Brian V.

Corpus Christi, TX

Joined July 2016

Canadian living in Texas. Seen more of Texas than most Texans have. Honours Bachelors in Outdoor Rec. Loves to hike, canoe, & run ropes courses.

A good place to relax

Ink's Lake State Park is a nice park to visit, but it is also a popular park. For it's size, it also has a lot of roads, which can make driving around a little confusing.

Over all, it is a pretty nice campground. All of the sites have at least water, a picnic table, and a fire ring. There are also sites you can reserve that have shelters. They also have many places for RVs. Some of the campsites can be a little rocky or have odd elevation.

At the store, you are able to rent canoes or kayaks to play around in. You can also buy wood and other things you may have forgotten.

The hiking is ok. Most of it is pretty flat, but walking along the lake or along the river offers some nice views. Along the river are a few waterfalls which are pretty.

The best swimming place is the Devil's Waterhole. There are some rocks on the far side that people climb up on to jump off of.

Popular for a reason

Garner is a popular camp site, but it also has a lot of space available, so booking a site isn't often an issue.

Old Garner (which is closest to the trails, shop and the rentals) books up the quickest and New Garner (which is further away) books up slower.

One thing to note is that when checking in, you must do so the day of arrival. Unlike other Texas State Parks, you may not check in the next morning. If you arrive after the gate is closed, you are sleeping in your car.

The campsites themselves are pretty nice. In Old Garner, you're camping mostly in a field so there isn't much privacy. In New Garner, it has more trees and you feel like you have some space from others.

All sites have water, a fire ring, and picnic tables. Some of them also have access to electricity. In Old Garner, there are shelters you can book as well.

Garner has a number of buildings to check out. The Visitor Center (which use to be the old park HQ) has some displays of CCC artifacts as well as things to buy. There is also the store where you can buy food you may have forgotten, ice, wood, and a bunch of other camp items. Lastly, there is the gift shop that has a wide range of items with the Garner name on it.

The Gift Shop building was built by the CCC and they held dances in front of the building, something they still do today.

Near the Gift Shop is the Garner Grill that serves burgers and the like. There is also a mini-putt course.

All of the buildings are in Old Garner.

The Frio river runs through Garner State Park and it is often cool and clear. People can rent kayaks or paddle boats to play. You can also float the river. The other shore of the river is private property, but people still go over there to use the rope swings.

One of the highlights of Garner is Old Mount Baldy. It is the tallest point in the park and offers a great view of the area. It is not technically part of the state park, but there is a trail up there.

Garner also has a few small caves to explore and some other smaller look-outs. The trails all start off rather steep, but eventually level off. It is important to go slow as I have had to fix up a few cut knees on the trails.

All in all, Garner is a great place for a hike, swim, or just to be out in nature.

Ranger Review: MH10 headlamp from Ledlenser at South Llano River State Park

Camp Site Review:

The camp sites at South Llano River State Park are pretty good. Each has a cover over the picnic table and the cover has shelves! There is also water and power at each camp site. The driveways are long and able to fit a large car/truck/van and a trailer. The campsites range from grassy to rocky.

The bathrooms are kept clean and have showers and hand soap.

For things to do, there are a bunch of hiking trails you can do, which range from fairly easy to moderate. There is a small lake to fish in, a river to fish or float in, blinds to watch birds, and it is in a prime spot for butterfly migration.

At the Park HQ, you are able to rent tubes to float the river, buy souvenirs, and learn about birding in the area. There is also a small grave yard from settlers near by. The Rangers also put on activities like showing skulls and animal skins, nature walks, and bird talks.

Over all, it is a nice place to spend the weekend.

Gear Review:

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I sometimes get items to review. For this review, I received the MH10 headlamp from Ledlenser.

When I got it out of the box, my initial thoughts were that it looked pretty cool. I also loved that it was rechargeable via USB. It also came with a travel pouch, a red lens, a green lens, and an adapter to put the lenses on. A downside I found was that I wasn't really able to fit the headlamp, lenses, and adapter into the travel case. I also didn't like that there wasn't a spot to store the lenses when not in use. I feel they could get lost easily.

When dark came to South Llano River, I turned on the MH10 and wow was it bright! It lit up the who camp and when I pointed it into the sky, it was just missing a bat and I could have been in Gotham.

The MH10 has three levels of brightness and I typically used it on the lowest setting when around other people. When by myself, I had it on the highest setting so I could see more clearly.

You can also twist the lens of the MH10 to focus the light more. It gets a little hot when you leave it on for awhile, but there is a warning label and hasn't gotten hot enough to really hurt.

The coloured lenses worked well enough on the MH10, but I found it difficult to get them on without feeling like I was going to break them. It could be my inexperience with them though.

I was unable to get any clear photos of the MH10 working in the dark.

All in all, I enjoyed the MH10 headlamp from Ledlenser and I think it is a great headlamp for going camping.

A Trail of Waterfalls

This was my third time visiting Colorado Bend State Park.

It's a bit out of the way for me, so I don't go often, but I always enjoy it when I do.

We camped in a water only site, which is also a walk-in site. You park by the road and then walk down some stairs to the river level, which is where the campsites are. The campsites are numbered, but it is basically an open field.

The water is at the top of the stairs, which can make washing dishes and filling up water jugs challenging, but there are two spigots, which makes it a bit easier.

We decided to hike the Spicewood Springs trail. It was beautiful. There were so many waterfalls and greenery to see. We did have to cross the river a few times, so our feet got wet, but it was fine.

At the end of our hike, we swam in the spring and played in a small waterfall. It was a good way to cool off after a day of hiking.

You can buy ice and firewood at the store, but they only accept cash. To pay with credit/debit, you have to go out of the park.

All in all, a great time,

A great place to relax

I stayed at Lake Whitney for a night on my way south from Dallas, so I didn't have much time to spend there.

It was my first time at the park and the rangers were really helpful in helping me to find a site, expecially after I told them I had a hammock with me.

I ended up staying at a screen shelter site with a bunch of trees and a great view of the lake.

The site had a picnic table inside the shelter and outside the shelter. It had a water spigot and a fire ring. The shelter was in good maintance and had light and plugs.

There was a swimming area near by and there were locations around the park for fishing and fish cleaning. There were also a few small trails, but I wasn't able to explore them.

Parts of the park were closed for maintenance and you could see construction in progress.

Over all, it was a great experience and a good place to escape from the world for a bit.

A park in the center of a lot

Huntsville State Park was my basecamp for hiking the Lone Star Trail.

I camped in the water only section of the camp, which was nice, but most of it was on a slant, which can be an issue when it rains. The campsites all had tables, fire rings, water spouts, and a hook

The nearby bathrooms were clean and there were showers. In the same section, there is a pier you can fish off of and a small playground.

At the enterance or with the park hosts, you can buy firewood at $5 for 10 pieces of wood, which is a great deal! Most places have the price at $1 per piece of wood.

There is a nice day use that has tables and bbq pits. You can be in the forest or by the water.

There is a boat ramp you can use and there is a swimming area with a raft to jump off of. However, there are alligators in the water, but the park rangers are good about checking on their activity.

There are a few trails in the park, but I wasn't able to hike any on this visit.

I did visit the nearby stature of Sam Houston. It is free to visit and is billed as the tallest statue of an American Hero anywhere in the world. It's worth checking out.

A good rest stop

I stopped here when hiking the Lone Star Trail.

The camp sites at Stubblefield were rather nice. Each had a table, fire ring, hook for hanging things, and water taps were found every few sites or so.

There are two bathrooms that were well taken care of and the park hosts were very friendly and well informed.

Camping there cost $15 per site per day and you cannot reserve ahead.

There is a lake, but when I was there it was rather brown.

There is also a pavilion for group activities

A good stopping point on the trail

Stopped at Kelly's Pond when hiking the Lone Star Trail. It is a pretty basic camping ground.

There is a compost toilet, but no water. There is a pond near by if you want to filter water though.

The grass was pretty high when I was there, so we camped on what is really the parking lot. At the real campsites, there were picnic tables.

Campsites are first come, first serve and cost 5$ per person per day.

As well as the Lone Star Trail, there are many other trails in that area that you can check out

A great place to experience nature near the city

Government Canyon is still a great place to visit and is often over looked by people who want to experience nature, but not drive too far to get to it.

It is only open Friday-Monday with camping only Friday and Saturday night.

The campsites are all walk in, but not a great distance. Camp sites vary in size, but all have fire rings, a place to hang trash, and a storage cupboard.

There are water spigots at the top of each trail and two composting toilets.

Because this is a State Natural Area, you may not connect anything to the trees in the park as you could A) damage the trees of B) bring in pests from other parks without knowing it.

There are front country trails, back country trails and trails that are only open at certain times of the year.

If there is too much rain, the park will close down all the trails as they don't want to ruin the area with people walking in mud.

In the summer time, make sure you bring enough water with you. Rangers some times patrol the trails to help people, but you are on your own for the most part.

The visitor center is very nice and modern. They often have ranger hikes leading from the center.

Near by, they have a group shelter that can be rented for weddings or parties.

All in all, it is a very enjoyable park to visit.

Ranger Review: CRKT Woods Chogan T-Hawk and Pazoda 2 at McKinny Falls State Park, TX

Camp Review:

I have visited McKinny Falls State Park a few times and have always enjoyed my trips there. The camp sites all have water, fire rings, tables, tent pads, and aren't too close to each other. The bathrooms are all within a short walk of the campsites. Not all of them have showers.

There are several hiking trails you can take where you can check out the wonderful nature.

If you would like to swim, you can do so at the Upper Falls or the Lower falls. Both have a place to swim and a place to jump off rocks. The intensity of the waterfalls is dependent on the current at the time.

There are also day use areas for people to use that have a table and bbq pit. There are some near the Lower Falls that are close to a playground and some near the Upper Falls along the river.

McKinny Falls also has a bouldering area where people can test their skills. One of the few parks I know of that have that available.

Gear Review:

As a Ranger on The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time and on this camping trip, I took two pieces of new gear from CRKT.

Firstly, the PAZODA™ 2 ( For a $20 knife, it was smaller than I had first expected, but with the quality of it, I am no longer surprised. It is a straight blade with a Thumb Jimping on it, which helps to cut. I used it for opening oranges or cutting veggies for dinner. When I was not using it, it fit very well onto my belt and I often forgot it was there.

It is solidly made, light, sharp, and has space to engrave on it, which makes it a perfect knife for a special occasion.

Secondly, I bought the WOODS CHOGAN™ T-HAWK ( as well as the sheath for it (

There were different styles of T-Hawks I could get, but I chose the Chogan because it had a hammer on the other side. I often go camping in places with hard ground, and this helped hammer in the stakes of my tent and shelter greatly.

The axe side also worked rather well. Out of the box, it was rather sharp already. I had no trouble getting a strong bite on my wood. During the weekend of me using it, I saw no wear and tear on the axe head despite me chopping through a cord of wood.

The website says it makes a good thrower, but I did not attempt that.

The sheath worked well for it with no issues at all. It is designed so I can hammer with the sheath on as well, which is handy.

You can also buy replacement handles ( online.

A Nice Hideaway

We used this State Park as our base camp for visits to Hot Springs National Park and Garvan Woodland Gardens

We stayed in the walk-in section of the park. It was not a far walk from the parking lot and easy to transport gear. There was also a bathroom with-in close walking distance.

The campsites themselves had a tent pad, a table, and fire ring. There were two communal water spouts along the path that were shared by the 12 sites.

The sites aren't too close to each other, which allows you to have some privacy.

Each site can have a maximum of 8 people on each one.

The walk-in sites are on a peninsula, which makes for great views, but the wind can be an issue.

The Park itself also has a play ground, a marina, a beach, a spring, cabins, and geocaching.

First to Review
A Great Park with A lot of History

We stopped at Mission Tejas on the way back to Corpus Christi for only one night, but I wish we had stayed longer.

The campsites are a good size and fairly standard. Each site has a fire ring, water, a table, and a tent pad. The bathrooms are within easy walking distance.

The Mission that the park is named after is right next to the bathrooms. You can go inside it and there are info signs next to it that talk about the Mission's history and the importance of the Old San Antonio road.

We did a few hikes in the park. All were well taken care of and well marked. We visited the CCC baths and then the location of the old fire tower.

Near the current entrance, there is an old homestead that was moved from it's original location to the park that you can explore.

Mission Tejas was under a bit of construction when we were there. They are getting a new entrance and HQ that will have a museum and larger gift shop.

The Rangers there were amazing. One came by and invited us to an archery event the next day, but we told him we would be leaving early the next day to return him.

He said that he would meet us before we left to show us some things. Our kids were very excited.

So, in the morning, he showed us some skulls, animal skins, and a few dead animals. He also told us some stories about the park. It was a great way to finish our trip.

Beautiful Area

I have gone tent camping a number of times at Ink's Lake. The campsites have always been of a good size with a fire ring, water, and bathrooms a short walk away.

I have often seen deer in the morning by my tent.

The hiking trails are ok. The best one is probably near the Devil's Watering Hole where you see waterfalls.

Swimming is great and there is a place near the Watering Hole where you can jump off rocks into deep water.

All in all, it's a great place to go to.

A great park hidden next to a city

I have camped at McKinny Falls a number of times. With it's proximity to Austin you would think you could feel the city down your neck, but aside from a glow at night, you feel that you are a world away.

Both the Upper and Lower Falls are great to look at and swim in. Just be careful of the current.

There are a few hiking trails. One of them goes around most of the park and is paved. One is on the other side of the river and is more traditional loop.

Along the river, they have lots of spots for day use. Neat the Lower Falls is a place to go bouldering, which you don't find in most State Parks.

The camp ground is well maintained with each site having it's own fire ring, water spigot, and are all within walking distance to the bathrooms.

Beautiful Falls

Pedernales Falls is a beautiful place to go visit. The main falls are great to play around and check out.

There are also a few secret falls that the Rangers will tell you about if you ask nicely.

The hiking trails are marked and maintained well.

Campsites are nice and have fire rings and water.

A wonderful campground

I have camped in the new section of Garner many times. The camp sites are spaced out so you don't feel like you are on top of each other.

Each site has a fire ring, driveway, and water. Some have electricity. Bathrooms are near by and well maintained.

Only issue I have had is the taste of the water. Most of the time there is a bit of a taste to it, once it tasted really bad. We had to buy flavour powder to hydrate.

The hikes at Garner are great. There are caves to explore, a mount to climb, and a river to walk along. Floating the river is also a lot of fun.

All in all, Garner is a great camp to visit.

A pleasant place in a great park

Camping at the Rio Grande Village Campground is fairly nice. It has washrooms, water, and fire rings.

Some of the sites you can reserve in advance (they go quick though) and some are first come first serve. There is also a section where generators are not allowed, so people can better enjoy the nature.

There is a trail from the sites to the hot springs, which is nice.

The campground is rather far from most other trails in the park, but that gives you time to enjoy the views as you drive around.

Cute and Compact

I have camped at Lost Maples many times. The camp site area is kind of small and the sites are all close together.

The tables all have shelters, which is great as there are few trees to give shade. Each site also has a fire ring and water.

When hiking, you are in a great forest. The East Trail goes up onto a ridge with a great view. The West Trail goes through a forest, up a hill and then into a canyon.

On the trails, there are a few composting toilets. They are well marked on the map.

There is a point in a river that widens for people to swim. It's a bit of a hike in, but the only place to swim on hot days.

When hiking, be sure to stay on the trails. If you wander off and a Ranger sees you, they will give you a talking to about it.

A Hidden Jem

I love going to Martin Dies Jr. State Park. I have gone there four times now to run week long canoe camps.

We often do it in the summer time, so there aren't many people around and we almost have the place to ourselves.

On the South side of the park, there is a big open lake to paddle and swim around in. The North side has a great paddling trail, but it has become choked with vegetation in recent years.

The North side is also the end point of the Bevilport Paddling Trail, which is a great trail to do.

They have signs for gators, but I have not seen any.

All sites have water and bathrooms are not too far away from any one site.

You should check it out if you have a chance.

Primitive and Huge

When I stayed at Big Bend Ranch, we stayed at the Escondido Pens camp site. We went there for the Thanksgiving break.

There was no water on site, we had to bring it from the ranger station. There also wasn't a lot of shade, despite the shade structure that was on site. There was a composting toilet near by.

The roads were a bit rough, but we did it with our 15 passenger van.

We did a few hikes, which were quiet enjoyable.

Over all, a nice park that is more primitive than most.