Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Camping: Pace Bend

This was the first time that Brook and I went camping together. I knew that he grew up doing outdoors activities with his Dad, like archery, hunting, hiking and camping, but his current self certainly doesn't seem like it likes being outside all that much. He prefers to watch a show on his computer, read, play DS or just lounge around with Boyd (who is not allowed outside at all, also all doors and windows need to be closed so he doesn't escape). I think that he would stay indoors all his life if he could. Which is sad, because the weather has just now started to turn agreeable, and sometimes lovely. It only stays like that for a tiny fraction out of the year, during so-called "Spring," right before it turns into the long, sweltering, wretched Texas summer. So, all the more reason to take advantage of this good weather before it disappears.

I, being somewhat dissatisfied and bored with my lifestyle, recently wrote down a few things I have either always wanted to do or fun things haven't done in a long while, and decided to get a start on it. One of the things on the list was camping. I've been camping a smattering of times in college with my friends, and I have very good memories (and silly pictures) of them. I went a few times with my friend Rachel (pre-marriage), who is a die-hard outdoors enthusiast. She had led backpacking trips before and had all the gear. Lightweight tent, backpack, pots, water filter, matches that light underwater- you name it. Before graduating with her degree in Advertising, she was deadset on getting a job in the outdoors. (Now she is married and is doing an internship with the church. Her blog, "The Life of Mountain Pie" is linked on the right.) One time I went camping and paintballing with her family on her Dad's plot of land somewhere in the middle of nowhere, TX. Her dad has constructed a cabin on the spot and even built a suspension bridge over a ditch just for fun.

Another time, I went with Rachel and Kristi to a small camp spot of Travis Lake, past the quaint boating town of Volente. We did primitive camping, but had a nice fire going. As we arrived at dusk, the view of the silent lake was gorgeous in the dying light. Another time a big group of us girls went to Pace Bend (Me, Rachel, Kristi, Erin, Jennifer) and had a great cookout. Rachel had her first cigarillo, and her and I woke up in the middle of the night because it was raining and we covered everyone's things. We were going to make pancakes for breakfast, but when we woke up, we saw that raccoons had ransacked our bags of food we stupidly left out. It was still sort of funny. The earliest camping trip I remember was with Sara (now married and living in St. Louis) and Courtney. We went to Muleshoe Bend and they drank whiskey in lieu of dinner. I had no idea where any of these campsites were when we went, as I didn't plan or drive, so each time I relished being in the unfamiliar hillcountry and the mystery of never really knowing where I was.

So last week I told B about my list and how I wanted to go camping and he was all for it. The first thing we did was get basic camp supplies from REI (blogged about in an previous post). Fortunately, we didn't need much in the way of dishware, because I had 2 sets of vintage enamelware plates and cups, from when I was obssessed with collecting them for a while. Then he tried to make a reservation at Enchanted Rock and Pace Bend, the former of which was filled up, and the latter he botched up anyway. We invited some friends to go, but due to bad communication and general lameness, it ended up being the two of us. We went last Friday to Pace Bend and after driving around the improved camping loop a few times, B almost throwing in the towel and driving us to his backyard, we managed to secure a spot. This was mistake #1, as we didn't really need bathrooms, and we took the last spot there. Expecting some solitude and a wide open space, we were actually surrounded by the chatter of families in their giant, multi-roomed tents nearby. There was even an RV next to us! (That's not camping.) Oh, another thing we found out as we drove in was that there was a fire ban, so we couldn't use the firewood we bought. I left B to set up the tent, and drove back out to the nearest gas station and got some charcoal to make dinner with. We had fajitas at about 9:30, considerably later than I expected, with the fuel fiasco and also the chicken took a long time to cook since we put it over the grill instead of directly over the coals, which we only figured out later. We made some s'mores over the coals, but it wasn't the same as having a campfire. Maybe I just don't really like s'mores anymore- too sugary! After reading for a bit, we put the rainfly over the tent for some privacy (it is see-through mesh otherwise), and hit the sack. B had some trouble falling asleep, because he was sick and noisily congested, and I kept hearing some stupid teenage girl yelling and complaining about something or other to her male companion. It was probably 1 AM by that time. What a bitch.

In the morning, the heat woke me up. I was forced out of bed by 10:30, as the tent was not breathable enough for comfort. B made gooey eggs (not for me) and Canadian bacon on the skillet, and I cut up some fresh fruit. The cast iron skillet was pretty shot by the time the eggs were done, as it was not non-stick anymore. Gotta figure out a way to keep it seasoned. After breakfast we packed up and stopped at the side of the lake. The water was very cold still. Then we drove on west to Marble Falls ('for a weekend, NOT for a lifetime'), tried to go to the Bluebonnet Cafe but gave up upon seeing the line out the door, took a random detour to Horseshoe Bay, went back on 71, stopped at a roadside picnic table for lunch, stopped by Spicewood Vineyards for a tasting after passing the sign for a second time, and headed back to town. All in all, a good weekend adventure in the hillcountry. B surprised me by saying he had a really good time, so we are going camping again this weekend. I did my research and picked Sandy Creek Park, the spot past Volente, because it didn't require reservations. All the big parks are fully booked on the weekend for the next few weeks.. do you think people are camping more because of the recession? I ended up spending more money than I thought, since fuel is expensive and food cost more because we bought more. For some reason, being in the outdoors makes you hungry. And we didn't even hike!

Things to remember for next time: Purell! It was gross not having soap. I definitely washed my knife when I got home. Chairs! This is B's suggestion. I'm fine with sitting in the tent, but he wanted someplace to lounge otherwise. I just ordered a set of Lafuma camp "director's" chairs from Backcountry. They got great reviews and can act as porch chairs when we're in town. Cooler! I had a small one that was sufficient for a one-night trip, but the ice was melted by the next afternoon. Don't want to get food poisoning from eggs or meat that aren't properly kept cold. Light! We both got a headlamp at REI before heading out, as I lost my Petzl Zipka (during the move? I blame all belonging disappearances on that). That was convenient at night, I think we'll invest in a lantern too. I'm trying really hard to not get gear-obsessed, as we are not hard-core (yet). We'll see how long this lasts. It'll get really hot soon enough and end our camping adventures for a while. Then we'll probably check out Krause Springs and Hamilton Pool, and maybe even the Greenbelt for some swimming. Actually, our next dream trip is out to far-out West Texas, which should involve Marfa, Chinati Springs, Big Bend (backpacking?), or some combination of that. Honeymoon, maybe? Haha. Or a group trip. It's been a nice getaway from the comfortable and humdrum of house living though. I'm thankful for that. And work is not going to get exciting anytime soon, so it's nice to have something to look forward to on the weekend. Makes the week seem faster too.


Rachel B said...

Wow, I can't believe you pulled up those pictures from our camping trip! At least you didn't post the one where I'm standing there in my underwear! I can't wait to go camping again!

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