(There's a link to all photos of this trip at the bottom.)
Well, it's been a long time since I
have actually taken the time to blog about a camping trip. That's
because I have been going to the same places recently, and haven't
had anything new to say. This is the first time I've been somewhere
new since last summer.
McKinney Falls State Park is about five
miles off of I-35. I actually took the same exit I would use to go to
the Lonestar RV resort. Now, I wish I had come here for TCEA all
those years instead of paying $80 a night at the resort. The park is
only $20 a night and is virtually the same distance from the
convention center. You live and learn.
I have multiple reasons for coming
here. First of all, I am going to attend the “TAS Summer of Love”
reunion. It is a gathering of anyone who ever went to Taipei American
School. I know some of the people by name, but actually only have one
true friend going. That is my high school sweetheart, Beth Hughes
Callison. Some of the others were in my classes, and I do know who a
lot of them are, they just weren't really “friends of mine”.
Another exciting thing is that tomorrow night will be my 100th
night to camp in the Colby T. I kind of wish it didn't happen on the
anniversary of Michelle's passing, but I will be celebrating it
Rachel's mom is going to be moving back
to St. Louis, so I didn't register her for the reunion. She wouldn't
know anyone but Beth either, so we decided that I would just make it
a camping trip and let her dodge the whole affair.
Beth and her husband and son stopped in
San Antonio last night on their way to the reunion. We met up with
them at Tink A Tako for dinner. We had a great time catching up and
just talking about whatever. Then I went home and packed for the
I had a few worries about McKinney
Falls. I misunderstood the difference between the “premium sites”
and the regular. When I adjusted my time here to make it a longer
camping trip, I couldn't get a premium site. I was dissappointed,
because I thought that meant pull-through. I can back into a site, if
I have to, but it is hard with nobody to help guide me in. Anyway,
the premium sites just meant they had 50 amp power connections for
the big rigs. I ended up in a very nice pull-through. My other worry
was staying at camp for four days without full hook-ups. I am gonna
deal with that, though. This may be too much information for some of
you, but the secret is to not flush liquids, if you know what I mean.
Save the flushing for the “big jobs”, and the tiny poop tank
won't fill up too fast. The grey tank is my biggest problem. That's
the one that handles kitchen water. To solve that, I am leaving a tub
full of soapy water in the sink and only washing the dishes once a
day. Time will tell how well that goes.
Anyway, I got up this morning and
loaded up the truck. Then, I went and bought gasoline. I went through
the carwash for the first time in months, also. The truck looks
pretty good. I went straight from the gas station to Pack Rats to
hitch up the Colby T. Everything went really well there. I back up
and hitched up easily. The only glitch was the tires. One of them
only had 49 pounds of air. I decided that would be okay, and went
ahead and got on the road.
As I headed to Austin, all of those
Texas Highway Department electronic signs were alternating between
“1381 highway deaths in Texas so far this year” and “Be sure
your tires are properly inflated.” It really rattled me after
awhile, so I stopped in at Buc-ee's and pumped that tire up a bit
more, just in case. No biggie. I don't need much of an arm twist to
stop there. I went ahead and bought a dried sausage ring, some dried
apple rings, and a really gigantic sweet potato.
The drive to Austin was totally
uneventful until Kyle. A school bus was coming on the highway, and
the driver had no clue how to merge. I slowed down for him since he
had it floored, but he changed his mind about getting ahead of me. I
had to put the medal to the floor myself because I had a huge truck
to my left. It was a scary moment for me, but it ended okay.
When I got to the park, I was blown
away by where it is. You literally drive about four miles down Ben
White Boulevard. It's that close to downtown Austin. But, you would
never know that from inside the park. It is lush and foresty (I
know...that's not a word.). The camp sites are fairly private, and
mine, number 74 is about the most level site I have ever had. I
already mentioned that it's a pull-through. We are talking camping
paradise from my perspective.
I got a text from a co-worker just as I
arrived asking about some “school stuff”. I told her I would
search emails for the information she wanted as soon as I got the
Colby T set up. I dreaded doing that on my phone. It usually is
pretty hard to do. Lucky for me a simple search on one man's name
brought it all up quick.
Anyway, I got everything set up inside
and out except the water. I'll do that tomorrow. I have enough in the
fresh water tank to take care of most things. It is kind of stale,
but I don't use it for anything but washing dishes and flushing the
toilet. Everything else was completely in order within an hour.
I decided to take a hike to get my
bearings set. I followed a four-mile loop. Just as I was leaving, I
heard a loud explosion. It seemed louder than a gun shot. I decided
to keep going anyway. I figured I would hear sirens, if it were
The trail was beautiful. Mexican
paintbrush was everywhere along with other varieties of Texas
wildflowers. Everything was lush and green, too. All I heard on the
trail was my own footsteps and the singing of hundreds of birds. As
usual, I saw very few people on the trail. At one point, I passed two
women walking with a teenage boy. I like it when the trails are
private like that.
At one point in the trail, there is
sign warning the bike riders to walk their bikes down the upcoming
trail. It suddenly twisted to the right and dropped down about 50
feet to the creek bed which was lined by the biggest cypress trees
I've ever seen. Suddenly, I heard loud noises that I could not
identify. It actually frightened me pretty bad. I had visions of
being eaten by that mythical Kerrville mountain lion I've worried
about before. About fifty yards down the trail I learned what it was.
There were about eight blue herons nesting in the trees across the
creek. It was awesome. They were flying around like pterodactyls. I
stood there taking pictures for a while and only got one good shot of
one taking off in flight.
Just past the herons, I started hearing
a lot of human voices. As I reached the picnic area, I understood
why. There was some kind of summer camp for kids going on. There were
at least fifty people there. Some of them were dressed like pirates!
They seemed to be having great fun. I took some covert shots, but the
teach in me doesn't feel comfortable taking photos of kids out in
Towards the end of the picnic area, I
started following a camp counselor with about 6 tiny little kids
walking down the trail. They had their back packs on and were late
for something. She kept turning around and telling them not to stop.
I decided to stop and look at the creek for a few minutes to put some
distance between us. That's when I saw a HUGE creature swimming in
the water. It was about two feet long and looked like a turtle of
some kind. It didn't seem to have a shell, though. If it did, it was
soft and flexible. Kind of like you would think a nekkid turtle would
look. I took a picture, but it isn't the best quality. I was lucky to
get it at all, because it went under water just as I was focusing on
I kept walking and ended up at the
swimming hole at what they call the “lower falls”. It was pretty
neat. You can see the photos for yourself. Immediately after that, I
came up to the nature center. Unfortunately, it was flooded out in
October and is under construction. I'll see it when they open it up
again some day.
As I kept going on the trail, I ran
into the same people I had passed before. They were taking the loop
the opposite way. I asked them if I was still on the right loop,
since it was kind of hard to follow after the construction site. They
said it was, so I trudged on. After a couple hundred yards, I took a
small dirt trail that segwayed to the park headquarters. I always
enjoy stopping in and having all my questions answered. They told me
that the herons always nest in that spot. They told me the pirates
had shot a cannon earlier, which was the sound I heard. Then they
looked at me like I was nuts when I mentioned the nekkid (I'm
spelling it that way on purpose!) turtle. I showed the photo I had on
my camera and one of them said it was a snapping turtle. I totally
don't buy that. When I have better internet (AKA” not on a frapping
cell phone”) I'll look it up. They also didn't know what the
gorgeous green bug I saw was. I'll look that up later, too. Anyway, I
gushed about how much I loved the park and got back on the trail
I was starting to get a little tired. I
hadn't eaten anything all day but two of the dried apple rings. I was
also thirsty, as my water bottle only lasted the first hour. Not to
be whiney, but my plantar fasciitis wasn't exactly happy with me
either. Just when I was about to cry, the trail ended and I followed
the road for another half mile back to the Colby T.
It was actually cold in the trailer. I
love this window AC. It is amazing. Of course, the Colby T is about
the size of most people's bathroom, so it doesn't take much to cool
it. I grabbed an ice-cold bottle of water and squirted some HEB Lime
Margarita Liquid Flavor Enhancer (I love that stuff!) into it and
chugged it down. Then I stripped out of my sweaty clothes, toweled
off, put fresh cloths on, and read for awhile.
I watched the second half hour of Judge
Judy as I cooked some chicharones in the microwave for dinner. I ate
them as I watched the news and went ahead and nuked that sweet potato
for later. I sat and watched my new neighbors set up their popup
camper across the way. It has two slide outs and looks like a
double-wide mobile home.
At around 5:30, I decided to go for
another hike. I followed the same trail, but Map My Ride recorded it
as 3 tenths shorter this time. The only thing I didn't do was go to
the park headquarters. I walked really fast this time and only
stopped at the swimming hole. This time I walked out onto the natural
bridge that's there so I could take some photos. Just after I took
one, I noticed that a woman in the area I was photographing was
topless. I don't know if I caught it in the shot, but I felt
horrible. I am not some perve taking shots of the ladies.
Fortunately, nobody seemed to notice. I'll check later when I
transfer the shots to the computer. Geesh! Austin... go figure.
When I got back to the Colby T, I was
really tired this time. I've been vegging out every since. Every once
in awhile, I go out and listen to the bugs. I posted a video on
Facebook to show everyone how noisy it is here. I can't hear it
inside the camper. But, it is no where near as loud as Buescher State
Park was that time Jared and I went.
So here I am. I've had my snack. I've
had some Merlot. I've watched some TV. I've written this. Now I'm
waiting for Tony Parker to be on the Jimmy Fallon Tonight show.
(NOTE: Tony wasn't on the show. Don't know where I saw that he would
be. I must have read something wrong.) Then, I'm going to read for
awhile and got to bed. There is another trail waiting for me in the
Day Two, Friday, June 20, 2014
I woke up at 8:00 as planned. I glanced
out the window and saw a cute little cotton tail bunny snooping
around my site. I wanted to get his picture, but knew he would just
disappear the minute I opened the door. I made some coffee and ate a
light breakfast of bacon jerky and apple rings. Then I dressed and
got ready for a hike. Unfortunately, I discovered that my camera
battery had not recharged. Evidently, I hadn't snapped it in all the
way. I fixed that and waited for it to charge. It is a back up
battery, but I usually need it about ¾ of the way on a hike. I take
a LOT of photographs!
The battery was finally ready by about
9:45, so I got everything ready and headed off for my hike. I
followed the roads to the place where a trail cuts through to the
lower falls. It was a nice walk to the falls. I looked around and
took some photos. When I headed on to the trail, a couple was coming
back with their grandson and told me that wasn't it. We walked over
to the falls, and they managed to cross over by precariously hopping
from rock to slippery rock. I just couldn't make myself do it. I
looked at the map again, and it clearly said there was a pedestrian
and bike trail. There was no way bikes could get across there. I
called the park headquarters and the ranger said that was the way. He
recommended crossing farther upstream.
I watched for awhile and saw some kids
crossing at will by walking in the stream with their shoes off. I
decided to do that and made it across without to much trouble. The
rocks were super slick, but as long as one foot was steady, I was
able to rub some of the slick away for my next step.
Once across the creek, I had a choice
between the Homestead Trail and looking at the ruins of the old grist
mill. I opted for the grist mill. After that, I saw a sign saying I
was already on the Homestead Trail, so I kept going. After all, it is
a loop. What did it matter where I started? I hiked for a long time
on a twisting rocky trail that seemed to be climbing most of the way.
At one point, I reached a fork that wasn't on the map. I wasn't sure
what to do. Then I noticed a young woman doing some stretching
exercises before her run. I asked if she was a local. She was, and
she pointed me in the right direction before running of and vanishing
in a wake of dust.
I got to the start of the Flint Rock
Trail, another two mile loop, and decided to take it. I wanted to see
all the trails while on this visit. Anyway, I got about halfway on
that trail and had had enough. My legs were rubbery, and I was pretty
exhausted. I had already walked 4 miles, and it was going to be at
least one more to finish the loop before even getting back on the
Homestead Trail. There was nothing to do but trudge on. At about that
time, N1S texted me that he wanted to go to lunch. I told him it
would be a while before I got back to the Colby T, but would call him
when I did.
Fortunately, the remainder of the
Homestead Trail was the shorter leg. I finally got to the ruins and
took some shots, then walked about 100 yards to the falls. I sat down
and took my shoes off again, before crossing back to the other side.
All went well. But, I still had about a mile and a half to hike back
to the camper. Luckily, there was a water fountain and restroom close
to the falls. I finally got to pee, and I filled up my now empty
water bottle and chugged it a few times.
Towards the end of the trail, I saw a
young woman sitting on a stump on the side of the trail. I nearly
fell when I noticed she was wearing clothes from the 1800's. After my
ghostlike experience on my last trip to Kerrville Schreiner, it
didn't take much for me to think this was another haunt. Damn my
luck! I had to pass her to get back to the trailer. I was too
frapping tired to just wait and hope she would leave. I started
praying for protection and pressed on. When I was about ten feet
away, she turned and looked at me. She was pale and had black smudges
all over her face. My heart stopped. There was no mistaking that this
was a ghost. That is, until she took out a cell phone and started
talking into it. She was one of the pirate actors that were working
with the camp kids. She was sitting there to tell hikers that they
had strung a rope obstacle across the trail for the kids. I told her
that she had scared the hell out of me. She giggled and apologized. I
was still shaking for about the next quarter mile!
When I finally got back to the Colby T,
I discovered that I had hiked 7.5 miles. Believe me, it felt like
even more. It was so nice to be back in the air conditioning. I
quickly mixed two bottles of Gatorade before stripping nekkid and
sitting on a towel with the fan blowing on high until I felt like I
was cooling down. After that, I heated a wet washcloth in the
microwave and gave myself a sponge bath followed by a shave. Then, I
got dressed and headed to pick up N1S.
OnStar took me a really strange way to
N1S's apartment. Fortunately, for me, I knew how to get there once I
was in the area. I only needed OnStar to get me from McKinney Falls
to IH-35. He was ready when I got there. We headed to South Lamar and
ate pizza and had a beer at the Austin Beer Garden and Brewery. The
pizza was okay, but the beer sucked. I rated it a .5 out of 10 on the
beer app. Oh... I forgot to tell you that we used OnStar to get us
there. I told the lady who routed us that we wanted to go to “the
Austin beer garden and brewery in Austin, Texas.” She actually
asked, “Mr. Baker, could you spell the name of the city for me?”
We left the beer garden and drove out
into the country to the Jester King brewery. We had a few beers
there. They had mostly sours on tap. N1S doesn't like them much, so
he drank bottle “guest” beer from a Scottish company. We sat at
picnic tables under the trees. It was a nice place. It had the same
feel to it as Random in Boerne.
Since I was pretty tired and didn't
want to drive in the dark (I've turned into my parents!), we went
ahead and headed back to his place. We picked him up some McDonalds,
I gave him a fifty dollar bill, and dropped him off. Then I
high-tailed it back to the Colby T.
There are a lot more people here than
before. I am amazed at the number of tent campers. It is really hot
and muggy here. I would hate sleeping in a tent.
Anyway, I am drinking some Merlot to
celebrate the 100th night in the Colby T. Then I am going
to drag my tired behind to bed. I am really exhausted. It kind of
Day 3, Saturday, June 21, 2014
I'm actually writing this on Sunday. I
was too tired to write yesterday.
I woke up early, but decided not to
take a hike. I am covered in chigger bites that I got either hiking
or just standing around the campsite. They itch like crazy. I need to
remember to always put some bug spray on my shoes and legs.
I spent the morning cleaning up the
trailer. I vacuumed and mopped. Then I used Lemon Pledge on all the
woodwork. I also hooked up the “city water” after first filling
up the fresh water tank. I don't remember doing much else, except
piddling around the camp site, reading, and watching part of World
War Z on Netflix. It was a good action movie, but had nothing to do
with the book.
At about 12:30, I cleaned up and got
dressed to go. I stopped at the headquarters to use the WiFi and
download my 7 Little Words puzzles for the past few days.
Unfortunately, my Kindle Fire didn't turn off after the last use and
was completely dead. I went ahead and went to WalMart to get a few
things. I needed more water, more wine, and something for the chigger
bites. I also found some new plastic coat racks to hang over the
door. The metal ones I had were tearing up the door.
I went from WalMart to pick up N1S for
lunch. We went to the Jackalope on 6th street for burgers.
They were pretty good. N1S seemed really tired. I had to force
conversation, which is unusual for us. When lunch was over, I dropped
him off at his apartment and headed over to the Hyatt Regency for the
reunion. I parked in the garage, which was supposed to cost $13
dollars, but they gave me a ticket for $7 off at the party.
I joined Beth and Randy in the bar area
on the first floor. They were with some other TAS folks who I kind of
knew. One is a Facebook friend who was in Godspell with me back in
the day. I have to admit that I wasn't all that comfortable. Beth and
I went up to the 15th floor to get T-shirts and hats. The
guy who had them thought I was Jim Barker, another person I knew in
Taiwan, but wasn't really friends with. We went down to the 14th
floor and checked in at the hospitality room. It was full of people,
some of whom I knew by name. I got my badge and went out in the hall
and talked with Randy and some women who claimed to remember me,
although I didn't have a clue who they were.
Beth invited me up to her room to wait
for the party to start. I think it was on the 15th floor.
The view of Austin was amazing. It faced the Congress Avenue bridge.
She and I talked while Randy and their son, John, watched some movie
on the TV. Time flew pretty quick and it was time to go to the party.
I dreaded that. I knew that I wouldn't really know anyone. I had
searched the list of registrants on Facebook and, even though I knew
a lot of names, I didn't really have relationships with anyone but
Beth. We were high school sweethearts. I told her and Randy that I
was going to stick to them like glue, and I did.
There didn't seem to be any seats left
when we got there. One table had all the seats tilted up, so it was
obviously being saved. Another was empty, but had someone's bag on
it. We stood around feeling awkward for a few minutes until Beth saw
someone she knew and asked if the table was taken. She moved her bag
and let us sit there. We were right next to the open bar, so we all
got a drink. They had margaritas, John had a pepsi, and I had a
Shiner Bock. Then we went to the food line and filled a plate. I ate
a shrimp ceviche shooter, grilled mixed vegies, some brisket, and a
pork carnitas taco. It was pretty good.
While we were eating, Bruce Bateman
(another person I remembered, but wasn't friends with), got on the
microphone and made some announcements. They gave some trophies to
different people and honored a special guest, the manager of the
Grass Mountain Teen Club. The theme of the party was all about the
teen club. I only went to the teen club once the whole time I was in
Taiwan. They just weren't my people. It seemed like most of the
people at the reunion were teen clubbers. I did get to meet Paul
Brown, who wrote the books Extreme Cruelty I and II.
I enjoyed the books, but did not know him at all. I don't think he
even went to TAS. I think he went to Morrison Academy down island.
stayed until 9:00. I didn't want to get back to the park after the
gates were locked. Besides, I was pretty much done. The music was too
loud for any conversations, and it was not much fun watching a bunch
of strangers boozing and dancing.
stopped for gas on the way back to park and bought a bag of ice. When
I got to the Colby T, it was really hot and muggy. I spent a few
minutes taking photos of a spider that has been here almost every
night, then watched the rest of World War Z, rubbed itch cream on all
my bites, and went to bed.
itch cream worked pretty well, so I did manage to get a good nights
sleep. The ones near my toes were weeping a bit. Usually that is a
sign that things will get better. I do have some kind of bite on the
middle of my forearm that doesn't seem to want to stop itching no
matter what I do. I think it might be a spider bite.
Sunday, June 22, 2014
an alarm set for 9:00 am. I planned on getting up and taking a
morning walk. However, I woke up at 7:00 and just decided to get an
think I was on the trail by 8:00. My alarm went off when I was down
by the creek. I took the same loop I took the other day, but this
time I did it in reverse. It made it all seem new. It was overcast
which changed the lighting conditions, and I noticed that different
flowers were blooming. There were tons of beautiful flowers
everywhere. I am anxious to see if they will still be there on my
next hike. I think some flowers like morning glories close up later
in the day.
more people on the trail today. There were a few bicyclers and
several people with dogs. I walked by one picnic table and was
disgusted. The people who used it yesterday left all their trash
scattered all over the place. There was even a dirty diaper. I just
don't get how anyone can think that is okay. It makes me wonder if
that is where the term “trashy” comes from.
some deer today. They look different than the ones at Kerrville
Schreiner. I also saw a bumble bee. Other than that, it was just a
been sitting around the Colby T ever since the hike. I ate a quick
lunch of Ecuadoran sardines in tomato sauce. Other than that, I've
just been pretty lazy. I need to get motivated since I am going into
town for lunch.
on Day 4
I got myself cleaned up and headed into town to eat lunch at
Fricano's Deli, where N1S works. I stopped by the park headquarters
to down load my puzzels and to upload a post to the Colby T blog.
Then I went straight to N1S's deli. I told him he didn't have to tell
anyone I was his dad. He said that didn't matter to him. I ordered
the Ainsworth. The description reads, “LEAVE IT TO US AND OUR
INTUITIONS TO CREATE A MASTERFUL SANDWICH USING THE BEST INGREDIENTS
OF THE DAY”. Mine, prepared by N1S was amazing. He used jalapeno
bread, humus, caramelized onions, chicken breast, tomatoes, Monterrey
jack cheese. It was pressed on the grill. It was a huge sandich- well
worth the $8.95. It was nice to see N1S thriving at his job.
decided to go to a Walgreen's to get more Benadryl on the way back to
camp. I read on line that the treatment for chiggers was pretty much
antihistamine orally and itch cream externally. The Walgreen's was in
a side of town I had never seen out by the airport, but it looked
like it would be easy to find the park from there. It turned out to
be a lot closer than I expected.
soon as I got into the Colby T, I took three Benadrlys and reapplied
the itch cream. I also cut my fingernails really short so I would
stop scratching in my sleep. I have pretty good self-control when I
am awake, but I could tell I was scratching during the night.
though I felt a little woozy from the pills, I knew I had to take a
hike. I decided to walk to each of the falls instead of taking the
loop I usually took. It was a very nice hike. I looked for the blue
flowers and there was not one to be seen. I couldn't even figure out
what plants they could have been on. Interesting.
watched Rising Star when it came on at 8:00. I know that I took a nap
while waiting for that to start. I have no memory of doing anything
else between the hike and the show. I think the mega doses of
Benadryl are responsible for that. Anyway, I struggled to stay awake
for the show and even voted for the different singers with the app.
When I was over, I hit the hay and slept through the nigt.
Monday, June 22, 2014
didn't set an alarm for this morning. I woke up at about 9:15. I
drank some coffee, ate some bacon, and started preparing for
departure. I was completely ready to pull out of my site at about
11:15. There was just one last thing I needed to do- dump the tanks.
I drove over to the dump station and took care of that.
was dumping the tanks, the sky darkened and a huge wind picked up.
Fortunately for me, It didn't start to pour until I was just
approaching IH 35. The first five miles of 35 were very stormy. The
wind was whipping the camper, and the wipers could barely keep up
with the rain. I just took it slow and steady. There was one other
rainy spot closer to San Antonio. Other than that, there is nothing
else I can say about the trip.
good to be home. My next camping trip will be next week at Bastrop