Wednesday, April 1, 2020

2020 - Chasing Blue Bonnets In The Texas Hill Country

All our trips start off the same.  Get a month out and the anticipation starts.  We load our camper, get the fridge cool, clean the water system and fill the water tank.  The day we leave the cooler gets filled and iced down. The trailer is hooked up and everything is ready to go.  Susan gets home from the YMCA at 12:30pm and we pull out of the driveway. We are on our way.   This trip was different and I think for the near future all trips will be different.  Covid-19 changed all of this.  Indiana like other states were in the throws of new orders and regulations. As we traveled South you could still go into a fast food place, order and eat.   When we got into the heart of Texas we went to one restaurant and then used the drive through exclusively.  By then the Texas Governor had closed all bars and restaurants.  This was going to be the new norm for a long period of time.  There was a fog hanging over this trip.  We kept drifting to thoughts about our family.  Our daughter had to lay off 300+ hourly staff and their company closed 18 restaurants.  We see the stock market take huge plunges, and we see a retirement life that has drastically changed.  

 Long Branch SP sunset

Great Salt Plains State Park, Jet, OK
 Arkansas River

We both have family in Texas and couldn’t visit anyone.  Isolated in our campsite, camper, and truck gave us some peace and direction.  We had such wonderful scenery and were thankful to be able spend time in the outdoors. For now Texas and Indiana haven’t closed their state parks.  There are restroom restrictions.  The park offices and stores are closed, and in many cases the state park entry has been waved.  Reservations must be made online.  Many National Parks are closed or are delaying their opening.  Hopefully things will improve during the next couple of months.

Our first stop was at Long Branch State Park in Missouri.  We had a beautiful sunset and a good night sleep.  We headed South west to our second stop at Salt Plains State Park in Jet, OK.  Our site was right next to the Arkansas River. 

Our destination was Caprock Canyon State Park, in the Texas Panhandle, just South of Amarillo, TX.  There we met up with fellow Four Wheel Camper, David Franklin.  We took several hikes together and sat around the campfire on Saturday night, all the while maintaining our 6’ separation.

David Franklin and myself, fun couple of days hiking and sitting around the campfire

Caprock at sunset

We spent two days at Caprock Canyon SP and head South along the back roads of Texas to Inks Lake State Park.  Our site was on the Lake.  The Colorado River is dammed at 6 locations creating Lake Buchanan, Inks Lake, Lake LBJ, Lake Marble Falls, Lake Travis, and Lake Austin.  This area along the Colorado River is beautiful. We maintained our separation from people and and enjoyed some fishing, watching sunsets, and grilling our meals.

 Inks Lake

Homemade Pizza on the grill

Grilled sausage in pita bread

 Light dinner on a travel day
Grilled Salmon and red potatos

Breakfast Omlet and Sarah checking out her bananna
Saint Patty's Day - corn beef hash with eggs

Fresh pie from the Blue Bonnet Cafe in Llanos, TX

There are a series of 6 lakes and dams along the Colorado River, starting with Buchanan Lake to the West and ending with Lake Austin in Austin, TX before the Colorado River turns South to the Gulf of Mexico.

On two days we drove the Blue Bonnet Loop starting in Burnet, Tx, then to Llano, Tx, Fredericksburg, TX, Johnson City, TX, Marble Falls, TX, and back Burnet, TX.  Between Llano and Fredericksburg is the Willow City Loop, a beautiful loop drive in the big loop.  The Blue Bonnets were beautiful.

Blue Bonnet Loop

 Blue Bonnets & Indian Paint Brush

 Indian Paint Brush

We drove around the lake to Camp Longhorn.  Susan worked there as a camp counselor in 1972.  Lots of changes over the past 48 years.  They publish a book each year, similar to a high school yearbook.

We stopped in Johnson City and visited LBJ's boyhood home.  All of the offices were closed and there were no tours, so our stop was short.

LBJ's childhood home

Over several days we talked about extending our stay in Texas.  Both of our part time jobs have shut down under the State of Indiana, shelter in place.  All of the Indiana YMCA’s are closed for the duration.  After much dialog we decided it was safer to be at home and not 1,200 miles away. 

Millwood Lake State Park, in SW Arkansas

It was a fun trip, and we look forward to returning to Texas when things recover.  For the last five years we have been at Galveston Island State Park, camping at the beach campground.  Texas Parks has closed the beach campground for the next 3 years to rebuild the campground.  Hurricane Ike in 2008 wiped out approximately 60% of the campsites.  They are doing a complete re-building to get back to approximately 75 campsites. 

Everyone be safe.