Travel Time - Cleburne State Park, Texas
What happens when you decide at the last minute to take the kids on a little close-by overnight trip? In our case, we had a really good time and made some memories.
Christmas morning I decided I wanted to do a quick hiking trip in Vern the Van since the weather has been so warm. I really didn't think we'd have the opportunity to do a camping trip this time of year as I assumed it would be much colder than it is. My kids are out of school still and I'm essentially wrapping down my professional time at the firm and gearing up to start a new position elsewhere in a few weeks. Add to that the fact that the girls were gifted new hiking/hydration backpacks and shoes for Christmas, it made sense to get out there ASAP!
Before we left town however, we had a really delicious brunch from Tricky Fish in Fort Worth. Cheesecake Stuffed French Toast, Chicken Strips, and Peel-and-Eat Shrimp... yes please!
I chose Cleburne State Park, in Cleburne, Texas, because it was less than an hours drive from home, has a variety of hiking trail options, and I hadn't yet had the opportunity to go there myself.
It didn't have some of the epic views of some
of the state parks I've hiked more recently, but don't take that to mean that it isn't pretty and it is C.L.E.A.N.! As far as a camping/state park experience, they clearly take great pride in keeping the place and the amenities in quality order. Even my daughter's "gasped and awed" in delight when we walked in the first bathroom because they have seen their fair share of uncomfortable anxiety-inducing restroom situations in their short time. We hadn't even really planned on taking a shower unless we got really dirty or something. The water pressure is great and the shower gets and stays hot really quickly. We were impressed.
Only being there for one night I didn't bother to setup their tent by myself. No thank you. We all just piled up in Vern and got cozy. He has a big bed, so it really wasn't all that bad. The worst part of it (other than their flipping and kicking) was not feeling like I could get up to go to the bathroom in the night (as is required) without waking them. So, that was uncomfortable and kept me from some sleep a bit.
Once we arrived to the State Park we checked out where our spot was, dropped their bikes out of the van, and drove to the trailhead for our first hike! Originally they wanted the easier hike that day and the harder one the next day. So that's what I tried to deliver... and failed at. We survived, but the order was definitely reversed.
The Coyote Run Nature Trail is listed as a Moderate Trail taking around one hour round-trip to complete. Not sure where that time came from. It took us 3.5 hours due to the ongoing breaks the children requested. None-the-less, we persevered and survived... and all talked about the fun things we saw more than how tired they were - once the hike was over of course. Their new backpack hydration packs really saved the day. Made staying hydrated easier on everyone.
For dinner I just heated up some frozen spaghetti I had made a few months ago that I remembered I had. It made for super easy prep and cleanup, which was appreciated for such a short trip. The girls played in the dirt, the woods, climbed trees, pet random dogs... all the things. The campsites were really great, level, and clean. This is most certainly somewhere we will be back at many times - especially when you can swim and such. Once we had our fill on food and the weather turned chilly, we headed into Vern for some Uno and Go-Fish battles, then bed. It was an early bedtime for the girls, not surprisingly.
The next morning they played a bit more and pet more random dogs while I packed up. We brushed our teeth and headed for hike #2!
Today would be a trail listed as Easy, for obvious reasons. The White-Tail Hollow Trail was a great trail for a meandering, pretty hike. It was as-long of a hike, almost, as yesterday but the girls faired better on this one since it wasn't as physically challenging. Plus it had direct access to the famous Dam built there, which was a great payoff for the kids after that hike.
After the hike we hit up the playground, ate some sandwiches and ice cream, then headed home. Again, it's less than an hour away, not something I'm used to when camping and I am certainly not complaining!
The girls and I kept talking about how glad we were that we took this last minute adventure together. We really did have a good time and it was barely over 24 hours that we were gone! When I start the new job I won't have the schedule flexibility I did before, so trips will be fewer. Although I do intend on doing plenty of day-hikes at least, so all is not lost. Eventually I'll get the PTO time and planning to be able to travel more again.
We had such a good time and were really impressed with Cleburne State Park. It was nicer and cleaner than any of us expected and all three of us said we can't wait to come back and do it again. And next time, I gotta bring someone who will take them fishing while I... don't.
Vern was a rockstar as usual and we've got more memories to make!