Travel Time - Colorado Bend State Park/Bend, TX
It's finally time! Adventuring with Vern!
Our first family trip with Vern the Van, and the girls first experience with tent camping, went really well.
Our daughters did better than we anticipated with all the outdoorsy fun that we had up our sleeves. At 6 and 7, it could go either way!
Vern did so well and is such a great addition to our family. We are excited about all the Voyages with Vern we have ahead of us.
We needed some place that wasn't too far of a drive, especially since the girls still had school so we couldn't leave until around 4pm, yet we didn't want to just "go down the road" this first time out either.
A place that had some mountain biking for the hubs and easy hiking for the girls. My goal is to get them to love hiking as much as I do and that starts with getting out and doing it, and not making it a miserable experience. I know when they get a little older we will be hitting the more intense and impressive trails together so I'm willing to take some lighter hikes now to get that later.
Colorado Bend State Park is where we landed.
As with all the state parks I've come across these days, they were fully booked for many weeks out. We were able to get a spot at the Barefoot Camp & RV Park, just down the road from the entrance of the state park.
But first, dinner!
We stopped in Hico, TX at a Mexican restaurant inside/adjacent to a gas station called Don Julio. Don't get that confused with Don Julio's... they are not the same thing.
The bean soup situation they bring to start, along with the salsa, was delicious. I could have just eaten some of that and been fine. The oldest and I shared some beef, bean, and cheese nachos. They were quite good. We certainly were happy with our choice. Hubs got a platter that included a beef enchilada, cheese enchilada, crispy beef taco, and guacamole tostada - all yummy. The youngest got chicken strips and fries, shocking because she is usually a taco or nacho gal. Service was quick and the food was good. Wouldn't have thought to stop here, but glad we gave it a shot.
Now to get to the RV park before they lock the gate for the night! 3 hours from home is about the furthest we can go with the kids after school it would seem.
Barefoot Camp & RV Park was probably the most scenic RV park I've been to.
Many times the RV parks themselves are a bit "flat", but Barefoot was loaded with scenery, critters, and friendly folks. This isn't a glamping situation if that's what you're looking for. It was nice and the spots were great. The RV spots had space for a tent, a fire pit, picnic table, electric and water hookups, and all sites seemed to be pull-through sites. Spots were pretty fair with how level they were. You want to bring something to even you out, like jacks or blocks, but a little lean isn't bad in the RV park world.
As with most state parks and many RV parks, the restrooms left a bit to be desired. Bugs are to be expected, it's not sexy, but it provides a flushing toilet and quick hot shower - so they've got that for sure. They never ran out of toilet paper, so that's a pretty solid deal. And don't bother thinking you're going to get cell signal or Wi-fi... not gonna be your day around these parts. It was odd to be completely disconnected, but nice at the same time since our kids were already with us. We did say we need to get some long-range walkie-talkies to use at the parks when we split up. We couldn't even communicate with one another, let alone the external world.
We made it to the RV park before the gate locked, whoo hoo, but we did wind up setting the tent up in the dark, and learned the rainfly was not operable nor fixable. So, we rigged it up a bit and resigned ourselves to the fact that we are going to be in the market for a new tent... if they girls don't revolt on us for this one. To be 100% honest, hubs and I were pretty sure one of us would be sleeping in the tent with one kid, and the other inside the van with the other. Surprisingly, they wound up loving the tent - especially on night two when it wasn't so cold, thanks to the small tent heater we actually turned on. Oops! LOL
The girls learned pretty early on that campgrounds have stickers and they best be wearing shoes and not rolling on the ground. Painful lessons, but must be learned none the less. They learned one must plan ahead when you feel the urge to go to the bathroom, because it might be a bit of a hike from where you are. They also learned that the other campers are pretty friendly and tend to bring dogs... that they'll let you pet... all you'd like to... And they did. The oldest even wound up hanging out with the group of grandparents the dogs belonged to, sitting in their folding chair, "telling stories" as she said to me upon her return. She kills me. Oh, someone also had a baby lamb on site and on Sunday morning it had escaped its enclosure and came to say hello to everyone. Pretty fun.
The animal the girls had most wanted to see was the armadillo. They were so concerned about finding one of this trip and that they would be hard to find. I told them I'd bet money we would see several on this trip and sure enough, as soon as we entered the gate at Barefoot RV, there was an armadillo waiting to greet us! We also said hello to one near the restrooms, and he came to say hello to us at our campsites both nights. So, the girls were quite pleased in that.
I bought groceries before we left home to make chorizo, egg, and cheese breakfast tacos for our breakfasts, ham sandwiches with chips for lunch, and hamburgers with baked beans for dinner. You know, that fancy shit. Snacks were the normal camping fare such as beef jerky, trail mix, protein bars... all the usual suspects. We did pick up some pickled okra at one of the gas stations and that got tore up by the four of us!
Much of our day Saturday and our final morning Sunday was spent at Colorado Bend State Park. The hubs rode his bike and the girls and I did some hiking and some chillin'. We even got in that muddy cold river for a while too when the heat of the day was too much more to take. We were all dirty, tired, and ready for a hot shower!
We didn't do the Gorman Falls Trail this time around because it's too advanced for the kids, but I'll either go up it myself or with them when their skills allow them to. We stuck to the easy-moderate Spicewood Springs Trail. We still got to see some small waterfalls and the girls had a blast. They did get hot and tired, the usual things, but they were excited to do it again the next day and have asked for their own backpacks with water bladders so they didn't have to share with mommy. So, at least they are planning for future hikes!
After our hike Sunday morning we headed out for home! We weren't in the mood for sandwiches so we hit up The Bend Cafe, in the tiny little town outside of the state park. You drive by it and think, man why is this small place in the middle of nowhere so busy? Someone else we chatted with at the state park also recommended it - highly. Once we went inside, we knew why. Live music (even on a Sunday afternoon), lots of space, funky vibe, a bar (no drafts or liquors), a pool - yes a pool - and, wait for it... chickens. Just walking about and interacting with everyone likes its a totally normal thing. And here, it is.
The music was great and the food was good. The girls had chicken strips with fries. The hubs and I shared the fried appetizer sampler. That included onion rings, mozzarella sticks, pickle fries, mushrooms, and cabbage egg rolls. My fav was the pickle fries.
The bartender gave the girls a tub of chalk so they got to do some chalk art, play with chickens, and the oldest even wound up on the stage doing a little duet with the musician playing at the time. Needless to say, when we come back to this are of Texas, we will drop by The Bend Cafe again.
The girls were pretty tired so after lunch they played a bit, but mostly conked out for a 2 hour nap. The youngest does that from time to time, but the oldest certainly does not so it was a welcome surprise and testament to how good of a time she had.
Our first adventure with Vern was just what we had hoped it would be.
We spent lots of time outdoors, played games together, and had a fun adventure showing the girls how great camping can be. Both said they wish we could have stayed longer and that they want to start getting some camping/hiking gear and clothing all their own.
I'm excited that they are excited, yet I also tried to preface them that not all the trips would have as great of weather as we did. No rain, light breeze, high of 90, low of 55. It was a treat in the weather department - not always how that goes!
But it does seem that the spark has been lit for a love of camping, hiking, and being in the outdoors - and that's a good thing.
You can check out all of the photos in the Colorado Bend State Park photo album on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/artfullyunfiltered.
'Til next time!