Amistad National Recreational Area

Amistad National Recreational Area is an interesting place. It’s a man made reservoir near Del Rio Texas that is half in the United States and half in Mexico. It’s a huge area with its 58,500 acres. It mainly attracts campers, boaters and fisherman. There were hundreds of boats and trailers at the several boat ramps. At the Visitors Center we saw several species of Bass that were caught in the lake. One was a replica of a large mouth bass mounted in a display case weighing 37 pounds! Fishing Tournaments run year round.

IMG_2284

You can get maps and information at the visitors center.

Amistad

We were interested in its inexpensive campgrounds of which there are five. We explored all of them and I thought this blog post might help anyone thinking about visiting Amistad.

All five campgrounds along the reservoir and are dry camping, no electric or water hookups and are first come first serve. You want to pack your solar panel, or generator when camping at any of these campgrounds. All campsites have picnic tables, grilles, trash receptacles, and clean pit toilets. Governors Landing is the only campground with water spigots.  Governors Landing costs $8.00 per night with half off if you have a National America The Beautiful pass. The other four campgrounds were $4.00 per night and half off with the pass. There is a free RV dumping station just off of Highway 90 west of the Visitors Center at Diablo East.

Governors Landing: This is where we stayed. It was nice but could have used a little sprucing up. Trash in the scrub brush around the sites was to me unsightly, although it didn’t seem to bother Sue too much. The reservoir level was low, but we could still walk down to the water. Sue spent a lot of time rock picking here. I met a retired National Park Ranger here and he was kind enough to give me the low down on some National Parks we plan to visit, including Big Bend. Governors Landing is right next to Highway 90 and train tracks, so it can get noisy.

IMG_2283

We met a friendly feller from Minnesota who is a regular here at Governors Landing.  I happened to mention to him that it was too bad they didn’t trim the scrub brush height at the camp site so the view of the lake would be better. The next day after Sue and I came back from exploring the area the bushes had been trimmed and we now had a great view!

Spur 406: Is north across the bridge on Highway 90 and is more remote. There are 5 or 6 camp sites and a boat ramp that was closed when we visited due to the water level. This would make for great camping if you like quiet. One of the rangers told me about some free dispersed camping here. Just past the last pit toilet take a left onto the dirt road. Plenty of room out back there and you can set up along the river. No picnic tables or water or garbage cans or anything else except a lone porta potty. Very secluded and very quiet!

San Pedro Campground: Just east of the visitors center on Highway 90. One of the rangers told me that it had just opened back up after a plane had crashed there. There are over 30 sites here and I’d consider setting up camp here next time. I didn’t see any access to the water.

277 North: 10 to 15 sites that looked nice. Access to the water when we were there. I’d set up camp here as well.

Rough Canyon Campground: A longer drive to get to this one as it’s on the north end of the reservoir. There are 4 campsites that overlook the water. There is a boat ramp which was very busy and a fish cleaning area. Also has a visitors center, and a small store with restaurant which were all closed when we were there. There is a beautiful picnic area which Sue and I took advantage of.

 

 

Let’s Rodeo San Antonio

Turns out the rodeo was in San Antonio and the KOA where we stayed was right down the way from the AT&T expo center where the rodeo was held. The campground was full to the brim with RVs and live stock trailers that were half people living quarters and half for hauling live stock. No livestock were allowed at the KOA. That would have been interesting. KOA’s may be expensive and limited in terms of natural beauty but they always have a laundry mat. Doing the laundry at an RV park is an adventure in itself. I met a nice gal from Indiana who has 9 grandchildren, 8 are living and one is dead. He died at 17 in a car crash. I watched Olympic Curling on the TV with a man who was working at the rodeo and we tried to figure out the goal of the sport.

welcome

The park abutted a town walking path and a stream so we had lots of good walks and enjoyed a nice view out of our back window.KOA River

The trailers were packed in so tightly at this place that, to quote our eloquent friend Jimbo, you could have marital relations with your wife and get your neighbor’s girlfriend pregnant.

Tread needle

Anyway, we did go to the rodeo which is a lot like a county fair during the day and then at night on the weekends, they do the cattle roping and such. One of our neighbors, Zane, was a nice guy. Native Texan. He goes to the rodeo every year for a week with his family and they show their cattle and his daughter shows her sheep.

We ran into our friends, Marte and Morris from Quebec again, that was a nice surprise.

One afternoon we were getting ready for dinner when we hear the sound of a big trailer pulling in next to us into a space that had previously held a small van. Then a woman says in a big Texas drawl that there is NO WAY I’m getting that in that spot. Well, the KOA guy helped her out and amazingly the camper was thread through that needle. Later we heard her say that she was going to write a mean note on the dust of our camper on account of it being in her way. So, we went out and chatted with her and before long she was calmed down. She said she was so glad that we talked with her. Then she gave us lots of ideas of places to go in South Texas where she is from.

Trailer closeby

The next day we put our big kid pants on and took the public bus to downtown. Larry got to see the Alamo which he has wanted to see since he was a kid. We took the River Walk Boat tour. That was amazing the way the river wound around the downtown area with walkways with restaurants and shops. We had some great barbecue at one of the restaurants. If you are in San Antonio, we recommend the River Walk.

Happy CoupleRiver Walk

 

Galveston Island, Texas

Next stop was Galveston Island, Texas. We drove on from the north through the main drag with its beautiful old Amusement Park on the main pier. It made me think of pictures of my Grandparents at Coney Island. The town is what you would call a tourist trap complete with swimsuits for sale, margarita bars and pedal bikes for rent.

Amusement ParkThis area was a combination of beautiful, natural scenery with many birds and lots of water with some of the ugliest McMansions we have ever seen, all crammed together on a really delicate ecosystem. I sure have a new found appreciation of our country’s system of town, state, and federal parks. Without the Galveston Island State Park, I can’t think that the beautiful marshes and dunes would still be there.

Ugly Houses

We met Marte and Morris from Quebec and had a good time sharing stories about the road over a couple of beers. We also met a woman from the Houston area. I told her that I was born in Pasadena, Texas where my father was stationed in the Air Force. She hollered in a loud whoop, “Pasa–Get down-Dena!!” that made me laugh. Yea! That’s where I’m from, Pasagetdowndena!

The weather was still cool, windy and rainy but hope springs eternal. We figured we would head away from the coast and see if I might be able to finally put my down parka away. Locals say this is the coldest winter in years.

Goofy

Laissez les bon temps rouler

From New Iberia, we headed south south east to Grand Isle State State Park on route 90 which definitely shook a few of Shiny’s rivets. We drove past miles of swampland and bungalows in varying states of disrepair. Houses were decorated in gold and purple for Mardi Gras. The campground was beautiful and our site was next to the dunes with a 100-yard walk to the windy Gulf Coast.

We made friends with Richard and Noreen, Air streamers from Ontario. They told us were to get fresh shrimp and man, they were great. We got lots of exercise walking on the nature trail and out to the big fishing pier.

The houses in town were all built on 14 -foot stilts.Even the Post Office was up in the air. We learned that Hurricane Katrina pretty much decimated the island leaving it in 12 feet of standing water. A local told us that there was a steady line of dump trucks leaving the island for weeks. Pretty much this was an idyllic place even though the weather was cool and rainy. The fly in the ointment for Larry was a pink towel that hung from our neighbors’ clothesline for the four days we were there, flapping in the wind. It was like something that was stuck in his back tooth. We had a lot of good laughs about that.

Pink Towel

From Grand Isle, we went to Holly Beach, La. We were freaked out when we saw a sign indicating that the ferry was out of service. Luckily, we disregarded the sign and made it on to the $1ferry with no problems. The 80- mile road was as straight as an arrow. Holly Beach is a town beach where you can park for free right on the beach. We spent two wild and windy days there. When the winds did stop, the ½ inch mosquitoes drove us inside. We did enjoy the Pelicans and shore birds and of course, I got my fair share of rock picking.

IMG_6938

I did make a recording of mediation drumming while at Grand Isle. I am trying to incorporate the ambient sounds and am having some difficulty getting a balance between drum volume and nature sounds but, it’s a work in progress! Enjoy. Click here

DSCF2199

KOC Campground

Our two days in New Iberia, La. were not the greatest. Of course, just about anything would be a let down after the beautiful Fullerton Lake campground. The KOC campground was near several busy roads so there was the issue of traffic noise but the weather had warmed up some and when we sat outside we had a nice view of a field all ready for planting. I even put on a pair of capris.

Carpis

The creepiness of this place started to settle in when we arrived and I went to the bathrooms to check them out. There were signs in the bathroom from the owners that half begged and half bullied the people to please stop vandalizing the bathrooms.  We saw five and six people from 3 different generations coming out of the same small campers. Small, dark windowed cars drove slowly through the park, stopping at various campers throughout the day. Kids got off of school buses and stopped off briefly at the campers and then hustled off to the play ground. People as skinny as skeletons came out of the campers moving about in agitated ways and hollering mean sounding words. These people frightened and saddened me and I was dismayed by how quickly I had made them ‘the other’.  There was little of the usual milling about and greeting your camping neighbors. We locked up everything we had.

On the bright side, we did meet a nice fellow from Minnesota who comes to the South every winter to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity. That was cool. We had a fun jaunt to the Tabasco factory.

Plus, we got to try a local sausage called boudin (pronounced boo dan’). Ooh wee! We are hooked. We went into a busy local butcher shop and asked if we could taste the pork and the crawfish boudin. The owner brought out two 6 inch links of each to taste!. We left with a big purchase.

We had a Shiny ‘oh shit!” moment here at KOC. The tire we had plugged at Letchworth State Park last summer started leaking again so we decided to purchase a new tire at a nearby tire dealer. The heart stopping moment occurred after we had removed the leaking tire.  We unhooked the trailer from the truck and Shiny slid backwards off of the Trailer Aid. Picture QE2 being launched sideways into the ocean. No harm done but Larry has designed a new tire changing procedure!

The high point of these 3 days was being in a nearby grocery store and getting a text from our daughter, Brooke and seeing our Grandson’s ultrasound photo! I was crying and laughing at the same time. Can’t wait for June when Master Foley makes his big appearance!

Baby Foley

Fullerton Lake

Larry and I spent 5 days and 4 nights at Fullerton Lake Campground in central Louisiana. It was a beautiful place and cost only $2.50 per night with our national park senior pass. Larry called it a ‘gem’. Sitting around outside in the evening, with hats and coats on, we talked about what makes a place a ‘gem’. We didn’t come up with anything definitive but here are a few characteristics; quiet, lots of bird song, animals, bright stars or moon, water, restful, clean, tall trees, fresh air, meandering paths, rich history. It’s harder to come up with descriptors than we thought it would be. I suppose that makes sense. I mean, how can you really reduce such a thing to its component parts without losing its essence? It was also funny how the campground stayed a gem for us over the days even as it revealed itself in other ways such as the sound of artillery salvos from nearby Fort Polk or the smoke from a controlled burn.

The camp’s host and her husband told us a story about a 12 to 13 foot alligator that followed her and her tidbit (I mean, small dog) last year when they had their daily walk around the lake. The dog had a small bell on it’s collar that attracted the gator like a dinner bell. Alas, the alligator became such a menace that it had to be put down. The Rangers lured him in by shaking a set of keys on a key ring.

Foot bridge

A nearby camper, Curtis, brought us a load of fire wood and wouldn’t take a penny for it. He told us that the guy we saw fishing every day always said that he never caught any fish.

Fullerton was a mill town that was in existence from 1907 until the wood was gone in 1927. In the woods, you can see the cement remains of the mill. We got to see one of the wild horses in the area.Horse

Fullerton

Duck house

This is a hunting permit from a nearby station. We had to look up what some of the animals were. Do you know them all?

Hunting

Yikes!Bear Warning

Here’s an audio clip of drumming by the lake’s edge in the morning. The bird song is a delight! Click here then click on Fullerton Lake tab.

Fullerton water