January has already come and gone, and as I sit on my couch thinking ahead to the rest of the year, I’m already feeling restless. I haven’t been camping since late summer. I’ve been outdoors, yes. But I haven’t been out sleeping under the stars in months.
Last weekend, I got my wilderness first aid training. That was an eye opening experience. On one hand, I learned so much information. On the other hand, I’m a little freaked out about potentially leading a backpacking trip (It’s less about what might happen to me and more about what might happen to those under my care).
My family and I moved houses, which is another reason our usual fall/winter camping trip did not take place in 2019. The move did give me an opportunity to go through my camping gear, get rid of things that I no longer needed. I discovered that we have too many sleeping bags (who needs ten? Unless you are a family of 10). I got rid of our older, cheaper ones, which saved us some space.
Speaking of space, our new home has a large indoor storage closet, so now I have a great space dedicated to outdoor gear, including a bin of carabiners, another one of headlamps, sleeping pads and a collection of backpacks hung from a shelf. MUST KEEP CLOSET ORGANIZED.
So now that is all out of the way, where should I go? As of right now, I’m thinking Texas Hill Country and Utah.
Texas Hill Country
The Texas Hill Country because it’s easy and it’s my happy place. There are so many great state parks to choose from, though I tend to enjoy a nice long day hike at Lost Maples State Park. My ideal weekend itinerary, is arriving on Friday night to my hotel in San Antonio, Texas. My family and I will wake up early on Saturday and drive to Lost Maples hiking and enjoying a cold sack lunch. On the way back, there is the customary stop at Love Creek Orchard and Apple Shop, where we enjoy buying yummy apple featured baked goods.
Then, it’s back to San Antonio, where we enjoy recouping and eating a great meal at our favorite Peruvian restaurant, Rocotos Grill. If we still have energy, we make stop by the River Walk. Then it’s back to our hotel where we enjoy a good night’s sleep.
After a nice big breakfast on Sunday, we usually make a stop for ice cream, at city’s new Pearl District. Then the family piles back into the car for the long drive home.
As for Utah, this summer will be our third trip back to the beehive state and our first trip to Zion National Park. I already have nights at the lodge booked (made reservations last year), but still deciding on our daily plans while in the park.
Outside of Texas, Utah is becoming my happy place it seems. While it’s smaller than Texas, it also has diverse landscapes. My husband enjoys fly-fishing and that’s on his to-do list for an upcoming visit, even if it probably won’t be this one. The kids and I are into hiking and exploring.
And of course, there is rafting.
I’ll write a blog post about Zion after my visit. One of the challenges when planning a trip is including things on everyone’s wish list and being able to gauge the difficulty of trails. For example, my oldest really wants to hike the Angels Landing Trail. I’m not sure that is a trail my 8-year-old can handle.
I read a lot about the trails before a trip. I read guide books, the park web site, and forums. This gives me an idea of what trails we can realistically accomplish as well as a wish list of trails I want to hike.
Then, when I get to the park, I always talk to a park ranger. Even if I’ve read all about a trip, a ranger can give you invaluable information, most importantly, what the condition is of a trail that day. Sometimes, they can even give you alternate suggestions.
More than once, I have come into a park thinking a particular trail was out of the question because my kids were too young, but a good park ranger will give me advice on how to accomplish it with kids.
Finally, only you know your family. Not every 8-year-old is the same, not every 60-year-old is the same. So as a hiking leader/decision maker, you have to know the limits of your group. Part B of this is have an exit plan. At what point do you stop and gauge when to turn around? When to go on?
So those are my two planned trips so far for the year. I’m hoping to get a new more trips in as well but leaving my calendar open for freelance work. Until then, I’ll be dreaming of the outdoors.