We wanted to leave Pecos really early on Monday, but we ended up sleeping in a little. I had meant to raid my parent’s pantry Sunday night and grab cereal so we could just eat a quick breakfast before hitting the road, but I forgot. So, it was almost 9:00 when we pulled into McDonalds on the way out of town. The kids sat down as we were ordering and then Clara ran back up to tell us she found Pawpaw He was at the table next to them having coffee with a neighbor. So he sat and chatted with us as we finished up our breakfast.
Chris was feeling ok when we left and we had a long, 5.5 hour drive that day to our final stop at Inks Lake State Park near Austin. As we got closer, he started feeling worse and worse. By that evening, he felt terrible and didn’t sleep much at all he was so congested, blowing his nose non-stop with a killer sore throat. Turns out juniper was through the roof there and I’m going to go out on a limb and say he’s highly allergic to juniper.
I headed into town the next morning to get meds and kleenex. Unfortunately they didn’t seem to help much. He was a trooper though and managed to hang out when Dan and Linda arrived for our belated Christmas celebration around lunchtime. Linda graciously offered to bring out an entire Christmas dinner so we had roast with all the fixins and pasta salad and green bean casserole of course with apple crisp for dessert. We had lunch right away before everything got cold.
Before Dan and Linda arrived, the kids were and trying out a couple of their gifts they got in Pecos, including their rc cars. Robert got a pogo stick and Clara got stilts. She was doing pretty good on them after a few minutes. Robert couldn’t quite get the hang of his pogo stick though so after falling off one time, he angrily told me that he wanted me to throw it in a lake of lava
After our yummy lunch, we opened gifts. It was a beautiful day, minus the juniper.
Several months back I had the idea of painting these little wooden dolls for the kids when they first started watching Gilligan’s Island. They were making scenes out of legos and making mini figures to resemble the characters so I thought they’d really like these. I let Linda in on my idea and asked if she’d like to make them since she’s a painter and all and she said yes They turned out so cute and the kids love them.
This is his “Why?” face. He loves his big Why? book he got from Uncle Tim.
And a couple more Modarri cars to round out Robert’s collection, along with a case to carry them all.
Grandpa is known for his creative gift wrapping skills. This flag holder required three boxes to get it wrapped just right. And she got an owl flag for all seasons.
I’m glad they could join us, but I hate that Chris was feeling so horrible. He went through about 3 boxes of kleenexes those couple of days. Linda’s allergies flared up when she got to the park too so it wasn’t quite the picture perfect holiday we all hoped it would be.
That night before bed, we decided to go ahead and leave the next morning to come home, which was a day earlier than we had planned. It was obvious that he wasn’t going to get better until we got him out of there and would probably be dealing with an infection soon. It was a bummer because our last excursion was going to be hiking at Enchanted Rock, which I had really been looking forward to. But that’s ok. There’s always next time. We just needed to get him home.
So that night and the next morning I tried to do as much of the packing up as I could so he could save his energy and not go outside until he absolutely had to. I’m a total wimp and haven’t pulled the camper, nor have I ever pulled any type of trailer in my entire life, so I was sick with worry with the thought of me having to drive. Pulling a camper that I can’t see around. Through the hill country. And Austin. Both of which I am unfamiliar with. Turns out I’m a terrible person and Chris drove I have done all of the unloading and camper cleanup, washed about 10 loads of laundry and bagged 6 bags of pine needles though so I hope that at least makes up for some of it. He was able to breathe better as we got on the other side of Austin, but then he started feeling worse and by the time we got home around 2:00, he was running a fever He is slowly improving and has been fever free all day, but he’s still feeling pretty puny.
And so ends our 2016 Christmas Vacation. Hoping we start 2017 illness free!
Moving right along…..
Chris was feeling better during the day. We had lunch at my parent’s house and then he left me and Robert to do laundry and lounge while he and Clara headed out to the farm to get the camper set up. That evening, everyone met out at the farm to roast hot dogs and s’mores while kids played and adults chatted.
The next day was Christmas Eve. Tim and Linsey and the kids got to town and we all went to Myrt Myrt and Joe’s house around lunchtime. We played a couple of games, like this one called Googly Eyes.
And the kids played Pie Face. I think it would be funnier to watch adults that don’t want to actually get hit in the face with whip cream play. As it was, all the kids just kept turning the dial until they got hit in the face.
It was really nice outside, so the kids were in and out all day long jumping on the trampoline and the dads took them down the street to ride their bikes at the skate park. I knew I’d be a nervous wreck watching them, so I opted not to go. Clara had a pretty bad wreck only minutes after arriving.
We had dinner then donned our festive hats and got down to business after it got dark.
After the kids got done with it, the birthday girl got to take a whack at the snowman.
Here Cody is stuffing his jacket with candy alongside the kids.
Wyatt and Clara posed with their kill.
We headed out front to sing Christmas carols and Santa must’ve heard us, because he and Mrs. Claus came around the corner with their bag of presents. The Grinch showed up though and took off with the bag. Thankfully Clara managed to get it back and we could get on with the festivities.
The Grinch was still lurking as Santa was emptying his sack.
I looked down and this lovely sight greeted me. Ewww! Don’t think he wore shoes at all that day.
James, a friend from church, joined us for dinner and fun and Santa even had a gift or two especially for him. I’ve only met James a time or two, but I can honestly say I don’t know if I’ve ever met anyone who is so filled with joy and love as this guy. He loooooves everybody and lets them know it. Just can’t keep it in I think he enjoyed himself.
I was sitting by Clara and Linsey and Tenley were in front of me, so I pretty much only took pictures of them.
I had to capture Robert’s excitement upon receiving this monstrosity of a toy that he really really wanted. It’s a Power Ranger Super Charged Dinosaur Mega Something or other and he LOVES it.
Tenley is really into horses, so she went nuts when she opened this gift. She was clawing at it trying to get it out of the package and then started kissing it. It was so sweet.
It was after 10:00 when we got back to the farm but I forced the kids to take a quick shower anyway. They were not happy with me. Everyone else had decided to open everything on Christmas Eve, but my kids were pretty disappointed to not have anything to open on Christmas morning, so we saved the gifts they made for each other and also their gift from us and then got up early and drove into town to see what Santa had brought.
Santa brought Robert three more Modarri cars and a car hauler and Clara got a Kindle, not to mention an overflowing amount of stocking stuffers.
We got both kids rc cars. Chris really did a lot of the gift buying this year. He researched cars and went with real hobby shop ones that we can replace pieces on. He also helped choose both of their bikes for their birthdays.
On top of that, on his own, he decided to help them make gifts for each other. He came up with the ideas, purchased what he needed and helped them make it. Clara got a string art owl to hang on her wall and Robert received a clock painted with all of the racing flags, with a picture of his favorite race car driver’s car at the bottom. He’s a good daddy.
I had packed a bag to bring in to town with the kids and my shoes and some of our clothes so we could just jump in the car in our jammies and get ready for church at Bia and Pawpaws. Wouldn’t you know it, I left the bag in the camper. So after breakfast, Chris made the drive back out to the farm to get my bag. We had church, lunch at Myrt’s and then back out to the farm for rest and to figure out how on earth we would get all this stuff packed into the camper. We went back into town for dinner and to say our goodbyes because we were leaving early the next morning for the final stop on our Christmas tour.
The office was closed when we got to the park but they had our reservation and a site assigned for us to pull into. A gray foxed crossed the road as we were pulling in to our spot. We woke the next morning to a family of javelinas rooting around right outside our door. There was so much wildlife at this park. Poop everywhere.
Here they are with our tree complete with the ornaments we made at Garner. They kept calling it our Charlie Brown christmas tree.
That first morning we spent some time at the interpretive center watching birds feeding at a station they had set up and tried identifying them. The cacti outside the center were all decked out for the holidays.
Later on we drove up Skyline Drive in the park to this observation point which also happens to be one of the only places you can get a cell signal in the park. We decided to drive it because it was a loooong several mile hike up to the top and I’m not sure we would’ve made it.
Afterwards, we had some lunch and then left the park in search of letterboxes. We found two on the highway out to the park and another in a cemetery. One of the boxes was just placed last month and we were the first to find it, so that was fun. We looked for another that was placed by the same person that same day and unfortunately, something had gotten ahold of it before us It was in a duct-taped ziploc with magnets attaching it to the back of a fence post. We were letting Robert retrieve it all by himself and keep the little prize for the first finder, so he was upset that it was all torn up. I searched around in the tall grass, but couldn’t locate the stamp.
We walked around downtown for a bit and then had ice cream in the drugstore since it had warmed up by then.
And then cocoa and popcorn that night. Robert was about done with my incessant picture taking by this point.
The next day we visited the Fort Davis National Historic Site. I was kind of expecting the kids to be bored, but as it turned out, they loved it! We spent two hours walking around and they didn’t even notice that it was past lunch time
I couldn’t get the kids to pose with this buffalo soldier in the museum, so I took a selfie with him.
The visitor center is attached to the museum and the kids received an activity page to complete as they walk around the fort. They could turn it in at the end of our visit and become a Junior Ranger and receive a badge. They each had to find things around the fort and note where they found it. Clara’s was a little more in depth and she had to answer questions based on things she read. Chris and the kids had gone on into the museum portion of the building as I was talking to a park employee up front. I looked over to see that Robert had come back into the room, sat himself at the computer, and had proceeded to click on different pages that explained some of the things you would see at the fort. That booger was checking off all of his scavenger hunt items in one fell swoop! I convinced him that while that may not technically be cheating, it wasn’t exactly in the spirit of the activity
There were a lot of interactive things all around the fort to keep things interesting. It not only insured that the kids remained engaged, but I too found it very helpful to have those visuals. There was a sign not far from the hospital that gave short snippets and drawings of 5 actual patients and what was wrong with them. The kids were like, “eh”. But then it said, go to the post hospital to find out who survived. All of a sudden, their faces lit up and they were racing to get there first to solve the mystery. You had to explore the entire hospital to find all of the answers.
Some of the buildings have been restored and decorated while others are crumbling and there were many buildings that only had foundations left. As for the restored buildings, we looked into the officer’s barracks as well as a married offiicer’s barracks which had a room for his boys and was all decorated for Christmas. And we saw inside a kitchen and servant’s quarters as well as the enlisted soldier’s barracks. The commissary had this game for the kids to play. You take turns spinning the wheel and try to be the first to get your covered wagon safely from San Antonio to Ft. Davis. All of their supplies came from San Antonio and if I’m not mistaken, it was a 6 week trip by wagon.
I really wanted to go visit the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center as well. I had read it has a great hike down into a canyon with a spring or creek at the bottom. Chris had started to feel bad as we were walking around the fort though and wasn’t up for a hike. We had thought about going up Skyline Drive for a star gazing thing the park was hosting, but that too fell through as Chris was feeling worse and worse. He slept terrible that night but with the help of Day Quil, he was able to make the hour long drive to Pecos the next morning.
The drive to Ft. Davis gets it’s own post. We debated about whether or not we should stop off at the Caverns of Sonora on our way to our next destination. It was already going to be a long drive, we planned our grocery shopping on our travel days and we had just done a pretty big hike the day before. On the other hand, we had already skipped one of our planned excursions by not going to Lost Maples, so I really didn’t want to miss another.
So we did it. We hit the donut shop for a late breakfast in Junction and also the grocery store and that put us at the caverns at close to noon. We had to wait until 12:30 for a tour. The caverns were 72 degrees with 98% humidity. They kept warning us about how warm it would feel, but I was quite cool and comfy I had been to these caverns once growing up (no doubt on the drive to Garner one summer) but I don’t remember too much from that visit. I really enjoyed these caverns. The tour lasted close to two hours and we went to a depth of 150 ft. The kids really enjoyed it, but by the end, they were ready to be back at the surface.
Of course, pictures can’t capture the awesomeness of this underground wonderland. Everywhere you turned was a new type of formation. You had to duck in places, turn sideways to get through some passages and watch your step else you would brush against stalagmites growing right next to the path. You could see an occasional formation that looked as if it had been accidentally broken by tour goers. Chris has some pics on his phone that I’ll add later.
We decided the original cave explorers who gave some of the formations their names must’ve been hungry. We saw popcorn, cave bacon, applesauce, fish tails and soda straws. The formation that these caverns are best known for is their “butterfly”. Unfortunately, about ten years ago, a person at the back of a group broke off a portion of one of the wings. I can’t even wrap my head around what would compel someone to do something so awful. I asked the guide about it. It is located at a turn in the path and the guide is supposed to stop by it and direct the group around the corner until everyone has passed and then rejoin them at the front. On this particular day, the guide didn’t do this. I saw somewhere that he was purposefully distracted by someone else in the group. It wasn’t discovered until the next tour came through. Our guide said they eventually found who it was and the guy was sued for millions, but I looked and wasn’t able to find anything about it online. I do believe that is when they made their tours smaller. They do not allow more than 12 in a tour now.
It was after 2:00 when we finally exited and we still had a 3.5 hour drive, needed to get lunch and gas. It was almost 7:00 when we pulled into Davis Mountains State Park but I’m glad we made our stop at the caverns.
Here are some of Chris’ pics. Proof that I was actually there.
We just got back from our Christmas vacation out west. The kids got out of school on the 16th and we left the next day on a 12 day camping trip. Our first stop was three nights at Garner State Park. It was gorgeous out when we got there mid-afternoon. Our campsite was near the old pavilion, so we went exploring around it. Although I grew up going to Garner every summer with my dad’s side of the family, I don’t ever remember checking out that area.
Then we walked down to check out the Frio. We didn’t really think it through and it wasn’t until we were looking through the kids’ Junior Ranger booklet, but we shouldn’t have been skipping all the rocks we did. Oopsie. I know you aren’t supposed to remove things from a state park, but you aren’t even supposed to move things that you find in nature. Makes sense. If everyone that visited threw as many rocks as we did that evening, the Frio would be dammed Robert talked about our illegal rock skipping for several days thereafter.
That night, the temperature dropped into the mid-20s, so we had no water until it got above freezing later in the day. We hung out in the camper and made ornaments for our little camping Christmas tree, played games and colored.
Yes, I brought my glue gun camping. Along with sequins, pompoms, pinecones, pipe cleaners and sticks.
That afternoon we decided to try to find some letterboxes at a nearby cemetery in Leakey. Oh my goodness, we froze! It was so cold and it was crazy windy. We did find two of the three letterboxes we were looking for though. We then drove in to Uvalde to look for something to keep our hose from freezing but didn’t have much luck. We grabbed a few more cold weather accessories for those of us who still a bit chilly.
The next day warmed up quite a bit by the afternoon and the wind had died down so we decided to go on a hike to see Crystal Cave. It may have been a bit more of a challenge that I was expecting. By the time we got to the trailhead, we were starting to warm up and discard our layers. I was carrying all of Robert’s layers less that 15 minutes in to our hike.
Another letterbox! Woohoo! Someone had placed a series of four boxes along this trail. We looked for the other two, along with another one without luck. But two out of four ain’t bad.
The trail was very rocky in parts. Robert was scared of falling off the edge in a few places so Clara was being quite helpful when he got nervous.
Crystal Cave was pretty neat. We always camped here in the summer and I’m not so sure I’d want to make this hike when it’s 100 degrees out. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I figured it was probably more like “Crystal Hole in a Rock” When we got to the cave, Clara took one look and turned around Not Robert though. He grabbed the head torch and went in all by himself. It was quite a way down and then it opened up into a big room.
Once she saw the coast was clear, Clara bravely joined him in the darkness.
Once we got to the top, we were all a bit surprised at how high we had gone. I was pretty proud of everyone. We don’t have elevation changes in Houston, so this was quite a workout.
We found one last letterbox and had a rest on a boulder as we neared the end of our two hour hike.
I really wanted to go for a hike at Lost Maples State Natural Area, but unfortunately that first freezing day put a damper on our plans. Oh well, we got in one great hike, found four letterboxes, did some illegal rock skipping and spent lots of time reading, watching Christmas movies and making crafts, so it wasn’t a total bust.
We spent Thanksgiving at Martin Dies Jr. State Park. We left on Wednesday, which also happened to be a certain someone’s birthday. It was kind of a bummer traveling on his birthday, but he got to open his present from Bia and Pawpaw before we left home, which gave him plenty of reading material for the trip, and then he got his gift from Grandpa and Grandma when we got to the park. They gave him a car that has pieces you can switch out with other cars and he loves it and is asking Santa for more of them.
We had our normal Thanksgiving fare– ham, green bean casserole, pasta salad and pumpkin pie. The weather was gorgeous all weekend, so we were able to sit outside and not freeze our behinds off like we did a few years ago.
Two British families that are living in Houston now were camped across from us and had put their canoe in by our campsite. They were very generous and offered to let us take their canoe out. That was my first canoe experience and it was just a little nerve-wracking for both me and the kids. It felt like we were going to tip the whole time and apparently I can’t steer a canoe. So we didn’t last real long out on the water. You can tell the kids were having a blast.
We went on a short hike on a small island trail afterwards. We tried to find a letterbox but the directions weren’t real clear so we left empty-handed.
We tried one more and weren’t able to find some of the landmarks at first but kept on and eventually I spotted a tree that looked like it might be it and sure enough it was! It was very exciting to finally find one. It had been four years since the last stamp in our book.
We needed to run into town for gas and a couple of groceries. Not thinking, we ended up at Wal-Mart. An hour before black friday deals started. There were several police outside already and it took us a minute to figure out what was going on. They had aisles roped off only allowing one entrance to the registers and there were lines of people all the way down the main aisles towards the back. Groups of people were just standing in the grocery aisles waiting. Oh my goodness, I could not get out of there fast enough. I don’t get it. It felt rude and wrong to be there just to get a few groceries. I felt so bad for what was about to be unleashed on the Wal-Mart employees
It was nice to get back out to camp and to this quiet, peaceful view.
Dan and Linda stayed at a nearby hotel and left to head back home on Friday. We stayed until Saturday. On Friday we took the kids on another trail that was supposed to have three letterboxes. I thought for sure we’d find at least one. Nope. No luck. And two of them we know we were looking in the right spot. They just were not there anymore Robert’s pretty much done with letterboxing. He can’t take the disappointment. Ha!
Anytime we weren’t hunting for letterboxes or eating, our two were playing with their new British friends, Louie, Ava, Florence and Martha. When they first started playing, Robert said, “She sounds like Lucy” (from the Narnia movies ). The girls loved Clara. One of the girls wanted to play with Clara one morning but we hadn’t come out yet. She had been told she had to wait until we came out and she couldn’t knock. I guess she paced back and forth and eventually sat on our camper steps waiting for Clara to emerge and we didn’t even know she was out there. After a couple of days playing, Robert came into the camper and said, “Mummy, here’s a flower for you. Isn’t it lovely?” in a pretty darn good British accent. It was pretty cute but I made sure he knew not to talk like that around the kids because they might think he was making fun of them. My favorite was hearing the four year old talk about her “head torch”, or headlamp.
We snapped a pic right before we left and before the girls were out of their pjs. Ava was not at all interested in joining the group picture.
We were ready to roll by 9:05. The Brits were highly impressed. That’s the earliest we’ve ever been packed up and ready to leave. Robert had a classmate’s birthday party to attend at 12:30 at Chuck E Cheese. He’s only had one birthday invite from a friend in the past year and had to miss it when he threw up at school the morning of in October, so by golly, I was bound and determined to get him to this party no matter how inconvenient! And if we hadn’t had to wait 30 minutes in line at the dump station, we would have even made it to the party right on time. I would have loved to ease back into reality, but alas, a 7 foot mouse, arcade games and screaming children beckoned us. And they beckon us still; he’s invited back to Chuck’s place Sunday for his friend Javier’s birthday. Sigh.
We went to Goose Island State Park a couple of weeks ago. The kids had an early release day at school so we took advantage of the few extra hours and chose somewhere a little further away. There are two sections to the park and we ended up staying on the island portion, which was the less desirable of the two. The spots were packed in and there weren’t any trees or privacy. It was mainly fishermen in that section. The other section had heavy vegetation and the sites felt very secluded.
The kids wanted to walk to the very end of the very long fishing pier on Saturday morning.
Then we visited the butterfly garden and saw lots of butterflies and several caterpillars.
Including this guy. This is an asp caterpillar and thankfully Clara spotted him right before she put her hand on him as she went to climb the tree in the picture above. That would’ve pretty much meant an end to our lovely weekend as asp caterpillars tend to pack quite a wallop if you touch ’em.
We then drove to the trailhead of a short, very wooded trail in the park and got about 10 yards down the trail when we realized we forgot mosquito spray. We quickly ran back to the car, swatting the mosquitos away as we ran.
So we left the park and went to find the Big Tree a mile or so outside the park. It’s over 1,000 years old and is one of the biggest oak trees in the US. They’ve fenced off the tree and done a lot to try to brace it, but there are lots of other trees surrounding it that you are free to climb in. We had to wait for a group of boy scouts to leave the best climbing tree before we could take a turn in it.
I have no idea what these little round balls are that Robert found stuck to leaves.
The kids needed a boost to get onto the lowest branch and I really could’ve used a boost myself but I managed. Chris wasn’t much help, but he was sure to get a few pictures of my graceful ascent.
There were a couple of different options for Saturday afternoon, including driving to Corpus to the Texas State Aquarium and exploring the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, but both were about an hour away. We decided to stick closer to the park and made the short drive to Rockport to visit their aquarium. The aquarium was right next to a little art gallery and maritime museum. The aquarium was tiny, but there were lots of hands on kid-friendly activities, so the kids enjoyed themselves. Robert thought it was awesome.
Then we let the kids play in the sand for a few minutes before getting some ice cream and heading back to camp.
The kids and I got up before the crack of dawn on Sunday to watch the sun rise. It was really cloudy, so it wasn’t as impressive as it might have been on a clear day, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.
We took the camper to Wimberley last weekend to visit my cousin John and his wife Kelsey. John is the outdoor coordinator at Texas State and they live in the caretaker’s house on the University’s campground. You should already know this because we had our Griffis family reunion there this summer and I should have already blogged about that. Ahem. John has told us for several years now that we need to come camping out in the hill country with them, so we finally got around to setting up a date.
Since it was Labor Day and the campground was full, John had a couple of fires (figurative fires, not literal) to put out. We just parked ourselves in their driveway and hung out while the kids played together all weekend. John made us blueberry waffles two mornings and he and Chris did some dutch oven cooking. The Kelsey’s ended up not having to do much food prep all weekend. It was alright
The four of us ventured off down the trail for a little hike. We came to this spot this summer, but the creek wasn’t flowing then. They’ve gotten lots of rain since then, so it was flowing nicely and coming over these rocks and then underground. It was a little hard to get to this spot and I was helping Robert walk over a fallen tree to get to it. It had rained, so one leg kinda fell through a spot of packed dirt and he was a little messy. He fell through all the way to his bottom. He wasn’t hurt, just a little shocked. I wish I had a picture
He wanted to clean off a little in the cold, clear water of the creek.
Clara didn’t want to miss out on the fun of course
These pictures are at the creek bed right above the little grotto.
It’s kinda hard to tell, but this is them sitting right on the edge of the rock where the water is falling over. It looked a bit more impressive in person 😉
We also went down to their preferred swimming spot and I didn’t take any pictures. We avoided the most popular spot for campers (where we were this summer) because John said it was packed. We walked downstream a ways and the kids enjoyed using their snorkels and masks. John found an endangered fish under a rock that he was able to point out to Clara. It took some time and effort to walk back as the current was really strong.
Here are a few pics of the shenanigans going on back at the house.
Most of our time was spent just sitting around sweating, some of us cooking, eating and watching the rain and kids play in the yard. We had lots of fun and are so thankful for John and Kelsey’s hospitality. The kids are already looking forward to our next visit!
The weekend following the flood, a mere 48 hours after Chris was diagnosed with strep, we left to go camping. The Couringtons and Chris’ co-worker Andy and his wife Jenny joined us. The water was chilly, but that didn’t stop the kids from venturing into the lake. It did take them quite some time to fully submerge themselves though.
The kids took turns going out on the kayak. Chris and Robert were the only ones to spot a gator while on one of their excursions.
I wanted to try and recreate this picture from 2012, but got them out of order. Weren’t they so cute? This is one of my favorite camping pics ever.
Kate didn’t want to sit in the sun to eat her lunch, so she found a comfy spot in the shade.