Spring Break in Garner State Park

On Wednesday morning the family loaded up and headed west for a quick Spring Break camping trip. Unfortunately, yours truly caught some kind of mild bug or cold either the night before or that morning, so I was feeling pretty crappy. My head and nose were all stopped up. I just wasn’t feeling it, but we pressed on anyway.

We made it to Garner at around 3:30 and immediately started unpacking and setting up tents. We borrowed a tent and a couple of other camping essentials from some friends. Elise didn’t really want to set up both tents, but we have a 4-person tent and would fit us like sardines. And since I wasn’t feeling well, I didn’t want to sleep in a single cramped tent, so I insisted that we set up the other tent.

After about an hour, our camp was set up and we started a fire to get ready for dinner. We grilled a chicken breast for the girls for an Italian salad. Elise and I had the same salad with foil packet potatoes, onions, mushrooms, and cannellini beans. And then, of course, we had to do the obligatory s’mores before calling it a night and going to bed.

In our packing, our car was at max capacity. We were so crammed that Elise and I had to forgo packing our own pillows. We decided we’d rough it fabricate pillows out of blankets and clothes. I surprisingly slept like a rock, however, my neck was pretty sore in the morning from sleeping on a rolled up towels as my pillow. Elise was equally sore and didn’t sleep well that first night.

We woke up with the sounds of the birds on Thursday morning. We quickly found that the camp stove that we’d borrowed from friends didn’t work. Note to self: test your camping gear before you go camping. So we had to start another fire in order to make our breakfast and boil water for coffee. For whatever reason(s), starting a fire in the morning is a lot more difficult and time-consuming in the morning that it is in the evening. Maybe it’s because you’re in a rush to get your day started and waiting on a fire delays plans. Maybe it’s the humidity and still air. I swear it took damn near an hour to get the fire big and hot enough to get around to heating our pot of water and cast iron skillet for eggs and bacon. The girls and bacon and egg breakfast tacos. Elise and I had tofu scramble tacos with our leftover foil packet mushrooms and potatoes with salsa.

After eating breakfast and cleaning up, we set out on our first adventure of the day to hike the Old Baldy Trail. This is a relatively short hike of only a bit more than a half mile, but it’s very steep and technical. And we had kids in tow. And Maly decided to dust off her camera and bring it with her on our camping trip, so she was stopping to take a lot of photos. And, true to form, Mara proved herself as an awesome little hiker. She did have a little spill on the way back down Old Baldy. She’d decided to wear rain boots on this hike, so I’m sure that decision didn’t help in her footing. She had to cry a bit because she banged up her leg pretty badly, but she was back up and at it after the tears dried up.

While I wasn’t complaining, I just wasn’t feeling well, and I think Elise could sense it. So we decided to call the summit of Old Baldy the highlight of our day. We then drove over to the park’s pavilion and the girls got some gelato. We sat under the huge oak tree at the pavilion and relaxed for a bit, then did some browsing in the gift shop. Then we drove over to the park store to get some more ice and firewood. Then we drove back to our campsite and walked the couple hundred yards to let the girls play in the Frio River. After about an hour, it was time to head back to camp and start the fire and get ready for dinner.

Thursday’s dinner was hotdogs for the girls and some pretty gross meatless veggie dogs for Elise and me. We also snarfed a bunch of tortilla chips and salad. And then, again, the obligatory campfire s’mores. It was as the sun was starting to creep down toward the horizon, Elise and Maly decided to run over to the camp store for more firewood, and then into Leakey so Elise could buy some dollar store pillows for us. While they were gone, Mara and I hung out and were able to witness an amazing moonrise.

Elise and Maly returned from their errands, and we made a few more s’mores before calling it a night and hitting the hay. Man, having a pillow makes a world of difference when you’re tent camping.

Friday morning came early with the chirping of birds again. And it was another slow morning as we had to build another fire for coffee and campfire pancakes. We also decided to take showers since it’d been a couple days since we’d all last bathed. Friday was a really slow morning and I think we finally made it out from our camp around noon.

We drove back over to the pavilion and hiked up the Crystal Cave Trail and explored Crystal Cave for a few minutes. Then we made our descent down the Bridges Trail. We made it back down to the pavilion, made a quick bathroom break, and then hiked the Old Entrance Road before calling it a day for the hiking.

We headed back to camp and the weather started looking iffy. We knew we had some significant rain chances all week, but the forecast was changing by the hour as we kept checking our phones. Finally we just decided to rely on the clouds and atmospheric pressure. It was too cloudy and cold to go back to the river on Friday evening, so we stayed at the campsite, fired up the campfire and made Frito pies and salad for dinner.

It was as we were getting dinner all cleaned up and the sun was going down that someone (probably yours truly) suggested that we consider going home Friday night instead of risking getting rained on. We noodled over it. We took a vote. Elise and Mara really wanted to stay. Maly and I were indifferent. We talked about it for a while and ultimately decided that it would probably be best to pack dry camping gear now versus wet camping gear in the morning. We’d already packed one of the tents and put all the non-essentials in the car and decided to just pack up the rest of the gear and get on the road. I think it was the right decision, too. About the time we’d decided to pack everything, a group of six people showed up at the site next to us and set up their tent really close to ours.

We got everything packed and miraculously loaded up by flashlight and found ourselves saying goodbye and heading out of Garner at 9:30 on Friday night. The girls immediately conked out in the backseat. I nodded off a couple times, and I think I finally actually fell asleep 30 minutes from the house.

We got home at 12:30 a.m., parked the car, didn’t grab a thing, and we all just piled out and went to our respective comfy beds where the sandman put us all into a nice, soft slumber.

I like the think we all had a blast and the girls will be left with memories that will stay with them forever.

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