Wandering Around America One State at a Time – Texas

State 39:

Welcome to the next post in my series highlighting states we have visited throughout the years. I hope you will enjoy coming along for the ride!

I will be featuring the states alphabetically. The next state in my series is

Texas

Texas became the 28th state on December 29, 1845. The Capital is Austin.

Texas is the second largest state by area and unless you’ve driven through Texas it is hard to comprehend the size. Our Texas adventures have taken us through the Texas Panhandle, mesquite and cactus covered plains, the green rolling hills of the Texas Hill Country, and the beautiful Texas Gulf Coast. Along the way we camped by beautiful lakes, near the Gulf Coast, in the second largest canyon in the United States, and a quite a few places in between. As we drove around the back roads we saw canyons and creeks, dance halls and wineries, historic sites and ranches, quaint small towns and old homesteads, toured museums, made a few hikes, attended a fiddle fest and chuck wagon races, met wonderful Texans, and saw more wildflowers than I ever imagined.

The lighthouse trail at Palo Duro Canyon, Enchanted Rock, and the Devil’s Waterhole Trail at Inks Lake were some of our favorite hikes.

The official Texas Longhorn herd is divided between a few state parks. At Copper Breaks State Park and Palo Duro Canyon State Park we saw them up close.

We planned a spring trip to Texas so we could see the bluebonnets in bloom. Texas is the only place on earth where some of the bluebonnet varieties bloom naturally. There were also many other wildflowers along the way.

We found some wonderful places to camp. We especially enjoyed camping at many Texas State Parks.

Rain and fog couldn’t keep us from enjoying the three state parks and Padre Island National Seashore along the Texas Gulf Coast.

There are many varieties of birds along the Texas Gulf Coast.

Texas Horned Lizards, Cottontail Rabbits, mule deer, white tailed deer, prairie dogs, and wild turkeys are some of the wildlife I was able to capture.

Being serenaded, attending a fiddle fest, listening to music in a dance hall, touring the Buddy Holly museum, going to Luckenback, and seeing signs about Willie Nelson reminded us of how important music is to the Lone Star State.

For us, no trip to Texas would be complete without sampling some of their fantastic steaks and barbecue, especially the brisket.

In Paris, Texas we stopped to see the Eiffel Tower with a red  cowboy hat and attended chuck wagon races.

There were interesting things to see all around the state.

One of the best things about visiting Texas is meeting native Texans. Without fail, every  Texan we met was proud of their state and eager to share their favorite places to visit or where to find the best brisket. One woman I met had so many good suggestions about places to go I had to get a notebook out of the truck to take notes!

To read previous posts about the states featured in this series just click on the state name: Alabama      Alaska      Arizona      Arkansas      California      Colorado     Florida      Georgia      Hawaii        Idaho  Illinois      Indiana      Iowa     Kansas     Kentucky     Louisiana     Maine     Maryland     Massachusetts     Michigan     Minnesota    Mississippi     Missouri     Montana     Nebraska     Nevada      New Hampshire     New Mexico      New York     North Carolina    North Dakota      Ohio     Oklahoma     Oregon     Pennsylvania    South Carolina     South Dakota     Tennessee

Best Campgrounds of the year – 2015

Our 2015 wandering took us on a long a spring trip from Georgia to Texas and a short fall trip to South Carolina, Virginia, and North Carolina.

During our 2015 travels we camped in  7  states and stayed in a total of 21 different parks: 11 state parks, 6 private RV parks,  3  COE parks, and 1 county park. While we enjoyed them all, a few stand out.

So here it is, the second annual “Wandering Dawgs best campgrounds of the year” list.

Number 3: Lake Bistineau State Park, Doyline, Louisiana

Waterfront Camping at Lake Bistineau State Park, Doyline, Louisiana
Waterfront Camping at Lake Bistineau State Park, Doyline, Louisiana
Cypress Trees dripping with Spanish Moss at Lake Bistineau
Cypress Trees dripping with Spanish Moss at Lake Bistineau

We first discovered this beautiful state park when we were traveling west in 2011. The park ranger was one of the nicest and most helpful rangers I have ever met. I have such fond memories of sitting on our own private deck watching the lake that I had been trying to figure out when we would have an opportunity to return.

It was a no-brainer to stop here as we headed home toward Georgia on our return trip from Texas. The same great ranger was there and he is still one of the most friendly and most helpful rangers of any place we have been.

Lake Bistineau State Park is located a short drive south of I-20 near Doyline, Louisiana. The sites have paved parking pads with water and electric hook ups, a picnic table, and fire pit. We had a premium site with a wooden deck overlooking the lake.There are several fishing docks located in the campground and one was right in front of our site. The bath house was spotless and there is a small free laundry. The park also has a boat launch. WiFi is available at the office.

We camped at Lake Bistineau in April, 2015.

Number 2: Inks Lake State Park, Burnet, Texas

Relaxing behind our campsite at Inks Lake State Park, Burnet, Texas
Relaxing behind our campsite at Inks Lake State Park, Burnet, Texas

We traveled through Texas in the spring when the Texas Bluebonnets were blooming. After researching where the best place to see them would be, the area in the Texas Hill Country around Inks Lake sounded perfect. When my friend Tim from Arlingon recommended it we knew we had to stay there.

We made reservations just a few days before our arrival and were fortunate to get a waterfront site the week before Easter. We had plenty of space behind our back in site to set up our chairs an enjoy the lake. We would have stayed longer but the park was full for Easter weekend and we had to leave on Good Friday.

Our site was a waterfront, back-in site with a beautiful view of the lake behind the campsite. We enjoyed beautiful sunsets every day.

Sunset at Ink's Lake
Sunset at Ink’s Lake

There are hiking trails, a fishing pier, boat launch, marina, and gift shop. Longhorn Caverns State Park is just down the road and there are many scenic drives through the Texas Hill Country.

We camped at Inks Lake State Park in April, 2015.

Number 1: Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas

Our own private picnic area behind our campsite
Our own private picnic area behind our campsite
Our campsite in Palo Duro Canyon
Our campsite in Palo Duro Canyon

When we made a day trip to Palo Duro Canyon from Amarillo several years ago we talked about returning one day to camp in the canyon. Camping there was high on our must do list when we traveled around Texas in the spring.

There are several campgrounds in Palo Duro Canyon State Park with backpacking, equestrian sites, tent sites, and RV sites with water and electricity. Our site in the Sagebrush Campground had large private sitting area with a covered shelter over the picnic table and a fire ring. There are hiking, biking and equestrian trails. There are also several day use picnic areas, cabins, stables with guided horseback rides, an interpretive center, and the Trading Post Restaurant and Park store.

Leigh over at Campendium asked me to submit a post for my favorite State Park Campground for their May, 2015 Campendium Blog post featuring Best State Park Campgrounds. To read my contribution to the post click here.

We camped at Palo Duro Canyon in April, 2015.

Honorable Mention:

  • Cranes Mill Park COE, Canyon Lake, Texas
  • Goose Island State Park, Rockport, Texas
  • Poche’s Fish N Camp, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana
  • Claytor Lake State Park, Dublin, Virginia (2nd year on our list)

Where do you think we will wander next year? Stay tuned…

Happy New Year!!

Texas Wildflowers Spring 2015 gallery

During our trip through Texas in the spring of 2015 we were treated to splashes of color from the wildflowers blooming beside the roads, in fields, in the woods, and beside trails. We had timed our trip in hopes of seeing bluebonnets and weren’t disappointed. We were also treated to many other wildflowers including many I couldn’t identify.

I would love to get some help in identifying the unknown flowers! Please leave a comment if you know what any of these are, or if I have gotten any of the identifications wrong. Thank you!

Bonjour Ya’ll!

Bonjour ya'll from Paris, Texas!
Bonjour ya’ll from Paris, Texas!

Paris, Texas was our last stop in Texas. Of course we couldn’t miss the Eiffel Tower with a red cowboy hat. It is located between the civic center and a very impressive Veteran’s Memorial. The replica of the Eiffel Tower was originally dedicated in 1993 and was 65 feet tall. In 1998 the red cowboy hat was added to make it a few feet taller.

We walked around the town square and stopped by the Chamber of Commerce to pick up some postcards and find out more about the area. The Chamber shares space with an art gallery and we enjoyed talking with one of the artists who grew up in the Atlanta area but now lives in Paris.

Downtown Paris, Texas
Downtown Paris, Texas
Chuck Wagon
Chuck Wagon

While at the Chamber I spied a brochure for Chisum Days with Chuck Wagon races on Sunday. I didn’t know what to expect at a chuck wagon race but it sounded like something we didn’t want to miss. I love it when we happen to be in the area when a fun event like this is taking place. Usually I see a poster for something I’d like to do and it was last week or next month.

Up close with the horses
Up close with the horses

The event was a fund raiser for the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars and was held at Lake Crook Park just north of Paris. We attended the event on Sunday, the last day. Rain had left the grounds pretty muddy. There were horse trailers, RV’s and trucks parked all around a large field where the races would take place. We arrived about an hour before the races began and enjoyed watching all the activity as people went about preparing for the races.

Showing of the Colors and the National Anthem to open the event
Showing of the Colors and the National Anthem to open the event

The races were really fun to watch. If not for a great announcer we wouldn’t have known what was going on. Each team consisted of a driver, a cook, and an outrider. Two teams competed at a time. At the start of the race each outrider had to load the wagon with a bedroll and cook box before mounting their horse. Each team rounded a barrel before racing around through the woods to the finish line.  To win the race the outrider had to cross the finish line before the wagon and the wagon had to have both the bedroll and cook box. All this happened in less than two minutes!

Getting ready to start the race
Getting ready to start the race
Start of a Chuck Wagon Race
Start of a Chuck Wagon Race
Nearing the finish line
Nearing the finish line
A muddy day
An outrider racing through the mud
Buckboard Race
Buckboard Race

What a great ending to our Texas adventure!

Sunset over Pat Mayes Lake
Sunset over Pat Mayes Lake

We camped at Pat Mayes West Corps of Engineers Park north of Paris in Powderly, Texas. It was an older park with most of the other campers there for the boating and fishing.