Texas is a huge state. The drive across Interstate 10 from El Paso to Beaumont covers around 950 miles west to east. A trip from Brownsville north to Amarillo covers 800 miles.
In fact, Texas is the second largest state with 261,797 square miles. California is a distant third at 155,959 square miles. But it would take two California's and one Texas to equal Alaska's whopping 571,951 square miles of land.
The reason I bring this up is that in a state as large as Texas you are bound to see animals adapt to the different environments. The most striking example of this is the western Texas rabbit. A lot of predators roaming this area would love to feast on a fluffy bunny. So they have come up with a unique defense.
While I was walking around Garner State Park on Monday, I saw a rabbit hopping in the distance.
He looked a little different from other rabbits I had seen so I snuck closer for a better look.
Amazing! The rabbits here have actually evolved into having armor plating to protect them. Makes sense. He finally noticed me and hopped away.
Anyway, I have been quite busy over the past week. I've gotten the trailer pretty much loaded the way I want it and I found time to visit four state parks, all less than two hours west of the San Antonio-Austin area.
Blanco State Park has 42 sites including a half dozen cabins.
Folks were getting festive with Christmas just a few days away. (#27)
The Blanco River runs next to the campground.
The cabins looked cool, with several having great views of the water. (#42)
25 miles east is Guadalupe River State Park.
The spring-fed river is popular with swimmers, kayakers, and tubers.
There is a neat day-use area just above the river.
There are 94 campsites here including six walk-ins. This is #69.
I liked walk-in #87 near the river.
On Monday I visited two more campgrounds. Little Lost Maples and Giant Garner.
The star of this Natural Area is a stand of rare Uvalde bigtooth maples which date back to last ice age. In late October/early November this place is packed with leaf-peepers. I was almost two months late for the show but did manage to find a few stragglers.
But most of them were on the bottom of the crystal clear Sabinal River.
There are only 30 sites here, most look like #13.
So if you want to camp there during the fall colors, make your reservation early.
Those are oak trees in the picture above still holding some leaves. The hillside behind the campground was colorful.
20 miles south is Garner State Park. This is the most popular campground in the Texas State Park system. The ranger told me that some families have been coming here for five generations. It is set on a huge chunk of land alongside the Frio River. There are 337 campsites and several dozen cabins and screen shelters.
The campsites are divided into two sections. The northern area contains the Rio Frio, Live Oak, and Persimmon Hill loops, a little over 200 sites. This area was closed when I was there on Monday so I had to park and hike in a mile or so to reach them.
Site #313 is typical of this area.
For a really large private tent site, #234 is the best.
This is the quieter section of the park. Most of activities center around the Pecan Grove and Oakmont loops a mile away. The cabins and screen shelters are here, along with the store, café, and boat rentals.
There are kayaks and paddle boats available. Notice the people? They stocked the river with trout while I was there.
It drew quite a crowd. I don't understand why they publish the date and time of the stocking. (I read it in the Sunday paper) The hatchery fish tend to congregate in the area they are planted for a few days before spreading out in the river. This makes them easy pickings. Maybe just say there will be two plantings in December or one during the week of 12/22. Give the little guys time to say goodbye to their friends and have a chance to grow bigger. Just a thought.
Here is a tip. The best campsite in this whole state park is #66.
It is right across the road from the fishing and boating area, near the volleyball court and playing field, yet still has plenty of privacy. Grab it if you can.
Tuesday was Christmas Eve. And what better way to enjoy it than with a taco dinner.
I took out the fixings.
Made sure I had some good hot sauce.
(Thanks Brother Mike)
And heated up the tortillas.
Splatter screens are a camper's best friend. You can crisp tortillas and make toast and heat up just about anything. Give it a try.
The end result looked delicious.
I was just sitting down to eat when I heard something crash through the trees and thump to the ground. Startled, I looked over a saw a deer struggling to his feet. He turned and looked at me.
It was Rudolph.
"Um, don't you have some place you need to be?" I asked.
"Yeah, I am running a little late" he replied. "Which way is north?"
I pointed him in the right direction. He pawed the ground, bunched his shoulder muscles, and took off into the darkening sky. He circled overhead and gave me a nod. Then he disappeared.
I ate my tacos and then went to bed.
I am writing this on Christmas morning while watching Rudolph's relatives prance about outside my trailer. I want to wish all my friends and family a very Merry Christmas. I miss y'all (I'm turning Texan) but this is where I am meant to be.
Regards, Park Ranger