Texas is a beast. Boasting nearly 270,000 square miles of terrain with 7 distinct regions from hill country, mountains, and coastline to basins, prairies, and plains, I suppose one could say that Texas has it all. Driving through was no small feat! I’m so happy that we made the trip because by the end, I would say that Texas won our hearts.
The biggest downside to Texas is that much like Arkansas, there were minimal opportunities for dispersed camping which means we were funneled right back into the State Park game. We thought we had found a loophole. Wait. Back up. We totally found a loophole—Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs). After some thorough research, Eric and I discovered that for $24 we could buy an annual pass that would guarantee access to roughly 50 WMAs across Texas. Score! Well, it would have been awesome however our timing, not so much. Many of the WMAs were closed for hunting season, therefore, we ended up paying top dollar as we made our way through Texas.
First stop, Dangerfield.
Dangerfield State Park
Despite the constant drizzle and occasional downpour, Grizz and I hit the road to burn off some pent up energy. We absolutely needed it! I chose the pavement because I thought the trails would be mush, but much to my surprise, the trail around the lake was in tip top shape about 98% of the way. So, we did what any sane hiker would do—we went for it!
What a trip! Although it was a bit gloomy, we made it all the way around in a little over an hour and didn’t see another soul. Maybe rain isn’t always a bad thing!
Here are some photos from our mini adventure:
After our cold, wet hike I warmed up with a long, hot shower. Since all the other campers were in RVs with private bathrooms, Eric and I took advantage of the shower house and we each had our first “real” shower with endless, steaming water in over a month. It was pure bliss.
Mission Tejas State Park
I’m proud to say that in the 1 1/2 days that we were here, Grizz and I hiked every single trail in this park covering over 20 miles (we hiked some trails twice). Though the ground was still damp from all the rain, we had nothing but clear skies the entire time we were there. After weeks of cold and rain, the sun felt miraculous, quickly drying out our soggy souls.
Many of the trails appeared just as the one pictured above with minimal variation. Basically, a dense array of skinny pines towering overhead. But don’t be fooled by the lack of expansive views, there was plenty of life below!
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There were also several newly built bridges lined with fallen leaves…
some interesting plants growing around burned trees….
plenty of rocky stairways to descend…..
Thankfully Grizz was leashed or he definitely would have been in for a dip!
A Few More Pics
Overall, a very pretty area to explore and enjoy. Here are a few more finds from our time here:
Above is a Spanish mission where friars attempted to convert the native Hasinai Caddo to Christianity in 1690. Instead, the Spaniards only left the natives with disease and death abandoning the mission only four years later.
Mission Tejas is also were we took nice long walks in the pitch black night. Often, we would turn our head lamps off and just walk along the paved road and listen to the armadillos rustle around in the leaves. Grizz and I would freak out, Daddy of course just laughed and lovingly referred to us as “wimps”. With head lamps on, we could see millions of green emeralds reflecting the lights. They were everywhere. Unfortunately, I learned these were spiders. Another set of larger eyes appeared from the darkness. We never discovered what this creature was, but the next day when Grizz and I were hiking, I could have sworn I saw a werewolf.
Well, that was probably my imagination. It was more than likely a coyote.
We were showered with rain and with the rain came a damp cold that went on for days as we attempted to make our way out of Texas. We were all tired from long days of driving and spending night after night at loud or crowded rest areas. On a positive note, the rest stops in Texas are generally really nice. Many had lovely picnic areas and walking paths which helped me and Grizzy get our steps in for the day. It helped, but were were all desperate for a longer stretch of sunshine. After several pep talks and a few good nights sleep, we were able to push on with hope in our hearts for better days ahead. And better days were granted to us as we made our way towards the southwest.
Davis Mountains State Park
Sometimes the grass really is greener on the other side. While the Davis Mountains didn’t have a stitch of grass, it was just the green we needed to pull us from the darkness. The sun decided to make an appearance and Grizz and I hiked our little hearts out until we (well, I) couldn’t hike any farther. This was the first big elevation we hit after nearly 3 months in mostly flat terrain. It felt so good to climb!
Skyline Drive Trail
The Old CCC Trail
Montezuma Quail Trail
Indian Lodge Trail
After the upward climb from the Montezuma Trail, you have the option to hit the Indian Lodge Trail and that is exactly what we did. Wow. The hike was incredible, a little challenging and a whole lot rewarding! Warning: the pictures do NOT do this hike justice.
Speaking of sun, it was a little warm that day. Grizz found the biggest shade spot in a 2 mile stretch and plopped down for a rest break. Smart dog.
Limpia Creek Trail
Grizz and I woke early, way before sunrise. I grabbed our already packed gear and headed for the trail. According to the park map, the Limpia Creek Trail was on the other side of the highway and about 2 miles from where we were camping. After the trek to the trailhead, we learned that a code was required to access that hike. Well, that would have been helpful information to put on a map! So we hiked back to the office, waited 10 minutes (it opened at 8), signed in and got the code, then headed back for the hills. Unfortunately, the sun was already up by then so I didn’t get any good sunrise photos! So much for planning ahead! Haha.
Once we got up there, I could see were were basically on the other side of the road from the Montezuma Trail. Eventually the trail wraps around the mountain and the highway disappears.
The desert is bursting with color and life if you look hard enough!
The sun came up fast and the brightness of the day didn’t make for the best photos, so I tucked my camera away. There is something peaceful about living in the moment. So, I enjoyed my breath as I climbed those big rocky hills taking in the views, smelling the fresh air, and well, watching out for mountain lions!
Big Bend Ranch State Park
When I think of BBRSP, a few words come to mind: expansive…surprising…breathtaking…unique—It’s a MUST if you’re ever in the southern horn of Texas. The drive alone is spectacular! In fact, the loop from Ft. Stockton to Presidio then across to Big Bend National Park and back up to I-10 is overall pretty fantastic. The landscape is one of a kind! I can only say that with a bright sun and no expensive camera gear, it wasn’t the easiest to capture. But here are some photos of our drive and quick overnight in the area.
Like I said earlier, this was a phenomenal drive and if you ever have the chance to go, I highly recommend. I would have LOVED to spend a lot of time at the National Park hiking these glorious mountains, however due to crowds and COVID, it just wasn’t worth the risk. Plus, I’d have to leave little Grizz behind as dogs are not generally welcomed on trails within a national park. So, maybe another day.
Historical Marker Number…
While driving through Texas we saw the most historical markers we’ve ever seen. Well, Texas is a big state with lot of history, so, I suppose having over 16,000 markers makes complete sense! There was one that spoke to me so we stopped to check it out.
According to the signage, this small church is referred to as Mission Mary and was in operation from 1895-1935. The building was plastered in the 1940’s to preserve the structure. The mission now stands as a monument to the settlements which no longer exist in the area.
There were hundreds of stones and painted rocks stacked up around the church with peoples names, prayer requests, and other personal remembrances (ie: Dates of marriages, child births, and family deaths).
An interesting stop in the middle of absolute nothingness surrounded by mountains.
In a span of less than 90 minutes, Eric and I were granted six, YES SIX gifts. Zeus (Greek) and Jupiter (Roman), the gods of weather and sky, must have been battling it out. Winner takes all. I say, they can both exist in my world. Just keep those gifts coming and I will admire and appreciate them fully.
#1 A Rainbow
Sometimes rain can be a real drag, especially when you live out of your van! Other times, rain can be a beautiful drag! This was one of those rare occasions where I was so caught up in the beauty of it all, I almost forgot that Grizz and I were cold, wet, and still had a long drive ahead. As they say, “YOLO”.
I couldn’t pick a favorite, so here you go in order of appearance:
This was likely one of the best rainbows I’ve ever seen and some scenery to boot!
#2 A Glorious Drive
On a whim, while sitting at that rest area pictured above (the one with the glorious rainbow), Eric and I decided to completely bypass El Paso and head north towards New Mexico.
Best. Decision. Ever.
Not only was it a beautiful drive, but a memorable one as well. And, we didn’t even know that the best was yet to come!
#3 Another Rainbow
#4 Mountains and Rainbows
What? Mountains AND Rainbows. This day just keeps getting better!
#5 El Capitan
WOW. Mind blown.
The Guadalupe Mountains. Oooo…pretty.
As soon as we began climbing, the rainbow faded but the sky was brilliant and wonderful all the same.
There was a rest stop situated perfectly, right across from El Capitan, however the wind was violent and the air was frigid so we only stopped long enough to take the picture shown in the section (A Sunset) below.
#6 A Sunset
What a perfect way to end the day. In fact, also a perfect way to end this blog.
Texas was a pleasant surprise. From North to South, and East to West, Texas has to be one of the most diverse states we’ve visited thus far. Personally, I can’t wait to go back! There was so much to see and do that we barely touched the iceberg of what Texas has to offer.
While van life on a budget can be a little tough due to lack of BLM land, there are some genius ways we discovered to maximize our dollar throughout the state! Rest stops, hidden picnic areas and WMAs are some great ways to stay for free as long as it’s NOT hunting season!
That said, we also learned that some things are just worth paying for. Texas has some amazing State and National Parks and I’m so glad we didn’t pass them by!
Eric and I would also like to take the time to thank all of your for following along in our adventures and we hope you continue to enjoy the blog. We love to hear your comments, thoughts, travel ideas, or just a plain ole hello, so drop us a line below!
Thanks for reading!
Until next time friends….