Thursday, August 21, 2014

Easter Weekend 2014 - Camping at Martin Dies Jr State Park

A Friday with no school and a work holiday means adventure time!  We hit the road mid-morning for Martin Dies Jr State Park, one of the few parks that still had online reservations available for the holiday weekend by the time we finally made plans!  The approximately 2.5 hour drive from Houston area was fairly scenic and we were amused to drive through Cut and Shoot, TX.  We towed the canoe and used the bike hitch simultaneously for the first time...  it looked a little sketchy with how far the canoe hung off the back of its little trailer but it worked!

Martin Dies Jr is a huge park, with camping in several different areas.  We were tent camping with friends and had 2 sites together, with picnic sites on one side and more campsites on the other so we had a small measure of privacy on the edge of what turned out to be a noisy, all-night-party group of campers nearby.  Our nearest restroom was clean but had only a faucet for washing, so for bedtime prep we drove to the further away but larger restroom, which was crazy busy, with a line almost out the door for showers.  All in all we preferred being further from the busy-ness!

We camped on the south side of the park, on the woodsy side across the street from the lake/reservoir so that the kids could run free without parents constantly worrying about the water or the drop-off to the water.  A playground with swings was a short walk away and close enough the older kids could manage alone.  Friday afternoon and into the evening the kids explored and played and rode bikes and rioted in all the tents and in general just had a blast being with friends and free to run wild!  We also went on a short hike and geocache hunt, and were super bummed to not find the geocache even with extra kids hunting all through the bushes (and doing great at avoiding the poison ivy).  Dinner around the fire followed by roasting marshmallows and making s'mores concluded a lovely camping evening.

Saturday morning after breakfast we headed over to the main lodge for the free Easter Egg Hunt put on by the rangers.  It was nice that they had a separate area for the younger kiddos so Bear could also do some finding!

More treats were in store for the kiddos because the rangers also put on several carnival games where you could win little prizes.  A timed obstacle course brought out the competitive spirit as the kids raced around and over and carried eggs and rode a stick horse as fast as they could.  The rangers gave out prizes for fastest times by age group and somehow our Wolf won fastest overall!

We put in the canoe at the boat launch into the reservoir on the northwest of the Walnut Ridge Unit, making a couple loops so all the kids who wanted to had a chance to go out.  After the previous day's geocache failure, I was desperate to try again...  so Wolf and his friend and I ran down a trail hoping for a quick find and happily had success this time!  After lunch, we made one more paddle stop to explore Gum Slough, which was narrower and more interesting to me than the open water of the reservoir.

Besides the all-night party, we enjoyed Martin Dies Jr State Park and I hope we'll go back someday to paddle more and find that geocache!

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