Friday, November 25 – Sunday, November 27, 2016
Garner State Park – near Concan, TX
Ian, Court, Biff, Greg, Cat, Sam
The four of us and the two dogs car camped for a couple of nights out at Garner State Park over the Thanksgiving weekend. I had never been to Garner, but had always heard good things. The Frio River is the main attraction here, but in fall, it’s a bit chilly to swim, although there were quite a few that were in the water, nonetheless. It is November in Texas, so “chilly” means 50s and 60s.
We made the three hour drive from Austin on Friday morning and stood in line for about 20 minutes to get our campsite. I heard every state park in Texas was at capacity this weekend. The campsite situation is different than most parks I’ve been too. They are very exposed. Essentially the sites, in “Old Garner” are just a big field surrounded by the cliffs and hills on one side and the Frio on the other. We were within 20 yards of about 8 other sites with no trees in between, so privacy and solitude was not an option. It worked out ok though.
After setting up camp we had a couple of hours before the sun went down so we went on an improvised hike along the river and up to the old CCC building where they have dances in the summer. Heading back towards the campsite, we came to a trail head where three people were just finishing up. They told us to head up to the Crystal Cave and that it was only about 2/3 of a mile. Following their advice, we started up the rocky trail.
Well that 2/3 of a mile ended up being straight up and somewhat challenging, but we made it and explored the cave for a brief time. The sun was dwindling so we headed down the other direction on the trail and, after a nice overlook of Old Baldy and the campsites, we switchbacked down to the main road.
We made our foil packet dinners (thanks Court) over the campfire and got to bed relatively early in preparation for a sunrise hike, despite being serenaded by a random trumpet playing child who sounded like he could use the practice.
The next morning we woke around 6am and started to head up the trail to Old Baldy, the iconic dome at the south end of the park, hoping to get some sunrise photos. It quickly became apparent that the trail was even steeper than the Crystal Cave trail and with Biff and hiking poles, it just wasn’t going to happen for Court and I, so we headed down to drop off the poles and choose another trail, while Greg, Cat, and Sam continued up.
We spent the rest of the day playing cards, attempting to watch football via smart phone (Greg is a Michigan fan and they were playing Ohio State) and sitting around the fire.
Aside from the crowds, which were expected, the park was very pretty and has some tough trails. We should come back in the summer to take advantage of the river.
EDIT: forgot to mention that we tried out our new sleeping pads, Thermarest NeoAir XLites and they were a resounding success. We both were much more comfortable than with the Big Agnes Double Z’s, which always felt like sleeping on pool floats. We were much warmer (R value of 3.2 compared to about 1.5) and the “noise” complaints that I’ve heard a lot of people have with the XLites was a non-issue. I was able to sleep on my side without waking up to sore hips or joints. Extremely happy with the decision. They are a bit pricey, but I put them in the “you get what you pay for” category.