Snakes, ticks, rain. All part of a well-rounded camping experience if you ask me. They are just part of the package that spending time in the outdoors brings. And they were all included in my awesome experience at Fairfield Lakes State Park!
I have not ventured much to east Texas, so this was new scenery to me. Fairfield Lakes State Park was one of the prettiest lakes I have seen in Texas, which says a lot considering working on various Texas lakes is my job. The entire lake was surrounded by trees. No commercial buildup. No residential buildup. Just green all around. Green, green, green. So much green! It was so peaceful and relaxing; I cannot even describe it. Such a welcome change from the lakes I am used to. If you are looking to escape the noise of city-life or other built-up lakes, put this place high on your list.
I visited the park during the late spring and found it cool enough to hike in the morning and evening, and ALMOST warm enough to swim in the heat of the day, at least for those who can brave a little bit of chilly waters. Kids should be fine to swim at the swim area. They do not seem to have any awareness of cold when it comes to water, and I just don’t get it. I wish I could harness those special powers. If you are like me, and chilly waters are not your thing, don’t worry as the park has plenty of shade to escape the heat.
One of the reasons I visit state parks is to hike. I love exploring the trails. Just walking along at your own pace, inhaling the fresh air, looking up at the birds flying over-head, then down at the holy guacamole that’s a big snake!!!! Nearly stepped right on it. Where did he come from!?!?!?! But also, HOW FREAKIN COOL!!!! A copperhead. Two steps away! He paused. We paused. He stared. We stared. Now what. I guess we all wait it out. He eventually slid across the trail and on to the other side, not a care to bother a soul. After that little experience my hike turned into a step-step-look down-look up at birds, step-step-look down-look up at birds….every stick was a potential snake. So just a reminder that we do share our world with other creatures! Important not to fear them, but to respect them! Keep your eyes peeled for our slithering friends!
The hiking trails were very pretty! Combing the Nature Trail and the Scenic Loop trails made for a good morning hike. Both are relatively easy trails, with very little elevation change and provide very pretty views of the lake. If you have a slow dog, are a birder, and are learning to identify wildflowers, it’ll take you well over two hours to do a 2.4 mile hike. But it was worth it! The Birding Trail was great in the evening. Part of the trail takes you out to this area that looks out at a cove with lots of vegetation and the opportunity to see birds. Look up for nesting birds too! A gentle rain made the final hike along the Dockery Trail and Scenic Loop even more relaxing. The trees provided a lot of protection so that only a few drops got through. Watching the rain on the lake at one of the lookout points was so peaceful, I could have stayed for hours. If you have never hiked in the rain, do it. You won’t regret it! It brings a whole new vibe to hiking and enjoying the sounds of nature. You won’t melt, I promise.
A couple of notes about this park. There were mosquitos. There were ticks (I spent the evening picking them off of my dog and later myself). There was very little cell service. But news flash, you are outdoors. Welcome to nature! Just prepare for those things and you’ll be just fine. I would love to visit this park in the warmer months to explore by paddleboard and swim. One last recommendation! On your way out, visit Cooper Farms country store and get some fresh delicious peach ice cream. Pardon me while I drool a little. And get their peach salsa and their black-eyed pea dip! So delicious and I hate black-eyed peas! Wander around their shop and check out all the goodies. Take time to enjoy the outdoors people! Find your adventure!
Palo Duro Canyon State Park is one most Texan’s know about. But have you ever heard of Caprock Canyon State Park? Its almost like Palo Duro’s little brother. And it is such a cool park to visit!!!!
It has been years since I visited but I wanted to write about it because it is one of my favorite state parks and I don’t think it gets enough attention.
I went in March and the weather was perfect. Very Goldilocks style. Not too hot during the day and not too cold at night. We got in very late on a Friday night, which made for the perfect morning. I had never been out that way so I had zero expectations about what views I would awaken to. I was blown away. I unzipped the tent and just had the most amazing view like nothing I had ever seen in Texas. Our campsite was at the bottom of the canyon and we were surrounded by towering red rock all around. The sun had was hitting it just right and made the canyon walls just glow. I was so pumped to explore the rest of the park!
I believe we stayed at the South Prong tent camping area. Forgive me because it has been over 5 years so I may not remember the exact details. Guess that means I should go back….! Anyway, this camping area was at the bottom of the canyon and was really nice and secluded. No running water and vaulted toilet, so definitely for true campers. The campsites were tucked away into their own area surrounded by vegetation, which really gave each site a secluded feel. Although people camped all around us, you couldn’t see or here anyone and could only tell they were there because of the glow from their campfire. I really enjoyed this campsite because of the canyon walls surrounding it!
Our time was short and sweet there, but we did hike the Haynes Ridge Overlook Trail to the overlook itself. For that trail you start on the North Prong Spur Trail and you’ll look for the signs for the Haynes Ridge trail on your right. The map says, ‘extremely steep and rugged’. Fact. Yes. Correct. It certainly was. It was so fun though!!! It was just short of actually needing gear to climb and was the steepest trail I had ever come across. So much fun though, trying to scramble all over the trail. I remember having to use hands and feet to get to the top. But we made it!!! Felt so accomplished and the views just added the extra bonus! I HIGHLY recommend that if you have the ability to do a challenging and strenuous trail, let’s all remember you do have to come back down too, that you choose this one. I distinctly remember running into this poor fellow with a giant pack on his back as we were coming back down and at the one of the flatter parts of the trail. Poor thing was dripping in sweat and looked like he might pass out. He asked which so much hope in his eyes ‘does it get steeper? Is it much further?’. I broke his tired little heart. Yep, much steeper and you are basically at the bottom dude. I still wonder if he made it…
I really don’t remember how far of a hike we did. We scrambled to the top for the view and then came back down, walked a bit up the North Prong trail before turning around and heading back. There are miles and miles of trails out there and some can really take you far back into the park, but we didn’t have the gear or time for it unfortunately. We spent most of the afternoon out there though. Bring lots of water! It does get quite warm out there and there is little to no shade to take a break in. So, pack your water, sunscreen, hat, and some snacks!
Now I know seeing wildlife is never guaranteed, disclaimer there, but I saw probably the most wildlife I have ever seen in one weekend at that park. There were turkeys just gobblin it up all over, and if you know me you know I love turkeys. There were bison just hanging out in the middle of the road. Prairie dogs, or sod poodles as some would call them, scurrying around. I could literally watch them for hours if anyone let me. So very cute.
Between the views, the fun hike and all the wildlife, I still consider it one of the best trips I have experienced to a state park. It is about 4 ½ hours from DFW and it is so worth the drive out there. I recommend, if you can, making it a three-day weekend to explore more of the park than I had a chance for. If you want an adventure in a not so typical Texas setting, check this place out!
Anyone ever bailed on a bike while riding what should be a simple part of a trail? I have. Anyone ever start riding a trail and then realize far too late that ‘Oh wait, I still have to turn around and go all the way back!’?! Been there, done that. Anyone ever been so pumped while riding a trail that you rode it way too hard and you almost threw up afterward but still think it was totally worth it? That’s me.
I am absolutely not any slightest form of a professional mountain biker. Nor an expert. Nor really good at it. I’m intermediate at best and can hold my own as long as the trail isn’t too steep, too rocky, too curvey….hmmm
Either way, I have ridden on the Northshore DORBA trail at Grapevine lake several times. I love this trail! For anyone who doesn’t know, DORBA stands for Dallas off-road bicycle association and they do an excellent job maintaining this trail. There are two sections to this trail, an East section and a West section. The East section consists of loops 1-4 and is approximately 12 miles and the West section consists of loops 5-7 and is approximately 10 miles. I have only completed the East section since I have been told that is the more intermediate route while the West loop is more technical and for more advanced riders. There are several trailheads allowing riders to pick and choose where they want to start. I felt like the trails were well marked and the trail easy to identify while riding, so I have never gotten lost. The DORBA website has a lot of great information about trailheads, bathrooms, directions, rules, and most importantly, when the trail is open.
For me, biking this trail is always a challenge. I consider myself in decent shape and I always end up huffing and puffing my way the last mile or two of the trail. Completely red-faced, sweat dripping (and I don’t sweat), dying for some cold water. Thus far, I have made it every time. I would not recommend this trail for those new to mountain biking as some sections are rather steep and rocky. There are places along the trail that I decide to walk my bike down simply because I don’t feel like careening off the path at lightening speed into a nearby tree or bush. There are places where the smallest puddle of water just simply got the best of me and I decided to abruptly lay my bike down with me still on it. And there are plenty of steep places where my legs tell me ‘absolutely not’ and I’m forced to abide and walk my bike up. Overall though, I find this trail system so much fun to ride! It has enough coasting parts to keep me happy, fun ups and down to keep it entertaining, and beautiful views of the lake. Afterward, even if I do feel like throwing up, I always feel so accomplished.
The trail itself is gorgeous and does not have to be experienced via mountain biking. If you are into trail running or just want to walk your dog, I highly encourage venturing out for the day. If you are looking for views, I recommend staying on the southern sections of the loops. Only bikers must go one way. By staying on the southern section, you will catch really beautiful views of Grapevine lake, one of my favorite lakes in the area. If you are just looking for some quiet time or a place to eat lunch with a view, check out the Rockledge Park portion of the trail. It’s a neat area with some big flat spots perfect for just hanging out on, doing whatever makes you happy. If you decide to hit up the trail for an adventure, please be safe and have fun! Definitely make sure to wear your helmet when biking and please please please bring plenty of water! This is Texas y’all.
I looked up and our eyes met. We thought the same thing. Oh F*$%! This pack was way heavier than what we trained with.
I was looking at my best friend and we were day one, hour one into our first backpacking trip. It was August 2017 and we had chosen a 6 day backpacking trip with Glacier Guides and Montana Raft through Glacier National Park to pop our backpacking cherries. At this moment in time we both thought ‘What had we done?!’.
It turned out this trip changed my life. The beauty and remoteness of it made an enormous impact on how I view the world. Years later I still always find myself quietly lost in thought, transporting myself back there, sitting by a crystal-clear lake.
But let’s rewind. Here we were with our group, loading up our packs, having a secret minor panic attack at the weight the food we were given had added to our packs. Too late, time to pile in the van and get this adventure started.
Our starting point for this journey was the Canadian border. We pulled up and our guide, Andrea, told us to wave at Canada as that is all we would see of it. We got out of the van and started loading up. This was it. We strapped our very heavy backpacks on and started down the trail.
Our path was the Belly River trail and our first destination was the Gable Creek campground. I’d say about 20 steps down the trail the ‘Oh my gosh, what have I gotten myself into?!!’ thoughts started to flood my mind. I could still see the trailhead and my pack was already feeling like it weighed 100 pounds, my back was hurting, and my feet were tired! I just continued along, trudging through the trees, convincing myself I could do this for 6 days straight. Then, we emerged from the trees and got our first open views. And it took my breath away.
Anyone who experiences breathtaking views knows that pictures don’t do it justice. I can’t even begin to describe to you what I was looking at and what I was experiencing in that moment. I had traveled places and seen some pretty amazing views, but this was different! I was being completely transported out of any world I knew and found myself emersed in this magical place. Needless to say, after that moment, I completely forgot about how heavy and uncomfortable my pack was. All I could do was just continue to take in my newfound heaven on Earth.
I am not going to write about every detail that occurred on my trip. You will just have to go experience it yourself! Our path started at the Canadian border and our itinerary was as follows:
Day 1: Belly River trail, camp at Gable Creek
Day 2: Glen’s Lake, Margaret’s Lake, camp at Mokawanis
Day 3: Bear Mountain Trail, Camp at Cosley
Day 4: Camp at Elizabeth Lake (head)
Day 5: Helen’s Lake, Camp at Elizabeth Lake (foot)
Day 6: Hike out Ptarmigan Tunnel
Every lake we encountered was crystal clear and had the most beautiful smooth and colorful pebbles. We often had lunch by the lakes, just taking in the stillness and peacefulness they offered. When you go, don’t be so rushed to get to your campsite. Take time to have an extra long lunch and when you are done, just sit and enjoy. Take that time for yourself, you deserve it. Soak it up so that you can re-live it when you get back to the crazy rush of life we are so used to. Also, if you dare, take a swim! Fair warning that it is EXTREMELY cold and will take the breath right out of your lungs!
I was lucky enough to have my trip during the solar eclipse and that was a moment I will remember forever. At this point we did slightly rush our hike to get to an open field. We made it just in time to set down our packs, put on our special glasses, and lay back to watch nature’s show. It was so cool and so eerie! I had never experienced a solar eclipse of that magnitude so it caught me by surprise how very cold it got and most of all, that you can see the stars!! That just blew me away! If possible, I highly recommend trying to schedule your trip around some celestial event, because what better place to experience it than Glacier National Park!
If time allowed, we often dropped our packs and took small day hikes to explore some offshoot trails. One of these was the Bear Mountain trail near Cosley lake. This trail was a toughie. It was a constant uphill and was switchback after switchback after switchback. It was very rocky and while the trail itself was not my favorite, the view from the top was worth every step. If you are there and have the time, do it and spend some time at the top.
Another day hike we did was to Helen’s lake. This is now my most favorite place on Earth. It holds a special place in my heart and it is what I find myself daydreaming the most about. Several of us took a morning hike out there. That particular morning was the coldest we had encountered and drizzly. From the start the trail was just pure beauty. It was the most remote I had felt on the trip, which was saying a lot considering where we were. I don’t know if the drizzle had anything to do with it but I felt like there was so much color, there were so many scents, and the sounds were so clear. My senses were on fire! The vegetation was so lush too and the water seemed almost the clearest we had encountered. We hiked along a gorgeous flowing river, picking and eating wild raspberries before coming to the lake itself. It was so peaceful. So serene. I felt like we were the only people on Earth in our time there. Again, I feel like my words and pictures won’t do justice to that moment. All I can say is, go see it for yourself. Don’t just take my word for it.
Our final hike of the trip was a doozy. We hiked out of Ptarmigan tunnel and back to civilization. It tested my limits physically as it was a long hike up and long hike back down. But those views though! We got to see the entirety of Elizabeth lake from up above. Seeing everything we had been experiencing down below from an ariel view up above it all really helped wrap up the journey. Coming out of the wilderness and emerging from the trailhead was bittersweet. On one hand we did not want to leave and wish we could have stayed in seclusion forever. On the other hand we were tired, needed to shower, craved an ice cold beverage, and let’s be honest, we missed our dogs. When we took our packs off for the last time, I thought back to my first few steps on the trail and I felt so accomplished and proud of myself. This was my first backpacking trip but it certainly would not be my last.
If you have never backpacked before, I highly recommend using Glacier Guide & Montana Raft to take you into the backcountry. They far exceeded my expectations in every way possible. This was backpacking made easy, which allowed for everyone to truly be able to sit back and relax and just enjoy our surroundings. We weren’t worried about cooking, cleaning, or gathering water. Our guide pampered us and took care of it all. Our guide, Andrea, was 12 out of 10 stars! She was so fun and knowledgeable and really make the whole experience easy and enjoyable. She was the first one up to cook and get the coffee going and was the last up making sure the food dishes were cleaned and food put away. Most importantly, I felt safe with her in a situation that was completely foreign to me. The guide service took care of our permits, food, snacks, cooking equipment, water filtration, and first aid kits. We brought the rest. The food was just all around mouthwatering! It was like having a five star backpacking chef with us! Every meal was just so tasty and filling and I could not believe I was eating like royalty in the middle of nowhere. I distinctly remember one campsite we shared with a group of hikers that were eating some of your basic backpacking food out of a package and Andrea was cooking us a rice curry concoction. They were all staring at us, mouths watering, that we almost felt bad for eating this well in front of them. They looked so very hungry! Yes, we ended up sharing and giving them what we did not eat.
Every moment spent in Glacier NP was special and unique. Every trail and every campsite made a lasting memory. I learned so much about who I was and who I wanted to be during that week as I left my comfort zone. It was a life changing experience and I cannot wait to go back.
So if you are debating going, don’t debate. Just go. Buy the plane ticket. Pack the bag. Just go!
Lake Brownwood State Park is a place that has recently become my ‘home’ state park. After my family and I bought lake property this past summer, I have visited the park numerous times. Each trip has offered an enjoyable day with new things to explore.
I’ll admit, I did not have high expectations of the area, but that was because I knew so little about it. I expected flat, monotonous, and well, to be honest, ‘brown’ views. I got none of that. There was so much greenery, beautiful views, and a lot of wildlife! I was very impressed with the trail system at the park. Each trail was short enough for a good stretch of the legs or could be combined for a good day of hiking!
I combined the Texas Oak trail (approximately 1.4 miles), Opossum Loop trail (0.3 miles), and the Council Bluff trail (0.3 miles) for my first afternoon at the park. The trails intersect at various points, allowing you to make the hike as long or as short as you prefer. This is very beneficial for little ones or those who may be lacing up their hiking boots for the first time in years! The trail is gorgeous and has areas of very interesting rock formations along the way. I wish I knew more about geology, but perhaps I’ll learn more through my adventures. There are some areas along the Texas Oak trail where big boulders overlook the lake. Makes a great spot to stop and take in the views and fresh air or perhaps grab a snack. I am an avid birder and I found this area of the park to be filled with birds. I was constantly stopping to quickly pull up my binoculars, trying to identify every bird I saw. The Texas Oak and Council Bluff trails do have some steeper areas and parts with big steps that tiny legs may need an extra boost on (looking at you mom!). There are areas of lots of shade but also sections where the Texas sun may beat down on you, so bring plenty of water and proper clothing. Overall, I really enjoyed my day exploring in that section of the park and will absolutely be back on those trails.
On the other side of the park you will find the Lakeside Trail (0.7 miles). This trail was a fun one and very much different than the other trails. The trail follows the ridge above the lake, which makes for plenty of great places to stop and take in the scenery. I highly recommend taking this trail with a picnic in tow as throughout the trail there are CCC built limestone benches and tables that have amazing views of the lake. Life is too short to rush through, so take some time to sit and have a good conversation with loved ones or take some quiet time for yourself and breath the fresh air! Keep your eyes peeled for some extra exploring on this trail. There are several hidden spots with stone steps that lead down to the lake, making yet another great place to rest or throw out a line. Like the others, this trail does have some steeper parts with big steps (looking at you again mom!), so keep in mind others may need help in those areas. The region of the trail by the day use area is more shaded but as you get closer to the cabins, it starts to open up. This is an out and back trail so you’ll need to either turn around and take the trail back to your car or walk along the road if you want something different.
Finally, the Nopales Ridge Trail (2.9 miles) is the biking trail at the park, but I have also hiked it. I would consider myself a moderate mountain biker. I am for certain no expert and will fall over the tiniest of rocks and creeks. I hiked the trail for the first time just to get an idea of it. The trail twists and turns through grassy areas and eventually goes up to higher elevation. I found that biking this trail was more challenging than I expected. While walking it, I felt like it was relatively flat, but upon mounting my bike, I quickly found that was not true. It has a very gradual elevation gain to it and two places where the elevation changes quite dramatically with a rocky, steep slope. Use caution in these areas especially and it goes without saying to always wear a helmet. I enjoyed riding this trail. It is short but sweet and gave me the solid 30 minutes of exercise I was looking for. Keep your eyes peeled for feral hogs! I saw a group of them running through the grass down below me! This trail does not provide much shade from the relentless Texas sun, so I recommend hiking or biking it on cooler days.
I have been to Brownwood State Park several times over the past 6 months and I will continue to go back to spend time on the trails. I also plan on doing some fishing there and even some swimming when the weather warms up (I’m talking scorching August temps or I’ll get super cold). So far, this place seems like a great state park and has something for everyone. They have campsites for the true fans, screened shelters for a little more comfort, and even cabins for those who like to live on the less rustic side of the world (third time I am looking at you mom 😊!!). Also, I must mention, it is puppy dog approved.
I’m CeJay and I am here to share with you my travels and the different adventures I encounter along the way.
I have by no means seen all, or even most, of our world. I have not been to every state nor every continent. I do love to travel though. I love visiting new places, exploring unfamiliar territory, and finding a new adventure wherever I go. One of my many goals in life is to visit all 50 states, visit each continent, and explore as many countries as I possibly can. I guess we will see if I can achieve those goals!
I am starting this blog because I want to share my experiences with anyone who may be interested. I am not a professional writer, photographer, or travel agent. I am doing this for fun! Perhaps I’ll inspire someone to take a trip or get outside and try a new hobby. Perhaps my experiences will help someone develop their own travel plans and itinerary. Or perhaps this will just provide pure entertainment.
Now, a little about me. I have captured a desire to travel since my first real big trip to Australia when I was in high school. I went with an educational travel group for 3 weeks. This was my first real experience being on my own and in a foreign country. I fell in love with the adventure of it. Seeing something new every day, learning something new every day, trying something new every day. I ate foods I wouldn’t normally choose, attempted things that scared me, and made friends with people I wouldn’t normally meet. It left me wanting more.
So, from that point on, I focused a lot of my energy on travel. Whether it be down the road to a new state park to camp at for the weekend or flying to experience the culture of a county I had never been to, I wanted to explore everything this world had to offer. Some of my trips were rich in cultural immersion and others were definitely on the more touristy side but each one provided a new adventure that was exciting and fun!