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One of my Jazzercise instructors loves to make fun of me because I like to camp. Just wait until she hears that last weekend, my husband took me camping in Texas for Valentine’s. So sad she hasn’t discovered this vital escape technique. The more hectic your life and the world is, the more you need to go camping. It gives you breathing room essential to revive you. And in my experience, absolutely no other vacation every does it so thoroughly.
It doesn’t matter whether you camp in a tent or a trailer or whether it has been decades between your camping moments or you go every month. Sleeping and eating in nature will unplug you in a way that luxury hotels or cruises can’t deliver. Just be open to the moment, like my friend Joyce Doyle. Read about her recent and long-ago camp experiences, and I guarantee that you will be on the Texas Parks and Wildlife site this weekend.
Tent camping with daughter
“Mommy, I have to go to the bathroom.” Through my barely awake stupor, I tried unsuccessfully to stifle a groan.
“Are you sure you can’t wait?” I whispered. After hearing the response I knew was coming, I began to move out of the comfort of the warm sleeping bag and reached for a flashlight. We found shoes and threw a jacket over our pajamas, trying not to wake the rest of the family. Slipping out of the tent, I noticed that the night was cool but not too unpleasant.
We walked up the road following the moving circular image from our flashlight. I was more awake now and felt I ought to make sure that my then four-year-old daughter Erin didn’t have any concerns that I was unhappy with her. “Sometimes we’ve just got to go in the middle of the night,” I assured her. “I’m glad you told me.”
Bathroom trek leads to a stunning moment
As we returned, walking back down the road, I realized our eyes had adjusted, and we didn’t need to follow the flashlight. I lifted my head, looked straight ahead and wondered for a few seconds what all those shiny dots were just above the horizon, from the left as far as I could see all the way to the right. I gasped as I realized they were stars.
As a camping neophyte, I had never seen so many stars in the whole sky, much less on the horizon. We were in the vast Chihuahuan Desert of West Texas camping at the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, and the next town was over a hundred miles away. My brother and his family were with us. They had driven from El Paso, while we had driven from the Dallas area.
My daughter and I continued to walk, but a little more slowly. I stopped to look up and pointed the stars out to her. “Erin,” I said, “You probably won’t remember this, but I really want to thank you for getting me up. I would never have seen this if it hadn’t been for you.”
Trailer camping with spouse decades later
Spouses can also be forces for nudging past comfort zones and inertia into “It’s worth it” experiences. My husband, recently retired, has always wanted to do some camping in Texas parks and national parks out west. Despite my marvelous bathroom trek discovery thirty years earlier, I insisted on not having to make the trip in the middle of the night. This time it would be me needing to go.
We looked into various RVs and travel trailers. Now-grown daughter, Erin urged us to be sure to have enough room for grandkids, so we got a travel trailer with bunk beds and a dinette area that seats four. The biggest problem is backing it up into a site. Luckily, my main job is to yell, “Too far to the passenger side. Pull it up and try again.” I’m sure in a few years we’ll have that down pat.
The first outing in Choke Canyon
For our maiden camping trip, we were meeting my brother and his wife again, this time in February at Choke Canyon State Park in south Texas. Of course, now all kids are grown and going on with their lives. My brother and sister-in-law bought an RV several years ago which they’ve named “Rocinante.” (My husband is not into naming inanimate objects, even with names as clever as Don Quixote’s horse, so for now, ours is just “the camper.”)
My brother Jim and his wife Wrene are seasoned campers who cook over a wood fire and then enjoy watching it burn on into the evening. Conversation there can be light and occasional or heavy and thought-provoking, but always warm.
Star-gazing in an endless Texas night sky
No stars on the horizon moments this time, but many instants of “Yes, this is one of those feelings I want to capture and keep with me.” Looking at Orion and seeing not just the three stars of his belt, but various other small stars in the picture. Learning that Sirius, in one of the dogs (Canis Major) following Orion is the brightest star in the sky.
Reconnecting with nature and people we cherish
Seeing not one but many of the beautifully colored Green Jays whose range only reaches as far north as south Texas. Walking along the trails surrounded by fresh air and silence except for an occasional cardinal and muffled steps of my husband in front of me and my brother behind, two of my most favorite people in the world.
We’re meeting Jim and Wrene again next month in Big Bend. I’m ready with Kaufman’s Field Guide to Birds, binoculars, and hiking boots. This time I’ll contribute some of the cooking. Wish me luck – Joyce Doyle.
Camping in Texas or elsewhere – the thing is to get out there
If Joyce’s experiences don’t move you to start planning a camping trip, you need an intervention. Get out and get away from the things you own, that will in time ultimately own you. Reconnect with people and places worth spending time with. Camping will do all that. Start by visiting the Texas parks website. And if you are still not convinced, check on our camp trip to Lake Bastrop South Shore.
About the guest author
Joyce Doyle is a retired educator who plays guitar and upright bass for fun. She lives with her husband and trailer-mate in the Texas Hill Country. I’m hoping that Joyce will share more camping moments. If you can’t get away that moment yourself, at least it helps to read about it.
About Funky Texas Traveler
I’m Linda Ware, the Funky Texas Traveler. I’m transplanted Texan with love for the history, people, and peculiarities of my adopted state. Funky Texas Traveler introduces natives and visitors to all things Texas. Read more about me and why I blog here.