Year In Review – 2017

I did it! I made all over Texas and got to experience all sorts of things that I would not have considered doing on my own. Goal accomplished 🙂 Yep I am smiling.

The Objective – Visit all State & National Parks in Texas in 2017

When I started this adventure I thought it was going to be easy to make the list.

  • In the State Park Guide there are 99 separate line items. Some lakes even have 2-3 lines for their separate units. The rub really comes in when the State Map has more green diamonds that are in the Guide.
  • According to the State Map there are 110 State Parks & Historic Sites. Not that I learned the lesson along the way and checked the map before visiting the next area. Oh well, maybe some of those can be a part of future road trips.
  • Per the State Map there are 12 National Parks, on the National Parks of Texas Map there are 13, the difference being the Rio Grande WSR (Wild & Scenic River). Which means that this part of the border/Rio Grande that is not being managed, there are Class II and Class III rapids for the adventurous types.
    • Bonus – Waco Mammoth was not on either map, but is on an on-line list.

My point is that it is/was a challenge to really nail down the right list at the right time to do all the things loftily planned. In fact it wasn’t until the fall that I had all the maps to even figure out all of the challenges that I had.

The Stats:

92 State Parks and Historic Sites; 5 visits & 6 drive by/through National Parks.

1st Day Hike 2017- Lake Mineral Wells;  1st Day Hike 2018 – Would have been Cedar Hill if it had not been too cold. Cedar Hill was chosen because this is the hike that had the rattlesnake on the trail that ended the hike before it got started. Yikes!

Mileage: Midyear (June) 7,178 + Year End (December) 6,756 = 13,934 Total Miles (2 cars)

Planned road trips for each month but ended up only doing road trips in 10 of the 12.

  • March was out due to my dog – Charity – being paralyzed. It really happened on March 1st and she was good enough to travel by the 31st in the new car.
  • August was out because I decided it was tooooo hot.
  • Both April and September had double road trips.
  • Local day trips were rearranged many times.

28 Hotel Rooms – 4 gratis via Hotel Points, 16 covered via credit card points. Yeah – I only paid for 12 Hotel Rooms! Better than planned. But it did also allow me to wimp out on my camping plans. Since I purchased the camping paraphernalia, I still have to camp. Somewhere, Sometime – 2018.

Dogs – Boarding was in the plan but at a certain point they were signed up to go every place I went. Note that I had really planned on finding them a place to stay on the West Texas road trip and I should have stuck with that plan, but I didn’t. They did end up being expensive though. Specifically the one that was paralyzed for a month. This drove the purchase of 2 strollers. I didn’t want to pay for the big wheel hiking stroller….until the first one was falling apart and just not getting the job done. The 1st one was a lot lighter though. This made a big difference when I had to drag the big wheel up the stepped side of cliffs or never ending stairs. Those memories are still vivid.

4 Border Patrol checkpoints. Plus the added bonus of seeing the border wall that is currently in place on the southern tip of Texas. I also stood in the mud next to the Rio Grande.

Countless wildlife – all year – a coyote with a bunny in his mouth even crossed my path in Big Bend. I didn’t capture a pic of that one. I tried though! Some of them I would not have been able to identify if is wasn’t for the Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine. Such as the Black Indigo snake. I would have just been freaking out about a long ass shiny black snake on the road. Scary enough for me not to ever want to get out of the car again. Along with vulture identification. Very helpful.

Misses:

I still have not seen the bats (any bats) fly. Timing I suppose. I was sure that I was going to see them in October after the May attempt failed. Nope.

I still have not gotten to hike to the top of Enchanted Rock. It will require boarding if I want to do so. Speaking of rocks, the same is true for those containing cave art at Hueco Tanks.

I didn’t actually make it to all the parks and definitely not all listed on the State Map. Some due to the Hurricane Harvey damage or they were just not open the days I was in the region. Or they were too much on the extreme side (Devils River)

I didn’t follow the driving through a park rule. I did do that a few times. It was also a total miss on the seeing the local sights rule. This is just future road trip fodder.

No camping.

In general not spending enough time in those places that I really enjoyed. Which means I need to figure out what revisits need to be scheduled.

Surprises:

Texas History – I thought it was going to be all lakes and hills. I did not grow up in Texas, so I did not get the Texas History classes and road trips growing up. Texas certainly has its own path to becoming a part of the United States. And probably why there is the travel promotion of “like visiting a whole other country”. It was once the Republic of Texas, so the statement is true.

  • Before this adventure I also had not put together the fact that street names and a lot of cities are also named after the founders of Texas.
  • Some were obvious without too much history research, such as Houston and Austin. Others not as much such as Lamar and Goliad.
  • And there are places like Washington on the Brazos – a mind bender where it turns out that the Texas Declaration of Independence was drafted. Washington was the name of the town that is next to the Brazos River.

The Texas/Mexico Border – I got to see the border wall in the Brownsville area on the southern tip of Texas. Especially interesting are the breaks in the wall where a dirt road rolls through linking the farm land on each side. Along with all the big bridge border crossings. I thought there were like 2. El Paso and Brownsville. Well there are a lot more.

The Rio Grande and the Rio Grande Valley in general from is expanse, variety and that it acts as the southern border of the entire state.

Alligators – Specifically walking a few feet away from alligators with no barriers between them and my snack size dogs.

Favorite Parks: There are a few to top the list – Here they are by region

Big Bend Country – Seminole Canyon

May Road Trip Day 2 Seminole Canyon

  • I also want to go back to Marfa (Not a Park of any type) in a fairer time of year to be able to stay out and see some Marfa lights and then hang around and gaze upon the local art scene.

Gulf CoastSea Rim, Brazos Bend and the San Jacinto Monument

January Road Trip Day 2: San Jacinto Battleground – Battleship Texas – Galveston

January Road Trip Day 3: Brazos Bend

March in April Road Trip #1 Day 2 Sheldon Lake & Sea Rim with a Short Stop @ San Jacinto

  • I wouldn’t mind visiting the Padre Island National Seashore during Turtle Season, I did drive along the road but you couldn’t see the gulf for the dunes. I did walk on the beach in South Padre, but I didn’t get to spend enough time in North Padre.

Hill Country – South Llano River & Kickapoo Cavern

May Road Trip Day 3 South Llano River & Lake Brownwood

  • Kickapoo is where I would like to see the bats fly and if I time it right can also do Devils Sinkhole to see the largest colony of bats. (Hmm I am thinking that there will be a bat road trip in the future)

The main problem with this region is that all the parks are pretty darn good. You wouldn’t go wrong with picking any one of them or all of them except maybe one or two….

Panhandle Plains – Caprock Canyons (#1) & Copper Breaks

September Road Trip #1 Day 1 Caprock Canyon & Palo Duro Canyon

September Road Trip #1 Day 2 Copper Breaks & Lake Arrowhead Bonus Local Park – Cedar Hill

  • It is true Palo Duro Canyon the Grand Canyon of texas is in this region, but I still prefer Caprock.

Piney Woods – Caddo Lake

June Road Trip Day 2 Atlanta, Caddo Lake & Martin Creek Lake 

  • This region was a surprise to me. I always wondered why people from the East Texas region were so proud identifying as being East Texans. I kind of want to be one too! Which means I like actually like all the parks in this region. Go ahead and enjoy them all 🙂

Prairies & Lakes – Where I live. Eisenhower, Dinosaur Valley, & Palmetto

August Day Trips – Eisenhower & Daingerfield

February Roadtrip Day 1 – Lockhart & Palmetto

May Local Parks – Cleburne & Dinosaur Valley

South Texas Plains – Goliad

April Road Trip #2 Day 1 Goliad & Fannin Battleground

  • It is not just Remember the Alamo! The rest of the rallying cry was Remember Goliad! There was a massacre there too.
  • This is the area that I planned for February for the cool temps and it was 109 degrees on the border.
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