nelson song “Luckenbach, Texas”. We took the opportunity on Friday night to drive over to Luckenbach and listen to the band that was playing that evening. If you are expecting tons of things to do in Luckenbach you will be greatly disappointed. It has a population of 3 according to the refrigerator magnets the general store sells and only has a food booth, beer garden, general store, and dance hall; however, this is an iconic Texas place and should be visited if you are this close. We purchased the standard “Everybody is Somebody in Luckenbach” t-shirt, ate a pulled pork sandwich and Frito Pie at the Feed Stop, and waited to hear the band. I may have led my daughter to expect something different from the band because she didn’t make it long. Let’s just say they were definitely not a Justin Beiber or One Direction cover band- which personally I think is a good thing. My nine year old disagreed. We left after a couple of songs, but had accomplished what we set out to do which was see Luckenbach. If you are visiting Luckenbach try to drive Ranch Road 1376. The scenery is absolutely stunning. It reminds you of why this area is appropriately called the Hill Country. Honestly the reason I didn’t mind leaving Luckenbach so quickly was because we had drove RR1376 coming in and I was ready to drive back on it before nightfall just so I could see the views again. For a calendar of events going on at Luckenbach their web site is www.luckenbachtexas.com.
Day Trip: Wimberley Market Days in Wimberley, Texas
Once a month the small town of Wimberley, Texas has a huge trade day. We purposely planned our visit around this Saturday because we both wanted to check out the “treasures”! It took slightly over an hour to get to Wimberley and then $5.00 to park. They truly had a little bit of everything here. Crafty items, antiques, wrought iron décor, clothing, food… tons of stuff. I would recommend going to the Market Days in the fall or spring because it was right at 100 degrees on the Saturday we attended. If you only want to devote a half day to the Market Days then Wimberley also offers a couple other cool spots to check out. The first is the 7A Ranch Resort and Pioneer Town. You don’t have to be staying at the resort to visit. You can pay $5.00 to park and visit all day. Pioneer Town has several streets of old time looking buildings, an ice cream shop, and an arcade for the kids. There is also access to the Blanco River from there if you want to swim. However, if you were planning on swimming I would suggest going to the Blue Hole. This swimming area was named one of “America’s best swimming holes” according to Travel and Leisure magazine and is shaded which gives double refreshment from the hot Texas sun. As you drive to and from Wimberley from Guadalupe River State Park you will travel on FM 306. This route provides some pretty spectacular views of Canyon Lake as well.
This park really is one of the more “civilized” campgrounds we have stayed at. I can only assume it is because of the large amount of day trippers that come in to play in the river on the weekend. The speed bumps were only annoying because I kept visualizing my refrigerator in my travel trailer popping open as we were leaving for the five hour trip back to Houston. The park staff and rangers were friendly, and the park hosts were outstanding. They did their best to keep everything clean inside the park and were always out and about on their ATV. I was disappointed with the lack of wildlife we saw- two deer and one rabbit in seven days. Our site was excellent and spacious, but the bathrooms I would only give a 5 or 6 out of 10. There were plenty of sinks and stalls, but the plumbing system kept backing up in one shower causing it to overflow all out on the floor and one of the toilets seemed to be clogged every other day. We have stayed at other parks with much nicer restroom facilities, and this one could be improved with a little maintenance I suspect. I believe if I return back to this park I would want to go in the fall or spring to avoid the heat. Texas has plenty of warm days throughout the year so I don’t believe going in March, April or November would in any way hamper our ability to enjoy the Guadalupe River in this state park.