Lake Mineral Wells State Park & Trailway | July 2021

As an early birthday celebration trip, we spent a weekend at Lake Mineral Wells State Park & Trailway. It was phenomenal. We met up with our usual camping crew, ate a lot of steak, and had a great time.

Lake Mineral Wells is a 640 acre lake located in Mineral Wells. The town is aptly named for the mineral rich water. The most famous well was called the Crazy Well, which got its name from the myth that an older woman drank the water and her mental illness was cured. There could be some truth in that, as the water is high in lithium (which is used to treat various mood disorders). When you're in the area, it is a MUST to stop by Famous Mineral Water Company to taste the Crazy Water that helped shape the city.

Mineral Wells is currently in a revival stage. The Baker Hotel is in the process of being renovated, there are colorful murals splashed through the area, and there's quite a bit to do and see. I really loved the area and have been fantasizing about buying a house there...

Just outside of town, Lake Mineral Wells State Park has a LOT to offer. More than 100 campsites with a variety of amenities, swimming, hiking, boating, stand-up paddleboarding, fishing, stargazing, and more. You could never leave the park and you would stay entertained for days at a time. Our campsite was right on the water, but it didn't look great for swimming. We saw a number of other people with sites on the water that had kayaks - I highly recommend a site on the water if you've got kayaks. You can launch right from your site and it's very convenient. We also saw people fishing from their sites - if you want to do this, just check those photos on the reservation system to check out what the vegetation looks like. Some sites were clearer than others.

The designated swimming area was amazing, one of the best that I've seen. It's very beachy and the lake bottom was sandy and not mucky. They do a good job of separating the fishing from the swimming so you don't have to worry about getting hooked or stepping on lost tackle in the water. The fishing area is on the opposite side of the land from the swimming spot. The Park Store is conveniently located right between the two. Buy souvenirs, snacks, and affordable rental equipment all in one place. Some folks in our group rented a kayak and a SUP (stand-up paddle board, for anyone not familiar with the abbreviation) and the kids loved it. I tried SUPing for the first time and it was nowhere near as hard as I always imagined it would be! It was a great way to fill a couple of hours.

The camping loops all looked very nice. We stayed in the Plateau campground. Our site was very shady and, as I mentioned before, right on the water. It was fairly wooded, which offered some sense of privacy from the sites around us but you could still definitely see your neighbors. The ample amount of trees gave us plenty of spots to choose from to hang our hammock. Be forewarned if you camp here - the raccoons are ruthless. As soon as the sun goes down, put your food away or keep it right next to you if you're eating. Even with a big group of people awake and talking, the raccoons were trying to get to the trash bag that was in the galley of my teardrop. They gave zero fucks that we were right there.

One other must-see spot in the park is Penitentiary Hollow. Forboding name, really really cool spot. It is one of the few natural rock climbing spots in North Texas. There are just these huge rock faces that are all congregated around this one area. It reminded me of the Ledges trail in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Penitentiary Hollow can be accessed in a couple of ways. You can opt to pretty much drive right up to (you still have to hike a short way down to get to the bottom) or you can choose to access it on the Red Waterfront trail. We did both and I recommend both.

With so many different activities to choose from (we didn't even hit the Trailway at all!), Lake Mineral Wells State Park is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts of all types. At only one hour(ish) away from the Dallas Forth Worth metroplex, it can be an easy day trip or a fun-filled weekend getaway!

Have you ever been to Lake Mineral Wells State Park? What is your favorite thing to do there?

Lake Mineral Wells | July 2021


Lake Whitney State Park | July 2021

At the beginning of July, Lily had a doctor's appointment in Temple so we decided to make a camping weekend out of it. We picked Lake Whitney State Park, as it was only a little over an hour away from Temple and would be a relatively easy commute.

Lake Whitney is only about an hour away from DFW and is a 23,500 acre lake fed by the Brazos River. There are over 100 campsites in numerous camping loops the state park. We were in the Roadrunner Loop, which isn't really a loop at all but more just a road with a culdesac at the end. Our site was nice enough and actually had a shade shelter (something I have found a lot of sites don't have!). The shelter came in handy multiple times. First, there was pretty much zero other shade at our site. I found myself staring longingly at a site a couple sites down that had a huge oak tree and a ton of shade. Secondly, we ended up having a storm blow through and the shade came in handy to keep us somewhat dry. At least until we had to take cover from shitloads of lightning in a vehicle.

Since it is the middle of summer in Texas, we spent most of our weekend swimming. The first afternoon, we swam in the designated swimming area at the end of the park. The water was warm and felt like bathwater, but it was better than cooking in the sun. The next day, we decided to stay near our campsite and walk down to the lake area to give that a go. It was far superior to the swimming area. The water was cooler and clearer and it was more convenient. We stuck with this spot for the rest of the trip.

In addition to swimming, we also did a short hike on the Two Bridges trail. It was easy and gave us a chance to see the wooded areas of the park instead of just staying on the water. Of course, it ended up raining on us during the hike but we made the best of it!

Once we were back at the car, the rain was really coming down. We didn't want to pack up camp in the rain so we decided to participate in the scavenger hunt that the park had going on that weekend. We had a list of things that we had to locate and take our picture with. We found what we needed and went to HQ to receive our prize - Tootsie Pops. Womp womp. They are the worst type of candy in existence! But Lily enjoyed it.

Overall, I'd say our time at Lake Whitney was enjoyable, but I don't think we will be back anytime soon! The staff was great and the park is pretty, but in my opinion there is just better swimming in Texas, specifically even in the same area. No offense, Lake Whitney!

Lake Whitney | July 2021


Pedernales Falls State Park | April 2021

Since we don't have another camping trip scheduled for about two months, we are getting our outdoor fill by day trips and hikes instead. This past Friday after school, we packed up our gear and headed to Pedernales Falls State Park in Johnson City. We had our sights set on the best overlook in the park and hoped to catch it at the end of the day when the sun was low in the sky.

The trail starts on Trammell's Crossing, which - as the name suggests - crosses the Pedernales River. From the river, stick to the northern portion of the 5.5 Mile Loop trail. In just under 2 miles, you'll be rewarded with some beautiful views of the Texas Hill Country and the Pedernales River.

The trail is listed as moderate. You definitely want good shoes that can get wet (or be prepared to take them off to cross the river). I wore my Chacos and they were just fine for me. Immediately after the river crossing, there's a bit of a climb to get up, but once you've hit the top it's pretty flat the rest of the way. Coming back is easy because it's downhill, except the very end getting back to the parking area.

This was our first hike of the year where it was above 90 degrees. I regretted not bringing my hat - I would have dipped it in the river and plopped it on my head before heading up the trail. That is definitely one of my favorite forms of trail air conditioning. Getting your feet wet in the river post-hike is really satisfying, too! Take some time to wade around and cool off.

 I highly recommend this hike. The distance is doable if you're short on time and the views are well worth the effort on those steep areas!

Pedernales Falls | April 2021


Colorado Bend State Park | April 2021

After stalking the reservation system for a couple of days, I was able to snag a campsite for one night of Easter weekend in Colorado Bend State Park. It was the only campsite that was available so I wasn't expecting much, but hey - a campsite is really just a place to eat and sleep.

As it turns out, we had the best campsite in park (not just my opinion - my pal Debbie that works at the park told me when we checked in!). Site 25 - book it for a couple of days and thank me later. The site was pretty secluded - you're down a bank from the road and the drive-in campsites. On one end is a small trail to the river (only one person came through while we were in the site) and the next site over was a good distance away. The river is a really short walk so it's easy to go back and forth without any hassle. The only downside of the site is that hauling our gear up and down the bank was kind of a pain in the ass, but I would do it again (and I plan to soon). It was probably just sucky for me because I'm out of shape, though, so take that with a grain of salt!

Since we were only camping for one night, we obviously had a lot to pack in. Here's what we did during our 24 hours at Colorado Bend!

Skipped rocks in the Colorado River

It sounds simple and boring, but damn, we really enjoyed this. After setting up camp, we brought our camp chairs down to the river and placed them right on the bank with the legs in the water. We had soaked our feet in the cold water and hunted for flat rocks that we sent flying across the surface (and also straight in - we're not very good at skipping rocks). We watched black vultures soaring around above us and the fishermen dotting the river. Sometimes the simple things are the best things.

Hiked the Spicewood Springs trail

Before dinner, we wanted to hike to see Spicewood Springs. The trail starts in the Spicewood Day Use Area and is 1.3 miles long. That's a little misleading, though, because the trail is one way and can be connected with the Spicewood Canyon trail to make a loop. The area where people swim in the springs is right at the beginning so if you just want to swim, the walk is easy and short. We stupidly didn't bring bathing suits because I was convinced that the water would be too cold to swim it. It was cold (as was the river), but it was totally swimmable.

If you hike this trail, be aware that there are numerous creek crossings. The first one we came across, I fell on my ass in front of numerous people and got my pants soaking wet. For the rest of the hike, I looked like I had pissed myself. Oh well! Wear good shoes, though, because some crossings are deeper/more slippery than others and you can/will get wet. I had my Chacos on which were perfect for walking through the water, but not great for the rock scrambling. They did fine, though.

We hit the overlooks as the sun was lowering in the sky and the views looking down at the springs were really phenomenal.

Hiked to Gorman Falls

After a good night's sleep, we woke up around 7AM and got moving for the day. We put our hiking clothes on, packed up our backpack, and by 8AM we were hitting the Gorman Falls trail to see the iconic 70 foot waterfall. The trail is 1.5 miles one way and I'd classify it as fairly easy until the very end. There are cables strung between posts that you hang on to as you slide your way down slick rocks on a steep slope to get to the falls. Equally fun going up (no, that's not sarcasm, it really was fun!).

Gorman Falls looks like a cave on the outside of the Earth. The process that formed it is the same one that forms caves, so the comparison is appropriate. The water comes from an underground spring and through time has created the travertine formations that the site is known for. The area is home to Guadalupe bass and is a very sensitive and fragile environment. Please don't be a jerk and cross the barriers. Also, don't fucking leave your trash everywhere. Lily and I picked up a lot of trash from the area. It's not hard to bring a trash bag, y'all. Don't suck!

We were the first ones to the fall that day and didn't see another soul on the trail until the very end when we were almost back to the car.

 

So that's pretty much it. I know it doesn't sound like a whole lot of hiking, but damn my legs are sore. It was about six miles total. Both hikes were labeled as challenging and contained areas of scrambling/climbing up rocks. I worked muscles I haven't used too often lately. It was definitely a good enough amount for us considering we had very little time in the park. In the morning after the hike, we asked if there was availability for a second night and got an answer we didn't want but did expect - a big ol' NOPE. We begrudgingly packed up camp and headed out. We are definitely going to be back sooner rather than later! And next time, we WILL bring our bathing suits.

 

Colorado Bend | April 2021