Friday, August 31, 2012

Park (P)review: Martin Dies, Jr. State Park - Jasper, TX

Park (P)review
We haven't camped here yet, but I've driven around and checked it out!

Martin Dies, Jr. State Park

*WATCH OUT FOR THE STATE TROOPER! He likes to hid in the entrance of the park and catch people speeding by on 190.  You've been warned!
*Park is split into two sections, with Highway 190 between them - good sites in both areas.
*You'll find donation firewood stands through out the campground.  honor system here, of course.
*Electric and Water Sites: (South) Hen House Ridge Unit, 1-23 are almost all shaded, look out for #13, though - it was flooded when I cam through. Group sites at 9 & 10, 2 & 3, 34 & 35 and prime spots at 5, 6, and 33 (these all face the water to some effect). Sites 81 has an amazing view of the lake, but not a lot of shade. Site89 was amazing, with shade, lots of space, and a decent water view.
*Electric and Water Sites: (North) Walnut Ridge Unit, Group or single sites 107 and 108 are HUGE and well shaded, Group 119 & 120 face the water and 142 & 143 have nice shade. Single sites 118 faces the water, with shade, and 135 was fully shaded and across from the park host's spot.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

My Newest Accessory: Leatherman Mini-Multi-Tool

I'm not the typical girlie-girl.  I mean, sure, I can get all dolled up with the best of them, and look mighty fine in a business suit for work, but when it comes down to it - I love the outdoors.  I love working with my hands and creating things.  I'm the kinda girl that asks for power tools at Christmas.

Yep, Daddy raised me right.

So when I started my search for an everyday-carry knife/tool, I knew the direction to head to would be a Leatherman.  I can't count the number of times that I've bugged RDB to borrow his (he's got a full-sized, strapped to the belt, Leatherman).  But I don't wear belts.  And I have tiny hands. I needed something a bit more, well, girlie.

Introducing the Leatherman Squirt PS4

"Who Says You Can't Have it All?"

This small-but-mighty little tool has 9 different features ('nail file' and 'tweezer' options ain't a-one of them!!):
  • Spring-action Needlenose Pliers
  • Spring-action Regular Pliers
  • Spring-action Wire Cutters
  • 420HC Knife
  • Scissors
  • Medium Screwdriver
  • Flat/Phillips Screwdriver
  • Wood/Metal File
  • Bottle Opener
For such a small tool, it does have a bit of heft to it. That's fine by me, though - it accounts for the fact that this really is a tool and not just a keychain do-dad and that there's not a lick of plastic in the whole thing: the handle pads are anodized aluminum.  I've only had it for about a week, and already I've used it three or four times; the knife is what I was really after - I was getting tired of using my car key to open boxes for work.

Well worth the monetary investment (Leathermans - even this little guy - aren't cheap).  I know I'll have it with me for years to come.

The photo makes the Nano Light look huge - it's not.

I've attached it to my keys using a tiny S-style carabiner (you can see the green one in the picture above)  My Nano Light flashlight is also on that link.  This way, when I switch back and forth between the car keys for everyday and the truck keys for camping, I can link it over without the usual off-the-keyring hassle. And if your eyes are really sharp, you'll also notice the monkey fist knot that's attached to my keyring (I've got 5-6' of 550 paracord there).  Got one for the truck, too.

A girl sure does love her accessories!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Park (P)review: Hunstville State Park - Huntsville, TX

Park (P)review
We haven't camped here yet, but I've driven around and checked it out!

Huntsville State Park

*On Park Rd 40 - which is the same exit for the Sam Houston Monument
*Nearly all of the park is heavily shaded
*Horse rentals (and I'm thinking canoes, too) are available
*Nice mix of shelters, day use, camping, and full hook-ups, but this is another 100+ site campground, so potentially could be very busy
*Electric and Water Sites: Raven Hill Camping Area: Sites 49, 51 or 53 have views of the 'lagoon' (it was covered in lilly pads when I was there)  Group Sites: 19 &21, 28 & 29 would be good, 56, 57, & 58 as well, also look at 47, 36, & 48 as they back into each other and are right across from the playground. 
                                         Prairie Branch Camping Area: Sites 146 & 147 would be group sites, with 146 being a "premo" stand alone - these face the lake.
*Shelter Sites - 13, 12, & 10: keep in mind, if you're booking a shelter sites, your pup and TV both have to be on your pad, no parking is allowed on the camp road.

We stayed here Feb '13: It's A Wonderful Life
And again in August '13: It's Nice Outside
And again in June '18: Happy Campers; Home Again

Friday, August 17, 2012

Park (P)review: Lake Livingston State Park, Livingston, TX

Park (P)review
We haven't camped here yet, but I've driven around and checked it out!

Lake Livingston State Park

*This Park got me excited! I can't wait to head out to visit here and am thirlled it's only an hour from home
*Horseback riding is offered, guided, on site (936-967-5063, 9am, 11am, 1pm, 3pm, 5pm)
*The swimming pool has a lake view!
*Electric and Water Sites:
     Yaupon Loop: Group Sites: 15, 17, 21 & 23 all back into each other (all shaded), 4 & 5 are another good group spot (closer to bathhouse)
          Sites 71, 77, 81 well shaded, site 87 shaded and large (these have great lake views)
          Site 93 backs up to the creek, but it's also beside a trail head
     Post Oak Camping Area: Sites 120 & 123

*Watch out for the girl who's mowing the grass on the roadsides in the park - she's actually a police officer.  And the speed limit is 20mph.  Don't ask me how I know all this....

We stayed here in October '12: A Relaxing Weekend at the Lake
And again in January '14: A Thousand Reasons Not To

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Viral Zoonotic Neuroinvasive Disease


There's hardly another word that strikes as much fear in the hearts of pet lovers as the word rabies.  But visiting the country, as we love to do, means that it's a possible fear we face with Diesel every time we go camping.  We've done what every responsible pet owner should do and have him fully vaccinated against this horrid disease.

(And just in case you didn't know how truly bad it can be, read this. *Warning: this link contains graphic pictures!* There's really no coming back from it.  Even if your pet goes through the required 6 month quarantine, he's not likely to come back your loving, well socialized best friend.)

I was heading down to Corpus Christi for work this evening listening to public radio and learned that Fort Bend County (TX) will be air-dropping rabies vaccines into the surrounding countryside.

Quoting from KUHF:

Fort Bend is the first county in the Houston Metro area to try an
oral rabies vaccine program. Small planes and helicopters will drop
about 42,000 doses. Each dose is about the size of a ketchup packet.

"And it's covered in fish meal, which does not smell very good,
but it attracts the animals. There's a gel vaccine inside of it. 
When they bite into it, it squirts into their mouth, and they ingest it,"
says Melanie Manville with Fort Bend County's Health and Human Services.

(Get the full story here, and a better picture of the drop area here.)

It appears that if the program goes over well, they'll roll it out to other areas of the state.  Seeing that Fort Bend County has has a relatively high number of skunk rabies cases confirmed year after year: 2011 (12); 2010 (5); 2009 (12) - this sounds like a good use of time and money.

I can't help but wonder, though, what all those 'ketchup sized packets' are going to do to the local environment and wildlife (birds and fish, and us!) that will inadvertently be exposed to it.

Bonus:  In my research tonight, I discovered

September 28th is World Rabies Day.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Park (P)review: Fairfield Lake State Park - Fairfield, TX

Park (P)review
We haven't camped here yet, but I've driven around and checked it out!

Fairfield Lake State Park

*This looks like a very large, and potentially very busy park - more than 100 campsites
*The road into the park, from headquarters to first camping loop, is nearly 5 miles long and windy!
*Electric and Water Sites:
     Cooks Ferry Camping Area: Group Sites: 60 & 62, 48 & 50 (all shaded)
          Sites 71, 77, 81 well shaded, site 87 shaded and large (these have great lake views)
          Site 93 backs up to the creek, but it's also beside a trail head
     Post Oak Camping Area: Sites 120 & 123

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Tips & Tricks #1: Camp Kitchen

Just a few tips that I've learned in the Camp Kitchen this past spring.

*Use 2 separate coolers: one designated for meals/frozen food and the other for drinks/cold snacks.  Think about how many times throughout the day you open the cooler for a drink (or the little munchkins you're camping with open it for ice. Or a snack. Or looking for a juice box...) Every time that lid gets lifted, you lose some of the precious cold air that's trying to keep your 2 or 3 day supply of food at a safe temperature of 40* or below.  We also keep our 'food cooler' in our Pup - with the A/C running - so that the ice has a better chance of lasting the whole trip (and also keep the munchkins from opening our cooler by "mistake" <- a bungee cord helps prevent this on our beverage cooler outside - at least until LJ gets old enough to figure that out!)  The beverage cooler also gets moved around the campsite throughout the day to wherever the shade is.

*Freeze/pre-cool anything you can ahead of time.  Meats, sauces, etc.  This will help keep your food cooler colder and your ice will last longer.  Consider pre-cooling anything going into the drink cooler as well - fruits, veggies, pudding snack pacs, juices, adult beverages, water bottles, etc.  Anything you can do to minimize the burden on your ice will help things stay cooler long and keep you from running to the store to refresh your ice. (I've even heard of people putting their entire cooler into the fridge.  I unfortunately, don't have that kind of spare space!)

*Make ice 'blocks' from half gallon milk jugs.  Fill an empty and cleaned out jug about 3/4ths full with water and let freeze overnight (I do this the night before we leave). My Coleman 'food' cooler will easily hold 4 half gallon jugs across the bottom, with my frozen foodstuffs on top - then finished off with ice cubes to fill in all the spaces.  We've come home from trips and still had columns of ice in the jugs after 4 days. Another benefit here is that if you start to run low on drinkable water, you have a additional 2 gallon supply in your food cooler.

*Make your arrival night meals easy.  Drive thru somewhere fast food (blah), or grab a rotisserie chicken from a nearby grocery store, fix PB&Js before you leave the house - just try not to make a production out of that first meal.  We typically have spaghetti our first night out - I pre-make the sauce at home, put it in a freezer bag, and freeze it as a 'sheet' (lay the bag flat in the freezer to harden up) It comes right out of the food cooler when we arrive and defrosts while we set up, once we've popped-up a pot of water goes on the stove to boil pasta, and by the time we're finished with camp set up, all I have to do is warm the now-defrosted sauce, grab a french baguette from the bread bag and dinner's ready!

*Pre-cut and chop whenever possible.  Kind of a given - but I know that I don't want to stand around chopping onions, celery, and carrots for tuna salad while fighting off bugs and then next morning cut peppers, onions, ham, grate cheese, etc for omelets.  Since we know what we're having before we leave, I know what prep needs to be done for each meal.  Nothing easier than cracking a few eggs, dumping a bag of fixin's in and having omelets for breakfast! (I've noticed this also cuts down on food-scraps in the trash - which cuts down on visits from the raccoons!!)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Park (P)review: South Toledo Bend State Park, Anacoco, LA

Park (P)review
We haven't camped here yet, but I've driven around and checked it out!

South Toledo Bend State Park
337-286-9075 or 888-398-4770 toll free

*Nestled in a pine woods area, with great access to the Toledo Bend Reservoir
*Amazing open dam area just right down the road from the park
*Several of the sites have wood decks
*Sites: Electric and Water: Site 2 is well shaded, has a deck, and a decently private lake view
            Sites 7 and 8 would be a well shaded group site
            Site 31 is very large, shaded, and has a great lake view
            Sites 33, 35, 37 are all shaded and have good lake views
*Cabins are also available for rent 9didn't have a chance to preview any of these, but they looked really nice