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!

Go Paddling on your Next RV Camping Trip

Load the canoe in your toy hauler RV

Take your toy hauler to a Texas State park, and don’t forget the canoe! (Photo by Chase Fountain/TPWD)

Our friends at Texas Parks and Wildlife suggest beating the summer heat with a canoe or kayak outing – the perfect activity for your next RV camping trip to a Texas State Park.

Paddling gets you close to nature and Texas has more than 50 marked and well-mapped Texas paddling trails offering everything from bayou, river and lake routes to adventures through salt-sprayed coastal bays. Check out the Texas Parks and Wildlife site for trail maps, photos, and a list of parks with boats for rent.

Families looking to take the RV out for a little summer fun can readily access a number of nearby paddling trails. There are seven Texas PaddlingTrails within an hour of Camper Clinic II in Buda, and at least seven inland and coastal trails near Camper Clinic‘s original store in Rockport.

“Texas communities love this program, which has experienced huge growth in the past five months,” says Shelly Plante, nature tourism manager for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “We’ve gone from 38 trails to 55 since February and have another two dozen proposed trails in various stages of the certification process.”

Pack a kayak in your toy hauler RV

Photo by Earl Nottingham/TPWD

Just this past May, Plante says seven new trails – three on Belton Lake south of Waco and four along the Brazos River — were added to the Texas Paddling Trails roster. The 35.4 miles of Brazos River trails, known as the Stephen F. Austin Paddling Trail, represents the longest continuous stretch of river trails launched to date.

Because many parts of Texas are experiencing drought conditions, it’s always a good idea to consult online specific river flow information in advance and to contact the Texas State Park you’re planning to visit for current lake levels and other water conditions. Keep in mind that water levels at some state parks, such as Inks Lake and South Llano River, remain fairly constant despite ongoing drought.

Paddling novices looking for helpful tips before heading out might enjoy this video.

Wear your lifejacket, stay safe, and start planning your next Texas RV trip with a paddle in your hand!

~G. Elaine Acker

Smokey Bear’s Campfire Safety Tips

If spring inspires you to hitch up your travel trailer and go explore Texas’s state parks, here are 12  safety tips for the whole famliy courtesy of Smokey Bear.

Fire

1. Find out whether the park is currently allowing open campfires. Many regions are still experiencing drought conditions, and there are burn bans in effect.

2. Use the fire pits and fire rings already established in the parks whenever possible. check to be sure that the fire pit is at least fifteen feet away from the RV, shrubs, trees or other flammable objects.

3. Clear a 10-foot diameter area around the site. Remove any grass, twigs, leaves and firewood.

4. Fill the pit with tinder – small pieces of dry wood. Never pull branches from living trees, and check park regulations. Many parks prohibit gathering firewood and tinder.

5. Place your firewood upwind and away from the fire.

6. Keep a bucket of water and a shovel nearby.

7. Build your fire. Smokey Bear offers tips for building a campfire, and I recently wrote a blog post about easy, homemade fire starters.

8. Keep the fire to a manageable size. While roaring bonfires may be tempting, they’re much more likely to get out of control and can quickly spread to nearby forests.

9. Supervise children and pets at all times.

10. NEVER leave the fire unattended.

11. Completely extinguish the fire when you’re done, preferably by pouring enough water on the fire to drown all ash and embers. (Pour until the hissing sound stops and stir the fire with your shovel to ensure that all ash and embers are soaked.)

12. Alternatively, if you extinguish the fire with dirt, mix dirt or sand thoroughly with the embers. Continue adding dirt and stirring until all materials have cooled. DO NOT bury the fire as the fire will continue to smolder and could catch roots on fire that will eventually get to the surface and start a wildfire.

Wherever you’re camping this spring. we wish you a safe and happy trip!

~ G. Elaine Acker

P.S. If you’re thinking about buying a new or used camper this spring, be sure to give Camper Clinic II a call. They’ve got great deals!

 

Go Fishing for FREE in Texas State Parks

father_and_son--Camping in your travel trailer is all about making memories: long walks, time by the campfire, or sitting along the bank of a lake with a fishing rod in your hand.

If it’s time to teach the kids or grand kids how to fish, you can head to one of Texas’ State Parks and do it for FREE. There are lakes and parks conveniently located all across the state where you won’t need a fishing license, and some of the parks even have loaner gear.

 

Near Dallas, check out Cleburn State Park and spend a few lazy hours on Cedar Lake. Or, if you live near Houston, visit Sheldon Lake State Park and Environmental Learning Center, which just stocked one of their ponds with rainbow trout.

DipNetWherever you decide to take your RV, it’s the time spent together that counts! Go make a memory and savor every moment!

~ G. Elaine Acker

National Thank You Month

¡Gracias… Merci… Danke… Grazie… Thank you!

Guess what. It’s National Thank You Month. And I’m thinking about you, the people who take the time to stop by our blog, as well as all the people who make life fun and just a bit smoother when I’m in my travel trailer, out on the road.
With that in mind, here are a few shout-outs:
A_S-125x1251. Thank you to the amazing service team at Camper Clinic II who keep my Airstream in tip-top shape and ready to roll!
2. Thank you to the emergency roadside assistance crews at the Good Sam Club who are always on standby should the unexpected occur!
3. Thank you to the tolerant and patient wait staff at those terrific “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” that Food Network star Guy Fieri helps us discover along the highways!

Photo credit: Mark Peterson; The Food Network.

Photo credit: Mark Peterson; The Food Network.

4. Thank you to the owners staff of all the KOA parks, Texas state parks, and other RV hot spots for giving us beautiful, clean sites to use as a home base while we go exploring in your neck of the woods!
5. Thank you, our fellow camping enthusiasts, Facebook friends, and Camper Clinic II customers, for sharing the journey. You make it fun!

If, like me, you’re thinking about ways you can say thank you and surprise those wonderful people in the list above, here are a few ideas. Try leaving a note and an extra-large tip for a deserving waiter or waitress; bake something yummy for park or service staff; and post a photo or note on our Facebook or Pinterest pages and give a shout out to the people you’ve met on your travels.

Any other ideas about great ways to surprise someone with a Thank You? Let us know! See you on the road and as always, thanks for stopping by and spending time with us online!

~ G. Elaine Acker

 

This New Year, Resolve to Go Outdoors!

Family hiking and camping at Daingerfield State Park in East Texas. (Photo credit: Texas Parks and Wildlife)

Family hiking and camping at Daingerfield State Park in East Texas. (Photo credit: Texas Parks and Wildlife)

For years, some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions have been to exercise and spend more time in nature.

For those of us who love traveling in our travel trailers, that usually means road trips across Texas and beyond. Now, for the second year in a row, you can combine all three by participating in First Day Hikes at at parks all across the country on Jan. 1.

In Texas, during the inaugural year of First Day Hikes at the start of 2012, more than 1,100 people showed up at 47 Texas state parks. For 2013 more hikes and locations are scheduled, and they range from short, leisurely walks, to birding hikes, to nature tours along the Gulf Coast, to challenging treks in mountainous terrain. The best part is that you can come back to the RV afterward and relax by the campfire!

couple_hiking_at_mother_neff_sp--bryan_frazier“In addition to drawing new users to parks on January first, we hope to see return visitors from last year as families start to embrace First Day Hikes as a beloved tradition from year to year,” said Interpretive Services Assistant Director Karen Blizzard, the Texas coordinator for First Day Hikes.

Most all hikes will be guided by state park staff or expert volunteers and feature an interpretive message about native plants, animals or park history. The walks average one to two miles in length, but many also offer shorter or longer trek options as well.

If you want to participate, make a few advance preparations. Some hikes require  reservations, and in most instances, you’ll will want to wear sturdy shoes, and bring drinking water and a hiking stick. Park entrance fees apply in most places, and many parks are leading the First Day Hike at no extra cost.

Recent on-site visitor surveys in Texas parks revealed that hiking trails were the most sought-after amenity by park visitors, and many Texas state parks have added newly built or recently improved hiking and biking trails in order to meet growing demand.

first day hike logo design curtFor details about First Day Hikes in Texas State Parks, visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife website for locations, descriptions, and park contact information. Or, if you’re spending New Year’s on the road in your RV, check out the First Day Hikes site for an outing near you!

~ G. Elaine Acker

 

Meet Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Chief Photographer, Earl Nottingham

Earl NottinghamThis week, I talked to Earl Nottingham, chief photographer at Texas Parks and Wildlife. He shared a few thoughts on his favorite places to shoot photographs. He also offered a quick photo tip for our readers.

“If I have one favorite place to shoot in Texas, it’s the Big Bend region,” says Earl. “Specifically, Big Bend Ranch State Park. This is photographer’s country and there is everything to shoot here from grand landscapes to wildlife to flowers. I find it is a very addictive country in that it keeps drawing you back.”

I have to agree with Earl on Big Bend. I find myself hitching up the travel trailer and heading back there time after time. I’ve written articles for Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine about four-wheel drive trips with my sisters, hiking the South Rim, and rafting on the Rio Grande, and I never get tired of it. You could literally spend a lifetime there and never see it all.

Earl also reminded me that we’re approaching prime time for the fall bird migration. “If you’re a bird photographer, the Texas coast is the place to be during migration,” he said. “From the smallest hummingbird to the graceful whooping crane, the variety of birds along the Texas coast draws birders from around the world.”

Whooping CranesTo learn more about all the birding hot spots and activities at the parks, check out Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine’s article written by the agency’s Nature Tourism Manager Shelly Plante. The article includes guided bird walks, talks, bird banding and much more.

Whether you’re a serious birder adding species to your life list, or simply enjoy exploring the colorful diversity of birds in Texas (a whopping 638 species!) There are plenty of great places to take your camper and hang out along the coast.

Earl’s photo tip of the day

“The three most important things that make a good photograph are light, light and light,” says Earl. “To be more specific, regardless of your subject, the quality of light is what makes a beautiful photograph. Typically, shooting during early morning or later evening hours produces a more eloquent light. Also, days with unique atmospheric conditions such as fog or even rain adds interest to a photograph. Try to avoid harsh noonday light, which is typically the time most photos are shot.”

Don’t forget to email us YOUR photos from the parks, or photos you’ve taken of wildlife! You’ll be entered to win a one-year Texas parks pass!

What’s YOUR favorite Texas State Park?

This week, Camper Clinic II kicked off its campaign to raise money for Texas’ state parks, which are facing an unprecedented budget shortfall.  Camper Clinic II fans can help by doing two things: 1) Go to the Camper Clinic II Facebook page and clicking “Like.” For every like up to $1,500, Camper Clinic II will donate another dollar to the parks. 2) Share the campaign with friends. It’s important to raise money for the parks, but it’s also important to raise awareness about the challenges being faced by these Texas treasures!

From now through the end of October, we’ll use this blog to explore the parks, discover the wildlife, and remember our outdoor heritage. Be sure to join us on this journey!

~G. Elaine Acker

 

“Like” Camper Clinic II and Help Texas State Parks

Vermillion Flycatcher

I’ll share a few photos over the next month from my husband, Bill Reaves, who photographed the great State of Texas for nearly 30 years, and is the former photo editor for Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine.

Last February’s issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine made it clear: the state parks need our help. “We’ve had a season of record drought and devastating wildfires, and all of that has caused declines in state park visitation and revenue,” said Carter Smith, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department executive director. “For most of us, this is the drought of a lifetime, and we’ve seen very, very substantial effects on our parks.”

Because we at Camper Clinic II love our parks – and watching the incredible wildlife that live there – we’re excited to launch a new campaign. We’re spreading the word about how people can get involved, and from now through the end of October, we’re donating $1 for every new “Like” on our Facebook page.*

Fox Squirrel

Can you help a squirrel out?

Here are four ways you can help right now:

  1. Go to the Camper Clinic II Facebook page and click “Like.”
  2. Share this post with friends. Anyone, anywhere, who loves the outdoors can make a difference right now with a “Like!”
  3. Send us your photos from your visits to state parks, and of the wildlife you’ve seen, whether in your backyard or along your favorite hiking trail. Be sure to tell us more about the locations you’ve visited and the critters you’ve seen. We’ll share these in a future photo gallery so we can all take a mini vacation!
  4. Plan a visit to a state park. Fall is prime camping season, and there are lots of activities on the park calendars as well!  We’ll share links and suggestions throughout the month of October, and if you hear of any fun events, be sure and send us a note about those as well!

By the way, when you email us YOUR wildlife and park photos, we’ll enter your name in two drawings for FREE Texas State Parks Pass!

We’re looking forward to spending the month with you, going camping, birding, hiking, stargazing… you name it! We’ll cook outdoors, build campfires, and finally, spend Halloween in the parks. Thanks for tagging along!

~ G. Elaine Acker

* Camper Clinic II is donating $1 for every “like” up to $1,500! Thanks for sharing and helping us reach our goal!