Camping at Caprock Canyons State Park - March 2014
Spring break in Texas means that every kid in public schools has off the same week. The result is that if you try to go to the local zoo, museums, Six Flags, etc..., it's going to be extremely crowded. This year, we decided we would head out of town to escape the crowds, yet keep the costs to a minimum. We visited Caprock Canyons State Park in Quitaque, TX in October of 2012, but we were rained out without being able to do any hiking. So, we gave it another try for Zach's Kindergarten spring break.
On March 13th, Glenn, Zach, and I loaded up Black Beauty (our minivan) and hit the road. Zach colored, we played the alphabet billboard game, Zach napped, and we looked at the scenery. Once we got to Turkey, TX, we knew we were close. (Turkey is home to Bob Wills, but if you are like me, you haven't heard of him either. If you have, they have his old tour bus and a little museum right on the main road.) After a 4 hour drive from Fort Worth, we arrived at the park office to check in. We picked our campsite, and were informed there was a burn ban in effect, which meant no campfires allowed. :( We knew this was a strong possibility, so we were prepared with our trusty Coleman camp stove.
On our way to the South Prong Tent Camping Area, we encountered the bison herd. It's the official bison herd of Texas. Click Here to watch an interesting video about Caprock Canyons State Park that will tell you about the origins of the bison herd and how they were saved from almost being slaughtered completely. Seeing the bison makes us feel like we are back at Yellowstone National Park again.
We got to our campsite (#48), unloaded the car and set up camp. Within 1 minute, Zach was covered in dirt. Although it was super windy up at the park office, the winds were mild with a few gusts from time to time down in the canyon at our campsite. After setting up, we took some water and headed off to explore some of the trails. We walked along the Upper Canyon Loop Trail. There were a lot of cactus and thorny trees along the sides of the trail so Zach had to be careful. We had fun exploring some of the areas that were currently dried up river beds. We also enjoyed getting up close with the canyon walls with the contrasting red rock and shiny white gypsum stripes.
After hiking, we had a delicious dinner of hot dogs and baked beans. We then played ladder ball until it got too dark to see. Zach and I tied. Since we couldn't have a camp fire, we huddled up around the propane heater we brought with us. We attempted telling a ghost story, but Zach was too scared. We decided to turn in for the night.
We fell asleep pretty easily, but at some point in the middle of the night, the winds really picked up. They must have been blowing about 20 mph with gusts up to 40 mph. Therefore, the tent was being blown down on us!! The stakes kept coming out. Glenn went out first to re-stake the tent. Then, Glenn heard our sun shade canopy started to blow away. If we had known the winds would get so gusty, we would have taken the cover off the top. Then, I was awoken to dust in my face. I looked over by Zach and saw that the rain fly had come unstaked and was completely off his side of the tent. I quickly put on my boots and coat and re-staked the tent and rain fly again. It was quite the adventure, and Zach was really good spirited about it. I was worried that he would be scared, but he thought it was pretty exciting.
The next morning, it was still pretty windy and cold, so we didn't attempt to cook on the grill. Our breakfast was donuts, fruit and granola bars in the car, out of the wind. Our campsite neighbors decided to leave due to the winds. Glenn and Zach went to explore some rocks and cliffs nearby while I got ready for the day.
Fortunately, when we set out for our hike, the winds died down. Our destination was Fern Cave on the Upper Canyon Loop Trail. This time, we stayed on the path instead of exploring the side trails. It was a bright sunny day, and the scenery was amazing. There were several water crossings, which made it fun to jump over little creeks. There were a few areas of pooling water, so Zach had some fun throwing rocks in the water.
For the first 1 1/2 to 2 miles, the hike was mostly level with a few ups and downs. Then, the trail became extremely challenging. The trail became steep, very narrow with cactus and thorny trees on the sides, rocky to the point where you had to carefully consider each step and we frequently had to use our hands to make sure we didn't slip. My heart was pounding the whole time because I was so afraid of Zach falling. However, he thought this was great...the best part of the hike.
We didn't make it all the way to fern cave. The trail got even steeper and rockier. We felt like we had braved enough, and there were still 0.3 miles to go to get to the cave from where we decided to turn around. It was still a very fun hike.
After the 4.5 mile hike, we had lunch. Then, Zach and I took a much needed nap while Glenn went to shower and get some ice. There is a prairie dog town right by the showers. These little guys are so cute, and they chirp to each other, warning the village residents of intruders.
After our nap and when Glenn returned, we played some more ladder ball, and we got ready to have dinner. The fire ban was still on, and we usually make pudgie pies on the campfire. We still wanted to have them, but decided to try making them using our camp stove. We all decided on pizza pudgie pies...our favorite! The stove worked great, and they were delicious. For dessert, Glenn and Zach used the camp stove to make s'mores. I tried making a s'more pudgie pie. It was good, but I liked a plain old s'more better.
After dinner, some of our campground neighbors invited us to hang out with them. They had a 7 year old boy named Hayden. Zach and Hayden had a light saber battle in the dark. They had a great time. We found out that the parents made their decision to come camping at Caprock Canyons partially due to my review on Trip Advisor, and it helped them decide what to bring!! It's good to know that my reviews are helping people. We had a fun time hanging out with them, talking about family, the travels we've been on, and the travels we want to take in the future.
Fortunately, the winds were very calm, and we all slept great!! It was cold, but we were prepared with mats to go on top of our air mattresses, sleeping bags, fleece sleeping bag liners, thermal underwear, warm pj's, and hats. We even heard the local coyotes howling a few times. Glenn, Zach, and I sure enjoyed that!!
The next morning, we were able to cook eggs on our camp stove and that hit the spot. Glenn and Zach went exploring again while I worked on cleaning up and getting things packed up to go. They found the dead coyotes we heard about. Yuck!! I'm glad I was working on packing up camp because it started to get cloudy like it was going to rain. Once we were back in Black Beauty and headed out of the park, it did start raining. We would have liked to hike to Natural Bridge, but I guess we'll have to come back again. Glenn, Zach, and I all had a fantastic time!!