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A Great Texas Family Quick Trip: Live A Little Spontaneous

Quick Family Camping Trip To Pedernales Falls State Park

Have you ever had a moment of spontaneity and so happy you did whatever it was that was so compelling you had to act? If not … what the heck – what are you waiting for? If so, AWESOME– we had the same experience recently when going to Austin, Texas for a one-night camping trip. Did we plan this trip? Nope! Did we have a good time? Yes!

What sparked the sudden urge to do something random … something that came off the top of my head, hitting me one bright, Saturday morning? Actually, I had just finished my recent post on Meaningful Social Connections and was reminded of the points I made in this when waking up just to find my eleven year old son, M, only with a desire to spend his weekend on the couch, watching TV. I thought to myself: this is one of those moments I can put my good advice to good use for my family. Within an hour, one backpack per person was packed, G (my husband) packed the household items we knew we needed, and we were headed off to REI to get the camping gear we needed to spend one night camping under the stars at Pedernales Falls State Park in Austin, Texas.   Yes, believe it or not, we didn’t have any camping gear! But, that wasn’t going to stop us 🙂

We have NO idea what speared REI from having what seemed a mile long line of patrons just at the checkout line, but we quickly grabbed camping gear and rushed in line so we could hurry out of Houston. Maybe it was because it was Memorial Day weekend? Who knows … anyways, we purchased our camping goods and settled into G’s awesome F-150 truck (I love this truck – I even have massage technology in my passenger seat!) and we headed the Texas roads.

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Halfway to Austin and we realized it was almost lunchtime so we opted to stop at a BBQ place in Chappell Hill, Texas that G claims we would be fools to pass up. In Texas, you can normally trust BBQ in a small town to be a good, so we pulled over and enjoyed a little BBQ lunch at Chappell Hill Bakery – Deli – BBQ Smokehouse. It was the perfect selection to ignite the Texas in our palette, with the smoky sweet ribs … friend okra (I didn’t realize A and M had never had it before – apparently, from A’s perspective, they taste like French fries – LOL! It was enough to entice M to try.) … baked beans … and pickles. To my disbelief, as well, G and the kiddos had good ‘ol root beer; this is shocking because for years G has complained at how root beer tastes like cough syrup to him … but I think Texas has finally seeped into his bloodstream! And, as if the BBQ wasn’t good enough, driving thru what seemed a Texas lazy town just took me back to how Texas has still a deep-rooted charm that I love.

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M and A enjoying their root beers at Chappell Hill BBQ!

 

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Another charming detail to eating at Texas BBQ joints, much like Chappell Hill BBQ, is when sitting outside at the solid wood bench tables and seeing they obviously had repurposed what used to be a wood-shed table from years past. This table must have been used in some farm that required room for tools – it was fun eating and picking out all of the tools faded onto the table top!

 

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The food at Chappell Hill BBQ was perfectly Texan! Sweet BBQ, Texas-sized hospitality from the staff, and a slower pace to the walks and talks of the folks. Simply charming!

 

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Blue Bell Ice Cream is a Texas staple, and tradition I will always remember from when my grandmother would make us home made root beer floats with Blue Bell vanilla ice cream placed in a beer mug with root beer poured over it. Childhood memories are the best!

 

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We loved riding thru the small town as we headed towards Pedernales Falls State Park from Chappell Hill. The kids loved talking about a time before they were born and people walked on the sidewalks and had their horses parked!

Having left Houston around mid-day, and now having spent a good 45 minutes enjoying a Texas BBQ lunch, we were headed back on the Texas road towards Austin around 2:30 p.m. It has been raining a lot this year in Texas and we didn’t appreciate the country land impact to this until traffic began to slow and we realized it was because cattle farmers with farms that reached up to the highway were trying to perform rescue attempts on their cattle because the farms were flooded at fence-level. It was sad to see some cattle didn’t make it, and I wish we could have stopped and been able to help in some way. My heart just felt for them because I knew more rain was in the forecast and when it rains in Texas it typically isn’t a London style drizzle … it’s a downright heavy pour.

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The flowers were beautiful and in perfect bloom over Memorial Day weekend at Pedernelas Falls State Park!

We reached Pedernales Falls State Park about 4:30 p.m. Luckily, we knew we had a few hours to still enjoy the Texas sun. Almost immediately from the time G parked the truck we all hopped out just to stretch our legs. The kids were naturally eager to explore the posted maps and little cabin they called their front office, which had your typical small paraphernalia for purchase. I must confess before we had left Houston I tried to get online and reserve a camping spot for us, but online reservations cannot be made the day of camping. I also tried calling the state park number they suggested probably a dozen times, if not more, trying to secure a camping spot via telephone but it range busy each time. So, G and I made a plan that should we arrive and a camp site not be available we’d just improvise and figure out another place to stay close by, or we’d just drive home. Well … my worst fear came true. We arrived and the lady at the front desk said all sites were reserved. NOOOOO! Luck was on our side because this same lady also quickly mentioned there is a waiting list and it seemed we were 2nd in line. Her colleague was swift to share she’s been trying to call the first individual on the waiting list 4 times with no success so she suggested to give us the camp site. YAY! We had the last campsite available, and it was next to the river! We paid the park fees and made our way to the campsite. We did it – we managed to take a spontaneous idea and make it happen 🙂

I could probably write a short story on our little camping adventure, but thought instead I’d stop here and let you enjoy the funny things that happened in our trip that I feel will be great “Lesson’s Learned” for our next camping trip:

  1. Lesson Learned #1. Note To Self: Don’t bring just one credit card that happens to be the ONLY card your spouse also brings to the trip! Why? Well … when going to the store in Dripping Springs to get groceries for our camp fire Chase bank apparently put a fraud hold on the card and we were stranded at the check-out line with the dirty looks from patrons that our card kept getting declined – completely embarrassing. We also don’t normally carry loads of cash. So, what should have taken 30 minutes to get groceries turned into an hour because we had to shuffle our basket of loaded groceries to the side … call the bank to get them to take the hold off of our cards … and then go back in line. (*** If you’re interested, there is something amazing that came out of this situation that I opted to leave at the tail-end of this blog. You should definitely read it!)
  2. Lesson Learned #2. Don’t buy charcoal that is meant for slow smoke cooking! Our grill at home is propane and G was in such a hurry to get out of the store (he doesn’t like grocery shopping!) he didn’t pay close attention to the type of charcoal to purchase. What a debacle! We were already aggravated by the experience we had when purchasing the groceries only to get back to the campsite with the sun now down for the evening. And, to make matters work … a massive lightening storm was brewing in the clouds. In summary, time was not on our side and here we were with a campfire that didn’t want to give us flames but smoke!
  3. Lesson Learned #3. Hunkering down during a storm gust doesn’t leave much room for good sleep. We couldn’t gauge the weather enough to determine whether a storm was going to bypass us, or not. The kids were so excited to sleep in the tent, yet G wanted to make sure not one drop entered the tent. Therefore, with 4 people sleeping in one tent I quickly realized how HOT it gets in there and I didn’t put our waters in the tent with us … so, I woke up constantly parched for water. Why didn’t I get up and out of the tent, you ask? Because, it rained all night … and it wasn’t just a light storm, it was lightening and thundering so bad the ground shook … and the rain coming onto the tent ALL night sounded like we were getting hit by paintballs! There was no way I could escape the tent (or even open it for fresh air) without compromising the inside of the tent from getting drenched. So, I managed to mentally block my thirst and close my eyes – notice I did not say I fell back asleep! And, I will go ahead and throw in there that once I did fall asleep in the earliest hours of the morning, M and G decided to depart the tent and go into the truck … leaving A and I to be woken up by a massive wind gust that collapsed the tent on our heads – yes, that is how we woke up … getting wacked over the head by tent poles!

 

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Our campsite was pretty secluded, which we liked. It was walking distance to the river, although we found it a steep climb to get down and up to the river. Therefore, you opted to explore more of the other parts of the park that had the spring-like water fall areas. Nevertheless, here is our first tent that we put up together as a family – slept in as a family – and weathered the storm together!

So, with the things that happened above, you may be asking why the heck would we camp again? Well, first all, despite all of the lesson’s we learned along the way, we all (hands down) agreed we do it again! There is something about the good and bad that made us realize this is what living is about … persevering and laughing at the bad moments together. And, the good moments out weighed the bad.   The best moments we enjoyed while at at Pedernales Falls State Park:

  1. The beautiful water falls! After walking about half a mile, one way, into the woods we came across a beautiful, enclave that had clear roaring water. It almost looked as if it were a spring. It is hard to find along the coast, close to Houston, clear water … but here it was completely opposite. And, the falls at this location had almost self-made rocks and rapids that made for the perfect slides for the kids enjoy as they went from one water hole to the next. Heck, even G and I were riding along the slides with the kids! There were also some cliff jumps and calmer sections where one other camper just lazily enjoyed her tube and relaxed.
  2. The trails were beautiful. We did some trekking, mostly to get to and from the falls. All of the trails were so nice and just being out in nature and hearing the birds chirping and sounds of the streams was so refreshing compared to the normal traffic and hustle-bustle we hear when in Houston.
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The trails throughout the park were nicely paved, although we also found trails that were within the wooded areas that allowed for more rugged and adventurous discovery.

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The park also has an amphitheatre! We didn’t see a movie when we stayed but A was so mesmerized by the fact she could camp and watch a movie at the same time. Here she is imagining what that would feel like!

Why you should choose at Pedernales Falls State Park as your next Texas camping experience? Well, our top reasons for wanting to go here again are:

  1. The Falls. The pictures of the falls were beautiful enough to entice
  2. Campsite Options. They offer a variety of camping experience options:
    1. Go Primitive: For those that prefer to really “rough it”, this option takes you to the unbeaten path.
    2. Go Hybrid: If you want to still have some civilized convenience, you can get a campsite that has water and electrical connections; great for RV’ers or patrons that are interested in camping with a tent, as well.
    3. Go Cabin: This would be your most luxurious option if you just have the preference to have a more stable shelter
  3. Loads of Trails. There are a plethora of options to hike, not to mention there are also a lot of gravel trails to mountain bike. So, don’t forget to bring your bikes if you’re that kind of family that likes terrain adventure!
  4. Ride the River. I haven’t found a lot of options in Texas to tube, canoe, or even kayak and this park has the option for all three!
  5. Fish and Horseback. Seeing that there are fishing and horseback activity options, I loved that we could go to a place where we could see others enjoying wildlife. And, if the adventurous fishing or horseback riding bug struck us while out, we would be in a park that allowed for these options (Of course, having the equipment and horses would be helpful.).
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We found a hidden treat in the park next to the Wolf Mountain Trail within the park. We loved this spot so much we spent 2 hours alone just going up and down the falls and into the water holes! G even jumped the cliff into the deeper section farther back, which if you look close enough you’ll spot the lady floating on her red tube … that is where he jumped 🙂

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This was the beautiful fall that the kids used to help guide them into the shallow swimming holes. The water was so clear and refreshing.

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M is enjoying a little ride from the natural push the rapids are giving him into the water.

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Although the walk to get to the water fall area was about 1.5 miles to walk, it was the perfect distance to get your exercise before and after the treat of swimming in the natural waters.

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A took every opportunity she could to dip her feet into the natural waters! We passed many streams of water during our 3 mile course walk to and from the water falls.


A One Night Family Camping Packing List

Camping Equipment:

  • 1 Tent for 4
  • 2 sleeping bags for the kiddos
  • 2 single air mattresses for the adults
  • 2 camping blankets for the adults
  • 5 Towels (1 for each individual for swimming, and an extra to serve as a blanket to sit on when at the campsite)
  • 4 water canisters (1 for each individual)
  • 1 flashlight (but, we also used the flashlight on our iPhones)
  • 1 roll of toilet paper (we weren’t sure what type of amenities the park would offer so we packed it incase.)
  • 1 Ice chest
  • 2 trash bags (1 for wet clothes coming home + 1 for the trash while camping)

Things We Packed In Each Of Our Backpacks:

  • 1 Bathing suit
  • 2 pair of socks
  • 1 T-shirt and 1 pair of shorts to serve as pajamas
  • 1 Hoodie incase the temperature dropped
  • 1 Pair of flip flops
  • 1 Pair of under garments
  • 1 Shirt and 1 pair of shorts for the following day
  • 1 Toothbrush
  • 1 tube of toothpaste for the entire family to use (of course, this was in my backpack 😉
  • 1 brush and hair ties (you’d find these items in my and A’s backpacks … the boys obviously didn’t care how their hair looked while camping!)
  • 1 baseball hat

A One Night Family Camping Menu and Food Packing List

There is something about having to cook over a campfire that makes camping more thrilling. Our dinner and breakfast menus we opted to keep as “finger-food” friendly as possible to minimize the cooking equipment we required. Therefore, our menus were:

Dinner Menu:

  • Hot Dogs
  • Chips
  • S’mores

Breakfast Menu:

  • Croissants
  • Bananas
  • Chocolate Milk

The Grocery List:

  • Ice (for the ice chest)
  • Charcoal
  • Matches
  • Fire starter sticks
  • Long wooden skewers
  • Trail mix
  • Graham crackers (for the s’mores … and some were used for breakfast)
  • Marsh mellows (for the s’mores)
  • 60% Dark chocolate bars (for the s’mores)
  • Kettle’s black pepper potato chips
  • Pack of hot dogs
  • Hot dog buns
  • Pack of croissants
  • 4 individual chocolate milks
  • 1 pack of paper plates
  • 1 roll of paper towels
  • Bananas
  • 1 Can of sunscreen
  • 1 Can of bug spray

A Small Reminder Of Southern Goodness.

If you read above the ordeal we experienced when trying to buy our groceries at the HEB in Dripping Springs, you would have gotten that it was a frustrating moment for us being a bit stranded for a moment without the ability to buy our groceries thanks to Chase banks fraud hold program!  After our fourth attempt at trying to run our credit card, and it being declined, we asked the cashier to push our stuff aside and continue checking everyone else out while we sorted out things with the bank.  We noticed a very patient, older couple behind us that the cashier was able to check out.  As I was on my phone calling the bank and realizing they had put a hold on our card until we could confirm the transaction we were trying to make at the HEB, the lovely lady that was standing behind us in the grocery line had come up to us and offered to pay for our groceries.  She said we seemed like a decent, sweet family and they would like to offer to pay our groceries to help us out.  I was so floored by the unexpected generosity and genuine stewardship of good citizenship.  I hated that I couldn’t hug her at the moment because I was trying to get the bank the details they required to unfreeze our card.  We explained to her the bank situation and she decided to stay with us until she could see the card ran successfully and we got our groceries.  We stayed and talked with her for a few moments and came to find out she and her husband had moved from California 25 years prior and have lived in Dripping Springs ever since.  They simply love their small town and I can see why, if it was made of like-hearted citizens.  I will forever remember this moment and appreciated the gesture of what they call Texas hospitality that my kids got to witness.

This entry was posted in: Travel

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Hello! I am a zestful and passionate tech-gal that is also doing my best to raise amazing children ... sips a Nespresso before tackling yoga ... enjoys more the sprint interval running kind of routine ... drools over travel ... is a new budding foodie and chef ... isn't afraid of a DIY, or getting hands dirty ... feels the thirst for learning should be a lifelong companion ... supports my hubby in his Ironman endeavors ... tries to spread as much happiness for others as possible ... OH, and never lets a day go by when I haven't smiled :)

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