Some of the main concerns when visiting a large city are traffic and parking. Houston definitely has it’s share of both. We decided to stay in an RV park on the east side of the city in a small town called Anahuac. It was a decent place, but most of the sites were rented on a monthly basis and we typically only stay in a place three or four days on average. It was a little farther from the city than we had anticipated, but things usually tend to work out as they should and we were comfortable there for a few days.
McKinney Falls State Park was busy, but that is probably because it feels secluded, yet is actually close to Austin. Located on the Onion Creek, McKinney Falls State Park has an upper and lower falls both of which have great swimming holes. It was too cold for us to swim when we visited though due to a ‘Norther’ (chilly air blowing down from Canada). We did get to do some fishing, but the only thing caught was a turtle that wasn’t even hauled out of the water. The fish we could see were large though and I would recommend bringing your fishing pole if you visit the state park. The campground was in the forest and quiet with a small amount of city noise in the distance, but when we went to visit the capital it only took twenty minutes to get downtown!
Padre Island National Seashore is 60 miles of beach on one side and bay on the other. It is located in the Gulf Coast between Corpus Christi and Brownsville in south Texas. There are many amazing things about this beautiful place, and I am grateful that we got to experience some of them. We originally intended to stay at the Malaquite campground inside the park, however, things do not always go as planned, and we have learned to be flexible with our plans as they often change on the spur of the moment. The campground was complete,y full when we arrived, so we studied the map for a few minutes, drove to the other campground on the bay side, and hen decided we would take the trailer right down to the beach. There are no amenities when camping on the beach, but the view is amazing and the price is reasonable (free!). It is possible to drive the entire length of the beach, but 4 wheel drive is recommended after the 5 mile marker, so we only took the trailer down about a mile or two. We found a great spot, backed in, and set up camp. I can’t think of anything better than camping on the beach in a national park in January. It was awesome.
No trip to San Antonio would be complete without seeing the River Walk and the Alamo. Although we had already visited both when we lived here before, we still wanted to take the kids to see them. Since it was December, the River Walk was decked out for Christmas and the kids loved seeing the festival of lights. We decided to spend more than we normally do since our vacation came in way under budget, so we paid to take a ferry on the river. Though the pictures didn’t come out too good because of the poor lighting we really enjoyed the half an hour tour on the river. It was neat to get little tid-bits of information about all the buildings surrounding the River Walk. Across the street at the Alamo the kids loved learning about the history of the state. We went into the church and had a look around, but they don’t allow pictures to be taken of the interior. In the gift shop at the Alamo there is a huge diorama of the battle that took place showing all the soldiers that is quite impressive. It is tricky to find cheap parking to get to the Alamo and River Walk, but it is worth it and I recommend if you visit San Antonio taking the time to check it out.
Well New Mexico redeemed itself with the awesome cave system at Carlsbad. There is an elevator that goes seven hundred and fifty feet down into the caves. We started with the good old fashion hike into the cave instead of taking the elevator. As we descended into the huge opening the kids’ excitement grew. Out came the flashlights even though the National Park has installed lights throughout the caves. Unfortunately the caves are something you have to experience for yourself because pictures don’t turn out well due to the lack of bright lights. We did manage to get some shots that reveal some of the wonders that are spread throughout the entire hike underground. We made it to the elevator around lunch time, so we went back up to have a picnic because you are not allowed to eat in the cave system.
After lunch we went back down to explore the big room. Being in the caves was surreal with new bizarre formations around every bend. We hiked every foot of trail that day and enjoyed every minute of it. The kids were able to finish their junior ranger books and get their badges. They then proceeded to get their cave scientist books to work on and the education about caves continued.