Troy W.
Austin, TX
Joined May 2018
A happy camper - traveling, hiking, camping, backpacking. Find me at www.theadventurebegins.tv or Social Media (FB, IG, YT, PIN) @troyfromtexas
Ranger Review: Wenzel Shenanigan 5 Teepee Tent at Inks Lake State Park

What could be better than camping lakeside during the summer?

Maybe camping lakeside in a teepee! I'll get to that later. 

Campground Review:

Some friends and I decided to go on a little camping trip this summer. 

I've found that it's always beneficial to camp near shade and water in the summer when temperatures are at a peak. I searched TheDyrt.com for a suitable campground. Once I found Inks Lake State Park, I realized that we could camp near the lake and have easy access to the water. I searched around a little bit until I found what I thought might be the perfect campsite - site #304. Unfortunately #304 was reserved, but #303 was available. The site offered shade and access to the water. Done.

We set out for the park after work on a Friday. We stopped along the way to have dinner in the town of Burnet at a cool little cafe called Bill's Burgers, Wings and Things. The food was great and the atmosphere was festive. If you need to pick up supplies or groceries, there are supermarkets in the town of Burnet.

We arrived at our campsite somewhat late at 7:30pm, so we quickly set up camp. 

Inks Lake State Park is a nice park nestled in the hill country of Texas. It is a short one hour drive from Austin. The park has a variety of facilities and activities for just about everyone. The main attractions of this park are the lake, the hiking trails and the Devil's Waterhole. From our campsite we could access the lake for paddling or fishing. We could also access the hiking trail that passes around the lake. There were brand new bathroom facilities at the park and they were some of the nicest bathrooms that I've ever seen at a campground. 

We went for a hike on one of the trails. There are some unique rock formations in the park called gneiss. While hiking among the gneiss it feels like you're on another planet. 

One of the highlights of the trip was visiting the cove within the park called the Devil's Waterhole. We brought tubes to float in and chill in the water. I’ve always found that this is the best way to beat the heat in the summer. There is one side of the cove in which people climb the banks up to a rock outcropping to jump into the water below. There are some outcroppings 10 feet above the water, 20 feet and 30 feet. I jumped off the 20 foot high cliff and touched the bottom, so I didn't jump off the 30 feet cliff. It is fun jumping and it is entertaining watching others jump.

There's a little of something for everyone at Inks Lake State Park.

Product Review of Wenzel's Shenanigan 5 Teepee Tent 

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, from time to time I am provided products to test. For this outing I was provided a Wenzel Shenanigan 5 Teepee Tent. Weeeeeee!

For more info: https://wenzelco.com/shenanigan-5/

We arrived at our campground somewhat late in the evening at 7:30pm. Luckily we were able to quickly and easily set up our new Wenzel Shenanigan teepee tent. 

Basically, all we had to do was to find a flat clear area, spread out the tent, stake in the 6 stakes and then place on end of the included pole into the top of the tent and the bottom of the pole into a fastener in the bottom of the tent. And the tent was ready. 

I'd say that this is one of the best features of this tent - it is so easy to setup. 

Another benefit is that it is so fun. Weeeeee. Who wouldn't want to hangout in a teepee tent? The tent is available in your choice of two color patterns - blue or red. I chose the blue. It makes we want to smile every time that I see it.

The tent is a single wall tent. I believe that the material is treated for weather protection, but I wouldn't say that it is built for extreme rain or weather. It does have some nice ventilation options with a vented door, 3 windows, 2 ceiling vents and 2 floor vents. 

In the middle of summer in the middle of the day, this is a cool and fun place to chill.

The Shenanigan 5 tent is specified as a 5 person tent. However, like most tents the specified number is probably optimistic. Perhaps 2 adults and 3 children would fit inside. We found that there was plenty of room for 3 adults and gear.

I'd say that the pros of this tent are: 1. it is just so much fun. 2. it is easy to setup. 3. it is reasonably priced. 4. the color patterns are cool. 5. even tall people can stand up in this tent. 6. kids of all ages will love it.

I'd say the cons of this tent are: 1. not designed for extreme weather. 2. the side walls do limit shoulder space. 3. I prefer door entrances with one continuous zipper instead of three separate zippers. 

In summary, I'm pretty happy with the tent. I plan to use it for car camping weekends, as a shade tent for day outings and maybe even for fun times in the backyard.

Abilene State Park + Trees + Swimming Pool + Lake (sort of)

Abilene State Park is an interesting park to visit in the middle of Texas. The park is a short drive from the City of Abilene so it receives quite a few visitors on the weekend. During the weekday, you'll find considerably more peace and quiet. 

You can pick up supplies in the city and there is also a small store within the park office with some snacks and souvenirs.

The park has a nice grove of trees scattered around the open spaces and the campsites which can provide sanctuary shade from the summer sun. The campsites have clearings for tents, picnic tables, fire pits and water. There are restrooms nearby which have sinks, toilets and shower, all of which could stand some updating. There's a swimming pool which is often the main attraction of this park. 

When I was planning a visit to the park I thought that it would be nice to be right on the shores of Lake Abilene. However, I discovered that the main park area and campsites are in one area and the access point to the lake is in another area. You actually need to drive outside of the park, down the road and enter into another part of the park. There's a dirt road to access the lakefront and once you are at the lakefront there is a little beach. I guess that this is one reason why so many people appear to prefer hanging out at the swimming pool. 

The arrangement of the facilities is a little strange and many of the facilities could use an update. For this reason I only rate this park 3 out of 5.

Lake Brownwood State Park + Swimming + Boating + Fishing

I would rate this park 3.5 out of 5 stars. The park has a variety of facilities which earns it a 4 star rating. But the quality of the facilities only earns it a 3 star rating. So it averages out to 3.5 in my opinion.

Lake Brownwood State Park is pretty much located in the center of Texas. However, it is a bit of a drive from many of the major cities like Houston, San Antonio, Austin and Dallas. It is fairly convenient to reach from Abilene and San Angelo. If you need to pick up camping supplies there are grocery stores and sporting good stores in the nearby town of Brownwood.

The main attraction of the park is that it is situated on the shores of Lake Brownwood. There are ample opportunities to take advantage of lakeside activities like swimming, boating and fishing. There are a variety of camping options with tent sites, cabana sites and RV sites. At most of the sites there are nice oak trees that provide shade and can support a hammock. Note that Texas State Parks require 2 inch suspension straps when hanging a hammock. There are boat ramps, fishing piers and a loop hiking trail. The hiking trail is a loop trail, fairly level, but I would say moderately interesting. The real attraction of this park is the lake.

Some of the facilities such as the restrooms and the cabanas are a bit dated and could benefit from an update. The staff was very friendly when I visited. And the other campers were respectful.

I would like to say that I visited the park during a weekday when the park had few visitors. However, I've heard that on the weekend the park fills up quickly and can be quite busy.

Guadalupe Peak + Views + Carlsbad Caverns

The main reason why you might want to stay at this campsite during your visit to West Texas and Guadalupe Mountains National Park is to summit Guadalupe Peak and stand on the highest point in Texas. And the main reason why you hike to the peak is to see the views. 

There are no facilities or amenities at this campsite - no water, no restrooms, no shelters, no firewood, no wifi. Just views that stretch on for miles and miles.

You'll likely start your trip by checking into the Pine Spring Visitor Center where you can obtain a backcountry use permit. Permits are issued on a first come, first serve basis so try to arrive as early as possible and preferably before noon. During peak visitation periods permits may be in demand, so it might be a good idea to stay one night at the Pine Spring campground. If the Pine Spring campground is full, there is some Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land nearby in New Mexico. Ask the visitor center for more info. The backcountry permit authorizes camping in designated sites in the established backcountry campsites. Fires are prohibited so containerized fuel is your best bet to be used for cooking.

The hike from the Pine Springs Visitor Center to the Guadalupe Peak campground is 3.1 miles - and it is almost all uphill. The hike from the Guadalupe Peak campsite to the peak is an additional 1 mile. The campsite is on a nook of the mountain and marginally protected from high winds. There are a few trees and a few rock windbreaks near the tent pads. The winds often exceed 80 miles per hour, so even if it is not windy when you arrive, secure your tent with additional guy lines. Elevation gain from the visitor center to this campsite is about 2200 feet. You'll need to carry all of your water for your ascent and descent so be prepared to haul 4 to 8 liters depending on the season, heat and personal needs. 

After you've conquered Guadalupe Peak and hiked around other parts of the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, check out the nearby Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico.

Caprock Canyon South Prong primitive camping area + Bison + Red Rock

Caprock Canyon South Prong primitive camping area

The Caprock Canyon South Prong primitive camping site is about a 1 mile hike from the South Prong Tent camping area and the trailhead.

You’ll hike up and down some ravines and up a hill to reach it. If you’re able to camp at this site you’ll be rewarded with great views of the mountains and the valley. The red rock formations in this park are amazing.

I highly recommend hiking the Upper South Prong trail to the Fern Cave and then returning via the Haynes Ridge Overlook Trail.

Other highlights at this park include watching the prairie dogs and bison roam freely on the plains.

The only downside for this park is that to see some of the attractions you might need to drive because they are located far apart. The bison tend to gather on the open plains. The prairie dogs are located near the Honey Flat campground. Both of these attractions are far from the South Prong Camping Area. 

This park is located in the panhandle of Texas so it’s likely that you will have to drive a long distance to reach this park. if you would like to breakup the drive consider stopping over in Abilene to grab a bite to eat, see the worlds largest buffalo skull, or see the worlds largest paper airplane.

Long Creek Campsite on the Eagle Rock Loop + Fish!

The Long Creek Primitive Campsite is located in the Ouachita National Forest along the Little Missouri Trail on the eastern section of the Eagle Rock Loop. The only way to access this site is by entering at a trailhead and hiking in to the site. The nearest trailhead is at Albert Pike Recreation Area. This is a primitive dispersed campsite, but the ground has been cleared. The site is located alongside a creek.

On your hike into this site you will be rewarded with beautiful scenery as you walk through majestic forests of oak. You'll also see a variety of plants and forest creatures. The campsite is along Long Creek so you will have access to water. Perhaps 100 feet up river from our campsite I found a nice fishing hole and caught and released 7 trout and 1 sunfish within about 1 hour. 

There is adequate clear space to set up a tent or numerous trees to string up a hammock. There are no facilities nearby. You can collect and filter water from the river and dig a hole to poop in the woods. Please practice Leave No Trace in this area. 

Trekking poles are recommended to aid in tackling the various inclines and declines of the trail.

If you need any supplies before entering the Ouachita National Forest stop off in the town of De Queen where there are various grocery stores, restaurants and gas stations. 

During the spring and summer the insects can be intense. I advise treating clothing and gear with permethrin to prevent ticks and pacaridin for other insects.

Big Bend National Park - Chisos Basin Group Campsite

This review is specific to the Chisos Basin Group Campsites. I actually prefer the Chisos Basin Group Campsites over the regular Chisos Basin Campsites. The group sites require a minimum of 9 people and a maximum of 20 people. The group campsites are located on a separate loop with only 7 campsites. The regular campsites are located in a cluster with about 60 campsites side by side - there is little privacy. I've found the group campsites have a similar view of the Chisos Mountains and the valley. There is one restroom for the group sites which has sinks and toilets, but no showers. There are no showers in the Chisos Basin except at the Lodge. 

Three of the group campsites have sun shades (sites P, Q and R) and the remainder are exposed. If you can reserve a campsite with a sun shade it will be worth it. The sun and the wind can be very intense throughout the year. It is highly recommended that you secure your tent with extra guy lines and tent spikes. 

The Window Trail trailhead starts from one corner of the group campsites. It's a short and moderate difficulty trail with a scenic view of the valley and sunset. If you hike the Window Trail to see the sunset, be sure to bring a flashlight because it can be difficult to find your way back once the sun goes down. Other highly recommended trails include the Emory Peak Trail, Lost Mine Trail and the Santa Elena Trail.

Living Waters on Lake Travis - Glamping on the Lake

Living Waters on Lake Travis is a lakeside venue for romantic getaways, yoga retreats, weddings, songwriting retreats, family reunions, work retreats and glamping (glamorous camping). You can rent one structure for a personal getaway or rent them all for a group event.

I attended a special event at this venue. There are various whimsical houses, cabins, yurts and tents in which to stay. There is an open lawn for group gatherings, a covered gazebo for outdoor yoga and a boathouse for lakeside activities. In addition there are amenities such as hammocks, lawn chairs, porches and tents in which to relax. The venue offers a variety of personal services such as massage, yoga, a private chef and watercraft rental. 

Whether you would like to be active or sedentary, Living Waters on Lake Travis might meet your needs.

Ranger Review: Liquid IV at Straight Creek Campsite on the Eagle Rock Loop

Park Review

The Straight Creek Primitive Campsite is located in the Ouachita National Forest along the Athens Big Fork trail on the western section of the Eagle Rock Loop. The only way to access this site is by entering at a trailhead and hiking in to the site. This is a primitive dispersed campsite, but the ground has been cleared. The site is located in a valley between two mountains and is located alongside a creek.

On your hike into this site you will be rewarded with beautiful scenery as you walk through majestic forests of oak, pine and maple. You'll also see a variety of flowers and plants. The campsite is near Straight Creek so you will have access to water.

There is adequate clear space to set up a tent or numerous trees to string up a hammock. There are no facilities nearby. You can collect and filter water from the river and dig a hole to poop in the woods. Please practice Leave No Trace in this area. 

Trekking poles are recommended to aid in tackling the various inclines and declines of the trail.

If you need any supplies before entering the Ouachita National Forest stop off in the town of De Queen where there are various grocery stores, restaurants and gas stations. 

During the spring and summer the insects can be intense. I advise treating clothing and gear with permethrin to prevent ticks and pacaridin for other insects.

Product Review

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, from time to time I receive products to test. For this trip I was provided some electrolyte drink mix by Liquid IV.

I ordered the product directly from the company website https://liquid-iv.com. The product was delivered quickly and ahead of schedule. I ordered the variety pack which included three flavors - Lemon Lime, Acai Berry and Passion Fruit. There were 8 packets of each flavor. It is recommended that each packet be added to 16 ozs. or 0.5 liter of water.  At first I found it a little difficult to open the packets cleanly. I then realized that I needed to completely tear the top of the packet across the top to expose the opening. After opening the packet, pour the powder into the water, then mix or shake the solution vigorously. The solution dissolved and mixed easily. 

Liquid IV claims that their solution has 3x the electrolytes of traditional sport drinks. It is non-gmo, vegan, gluten free, dairy free, soy free and made in the USA. 

I first tried the passion fruit flavor because I thought that it was the most unique. The flavor was rather light. I then tried the lemon lime flavor and found it to be stronger. The acai berry was somewhere in the middle. The flavors of Liquid IV are not as sweet as other mixes like Gatorade or PowerAid - which is a good thing. I've stopped drinking traditional sport drinks because of their high sugar content in overly sweet flavor. The Liquid IV solution was about right for me. 

Things that I liked:

1. Variety of flavors

2. Flavor was not overly sweet

3. Instructions were clear

Things that could be improved:

1. Packaging could be simplified for easier opening

2. Packaging could be minimized

Ranger Review: Morsel Spork at Viles Branch Creek Primitive Campsite

Park Review

The Viles Branch Creek Primitive Campsite is located in the Ouachita National Forest along the Athens Big Fork trail on the southern section of the Eagle Rock Loop. The only way to access this site is by entering at a trailhead and hiking in to the site. This is a primitive dispersed campsite, but the ground has been cleared and there are visible campfire locations. There is adequate clear space to set up a tent or numerous trees to string up a hammock. There are no facilities nearby. You can collect and filter water from the river and dig a hole to poop in the woods. Please practice Leave No Trace in this area. 

On your hike into this site you will be rewarded with beautiful scenery as you walk through majestic forests of oak, pine, maple and pecan trees. You will hike along the Viles Branch Creek and need to cross the creek various times. It is possible to fish in the creek, but we only caught small sunfish. In the nearby Little Missouri River there are larger fish. You'll hear birds singing all day long. We did have critters visit us in the evening so be prepared to hang your food in a tree or carry a protective canister.

Bring hiking shoes and water shoes for the various river crossings. Trekking poles are also recommended to aid in the river crossings and for tackling the various inclines and declines of the trail.

If you need any supplies before entering the Ouachita National Forest stop off in the town of De Queen where there are various grocery stores, restaurants and gas stations. 

During the spring and summer the insects can be intense. I advise treating clothing and gear beforehand with permethrin to prevent ticks and use pacaridin on the spot for other insects.

Product Review

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, from time to time I get products to test. For this trip I was provided some Morsel Long Handle Sporks. 

Fork it, Spoon it, Scrape it… is what you can do with Morsel Long Handle Sporks. 

Like many camping sporks the Morsel product has a fork end and a spoon end. The fork end also has a slightly serrated edge to slice pieces of your meal. The spoon end also has a uniquely shaped rubber edge that can be used as a spatula. The sporks come in regular and long handle forms. I chose the long handle sporks to make it easier to eat out of our backpacking food bags. The long handle allow one to access your food while keeping your hand and fingers clean. The long handle makes eating your meal a more enjoyable experience.

The sporks also come in a variety of colors. This is handy when you are camping with a group so that each person can choose and remember which spork belongs to them. 

One of the truly unique features of the spork is the spoon/spatula end. The end of the spoon is shaped like a spatula and has a soft rubber or silicon edge. This edge makes it easy to scrape morsels of food from the corners of your pot, bag or plate. This ensures that you eat every last piece of food, but it also makes clean up of your pot, bag or plate easier. 

I packed the sporks in my food bag inside my backpack for the entire trip. I was a little concerned that the sporks might break, but they held up well. Overall, I was very satisfied using the Morsel Sporks. 

Things that I liked most about the Morsel Sporks:

1. Long handle

2. Spatula/Spoon edge

3. Variety of colors

Albert Pike Recreation Area - Day Use Only

The Albert Pike Recreation Area is now for Day Use Only. As a result of flooding and potential flooding the former campground is now a day use area with parking spaces, picnic tables, water faucets and restrooms with toilets, sinks and showers. 

The main attraction of this area is the easy access to the Little Missouri River and the hiking trails along the Eagle Rock Loop. The river and the hiking trails are beautiful. If you need supplies, the town of De Queen has a number of stores, restaurants, gas stations and services available. The small town of Langley has a convenience store/gas station. 

Depending on the time of year the mosquitos and black flies can be pervasive. The facilities are showing their age and some wear. On the weekend this area gets a high number of visitors, so it is best to arrive early in the day.

Caprock Canyons State Park + Red Rock + Bison

I'd actually like to rate this park a 4.5. It earns a 4 for facilities and a 5 for things to do. Take a trip back in time with a visit to Caprock Canyon State Park. The bison, canyon and red rock formations will remind you of an old western movie. Add in a few prairie dogs for fun. There's lots to do at this park from hiking, camping, backpacking, fishing, watching wildlife and exploring old railroad tunnels. The highlight for me was spending an afternoon just watching the bison wander on the open plain. They are such peaceful creatures. We stayed at the South Prong Primitive Campsite #48. There was a fire ring with a grill and a lantern pole. We purchased our own firewood in town and had a nice campfire. We did not have a restroom nearby, but took advantage of the restroom at the ranger station and cafe. We hiked the South Prong trail to the Fern Cave and took the Hayes Ridge Overlook trail back to our campsite. We hiked a little bit of the Eagle Point trail in search of the natural bridge, but were unable to find it. I'll have to go back when I have more time.

Ranger Review: Mountain House Beef Stew at Tejas Park Lake Georgetown

Park Review

Tejas Park sits on the south side of Georgetown Lake in the Hill Country of Texas. The park offers good opportunities for hiking, camping and backpacking, fishing, wading or floating and features plenty of large, grassy open areas for enjoying the scenic countryside. 

There is a basic restroom with toilets. There is a water faucet near the Park Host's trailer. There are fire rings at the campsites and it is possible to collect fallen wood for a fire if there is not a fire ban in effect. There is a large parking lot, a large open field with campsites and my favorite is the group campsite at the end of the large open field. These sites can be reserved on recreation.gov

The Goodwater Trail is a trail that circles Lake Georgetown and runs about 28 miles. When backpacking the Goodwater Loop people typically start/park at either Tejas Park Trailhead, Jim Hogg Trailhead or Cedar Breaks Trailhead. If you are backpacking the loop parking and hiking are free. If you are using the park facilities just for the day, there is a day use fee.

The Hosts at this campground are typically very friendly. If you camp during the winter look up in the trees and you might just see some mistletoe.

Product Review

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, from time to time I get products to test. For this trip I was provided one package of Mountain House Beef Stew. The challenge was to create a dish using the beef stew as an ingredient. I decided to use Bread, Idahoan Mashed Potatoes and Mountain House Beef Stew to create a dish I called Brotato Stew. Unfortunately I was only provide one package of beef stew so we divided up the meal amongst six people and ate the meal as an appetizer.

Here are the instructions:

Boil 4 cups of water in a pot.

Pour 2 cups of boiled water into the Mountain House Beef Stew package and let it sit for 10 minutes.

Mix 2 cups of boiled water with the Idahoan Mashed Potatoes in a bowl or cup and mix thoroughly.

Using Onion rolls or Ciabata bread, cut the top of the bread and form a little bowl.

Spread the prepared Idahoan Mashed Potato into the bread bowl.

Spread the prepared Mountain House Beef Stew on top of the Mashed Potatoes.

Enjoy!

For more info about Mountain House visit their website at https://www.mountainhouse.com

Ranger Review: RovR RollR 60 Cooler at Colorado Bend State Park

Park Review

I've visited Colorado Bend State Park a number times and it never disappoints. There are rivers, streams, water holes, trees, caves and plenty of hike and bike trails to explore. 

This park offers drive-up, walk-in, hike-in primitive and group campsites. This park is becoming more and more popular, so it is recommended to reserve a site at least 3-4 weeks in advance or 3 to 4 months in advance for the group sites.

The park is a short distance from the town of Lampasas in the Texas Hill Country. In fact, if you need any supplies you might want to pick them up at the HEB Grocery Store in Lampasas because there are not many easy options for purchasing supplies once you enter the park - it is a long drive out of the park to the nearest store.

The drive-up, walk-in and group sites have a picnic table, fire ring with grill, lantern post, water nearby and restrooms nearby. However, there are no RV hookups. 

The primitive hike-in sites offer a patch of cleared space - no water, no electricity and no restrooms. However, there is plenty of peace and quiet.

My group opted for a hike-in primitive site along the river. Previously, the park allowed campers in the primitive area to simply find a clear patch of space and camp. Recently they instituted a new reservation system which has 8 designated campsites that are reservable. We had campsite 6. I think campsite 7 or 8 would be the best. The hike to these primitive sites is a little under 1 mile, so be prepared to carry your gear. In this area of the park, the Colorado River is a short walk from each campsite; there were a variety of birds at play in the trees; and there were prints and other evidence of wildlife. 

Many people visit this park to boat or fish the Colorado River. A Texas fishing license is not required if you fish within the park boundaries. Check with the Park Ranger for which fish are biting.

Our group was visiting primarily to hike and explore some of the unique features of the park such as Gorman's Cave, Gorman's Falls and the Spicewood Springs trail and water holes.

Overall I believe that our group had a great time and I had the opportunity to explore and discover some new areas of the park.

Product Review

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, from time to time I get products to test. For this trip I was testing the RovR RollR 60 cooler.

The RovR RollR 60 cooler is a rotomolded cooler with wheels, a pull handle and some cleaver attachments. The RollR 60 model holds 60 quarts of content. The company also sells 45 and 80 quart models. Like other rotomolded coolers the walls are thick, insulated and offer great cold storage capability. RovR says that their coolers can hold ice for up to 10 days. We were just camping for a couple of days and it certainly kept our items nice and cold. 

What really separates this cooler from other coolers are some of the unique features. First, the cooler has rugged wheels and a pull handle. For this trip I knew that we had to hike to our campsite for a little under a mile. Under no circumstances would I ever carry a cooler into a backcountry site. However, the RovR RollR worked out perfectly and we were able to haul the cooler with our food and drinks over some pretty rough terrain. The wheels were large enough to roll over rocks, roots and uneven surfaces. The pull handle extends to a convenient hight which allows a person to pull it comfortably without bending over. The pull handle also has grips on each side which allows one person to pull the cooler solo or two people to pull the cooler in tandem. This feature was key and we used two people to pull our cooler over some hills and through some muck. 

Inside the cooler there is a special bin that can hold items that may not need to be chilled like bread, towels or utensils. This feature is so important to keep items separate and dry when moisture develops or the ice starts to melt. The bin itself has an internal divider which further aids with organization. I put my spices and condiments on one side and cooking and cleaning utensils on the other side. I then place my bread on top. The bin is shaped perfectly to hold a full loaf of bread across the bin where it will not get squished. The floor of the cooler is gradually sloped so that when ice does start to melt the resulting water will easily run out of the drain hole. I was so impressed with the overall design of the cooler and the thought that must have gone into the design. I can tell that the designer was a user of coolers with all of the thoughtful touches.

On the outside of the cooler there are a few really unique design features. The cooler comes with a folding tote container which is attached to the top with velcro straps. When not in use the tote folds completely flat, lays on the top and can serve as a cushion for sitting. When needed, the tote can be unfolded and it becomes an additional container which can hold extra gear like a stove, pots and pans, camp chair or paper towels. Brilliant! In addition, the tote can be removed entirely from the top and placed to the side or moved to a picnic table. This is great feature - it is like having two carrying containers in one. There are additional fixtures on the cooler which are designed to attached auxiliary items like a cutting board or drink holders. There is even a fixture which allows one to attach an extension that can be attached to a bicycle. Thus, one can pull the cooler behind a bicycle like a trailer. Ingenious! 

I think that these are just some of the unique features and functions of the RovR RollR cooler. I’m sure that after additional use I will discover other cleaver features that the designers incorporated into this cooler.

I will say that I accidentally and unintentionally abused this cooler on this trip more than I anticipated. We pulled it over rough terrain, up a hill, through muddy water, and let it sit outside all day. After I got home I washed and cleaned it and to my amazement it did clean up easily. The only thing that I did notice was that the tote on top is a light colored silver. Since I dragged the cooler through the mud, some dirt stains showed up easily on the tote. I would probably recommend choosing one of the other tote designs with a darker color to avoid this issue. However, I use my coolers for their functionality and I’m not too concerned that it might look well used. I see myself getting many uses and many years out of this awesome little cooler. I'm thinking about buying the bicycle attachment arm to increase my options even more.

For more info you can visit the company website at: https://rovrproducts.com

Ranger Review: RoM Outdoors Backpack at McKinney Falls State Park

Campground Review

This Texas State Park is just a short 15 minute drive from downtown Austin. It is only a 5 minute drive from the Austin airport. The close vicinity to the city does mean that this park has a constant flow of visitors. In the summer it is extremely busy with day visitors, weekend campers and long-term campers. In the winter it is moderately busy. The park has lots of forest trails to hike as well as some interesting rock formations around the creek and water holes. The most noted feature of the park is definitely the Upper and Lower Falls.

This park has a variety of facilities including cabins, RV sites, tent sites and group sites.

There are water, electricity and restrooms with flush toilets and sinks near all the campsites. At the premium campsites there are all of these amenities plus showers. This park is great for swimming, fishing, hiking and bicycling.

You might see deer, raccoons, armadillos and occasionally snakes. All of the wildlife should be left undisturbed. Except for the fish. Fishing is allowed in the park and one will not need a state fishing license when fishing within the park.

This is a very family friendly and well-managed park with the only downside being that the park is often very busy with visitors.

Product Review

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time - today I am testing the RoM Outdoors Backpack.

The RoM Pack (pronounced "Roam") is a backpack, blanket and poncho all in one piece of gear. It is made of heavy duty 600D fabric which is water-resistant and appears to be very durable. The total volume of the pack is about 3000 cu. in. Their slogan is, "Let Adventure Unfold". The unique feature of this pack is that the backpack unfolds into a blanket. In addition, it can be unfolded into a poncho.

While I tend to use ultralight gear when I'm hiking or backpacking, I found this pack useful for fly fishing. I was able to carry my boots, waders, hammock, rod, reel, net and fishing tackle nicely. Once I reached my destination, I unfolded it to use as blanket. See the demonstration video. While I had good sunny weather, I could foresee using this piece of gear as a poncho if a thunderstorm were to roll in and I wanted to wait out the storm.

The Pros:

Unique multiuse design

Heavy duty water-resistant material

The blanket material is soft

When used as a poncho, it is also insulating.

Multiple pockets (2 removable pockets) with Molly straps

Designed and Made in the USA

The Cons:

Heavy in comparison to other backpacks

Straps and pockets somewhat obstruct use while using it as a poncho

Water bottle pockets could be larger to accommodate various sizes

For more info:

https://romoutdoors.com/product/rom-pack/

Devil’s Kitchen

The Devil’s Kitchen is a “near” backcountry campsite. I say that this is "near" backcountry because the campsite is accessible with a 4x4 vehicle. Or one can reach it by hiking in. The main attraction of the area is of course a visit to the Devil’s Kitchen and the nearby needle formations in Chesler Park. The Devil's Kitchen is an natural alcove within some of the rock formations. You'll probably spot the latrine toilet before you spot the kitchen. Just past the latrine toilet is a huge rock overhang. Pass under the overhang and you'll enter the kitchen. It is an enclosed area shaded by the tall rock walls. The temperature and climate inside the alcove is cool and noticeably different than the temperature in the surrounding plateau area which is exposed and much warmer.

This is a backcountry campsite in The Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. This is dispersed camping so there are no services nor amenities once you leave the trailhead. Leave No Trace principles apply. WAG bags required. Carry in any water that you might need because water is scarce or non-existant.

Chesler Park 2 (CP2) nestled within The Needles

This is a backcountry campsite reachable by a 4.4 miles hike from the Elephant Hill Trailhead in The Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. This is dispersed camping so there are no services nor amenities once you leave the trailhead. Leave No Trace principles apply. WAG bags required. Carry in any water that you might need because water is scarce or non-existant.

The hike to the campsite is over hills, down canyons, across slick rock, traversing sand and across a plateau. The trail is marked by cairns for most of the way, but it is highly recommended that you use a topo/trail map and compass or GPS to navigate. Along the way you will see a variety of rock formations such as joints, fins and spires.

You will cross a canyon and creek where EC1, EC2 and EC3 are located. A short distance after EC3 you will see a directional sign for Druid Arch or Chesler Park. Follow the Chesler Park Trail for about 1 mile. Look for the CP2 wooden sign post along the trail. The campsite is nestled amongst some rock formations and spires. There is no water resources in the area. There is plenty of open space to set up 3-4 tents.

There are three additional site located within a mile in the NW direction. This site is nestled amongst some huge rock formations and has views of a plateau and some needles. There is a trailhead and latrine toilets about 2 miles west of this campsite. About 1.5 miles away is The Joint.

Elephant Canyon 3 (EC3)

This is a backcountry campsite reachable by a 2.5 mile hike from the Elephant Hill Trailhead in The Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. This is dispersed camping so there are no services nor amenities once you leave the trailhead. Leave No Trace principles apply. WAG bags required. Carry in any water that you might need because water is scarce or non-existant.

The hike to the campsite is over hills, down canyons, across slick rock and traversing sand. The trail is marked by cairns for most of the way, but it is highly recommended that you use a topo/trail map and compass or GPS to navigate. Along the way you will see a variety of rock formations such as joints, fins and spires.

You will cross a canyon and creek where EC1 and EC2 are located. Continue past EC2 for another .25 miles. You might walk right past the campsite, but look for the EC3 wooden sign post. The campsite is nestled amongst some rock formations. The creek is below in the canyon. Don't count on any water being in the creek, it will most likely be dry. There is plenty of open space to set up 3-4 tents.

This is one of the first three campsites when entering The Needles District from the Elephant Hill Trailhead. There are two additional site located within half a mile. This site has views of a plateau and some needles. A quarter mile away the trail splits between the trail to Chesler Park and Druid Arch.

Elephant Canyon 2 (EC2)

This is a backcountry campsite reachable by a 2.5 mile hike from the Elephant Hill Trailhead in The Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. This is dispersed camping so there are no services nor amenities once you leave the trailhead. Leave No Trace principles apply. WAG bags required. Carry in any water that you might need because water is scarce or non-existant.

The hike to the campsite is over hills, down canyons, across slick rock and traversing sand. The trail is marked by cairns for most of the way, but it is highly recommended that you use a topo/trail map and compass or GPS to navigate. Along the way you will see a variety of rock formations such as joints, fins and spires.

You will come to a scenic overlook of a canyon. To the right will be the trail to EC1. To the left will be the trail to EC2. You will need to cross the creek (often dry, sometimes flowing) to reach the site, When you cross the creek vear left on the trail. Walk about .25 miles and look for the wooden sign post with EC2. The site is perched on the side of the hill on a little flat area with room for 2-3 tents.

This is one of the first couple of campsites when entering The Needles District from the Elephant Hill Trailhead. There are two additional sites located within a quarter a mile. EC 1 is located about .25 miles north and EC3 is located about .25 miles southwest. This site has views of some bluffs and the creek below. There are two large spires above the campsite. When the sun is setting the bluffs directly in front of this site are illuminated.

Elephant Canyon (EC1) Campground in The Needles District of Canyonlands NP

This is a backcountry campsite reachable by a 2 mile hike from the Elephant Hill Trailhead in The Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. This is dispersed camping so there are no services nor amenities once you leave the trailhead. Leave No Trace principles apply. WAG bags required. Carry in any water that you might need because water is scarce or non-existant.

The hike to the campsite is over hills, down canyons, across slick rock and traversing sand. The trail is marked by cairns for most of the way, but it is highly recommended that you use a topo/trail map and compass or GPS to navigate. Along the way you will see a variety of rock formations such as joints, fins and spires.

You might catch site of the campsite from a hillside overlook, but you will need to cross the creek (often dry, sometimes flowing) to reach the site. Look for the post with EC1. The site is perched on a little ledge with room for 3-4 tents.

This is one of the first campsites when entering The Needles District from the Elephant Hill Trailhead. There are two additional site located within half a mile. This site has views of some needles, bluffs and the creek.