Copper Breaks State Park | October 2021

We spent Halloween weekend at Copper Breaks State Park, located up near the Oklahoma border in Quanah. It's a rugged, quiet park with a lot to offer! We did a ton of hiking, tried our hand at fishing, and marveled at the magnificent night skies that this International Dark Sky Park boasts. If you're into mountain biking, most of the trails allowed bikes, in addition to foot (and for some, equestrian) traffic. If you're planning a trip to visit Copper Breaks State Park, here's a little bit about our experience!

Hiking

We hiked six of the trails in Copper Breaks, which is more than half of them! We really liked that the trails offered a variety of views, terrain, and difficulty levels!

  • River Run + Rocky Ledges Trails - moderate to challenging, the River Run wasn't too bad but Rocky Ledges had a lot of rocky terrain, navigating between big rocks, etc. Worth it for the views, though!
  • Equestrian Trail - a longer hike for those that want it! We did this one Saturday morning. Easy terrain, very quiet. We didn't see a single other person on the trail!
  • Thirsty Horse trail - super easy for kids! Very short at only 0.3 miles. Leads you to a little lake.
  • Bull Canyon Homesteader + Short Loop Trails - moderate, really pretty as you go into Bull Canyon. Some areas had more difficult terrain than others!

I highly recommend all the trails that we did. With some long, some short, some difficult, some easy, you're pretty much guaranteed to find one that works for you and your family!

Fishing

We don't fish too often, but they were selling kid's fishing poles in the gift shop and Lily decided she wanted one so we gave it a go! There is a small fishing pier that we fished on. They were sold out of bait so we used grasshoppers that we caught and some deli turkey. We're nothing if not resourceful. We didn't have a whole lot of luck, only catching one fish, but I hiiiiiiiiighly recommend evening fishing and watching the sunset on the pier. It was absolutely stunning. The colors were so vibrant and they reflected off the surface of the still water. So lovely.

Camping

We camped in the Comanche loop. I love the shade shelters that they have! They're so cool looking. However, there were very few trees in this area, so no shade and nowhere to hang the hammock, which was tragic. We were in a site right by the playground and Lily made some friends and played Among Us on the monkey bars and slide. Some of the other campgrounds looked superior in terms of aesthetics, but Comanche is the only one with electric hook-ups.

Stargazing

I wish they had held some astronomy programs or something, but hooooooooooooooooooooooooooboy, Copper Breaks has some pretty amazing night skies. They rival the skies I had when I lived in Fort Davis. Night sky darkness is rated on what is called the Bortle scale. The scale runs from 1 (super, super dark) to 9 (cities). Copper Breaks has a Bortle rating of 2, so almost as good as it gets!

We would definitely consider going back to Copper Breaks! We had a lovely, relaxing time out in the rugged landscape of North Texas!


Tips & Tricks | Learning to Fish

We have been spending more time practicing our angling skills lately. We are 100% not experts, not even close. I used to lead Fishing with a Ranger programs when I worked at Mustang Island State Park and I faked it the entire time. Luckily, we rarely caught anything. I still remember one time during a program where it was just me and one gentleman and we were both fishing and chatting. All of a sudden, I felt a huge tug on my line and proceeded to reel in a giant Redfish! My hands were shaking from the adrenaline. We measured it to make sure it was legal & I gave it to the guy for dinner. 

Anyways, I don't have any real knowledge when it comes to fishing. I don't know how to tie proper knots, I panic when I have to remove hooks, and I'm always terrified that I am going to get spined when I handle a fish. I really only know how to use a push-button reel (I even had to google to see what they were called).  It's been quite a learning curve, but even still in the beginning stages, there are a few lessons that we learned pretty quickly! If you're just getting into fishing (or are interested in starting), read our tips below to avoid our rookie mistakes!

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Learn how to properly bait a hook

We lose a lot of bait pretty regularly, but are starting to learn how to prevent that and to have a better success rate with hooking the fish. Don't use too much bait, just enough to cover the hook. With worms, I try to thread the hook through them, or at least try to have multiple points where the hook goes through to make sure it's more secure and less likely to come loose. Different types of bait can call for some different techniques, but if you're having issues... Google it!

Bring needle-nosed pliers with you

We definitely learned this one the hard way. It's relatively simple to unhook a fish when the hook has just gone through its 'lip' (do fish have lips...???), but if you gut-hook a fish (the hook goes into its stomach), it becomes much more difficult to remove and you often need some pliers to reach into the fish to get a hold of the hook. This happened to us recently and I had to call my boss and ask him to stop on his way home from the park to help us out with his multi-tool! Poor fish ended up dying because of the struggle.

A friend of mine that is an avid fly fisher recommended hemostats vs. pliers. We bought some to throw into the tackle box, but any old pair of needle nosed pliers from your toolbox is just fine if you don't want to buy anything new!

A pair of work gloves doesn't hurt either

We have been catching a lot of perch (aka Bluegill) and they've got spines on their back and belly (dorsal fins and ventral and anal fins, respectively). Manhandling them barehanded makes me a little nervous. I'm sure experienced anglers don't think twice about it, but a pair of gloves made me feel just a little bit less at risk of getting stabbed. If you don't have gloves, try to grip near the head and slide your hand back to the middle of its body, compressing the fins as you move.

Get a small tackle box with just a few extra supplies stocked so your day doesn't end prematurely

We snagged our line the other day and lost the hook and, stupidly, we didn't have any extras. Soooo... that was that. Time to go home. As soon as we got home, I ordered a small tackle box with the basics - hooks in varying sizes, swivels (little clip things), floats, weights... you get the picture. We got our tackle box off of Amazon (booooo Jeff Bezos) for $10. 

Learn how to tie ONE knot

You can use a basic shoe-tying knot (is there a specific name for that? I don't know), but there are some knots that are a bit stronger and better for fishing! One that I learned and is literally the only one I use (well, because it's the only one I know), is the Clinch Knot. Seems to work well enough for the basic fishing that we are doing and it's pretty easy!

 

An important thing to remember is that it isn't about perfection and knowing everything! Learning is part of the fun and you've got to accept that, when you're just starting something new, you're going to make mistakes and screw up. Embrace it and enjoy learning how to fish!