The weather in Central Texas right now is perfect, so what better time than now to go camping.
Packed the family in the car and off we went to Buescher State Park in Smithville, Texas. We’ve been there before, on Cub Scout campouts, and due to that we knew we liked what the park had to offer. The scenery is beautiful, there’s a lake for fishing, and you can rent canoes too. Those were the two big things we wanted to do: canoe and fish.
The difference this time was no tent camping. The park has a few “mini-cabins”, and Wife wanted to give them a try. You see, Wife has little interest in camping, in the “roughing it” sense of the word. She loves being outdoors, she loves doing these sorts of things, but freezing to death on the cold, hard ground is not her idea of me. Me on the other hand, I grew up on a steady diet of Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, so backpacking has fine appeal to me. I’d prefer to travel light, minimal stuff, minimal hassle. Just get out and enjoy and only bring what you need to get by. The sort of camping we just did? That’s a pain to me. So much gear the car is overflowing, lots to pack up, drive there, unpack, set up, then eventually you have to pack it all back up, drive it back home, unpack it all, clean it, stow it… oye! You spend more time dealing with the stuff than you did enjoying using it! Nevertheless, I’ll admit there’s something nice about this style of camping because sometimes comfort is good.
The mini-cabins were actually pretty neat. We only booked a single night for two reasons. First, I wasn’t sure if the kids would handle 3 days (I have no concerns about that now). Second, we had no idea what these cabins would be like. We’ve had some scary hotel experiences, thus due to that we were reserved about these cabins. So the plan was to try it once; if it was terrible, we didn’t invest a lot, but if it was good then we’d leave wanting more and would go back someday in the future.
The cabin is a small single room. Two sets of bunk beds, table and chairs for 4, mini-fridge, some counter space, microwave, heat/AC unit, lighting, and of course it’s shelter from the elements. I was surprised at how well it kept the temperature comfortable. There’s also a nice deck that wraps around, large windows, and a fantastic view. Really, they’re great and certainly I have no problems using a cabin again in the future.
So we got there, unpacked, set things up. Had to make it clear to the kids that it was important to get all the necessary work done first because there’d be no way we’d want to do it later. So with a bit of a grumble, the kids pitched in and we got things set up in short order. I can understand tho… they were excited and wanted to get to fishing!
Off to the lake we went. The weather was so nice, we walked over to the boat ramp area. Honestly, I didn’t expect we’d catch anything at this time of day, but that’s alright. There’s a difference between “fishing” and “catching” and while it’s a lot of fun to catch, sometimes the best fishing involves never catching a thing. So it’s good for the kids to learn the difference, and really the only way to learn it is to go fishing a lot.
We sat out for a while. I worked on teaching Oldest and Daughter how to tie some important knots, like the Trilene knot. How to get things rigged up, and helping them choose where they’d want to fish. Of course, the kids would cast, wait about 5 minutes, then want to reel it in and try again. That’s OK. I do understand why they want to do this, but I just repeat to them that if they want to catch a fish they have to keep the hook and the bait in the water. If the hook it out of the water, no way you’ll catch a fish; if it’s in the water, you might catch one. They understand, but still, I remember what it was like when I was a kid, so I didn’t give them too much grief. They’ll come to understand it all… just keep taking them fishing.
Oldest understands tho. He was quite the dedicated fisherman on this outing, and I’m proud of him for that. He was very patient and took it very seriously.
While out and about, we saw lots of animals. While walking to the lake, a coyote actually ran across our path about 25 yards ahead of us. It was a little odd to see a yote at that time of day, but there we go. Of course, lots of birds, lizards, fish, turtles. Saw some ducks, an egret or two, some rabbits, deer (later at night). The only thing that really bothered us? Cottonmouths. We saw numerous cottonmouths swimming in the lake, close to shore. Just leave them alone, chances are they could care less about us, and such was the case. Nevertheless, I was upset at myself for not packing my .38 with snake loads.
After an unsuccessful round of afternoon fishing, we headed back to the cabin to recharge. Some snacks, a little air-conditioning. We went over to the playground to let the kids play on the playscape. That lasted about 30 minutes. There was no question we were all tired and just had little interest in doing much of anything. So we drove back to our campsite. We tried to take the scenic detour down Park Road 1C to Bastrop State Park, but we were all just too pooped… especially Wife and myself. So we turned around, went back to the cabin. Wife took a nap. I started cooking dinner. Daughter and Youngest goofed off in the cabin, and Oldest went down to the water just below our cabin, threw some poles in the water, and waited. No bites, but that boy has patience.
Had a wonderful dinner of fajitas, despite forgetting to bring any salsa. Doh! As the sun was setting, it cooled off and we just enjoyed the weather, the stars, and listening to all the critters singing their night songs. You could tell it had been a good, long, and tiring day… we were all cranky and short with each other. But, we all crawled into the bunk beds and settled in for a good sleep.
I woke up the next morning about 5:30 AM. I know the routine. First thing after waking (and visiting a local tree) the first man up needs to get the water boiling and the coffee brewing. So of course, that was done. I just sat on the porch, looking at the lake in the moonlight, waiting for the sun to come up. Nice, peaceful.
Eventually the sun peeked just enough over the sky to light my way down to the water’s edge, so down I went with 2 fishing poles and a box of worms. Put the worms on the hook, put the poles in the water, and just waited. Saw numerous things, the neatest of which was hearing a big splash about 20 yards to my right. I look over and about 8 to 10 ducklings had hit the water. I saw Momma Duck too, and while I can’t be 100% positive on the identification, her silhouette was that of a wood duck. Later when we left the park and were checking out, there were some serious bird watchers also checking out of the park. We spoke to them briefly and they confirmed wood ducks live on this lake, and they were excited to hear about the ducklings. But back to fishing…. I had numerous nibbles. Something kept pecking at and stealing my worms. While I started playing something on the end of one rod, the other rod seriously took. Dang it. Well, the one rod seemed to die down so I put it down, picked up the other and hauled in my catch. It was a small catfish! Had a stout body but not very long (kinda odd). Wasn’t worth keeping, but I took a picture and let him go. A little while later, more activity on the first rod. So I played the critter some more and eventually he took it. However, something felt different on the end of the line. Sure enough…. it was a fair-sized turtle. Oldest zipped down to help me. He held the turtle while I removed the hook, and gave Oldest quite a thrash and kick when the hook was removed. Given where I kept fishing with that first pole, while my first thought was pan fish pecking and bait stealing, I now am pretty sure it was the turtle the whole time.
Speaking of turtles, later that morning Oldest noticed a catfish had floated belly up. He thought it was the catfish I caught. A couple of minutes later, a turtle swam up to it and started eating. We then realized it was another catfish, no idea how long he’d been dead. A second turtle swam up and started to eat but the first turtle didn’t want to share. He grabbed the catfish and started swimming hard and fast in the other direction taking the fish with him. Quite funny to see.
All the worms were used, so we called it a morning and came up for breakfast. What was on the menu? Why, eggs-in-a-bag, of course! The kids love it, and it’s simple camping food. Couple that with a little Spam on the side, and it makes for happy children.
Unfortunately, it was time to go… or at least, to check out of the cabin. So we packed up, cleaned up, reminded the kids to leave the place cleaner than we found it. Loaded up the car and headed to the park office to return the key. Our original plan was to go canoeing. Unfortunately, the canoes were being taken out for maintenance. Bummer! We were all looking forward that. Alas… it was not meant to be. So we decided to go ahead and head home.
But as we were pulling out, Wife had the idea to head into Smithville just to see what it was like. Smithville is a small town, probably best known as the town where they made the movie, Hope Floats. We drove up and down the main streets, seeing your typical small-town things. We figured that would be the end of it but no….
We saw a giant gingerbread man!
Apparently a few years ago the city decided to set the world’s record for the largest gingerbread man. Apparently they did succeed! And the specially made cookie sheet was later painted and erected in the town. We took a look at it, took pictures with it, visited the little train museum there… and that was a hoot.
For you see, while the museum may have been about trains, what caught the children’s eye? Why, this strange contraption that sorta looked like a computer, but there was no screen… just a keyboard.
And an older kind, with the little “arms” that would fly up to strike the ribbon. Quite novel for the children, and I got to explain and show them how, where, and why the QWERTY layout came to be.
Nifty little history lesson.
After that, we piled back in the car, drove home, unpacked, and showered.
Quite a time, quite a couple of days. Yes we wish it could have lasted longer, but we’re thankful for what we got. The old expression is to always leave ‘em wanting more, so that we did.