Those are just a few of the words that would describe my weekend camping in Garner State Park back in the fall of 2011. With good friends, gear, and kayaks in tow, we set off for the Hill Country for a gorgeous autumn weekend of camping, paddling and hiking. Although we departed a bit later than we had originally planned, we were still able to set up the campsite in the dark, lickity-split, thanks to our Princeton Tech head lamps. I had just recently purchased a Mountain Hardware Drifter 3 tent and was surprised, even in the dark, how easy it was to pitch. Not only was it easy to pitch but it was great to have for some of the inclement weather we experienced overnight. It was crazy windy and rained for a few hours just before sunrise but not a drop made it on our gear.
After the rain ceased around daybreak, I broke out the skillet and sent the smell of bacon frying on cast iron into the morning air. A short time later, not surprisingly, the campers started emerging from their tents and there was a call to arms. As soon as the grease was runnin’ hot in the pan we made some eggs and the breakfast tacos were born. With our hunger quenched and our spirits high, we began our ascent up Old Baldy. We reached the top after only about 30 minutes but boy did that climb get the blood flowing. Although the ascent was quite challenging at times, the view from the top of the Texas Hill Country is unrivaled, especially with the foliage during that time of year. We snapped some pictures and then it was time to head back to base camp for lunch.
We made it down the Old Baldy Trail and put a few Frankfurters on the barbie. By then the sun had burned off the patchy fog that was covering the campground and we were ready to put some roto-molded plastic in the Frio — the time to paddle had finally arrived!
I was anxiously awaiting this moment because I had the Bending Branches Navigator paddle with me for the weekend but hadn’t had the chance to use it yet. After a quick trip back to the campsite for some refreshments, I shoved the Necky Rip 12 into the Frio and we paddled the dammed up part of the river for about an hour. I had paddled the Rip 10 plenty of times previously but this was my first go ‘round with the 12 foot version and it did not disappoint. In my opinion, it is a better version of the 10ft because it tracks better, still has ample cockpit space, and is very comfortable. For as much as I enjoyed the kayak, the paddle was even better. The paddle strokes were effortless and I was very impressed with how light the swing weight of the paddle was. It was nice to have the Rockguard on the paddle blades as well because the Frio River’s water level was much lower than normal due to the extreme drought we’ve had here in Texas. There were quite a few exposed rocks in the shallow water so it was key to have the protection on the paddle blades.
As dusk approached I fired up the skillet once again and we had a fabulous meal of beef fajitas with all the fixin’s and topped it all off with a healthy helping of s’mores. We recounted the adventures of the day and carried on long into the night and then it was time, yet again, to retire to our tents. On this evening, however, I was sleeping in style with the Kelty Recluse sleeping pad. It took no time at all to inflate the pad with the hand pump, but I finished it off with the iron lungs just for good measure. Everyone in camp was jealous of the sleeping pad and for good reason, as it took tent camping to another level of comfort. I can honestly say I will not be camping without the Recluse after getting the chance to sleep on it for just one night.
One thing was for sure when we awoke the next morning, we will be planning another camping trip to Garner sometime very soon.
Have you been here before? What was your experience like?