Troy W.
Pro
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
Brazos Bend State Park + Aligators!

Ok, I'll admit it. I visited this park for one reason only… to see alligators.

Brazos Bend State Park does have other attractions like miles of hiking trails, campsites, water fowl and migratory birds, but the real attraction for me was simply to see live alligators in their natural habitat. If you have the same motive, this park will not disappoint. 

This park is located outside of Houston. During much of the year the temperature can be warm to hot and muggy. I think that the best time of the year to visit might be in the winter during November, December or January. At other times of the year you may need to fight off mosquitos as big as alligators.

There are a number of trails to hike, but I chose trails that would provide the greatest opportunity to see alligators. So we hiked along the 40 Acre Lake to Elm Lake Loop. We first saw a number of water fowl - ducks, cranes, egrets. Then right along the trail we saw a fairly large alligator. Now there are signs that warn to stay a safe distance away from the alligators and it is solid advice. But simply staying on the trail allowed me to pass about 30 feet in front of a resting alligator. I'm guessing that if the alligator wanted to get up and chase me it could have. I just calculated that I didn't need to be faster than the alligator, I just needed to be faster than my hiking buddies.

We all survived and it was a pleasant experience.

Navajo National Monument and Monument Valley

Traveling, hiking and camping around Navajo National Monument and Monument Valley is a treat to the eyes. If you are a fan of Western or Cowboy movies you'll understand. You are able to see iconic landscapes that you might have seen in a movie or tv series. You're best able to cover ground by driving to various destinations. But if you have the chance to hike in the area you are rewarded with a more intimate experience. 

This area is not part of the National Park System, so NPS annual passes are not valid. There is an admission fee per individual or per car to accesss the Navajo land. In additional there are fees for backcountry hiking or guided tours.

Lost Maples State Natural Area Primitive Area E

Lost Maples State Natural Area has some beautiful hiking trails and backpacking areas.

There are basically two loops - an East Trail and a West Trail and each covers about 4-5 miles. It is completely possible to hike all the trails (about 12 miles) in a single day, but I prefer to hike and appreciate the natural features that can be found throughout the park. 

This review is for the Primitive Area E on the West Trail. The campsite is a primitive or dispersed site so there are no amenities. There is no water, no electricity, no restrooms, just natural space. Leave No Trace and Pack In Pack Out principles should be practiced. The camping area is adjacent to the East Trail. There is a open field in one area and a tree covered space in another area. So there are options for both tent and hammock backpackers. 

I'd say that the hike to the campsite and away from the campsite is more scenic than the actual campsite. Perhaps the best time of the year to visit is in November when the weather is cool and the fall foliage take place. The park is very busy in November, so make a reservation very early or go when the weather is extremely cold and no one else wants to be outdoors.

If you need supplies you may find some basics at the general store in the small town nearby the park named Vanderpool.

Zion National Park + Watchman Campground + Angels Landing Trail

I've visited Zion a couple of times and have stayed at the South Campground. This trip I stayed at the Watchman Campground. We arrived into Zion around mid-day and immediately hit the trails. 

I hiked the Angels Landing Trail while my friend hiked some other trails. We finished at around 4pm then drove into town for a bite to eat. We ended up eating at the Thai Sapa Restaurant right outside the park in the nearby town of Springdale. 

I knew that there were not showers within Zion NP so I inquired where I might be able to find a pay shower within Springdale. I was directed to the nearby Zion Outfitters Store. Attached to the store there is a shower room and laundry room that anyone can use. The showers operate on tokens that you can purchase from a machine and cost $4 for about 5 minutes. After showering, we ventured back into Zion NP to find a campground.

We were camping in the winter time, so the park was pretty empty and we had our pick of campsites. We drove around the grounds and found a spot close to the restroom. The restrooms do have sinks and toilets, but no showers. We were camping in a campervan, so setting up camp was easy. We simply pulled into a space, paid our camping fee at the after hours kiosk and we were all good.

We didn't really have a chance to explore the campground much. But the real advantage of this campground is that it is conveniently located within the park. During Spring, Summer and Fall you can access the free shuttle. And it is close to the exit of the park so that you can easily travel to the nearby town of Springdale to pick up any supplies, shower or do laundry.

McArthur's Temple View RV Resort + Saint George

We were on a road trip around Utah and decided to stop in the town of Saint George to get a bite to eat. We ended up taking our time to eat. By the time that we finished it was already dark and a little bit late. We didn't feel like driving far to a State or National Park, so we looked on TheDyrt app for nearby campgrounds. We found the McArthur's Temple View RV Resort right in the middle of town. 

We first attempted to call the resort to see if they had any openings, but it was a Sunday evening and their office was closed. We were close by so we decided to just cruise over to the site. We found the office and luckily they had an after hours info kiosk with information about available campsites. We found one that was located right behind the office and adjacent to the restroom which worked out perfect for our needs. 

The resort has many other amenities that we did not have time to take advantage of such as a pool, shuffleboard, cable tv, movie theatre, etc. It appears that this is both a long term and short term RV resort with many amenities. We paid the fee via the dropbox which was about $42. The restrooms and all the facilities were clean and accessible. At this resort, you're located in the middle of town, so don't expect easy access to natural areas. However, there are natural areas nearby the town of Saint George. 

The next day we drove to the nearby Valley of Fire State Park and had a blast. 

Caveat: The resort's name is McArthur's Temple View RV Resort which kinda indicates that while at the resort you may view the Saint George Mormon Temple. We could view the temple from an open area within the resort, but not every campsite has a temple view. It's best to simply drive to the nearby temple and check it out if you are so inclined.

Ranger Review: Travelers Autobarn Campervan at Fremont Indian State Park

We spent a fun day exploring Cedar Breaks National Monument. However, we lost track of time, the sun was setting and we had not chosen a place to camp. 

Campground Review of Fremont Indian State Park:

We searched on TheDyrt app for nearby campgrounds and found Fremont Indian State Park. We drove down the mountain and around another mountain and found the campground. It was totally dark by the time that we arrived and so we quickly parked and set up our campervan to sleep. 

A gentleman emerged from the shadows and approached our site. It seemed a little sketchy at first. However, he ended up being friendly and inquired if we’d like to join him and his friends around their campfire. After we prepared our campervan and cleaned up a bit, we dropped by the campfire. It turns out the party included some park staff and researchers. One lady was researching dark skies and one gentleman was researching astral alignment with ancient rock art. They shared about their research and showed us some of their amazing photos of the night sky. A warm way to end the day.

The next morning, we woke up to snow on the ground and the nearby mountaintops. Having learned from our new friends that the park contained some pretty significant rock art, we decided that we should check it out. We hiked on a couple of the trails and discovered quite a few of the rock art pieces created by the Fremont Indians. There's an easy trail that is located adjacent to the park office. There are other trails that run along the river. It is amazing that so much of the rock art was in such good condition.

The campsites provide the basics like a parking space, picnic table, electrical & water hookup and firepit/grill. The restrooms were conveniently located close to our campsite and were clean. There are showers behind the restrooms. During the winter the showers may be closed. The campground is somewhat small, but is surrounded by beautiful mountains and bluffs. The staff were super friendly and helpful.

For more info: https://stateparks.utah.gov/parks/fremont-indian/

Product Review of Travelers Autobarn Campervans:

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, from time to time I am provided products to test. For this outing I was provided a Travelers Autobarn Kuga Campervan. 

For more info: https://www.travellers-autobarnrv.com

The best thing about traveling in a campervan is the ease, flexibility, and ability to make detours if needed. 

We picked up our Kuga Campervan in Las Vegas. The Travelers Autobarn office is just west of the the main strip and easy to find. We arrived early in the day to begin the registration process and campervan orientation. The process was quick and easy. The Kuga Campervan is a hightop van conversion with couches, a table, two beds, propane stove, sink, water, kitchen, interior lights, fan, window shades and solar power. We also had the free living package which included kitchen pots, pans, utensils, cups and accessories. It also included sleeping bags, sheets, pillows and towels. The package pretty much made it super easy to get in the van and go. 

The Travelers Autobarn staff member was super friendly and provided an orientation of the basic operation of the campervan. The campervan drives like a normal van, but learning about the camper functions was helpful. 

We had charted a route around Utah and Arizona visiting a number of towns, parks, roadside attractions and hot springs. The day that we started a weather system passed through which made the temperatures drop in the northern part of our route. We simply flipped our route to avoid the cold weather and traveled the southern route first. By the time that we circled north the weather had warmed up and it was perfect weather for exploring. Traveling in a campervan made it super easy to be flexible with our route and schedule. 

On our seven day trip we visited Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Horseshoe Bend National Monument. Monument Valley National Park, Arches National Park, Mystic Hotsprings, Zion National Park, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Meadow Hotsprings, Valley of Fire State Park and Fremont Indian State Park. 

If we were not traveling in a campervan it is unlikely that we would have had the flexibility to camp anytime and anywhere. We would have never found and stayed at Fremont Indian State Park. It ended up being a gem of a park and a great overall experience. This campervan camping adventure opened up my mind to new opportunities and travels. So much fun!

For more info: https://www.travellers-autobarnrv.com

Lost Maples + Fall Foliage

Everyone loves Lost Maples State Natural Area, whether you are a RV camper, car camper, backcountry camper or just visiting for the day and day hiking. There's a little something for everyone. 

Perhaps the best time of the year to visit Lost Maples is in the Autumn when the fall foliage is occurring - it is often during the first three weeks of November. However, during fall foliage it can be very difficult to reserve a campsite, so I recommend booking a campsite 6 months in advance. Or do what I did and show up on a really cold weekday when no one else is interested in being outside in 25 degree weather and there will be plenty of space to car camp or backcountry camp.

If you camp at the established drive-up campground there are assigned campsites with space for cars, vans and RVs. At each campsite there is a sunshade shelter, picnic table, lantern pole, water, electricity and campfire pit with a grill. There is also a restroom nearby with sinks, toilets, showers and a water fountain. There is even a little free library where you can take a book to read or leave a book to share. 

If you camp in the backcountry there are designated and marked zones where you just set up your tent. There are no facilities in the backcountry campsites so leave no trace practices should be applied. Near some of the backcountry campsites there are latrines.

The park has well maintained hiking trails that will lead you by pastures, through forest, alongside creeks and up some hills. It is possible to hike the 8 to 10 miles of trails in one day, but it is more fun to go slow and enjoy the sights. There is an East Trail Loop and a West Trail Loop and some spur trails. Pick up a map at the Ranger Station and enjoy the trails. Some of the trails have steep rock ascents which are indicated on the park map.

If you need supplies there is a small store with basics in the nearby town of Vanderpool.

While you are in the area, you may as well stop by Bandera, Texas known as the cowboy capital of the world. It is a small Texas town and every weekend they celebrate cowboy culture with some performances and events.

Rancherias Spring Campsite on the Rancherias Loop

Rancherias Spring is a dispersed primitive campsite on the Rancherias Loop Trail. 

The main attraction of this site is the unique opportunity to walk through a cottonwood forest grove in the high mountain desert. There is not much water in this region, but there is apparently sufficient water to sustain a grove of trees. You also have the opportunity to cross over a high desert mesa. 

There are no facilities nor amenities at this campsite. Leave No Trace principles should apply. Purchase gas and supplies in Fort Stockton, Alpine or Terlingua before entering the park because there are no supplies within the park. Prior to visiting this site it is required that you check in to the Barton Warnock Visitor Center from 8am to 4pm and secure a backcountry permit. Sites must be at least 1/4 mile from any other existing campsite; at least 300 feet from water sources and prehistoric or historic cultural sites; at least 3/4 mile from trailheads or roads. 

At the trailhead and once you enter the trail, there is no cell phone signal. This is a remote area of the park which has few visitors, so take appropriate safety precautions for self-rescue if needed. 

This site is about 7 miles from the West trailhead entrance of the Rancherias Loop Trail. The spring itself was just a trickle when we visited. We were able to collect and filter water. Some in our group camped in the river wash. Others and I elected to camp up the hill on the rock surface. The surface on the hill was almost all rock, so instead of tent spikes I used large rocks to secure down my tent. 

The main attraction of this site is the unique opportunity to walk through a cottonwood forest grove in the high mountain desert. There is not much water in this region, but there is apparently sufficient water to sustain a grove of trees. You also have the opportunity to cross over a high desert mesa.

Casa Reza Farmhouse and Creek on the Rancherias Loop

Casa Reza Farmhouse is a dispersed primitive campsite on the Rancherias Loop Trail. 

The main attraction of this site is the ability to see a bit of pioneer history at the farmhouse. Also, having a perennial water source in this remote area is a nice luxury. You’ll also scamper over rock formations, through desert brush and around a myriad of desert flora. 

There are no facilities nor amenities at this campsite. Leave No Trace principles should apply. Purchase gas and supplies in Fort Stockton, Alpine or Terlingua before entering the park because there are no supplies within the park. Prior to visiting this site it is required that you check in to the Barton Warnock Visitor Center from 8am to 4pm and secure a backcountry permit. Sites must be at least 1/4 mile from any other existing campsite; at least 300 feet from water sources and prehistoric or historic cultural sites; at least 3/4 mile from trailheads or roads. 

At the trailhead and once you enter the trail, there is no cell phone signal. This is a remote area of the park which has few visitors, so take appropriate safety precautions for self-rescue if needed. This site is about 7 miles from the East trailhead entrance of the Rancherias Loop Trail. It is recommended and encouraged to not camp at the farmhouse site, but rather collect any needed water from the spring and walk further down the trail to camp. Reportedly this spring is a perennial water source. When we visited the water was freely running and we were able to collect and filter water easily. 

The main attraction of this site is the ability to see a bit of pioneer history at the farmhouse. Also, having a perennial water source in this remote area is a nice luxury. You’ll also scamper over rock formations, through desert brush and around a myriad of desert flora.

Seep Spring on the Rancherias Loop

Seep Spring is a dispersed primitive campsite on the Rancherias Loop Trail. 

The main attraction of this site is that it is relatively close to the trailhead entrance. Also, camping in the river wash on soft sand with high bluffs surrounding us was a fun experience. On route to this site you will pass through desert brush, see a variety of high mountain flora and weave your way through ocotillo forest. 

There are no facilities nor amenities at this campsite. Leave No Trace principles should apply. Purchase gas and supplies in Fort Stockton, Alpine or Terlingua before entering the park because there are no supplies within the park. Prior to visiting this site it is required that you check in to the Barton Warnock Visitor Center from 8am to 4pm and secure a backcountry permit. Backcountry sites are$10 per night with a limit of 6 people. Sites must be at least 1/4 mile from any other existing campsite; at least 300 feet from water sources and prehistoric or historic cultural sites; at least 3/4 mile from trailheads or roads. 

At the trailhead and once you enter the trail, there is no cell phone signal. This is a remote area of the park which has few visitors, so take appropriate safety precautions for self-rescue if needed. This site is about 4 miles from the East trailhead entrance for the Rancherias Loop Trail. Along the trail you will cross over mountains, valleys and river washes. During our trip there had not been rain and there was a forecast of zero rain. We elected to set up camp and sleep in the river wash on the sand. This is not advisable if there is rain or a forecast of rain because this area could flash flood. 

The main attraction of this site is that it is relatively close to the trailhead entrance. Also, camping in the river wash on soft sand with high bluffs surrounding us was a fun experience. On route to this site you will pass through desert brush, see a variety of high mountain flora and weave your way through ocotillo forest.

Poage Lake Primitive Campsite + Lake + Fishing

My friend and I made a fly fishing trip to Poage Lake. This land is part of the National Forest System and offers dispersed primitive camping. 

The Poage Lake campsite consists of a large parking area, a short trail to the lake, and the lake itself. You can disperse camp next to the parking lot. There are no services nor amenities at this campsite, so Leave No Trace principles should be applied..

There is nothing special about the campsite area other than it is conveniently located next to the beautiful Poage Lake. The lake is secluded and pristine and surrounded by old growth forest. It is an excellent place for fly fishing for rainbow and cutthroat trout. 

There are no towns nor stores near the campsite, so be sure to pick up any supplies you may need in the town of South Fork, CO. There are grocery stores, gas stations and outdoor gear and fly fishing stores in South Fork. Take any water that you may need or filter water from the lake.

If you like peace and quiet this site might be for you. If you like amenities, this site probably is not your style.

South Fork Campground + The Rio Grande River + Fly Fishing

My friend and I stayed at the South Fork Campground for a fly fishing trip.  

The campground seems to be primarily a RV campground with 50 sites, but they do allow tent camping with 6 sites. There is an office at the entrance and the staff were friendly. Next to the office is a community room and laundry room.

The RV sites have water and electric hookup. The tent sites do not - at least ours did not. There are restrooms with sinks, toilets and showers nearby the campsites.

The campground itself sits on the Rio Grande River which is a world class fly fishing river. When we were visiting the river was flowing fast and deep, so it was not a very productive time. We choose to fish in the mountain lakes and streams instead.

Overall the South Fork Campground is a nice place to stay for a few days or longer. The campsites were a little close in proximity for me, but I'm one that is accustomed to backcountry camping where there are few people around. The campground is a short drive to the town of South Fork where there are grocery stores, gas stations and outdoor gear and fly fishing stores.

Monahans Sandhills State Park + Sand + Wind

My friends and I made a short stay at Monahans Sandhills State Park on our way to Guadalupe Mountains National Park. We made a reservation online because we knew that we would be arriving late considering that we were leaving after work at 6pm and out drive would be at least 5 hours. It is possible to pick up supplies or eat in the town of Ozona or Fort Stockton.

Upon our arrival, it was fairly easy to find our assigned campsite because all of the campsites appear to be located along a loop road.

Each campsites has water and electric hookups. There are also a sun shade, picnic table and grill. The bathroom was located a short distance from our campsite and contained sinks, toilets and showers. 

The main attraction of this park is definitely the sandhills. One can explore the sandhills freely, but I think that it might be a good idea to not venture too far from the main campground unless you are familiar with desert navigation or are equipped with a GPS. One can walk up the sandhills, roll down the sandhills or just stand in awe within them. I was surprised to find a variety of flowers thriving amongst the sandhills. How does that happen?

There are not any marked or designated trails at this park. There are not many facilities or activities to do. The main attraction is the sand, the sandhills and the sunrises. Even though our stay was short, I really enjoyed staying at this park and watching the sunrise in the morning.

Ranger Review HeadSpin Light System at Guadalupe Mountains National Park

A visit to Guadalupe Mountains National Park is not complete without a hike up to Guadalupe Peak which the highest point in Texas at 8,751 feet (2,667 m). This trip was better and brighter because I had the opportunity to test a new light system by HeadSpin Outdoors. 

On your way into the park fill up with gas and pick up supplies either in the towns of Fort Stockton, Pecos or Van Horn. The route passing through Pecos is more direct, but the road is often crowded with large trucks traveling to the oil fields. The route that passes through Van Horn is longer, but more relaxing and scenic. I advise taking the route through Van Horn.

Campground Review: 

Guadalupe Mountains National Parks operates on a first come first served basis and does not take campsite reservations. If you are driving to the park from one of the major Texas cities such as Houston, Dallas, San Antonio or Austin you must leave early in the morning (4am) to arrive early at the park (1pm) in order to secure a campsite. The drive is typically 8 to 10 hours. We elected for a different plan. We left after work at 6pm on Thursday, drove 5 hours and camped at Monahans Sandhills State Park. Reservations can be made at almost all of the Texas State Parks, so we made a reservation at Monahans Sandhills SP.  We knew that we could arrive late and still have a reserved campsite. Then the next day we continued to GMNP at a leisurely pace. We arrive by 1pm and secured one of many available campsites - #12.  

Arriving by mid-day allowed us the option to choose between a number of short trails to acquaint ourselves with the park and acclimatize to the higher altitude. We had the options to explore The Devils Hall trail, The Smith Spring trail or The Pratt Cabin trail. We elected to hike the Pratt Cabin trail. 

The Pratt Cabin trail was a nice introduction to the park for the first time visitors in our group. The trail is a 4.8 miles long out and back hike, relatively flat and the leaves were just starting to change colors. There was water in the creek. And at the turnaround point of our hike there was a historic stone cabin - Pratt Lodge. We returned to camp and had a nice meal. Campfires are not allowed in GMNP so we brought a propane camp stove.The night was cool, but pleasant.

The next day we woke up early and set off for the hike up to Guadalupe Peak. The hike typically take about 4 hours up and 3 hours down. We left early at 8am so that we could avoid the potential crowds. Our group summited without any problems in about 3:30 hours. We celebrated at the top, took some photos, signed the log book and took in the views. We then descended the trail. On our way down the wind picked up and at one corner the wind was whipping around at what I would estimate 40 mph. We reached our campsite by early afternoon and relaxed. At the Pine Springs campsite the winds picked up speed and for the rest of the day and into the night. Many tents in the campground were collapsing or blowing down. Luckily we had secured our tents with extra cordage and rocks. 

Overall, this is an excellent park to car camp or backpack. On previous trips to this park I've backpacked up to Guadalupe Peak as well as Pine Top. There are many good trails with trailheads near the Pine Spring campsites. There are latrine toilets near the tent camping sites and normal toilets near the RV camping sites. There are no showers in the park so be prepared to embrace nature.The true beauty of this park is not really the summit of Guadalupe Peak, but the rustic nature of the high desert trails and views.

Product Review of HeadSpin Light System 

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, from time to time I am provided products to test. For this outing I was provided a HeadSpin Light System.

For more info: www.headspinoutdoors.com

I was immediately impressed with the HeadSpin Light System when it arrived in the mail. When I unboxed the product I discovered that it was contained within a sturdy semi-hard case. There were five easily identifiable pieces within the kit - the light head, a handle, a headband, a bicycle mount and a wall charging plug. There was also an instruction manual, sticker and USB cord. The system is very intuitive to use.

The light head is the primary unit that can be combined with the accessories to form multifunctional lights. I'm a fan of good design and I liked the rounded square form of the light head. It has four buttons on top. One button turns on the unit. One button increases or decreases the intensity of the light. One button switches the light pattern from wide to spot. And one button switches the light to a flashing strobe. 

I received the light system just prior to my trip, so I wasn't able to charge the unit at home. One of the great advantages of this product is that it is a rechargeable light with a lithium ion battery. I took the entire kit in the car and charged it with the included USB cable plugged into the car socket. The USB cable can also be plugged in to any portable power bank. By the time that we reached our destination, the unit was charged. This came in handy as we set up our tents in the middle of the night.

The next day we hung the HeadSpin light in a tree above our camp kitchen and used it like a lantern to cook. The soft wide light provided great lighting for camp chores.

I also used the light for walking on some trails. Typically I used the lowest setting, because this light is bright. I played around with the higher settings but my friends kept asking me to turn it down because it was too bright. Hahaha, too bright. See the demo video.

I only used the light system with the headband accessory. I didn't use the handle nor the bike attachment. I think that the handle would be useful around the house. I think that bike attachment plus the headband attachment would be great for a bike packing trip. One could attach the light to the bike's handlebar when riding. Then disconnect it and spin it onto the headband for other activities.  

So who might like this light system? Anyone that likes multi-functional lights. I think that I'll find use for it around the house. It would also be useful to keep within a vehicle. This would be ideal for bikepacking. Hunters might like the intensity of the light, but I'm guessing that they would like a red light added. And of course it would always be useful for camping. If you are in to overloading where you need a reliable, rechargeable bright light this product would be a no brainer. The ability to charge the light from a variety of sources makes this a game changer for me. 

Likes:

Super bright light

Super soft light

Multifunctional

Outlet and USB rechargeable 

Nice design

Quality construction

Dislikes:

I'd like to see a red and maybe a green light

I'd like the buttons to be a little more tactile

Overall I am very impressed with the HeadSpin Light System. I have the feeling that I am just starting to discover all of the functions, features and uses. If you'd like to find out more about the light system or buy one visit their website at: www.headspinoutdoors.com

Russell Park + Trees + Trail + Lake

This is a review of the established campsites at Russell Park along the San Gabriel River Trail. Reservations for campsites can be made through (877) 444-6777 or www.recreation.gov.

These are drive up campsites where you may park your car next to your assigned site. The campsites have a sun awning, picnic table, campfire pit/grill. Russell Park has 27 tent-only sites with no utilities. Check-in time for reservations is 3 pm and check-out time is 2pm. There is a designated swimming area within the campground. 

One of the advantages of this park is that it sits along the San Gabriel River Trail. The trail circles Lake Georgetown and is 26.2 miles. It passes through forests, grasslands, over some small hills and across a few tributaries. I'd say that 40% of the trail has some tree coverage, but 60% is exposed. In the summer be aware that the combination of the temperature and the exposure makes this trail uncomfortable to hike. Take precautions, drink lots of water and stay in the shade all that you can. While you are walking within site of Lake Georgetown, it is not always convenient to access the water. So carry plenty of water. 

The trail is getting more and more popular with backpackers, so it is likely that you may see others on the trail. On weekends you may encounter scout troops practicing. During the weekdays you may not see a single person. Dogs are allowed on the trail, but it is nice to keep them on lease.

Sawyer Park Primitive Campsites

This is a review of the Sawyer Park primitive (dispersed) campsites along the San Gabriel River Trail. There are no facilities or amenities are this campsite. Leave No Trace principals should be practiced.

Upon entering one of the access points, park your car for free near the trailhead. It is good to advise one of the park administers that you will be hiking or place a note inside your car that you are hiking. 

The Sawyer Park site is only accessible by hiking or by a boat. It is about 5 miles from the Tejas Campground and 5 miles from Cedar Breaks Campground. This is primitive (dispersed) camping. There are a few areas with clear land or tent pads where you may camp. But there are also zones where you may simply camp wherever you can setup a tent or hammock. There is an old latrine at this site, but it is in poor shape and no-one really uses it. Be prepared to dig a cat hole. 

Many people stay at this site while hiking the San Gabriel River Trail. The trail circles Lake Georgetown and is 26.2 miles. It passes through forests, grasslands, over some small hills and across a few tributaries.

In the summer be aware that the combination of the temperature and the exposure can make this trail uncomfortable to hike. Take precautions, drink lots of water and stay in the shade all that you can. While you may be hiking within site of Lake Georgetown, it is not always convenient to access the water. So carry plenty of water while hiking - at least 2 liters. 

The trail is getting more and more popular with backpackers, so it is likely that you may see others on the trail. On weekends you may encounter scout troops practicing backpacking. During the weekdays you may not see a single person. Dogs are allowed on the trail, but it is nice to keep them on lease.

San Gabriel River Trail + Lake

This is a review of the primitive (dispersed) campsites along the San Gabriel River Trail. 

Upon entering one of the access points, park your car for free near the trailhead. It is good to advise one of the park attendants that you will be hiking or place a note inside your car that you are hiking. 

The trail circles Lake Georgetown and is 26.2 miles. It passes through forests, grasslands, over some small hills and across a few tributaries. 

This is prmitive (dispersed) camping. There are no facilities or amenities are these camp areas. Pack in some water and bring a water filter to obtain more. Leave No Trace principals should be practiced. 

There are a few areas with tent pads or clear areas where you may camp. But there are also zones where you may simply camp wherever you can setup a tent or hammock.  I'd say that 40% of the trail has some tree coverage, but 60% is exposed. 

In the summer be aware that the combination of the temperature and the exposure can make this trail uncomfortable to hike. Take precautions, drink lots of water and stay in the shade all that you can. While you may be hiking within site of Lake Georgetown and the water, it is not always convenient to access the water. So be sure to carry plenty of water - at least 2 liters.

The trail is getting more and more popular with backpackers, so it is likely that you may see others on the trail. On weekends you may encounter scout troops practicing backpacking. During the weekdays you may not see a single person.

Dogs are allowed on the trail, but it is nice to keep them on lease.

Blanco State Park + River Access + Town + Lots of RVs

Blanco State Park is kind of an interesting park. It is located within the city of Blanco, Texas. It is a small park with the main attraction being that it is located on the Blanco River, thus there is river access. 

If you need any supplies there are two grocery store in the town of Blanco. There is also a cute little town square with a couple of nice restaurants. We ate at the Redbud Cafe and it was great.

We arrived at the park after the sun had set. We entered the park, crossed over a bridge  and found our campsite on a loop road. I would say that most of the other campsites were filled with RVs. I suppose that if you have an RV and like having the conveniences of a town nearby this might be the campground for you. 

Our group was camping in tents and hammocks so we found the campground a bit unusual. There were tent pads to set up tents and plenty of trees to hang some hammocks. In addition, there was a parking spot, water, electricity, open space, picnic table, sun awning and grill. There were restrooms nearby our campsite. I would say that the restrooms could stand an update.

The main attraction of this park is that it is located on the banks of the Blanco River. We were able to hike, swim and explore the river downstream from the main park. 

I'd say if you were looking for peace and quiet in a natural setting, this may not be the best option. If you're looking for an RV campground with access to a river and a town, then this might be perfect for you.

Big Spring State Park + Scenic Overlook

Big Spring State Park is a small park with a big scenic overlook of the town of Big Spring, Texas. There is no fee to enter the park.

This park sits on the top of a small mountain in the middle of the town of Big Spring. If you need food or supplies there are grocery stores in the nearby town of Big Spring. Once you enter the park there are various hiking and biking trails. There are picnic areas and restrooms. 

Perhaps the main attraction of this park is the scenic overlook of the town and the surrounding valley. There is a indoor/outdoor building structure that may be reserved for events. Next to the building structure is a playground. Many of the playground structures looked kind of old.

From what I could gather there are plans to renovate the park. There was also a sign that there was no overnight camping at the park. There were spaces that looked like campsites, but overnight camping was not allowed. Much of the infrastructure appeared old and in need of renovation. Hopefully the park will be renovated and open for camping in the future.

Go for the view, but go somewhere else for camping. To the east of Big Springs there are parks with camping at Lake Colorado City State Park and still further east there is Abilene State Park.

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.