travel

Spring Break at Inks Lake State Park

You know what Saida and I fought about just before heading out with the camper? She didn’t want to go and and kept telling me we should just stay home. Homegirl junior. Not that she cares, but I had to pull the “well mommy and daddy don’t spend too much money a month on this camper to not go anywhere so do you think we should go camping or do you want to sell the camper?”

Obviously we went camping. I won’t say she didn’t cry about it for an hour and half on the way there though because she totally did.

Where’d we go?

Inks Lake State Park (and Longhorn Cavern State Park for a couple hours)

Site number?

West Loop, Site 43. I’d highly recommend this site especially if you like being right on the water and you like having the park store nearby with boat rentals and such. It is very close to the park store though and when they did fishing with a park ranger, there was a lot of foot traffic on the trail between 42 and 43. We didn’t mind, but if you do, consider a different site. And also fair warning, someone did mention to me on the Texas RV Camping Facebook page that they had seen a rattlesnake and some water moccasins in this particular area. We kept and eye out, but never saw anything.

What we did while we were there

Camped, hiked, paddle boated, made memories with family, made s’mores and hamburgers, watched movies in the camper (we’re real people), fished, hit up the park store for ice cream, made a quick trip to Longhorn Cavern State Park to take a cave tour.

Other Things you can do there

They have at least 2 playgrounds, a Kona Ice truck, kayaks, canoes, more hiking trails, swimming in the lake & events depending on the day. Also I had my eye on a winery up Park Road 4 called Perissos Vinyard and Winery, but we didn’t actually go there.


Around the campsite

Campsite 43. You can see the canoes from the park store behind the camper.

Campsite 43. You can see the canoes from the park store behind the camper.

Golden hour behind our campsite looking towards the park store.

Golden hour behind our campsite looking towards the park store.

From our campsite (43) looking out over the cove.

From our campsite (43) looking out over the cove.

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Hiking

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My kids aren’t exactly experienced hikers so when picking out a hike, we went for something that appeared manageable. We chose Lower and Upper Fisherman’s Trail and essentially made a loop. We ended up on the dark green trail for a few minutes so we walked a little further than originally anticipated, but overall this was a great trail for them. They got to climb a little, see the lake, and it wasn’t too long or challenging for them (ages 3 and 5). Corbin fell a few times, but that’s mainly because he’s a little more clumsy than your average 3 year old.

Upper Fisherman’s Trail

Upper Fisherman’s Trail

Lower Fisherman’s Trail and they were only climbing because the wanted to. This is actually just above the trail.

Lower Fisherman’s Trail and they were only climbing because the wanted to. This is actually just above the trail.


Paddle Boats

Anyone curious what happens when I ask my kids to stand next to each other for a picture? THIS! This is what happens. This is why I don’t ask them to do it. Also the only reason I have this sad image is because we were about to buy ice cream and they weren’t taking a chance of not getting it. Also this was after getting off the paddle boats which ended up being a disaster because everyone was tired and both kids (who couldn’t even really reach the peddles) wanted to be able to peddle at the same time. We didn’t even use our full hour and then when I asked Saida what her favorite part of camping was after we’d been home a few days, she said the paddle boats. Blew my mind. I’m like you mean that thing we did where everyone whined the whole time. They really did have a great camping trip overall though.

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Longhorn Cavern State Park

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Longhorn Cavern State Park really wasn’t on our list of things to do on this trip, but when we realized it was literally down the street from Inks Lake State Park, we decided why not. To be honest I really wasn’t sure what we were getting into. I thought we could explore a cave on our own for like 20 minute and then go hit some trails (because from what I can tell they have some super easy and kid friendly trails), but turns out this cavern is much more expansive than I originally thought and it’s only accessible by a 90 minute guided tour. Obviously we took the tour and decided against any hiking trails since we were well into nap time by the time we finished. The kids absolutely loved it. Corbin was a litte over it about an hour in (because it was nap time) but overall he did really well (thank goodness).


We’re only three camping trips in, but so far we’ve really enjoyed each one. I think the kids are anxious to come back here again sometime soon. My final thought is that it’s a fantastic park for families and next time we look forward to bringing bikes for the kids as well. Maybe I’ll even hit up that winery and report back.

-Monica

Galveston Island Camping Trip: More of My Happy

If you’ve known me for more than 5 minutes, you probably know that the beach/bay is the place my soul craves. Our latest camping trip to Galveston Island State Park was gloomy, windy, and cold. I didn’t care. It rained all weekend at home so gloomy, windy, and cold with a bay view seemed just fine to me. The sun came out on our last morning just as it was about time to start packing up. We decided to spend just 30 more minutes exploring before we had to leave and the dunes on the beach side of the island is where we ended up. They called it their mountain. They were in thier own kind of heaven and I can’t even explain to you how overwhelmingly happy and at peace I was in this moment. It’s the kind of happy and peaceful you forget exists until it sneaks up on you. There isn’t a worry or a care in the world because in that moment nothing else matters except being present and completely soaking it in and storing it in a place to keep you content until that feeling sneaks up on you again.

Beachside at Galveston Island State Park

Beachside at Galveston Island State Park

Leaving was the hardest thing. Nobody wanted to go.

More of my favorites from our trip below.

Galveston Island State Park Hiking Trail

Galveston Island State Park Hiking Trail

Lensbaby detail in the camper

Lensbaby detail in the camper

Saki Monkeys inside the Rainforest Pyramid at Moody Gardens

Saki Monkeys inside the Rainforest Pyramid at Moody Gardens

Outside Moody Gardens Rainforest Pryramid

Outside Moody Gardens Rainforest Pryramid

Inside Moody Gardens Rainforest Pyramid

Inside Moody Gardens Rainforest Pyramid

Walkways over the intercoastal at Galveston Island State Park

Walkways over the intercoastal at Galveston Island State Park

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Hiking at Galveston Island State Park

Hiking at Galveston Island State Park

Camper window light with a lensbaby

Camper window light with a lensbaby

We stayed with our RV at Galveston Island State Park on the bayside in site 55. I feel like sites 58-64 would be ideal in terms of a killer view of the bay. That’s my goal for next time. I think I acutally prefer the bayside to the beachside. The bay has a sense of calm that is totally my jam so I think I’d do that again.

We try to keep things simple. This was a quick trip so Moody Gardens Rainforest Pyramid is the only attraction we spent money on. We did things like drive by port on Saturday while two ships were in and the kids thought that was cool. We didn’t take the ferry this time, but kids also love that and it’s free. Just do it when it’s not crowded. In the past we’ve done the offshore oil rig museum which is pretty cool and affordable and just right there by the cruise ships, just with the wind we skipped it this time. I think Corbin would love it though so I want to take him to do that someday. What I really wanted to do was the oil rig museum at 4pm when the ships left so we could wave to the cruisers on deck as it passed by. That would have been cool, but our go with the flow attitude meant we weren’t around for that. Exploring the park and connecting with nature was priority for me even though we made time for fun in town too.

The Picture That Sums up Why we Bought a Camper / Our Trip to McKinney Falls State Park

I promised myself I’d start blogging about our camping trips once we actually started taking them. I wasn’t sure what these blog posts would be exactly. I’m pretty sure I was thinking at some point I would become some sort of camping expert and people would flock to my blog to hear about our trips and what cool things I did/cooked that they too need to be doing, but I’m not sure this is where that is going. Big dreams, huh? I feel inspired for like 5 minutes and then it’s gone so…. Also, like, I’m never going to be that person. EVER. I don’t have my shit nearly enough together for that.

This morning I edited a picture from our trip that basically sums up our reason for buying a camper and trying to take a camping trip every month. Do you want to see it? Not that your answer matters because I’m going to show it to you whether you want to or not.

Here it is…

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You: But Monica, that’s just a blurry photo of your child swinging on her hammock. How could that possibly sum up your reasons for buying a camper?

Me: Um no, it’s not. That photo right there is a feeling.

But for real, the out of focus element of this image is giving me this out of body experience where time has slowed significantly and I’m just exactly where I’m supposed to be. It’s that thing I was reaching for when we bought our camper. It’s that thing I’ve wasted the past 6 months or so of my life anxiously awaiting. It’s that thing we’ve been missing in this life that doesn’t ever seem to slow down. It just goes faster and faster and faster and we were afraid that before we knew it we’d wake up and our kids would be grown and we would have let the opportunity for these kinds of experiences pass us up.

It’s easy to skip these things over. It’s easy to say, “Well, life is just to damn busy to stop right now.” We live in a world where we have to intentionally schedule time to slow down and so that’s what we’re doing.

Me: You wanna see more of my favorites from this trip to McKinney Falls State Park?

You: Yes, Monica. I can’t think of anything I’d love more.

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Where we stayed: McKinney Falls State Park in Austin, Texas

Campsite: 18, (1 of 12 50 amp sites with water and electric). Very large pull through campsite with one site very close by (worked out fine because they never came out of their camper) and next to the bathrooms which turned out to not be a big deal at all. In fact when Corbin pooped in his pull up we were just thankful there was a dumpster nearby.

Think of Someplace Warm

So I love yoga partly because I sometimes get to have these day dreamy moments at the instruction of my yoga teacher and nobody gets to ruin them by asking for fruit snacks or milk. It’s not every time I go, but I hadn’t actually been in over two weeks and my body and mind were screaming for some me time on the mat.

It was 90 degrees yesterday. It’s 45 degrees today so during a pre-class child’s pose Maria (my yoga instructor) asked us to think of someplace warm. 10 times out of 10 when you ask me to think of someplace warm, I’m going to think of my toes in the sand, the sun on my face, and gentle waves slowly lulling me to sleep. It’s my go to. I tried to go there today and you know what? I didn’t want to be there.

Who am I? Why do I not want to be at the beach? What other warm place could I possibly want to go?

And then I had my most favorite day dream of someplace warm to date. It was cold outside in this day dream (much like today), but I was snuggled in close on the couch in our new to us camper in front of the TV and space heater fireplace with the three people who mean the most to me in all the world. Wrapped in blankets we’re happy and warm and just soaking in all the goodness that is family confined to a small space. We’re drinking hot chocolate, the kids are laughing (I can actually hear Corbin laughing in my head and it makes me smile), Tyler and I are beaming with pride for the family we created, and I literally can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be.

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I can’t wait to start sharing our camping adventures with you. I love that we’re calling them adventures. I was showing Saida all the places we’d go and instead of asking where we’d camp next, she asked me to tell her what the next adventure would be. It was painful actually signing the paperwork for the second most expensive thing we currently own, but hearing her put it that way makes me realize I would have gladly paid even more to make these adventures her reality. These are the moments we were absolutely meant to live together and I’m glad we get to start sooner rather than later.

Stay tuned.

- Monica

Why We Invested In Memories Over Real Estate

There was this brief moment a few weeks ago where Tyler and I seriously considered buying a house. As seriously as we’ve done anything we were planning renovations for each room and really trying to understand the layout and falling in love with the sweet lot the house sat on. We’d only seen it in pictures and it just hit the market and literally every single room was going to need renovations. I’m down for renovations, don’t get me wrong, but there wasn’t going to be any money left for renovations.

That morning we’d been camper shopping so we were thrown for a loop when we saw this property pop up. Our options were camper or house, but not both. We already have a house so it’s not like we don’t have a place to be, but real estate is always a good investment, right? Campers just depreciate over time and all that.

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Sooooo, we passed up a super awesome real estate opportunity and decided to buy a camper. It wasn’t quite that simple, but it’s what we did. Here is what it came down to for me.

Real Estate vs. Memories

We got stuck in one of those time share presentations back in April in Sedona. We had no intention of buying, but there we were trying to collect the $100 promised to us for sitting through it. Side note: Don’t ever sit through one of these things for only $100. Ask them for the world before you show up and negotiate something much better than $100. Anyway, they ask you all these questions trying to guilt you into buying a timeshare because if you don’t, you obvioulsy don’t love your kids or your mother-in-law. Legit this is what the dude working for Diamond Resorts more or less told me. I wish I was kidding. The thing that made sense from that presentation was investing in memories. We’re not timeshare people, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to start making the kinds of memories I cherish from my childhood with my own children. So we bought a camper and invested in moments and memories for our family. We can buy an new house with more land later after we handle some more things financially, but I’d prefer to start making the memories now. Each day is a gift and it would sure be a shame if we let these years pass us by with regret. Something tells me we’ll never regret a single day spent with our kiddos exploring nature and making s’mores.

The McKenna Children's Museum

So if you keep up with my blog you know that we were supposed to be in Galveston until today, but family issues resulted in us coming home early. This means we're home, Tyler has time off, and with Saida getting ready to start Kindergarten, we want make the most of this little bit of "vacation" time we have/had left.

We really didn't know what we wanted to do with this time though.  We just knew that we wanted to do it together.  After putting out an SOS to a local moms group on Facebook, we had a few suggestions to fill our time.  We chose to head down to New Braunfels (about 35 minutes away) to the McKenna Children's Museum.  We actually have a children's museum in Austin too that's technically closer, but we like to avoid the Austin traffic whenever possible.  


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Why we chose The McKenna Children's Museum for our Day Trip

  • 35 minutes is a cinch.  I hear the children's museum in San Antonio is great, but we left later than I would have liked and adding on an extra 30 minutes each way to the trip is just something we didn't have time for today.
  • It was cost effective.  We paid $7.50/person to get in.  The Thinkery in Austin would have been $12/person and The Doseum in San Antonio would have been $14/person.  I'm feeling like we definitely got our money's worth.
  • It's inside (mostly).  I thought about going to the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch, but it's hot.  Texas is sitting at a whopping 100 degress today and wasn't about to go spend nearly $60 to hang out in the sun.  Yes you get to drive your car around, but I still have to wonder if the animals would even be out moving.  We'll save that idea for cooler weather.
  • Our kids really just seem like the ideal ages for a children's museum.  Saida just turned 5 and Corbin is 2 and a half.  Children's museums are a safe place for them to run and play without limits and we love just watching them do it.
  • It gets rave reviews from just about every mom who has ever taken their kids there.

What we found at the McKenna Children's Museum

The Grocery Store Exhibit

I'm going to be honest, I haven't been to a children's museum since I was a kid and I don't really remember much about it.  Actually the only thing I sort of remember from that experience was the grocery store exhibit.  I remember thinking this is what it feels like to be a grown up when in that exhibit.  Oh to be that naive again.  But anyway, the grocery store exhibit didn't disappoint.  I especially loved seeing the things they picked out on their own shopping experience.  Corbin basically filled his cart with cheese.  If there was ever any doubt he was his mother's child, I think that doubt is gone now.  

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The Wonder Shop Exhibit

The Wonder Shop was something Saida was looking forward to.  I showed her Instagram photos of the museum before we went and she's just always down for a good painting session.  I imagined this exhibit a little more out in the open.  I was happy to find it in a room separate from the chaos of the main space of the children's museum.  

I'm not always that mom that's going to hand Corbin some paints and let him go at it.  He's a two and half year old boy which means things almost never go according to plan and I'm typically not in the mood to clean up after what went wrong.  I love that he got to paint next to his sister.  His sister is still upset that he added green to her paper where she didn't want it, but this moment made me happy.  

Helpful Tip: Do this early enough in your visit to allow more time for your paintings to dry.  We did it about half way through and as liberal as my kids are with paint, they were still wet when we put them in the car.  Fortunatley my cargo space was pretty clear and we had room to set them down flat on the way home.  

 


The Great Outdoors Exhibit

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The main attraction outside is the water.  It's basically the ultimate water table full of fishing (for toy fish), waterslide racing (for toys), and a bunch of other educational ways to interact with the water.  My kids loved this area and we sat there and watched them while silently thanking the McKenna folks for having this space under cover.  August in Texas is hot.  

Helpful Tip:  Bring a change of clothes just in case.  My kids can be pretty timid so they really didn't get wet, but I could see how it would be easy to leave this area a bit covered in water.  Chances are you know if your kid is one of those fun loving kids who may walk away wet.

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Also outside was a music area.  Honestly I felt like the music area could have been a little cooler, but my kids still thought it was pretty cool and I guess that is what matters most.  The xylophone was definitely thier favorite instrument to play.

There are also opportunities to climb and build outside so basically this area has a little bit of something for everyone (including benches for mom and dad).  

I knew this would be one of our favorite spots and I purposely saved it for last in our visit because... water.... and kids.  

 

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Hill Country Campground Exhibit

This was a suuuuuper cute area.  I'm kind of a sucker for a vintage inspired play camper and tent.  The photographer in me also loved it because it was close to a wall of windows and natural light is kind of like my very best friend.  Also we went and looked at campers after this so this is just where I am in life right now anyway.  This area also included a little cave with bat wings to put on the kiddos.  My kids probably would have taken those bat wings home.  I smell a diy project sometime in the future maybe.  

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Destination Space Exhibit

I hope my kids explore this one a little more next time.  Saida actually really loved walking through the outter space room which is basically a pitch black room with stars.  I couldn't even see the walkway it was so dark.  For a kid who insists on a night light, I was super shocked she loved it so much.  Corbin hated it.  There was so much more in that area though that they never touched so maybe next time.

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Other exhibits not mentioned that they also really enjoyed are the Amazing Airways Exhibit, The Town Square, and The Kids Clinic.

I mean really this whole place is super adorable and so inviting for play.  A steal for $7.50 per person.  The bottom line is that if we lived even 15 minutes closer, we'd have a family membership.  A family of 4 can buy a membership for only $125 a year.  It would pay for itself in about 5 visits.


So my recommendation is YES, DEFINITELY GO!!!  And if you live close, DEFINITELY PAY FOR A MEMBERSHIP!!!

For more information on the McKenna Children's Museum in New Braunfels, click the button below.


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This is just to add another level of cuteness to the post.  Also yes, he is wearing Tito's Vodka Sunglasses.  They're his favorite.