Discover Texas History in your RV

As autumn arrives and leaves begin to turn, you’re probably thinking about your next RV road trip. As you plan your route, don’t forget that the colorful and unique story of Texas – from its prehistoric times through Spanish colonialism, the republic’s fight for independence from Mexico, post-Civil War era and into the 20th century – unfolds through guided tours and special events at more than 50 historic sites within the state parks system.

October is Texas Archeology Month, which celebrates the state’s archeological heritage through  demonstrations, lectures and dozens of public events held at historic sites throughout the state, including a number of Texas State Parks.

Photo: Texas Parks & Wildlife

Photo: Texas Parks & Wildlife

When you take your RV to state parks this month, you’ll find not only some of the best Native American pictographs in the nation at such places as Big Bend Ranch State Park, which on Oct. 12 is hosting a guided hike to one of the Big Bend region’s best rock art panels, but also compelling presentations on archeology (Lockhart , Oct. 5), flintknapping (Copper Breaks, Oct. 5) and 19th century pioneer and ranching life (Caprock Canyons, Oct. 19).

The video below features historic Fort Leaton.

On Oct. 4, Houston area families, friends, veterans and others can play air/sea/land games aboard the historic Battleship TEXAS. Others who prefer a more literal “taste” of living history in the outdoors can experience a slice of early Texas farm life at such historic sites as Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site’s Barrington Farm, Lyndon B. Johnson State Park’s Sauer-Beckman Farm and Cedar Hill State Park’s Penn Farm.

Many state parks and historic sites this month also offer guided tours of 19th century missions, military frontier forts and Civilian Conservation Corps structures or host special history events reflecting such topics as state’s ranching heritage. On Oct. 19, Hill Country State Natural Area near Bandera will host its annual Ranch Heritage Day and Copper Breaks State Park near Quanah invite the public to “Meet the Longhorns,” member of the official State Longhorn Herd.

For a full list of featured October state park events and their locations, visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s activities calendar.

Visit Texas Parks and Wildlife online to reserve your RV camping spot today!

TPWD’s Youngest Elite Angler

Keatyn Eitelman of Pottsboro became Texas’ 25th Elite Freshwater Angler—and the state’s youngest—on August 2, 2013, less than two weeks before his eleventh birthday. He finished this task when he caught a 21.25-inch, 5.5-pound largemouth bass from Lake Texoma on July 23 and submitted it for a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Big Fish Award.

11-year-old Keatyn Eitelman is Texas's youngest elite angler. (Photo by TPWD)

11-year-old Keatyn Eitelman is Texas’s youngest elite angler. (Photo by TPWD)

An Elite Angler is a one-time achievement award for an angler who catches trophy-class fish of five different species, and it’s the perfect pursuit for those who enjoy RV camping in Texas State Parks. There are freshwater and saltwater categories. To be eligible, an angler must earn five freshwater or five saltwater Big Fish Awards. A Big Fish Award is given for a fish meeting or exceeding a minimum length for each species.

Keatyn began his quest on November 28, 2012, when he caught a blue catfish measuring 39.25 inches from Lake Texoma.  Encouraged by his father, Nailen, Keatyn proceeded to collect Big Fish Awards from Lake Texoma for white bass (16.5 inches, December 2, 2012), smallmouth bass (18.5 inches, December 11, 2012), and his largemouth bass.  He also caught a white crappie (18.25 inches) from Lake Fork on March 10, 2013.

The fishing can be good at South Padre. And the sunrise isn't bad either. Photo by Earl Nottingham, TPWD

The fishing can be good at South Padre. And the sunrise isn’t bad either. Photo by Earl Nottingham, TPWD

TPWD offers plenty of prime RV camping spots statewide, and many ways to be recognized as an angler: state and water body records by weight, catch and release records by length, First Fish Awards, Outstanding Angler, Big Fish Awards, and Elite Angler. Visit http://tpwd.texas.gov/fishrecords for all the listings and an application.

 

If you catch a fish you think qualifies, remember to take good pictures of the fish to aid in identification. If the award is based on length, one of the pictures must show the fish on a ruler. Don’t forget to take pictures of yourself holding the fish, too. You’ll want them for TPWD, and it would be fun to post them for your RV friends on Camper Clinic’s Facebook page too!

Your local TPWD fisheries biologist will be happy to help you obtain forms, identify your catch and weigh it on a certified scale. Search for the biologist nearest you at http://tpwd.texas.gov/fishboat/fish/management/biologist/.

Some grocery stores will weigh fish for you, and bait shops or feed stores may have certified scales. Locations of certified scales can be found at https://tpwd.texas.gov/fishboat/fish/programs/fishrecords/scales.phtml.

Official Toyota ShareLunker Program Weigh and Holding Stations also have certified scales; locations are listed at http://tpwd.texas.gov/spdest/visitorcenters/tffc/sharelunker/holding/. The fish must be weighed within 3 days of the catch. However, weigh the fish as soon as possible to prevent any weight loss due to regurgitation or dehydration.

If you’re working on your saltwater categories, be sure to visit Camper Clinic in Rockport for all your RV needs. Or if you’re fishing the Hill Country lakes, drop by Camper Clinic II in Buda. We’re here to help you with all your RV needs so you can stay focused on the fish!

RV Camping at your Favorite Swimming Hole

Take your RV to your favorite Swimming Hole!

Tubing on the Blanco River. (Photo: Texas Parks and Wildlife)

Tubing on the Blanco River. (Photo: Texas Parks and Wildlife)

With temperatures around the state hitting the 90’s and 100’s, our friends at Texas Parks and Wildlife just reminded us that there are lots of great swimming opportunities while you’re RV camping in Texas State Parks.

From spring-fed rivers, to Hill Country lakes (near our Camper Clinic II store in Buda), to the Gulf (don’t forget to visit Camper Clinic RV Super Center in Rockport!), you can play in the water and keep cool while getting back to nature.

In the Austin area, state parks such as McKinney Falls, Inks Lake and Pedernales Falls offer an array of rivers and lakes in the heart of the Hill Country.

Swimming at Garner State Park

Fun times at Garner State Park! (Photo: TPWD)

In East Texas near Houston, Huntsville State Park and Lake Livingston State Park are ideal destinations for river and lake swimming. If wading close to shore on the open ocean seems more ideal, Galveston Island State Park offers beach access to the Gulf of Mexico.

Near Dallas, Eisenhower State Park, Fairfield Lake State Park and Lake Mineral Wells State Park and Trailway offer park visitors a chance to swim in the soothing waters of those lakes, cool off and enjoy a break from the bustle of the city.

In the San Antonio area, Guadalupe River State Park and Palmetto State Park give park visitors a chance to go for a dip and beat the south Texas heat.

In West Texas, Balmorhea State Park is the home of one of the world’s largest spring-fed pools, with water so clear that many people bring their snorkel gear to experience the underwater world first hand.

For a whole list of State Park RV camping facilities, swimming holes and swimming safety tips, visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

Happy splashing!

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

RV Camping at one of the World’s Most Spectacular Events!

Balloon FiestaThis October, you can feel like a kid all over again at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.  I’ve been three times, gone up in a balloon at the Fiesta once, and this year, I’ll be camping in my Airstream right there at the balloon field. I can’t wait! (And yes, I’ll be blogging about the Fiesta and posting pictures right here!)

 

Imagine 54 football fields put together and covered with 600 colorful hot air balloons. Oooooh! Ahhhhhh!.

If you’re thinking about bringing your travel trailer to the Balloon Fiesta, you need to make plans now. Here’s what you need to know.

Dates: October 6-14, 2012

Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico

RV Sites: There are four types of sites – STANDARD (dry camping), PREMIUM (electricity with 20 Amps minimum and water provided), VIP (dry camping adjacent to the Launch Field with entry passes included) and PRESIDENT’S COMPOUND (premier sites on a bluff overlooking the Launch Field with city water pressure and 30 Amp minimum electricity).

Elaine Acker with Fiesta Balloon

I’m hanging out waiting for the official Fiesta balloon to take off ahead of the special shapes balloons during the Special Shapes Rodeo!

Availability: I just checked, and it looks like there’s still space available in the STANDARD camping areas, and the VIP area, which is the one I chose. Both accommodate rigs up to 55 feet long. And even though there are no hookups, a water vendor will be around to refill your tanks and on-site pump outs are also available for a fee.

Pig hot air balloon

The Special Shapes Rodeos feature witches, bees, stagecoaches, Darth Vader, and this little pink pig!

Check In: You’ll be able to check in between 12 noon and 7 pm on the day you arrive, but the Fiesta staff strongly recommends that you arrive before 3 pm on days other than Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday to avoid the heavy traffic congestion.

Weather: The weather is usually incredible in October, but be sure and bring a heavy jacket for those early morning events. It’s chilly! Expect spectacular sunrises over the Sandia Mountains and memorable sunsets to the west.

Events: Where do I start??? There are mass ascensions at sunrise, special shapes rodeos, balloon glows after dark, and fireworks. Check out the full event schedule for a list!

Happy Face BalloonBalloon Rides: If going up on a balloon intrigues you, do it! Even if you’re a little skittish about heights, I’d still say go for it! It’s a memorable experience and everyone I’ve known who’s tried it loved it. I believe I may have to go up again, too! Get the details on Balloon Rides here!

Bring your camera!

What do you think? Are you coming? If so, let me know so I can look for you!

~ G. Elaine Acker

 

 

National Trails Day

Trailwork

Celebrate National Trails Day by helping maintain your favorite hiking trails! Photo by Leigh Scott.

Some of my most memorable moments outdoors have been spent on hiking trails near some of my favorite RV camping spots.  From the sweeping desert vistas of the South Rim in Big Bend to the coastal marshes of Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge just east of Houston, I love the way hiking brings me face to face with nature.

If you’d like to play outside and get up close and personal with nature next weekend, The 20th anniversary of the American Hiking Society’s National Trails Day® is scheduled for Saturday, June 2.  Billed as the nation’s largest “TRAILgating party,” more than 2,000 events will be happening all across the U.S.  And, if you happen to be leading an event that weekend, there’s still time to register your event as well.

TRAILgating PartyEvents include trail maintenance projects, hikes, paddle trips, bike and horseback rides, wildlife viewing activities, trail dedications, and much more. “Twenty years ago, AHS built National Trails Day around the idea that for one day each year we should come together outdoors and give back to our favorite trails,” says Gregory Miller, American Hiking Society president. “Since then, people from all walks of life have been coming out in increasing numbers on NTD to celebrate our trails and the great outdoors.”

AirstreamIf you’re anything like me, it seems easier these days to enjoy the great outdoors when I know I can come back to my Airstream and comfortably crash for the evening. Some of the best camping spots I know are in Texas’s State and National Parks adjacent to some spectacular hiking trails and scenery. Check out the State Park Guide or the the Recreation.gov site for more info on the parks and facilities.

Most of all, I love hiking, because of the surprises. I just never know what I’m going to see along the trail. Really.

Cactus and fork

I saw this "art installation" along the trail in Central Texas at last year's Acker Family Reunion. Hmmm.

 What’s your favorite hiking trail? Any National Trails Day events happening in your area?

Contributed by G. Elaine Acker