Celebrating the Start of Summer
Location: Guadalupe River State Park, TX
Date: June 21 - 23, 2002
Weather: Mostly sunny, 36% humidity, highs in the mid-90's/lows in the mid-60's
Activities: Camping, photography, birding and relaxing
Submitted by: Shannon Moore
Eager to break our unintended 8-month camping dry spell, Justin and I booked a tent campsite for two nights at Guadalupe River State Park for the first weekend of summer. Located off Highway 46, just fifteen minutes from Loop 1604 and Blanco Road, Guadalupe River is a convenient escape for many San Antonio area residents -- a fact this trip would make painfully obvious. We'll get back to that, shortly.
We reserved a water-only campsite at Guadalupe River about 2 weeks prior to our visit, after discovering our first choice -- Pedernales Falls State Park -- was already booked. We recommend placing reservations at least 3 weeks in advance of your desired trip, particularly as the summer wears on (and in light of the widespread flooding which occurred July 1-5, affecting many park facilities.)
We arrived at Guadalupe River State Park shortly after 1 PM on Friday, June 21, one hour before the park's 2 PM campsite check-out time. The park was already quite busy, with a line of 5 or 6 vehicles in front of us at the entrance station. Armed with our list of favorite campsites, created during a day trip several weeks prior, we checked in at park headquarters to select a site. Many of the water-only sites were already taken, but one of our hoped-for sites (#26 in Cedar Sage campground) was available. The park staff noted the park is extremely busy, mentioning that (as of June 21) all campsites with electricity were already booked until early August!
We set up camp in the 93 degree heat, thankful to have a mostly-shaded campsite. An occasional summer breeze helped fluffy white clouds amble across the blue skies, teasing us with the potential for rain. Since May 2002 was the San Antonio area's driest May in 108 years, we didn't hold out much hope for precipitation and none arrived.
We found campsite #26 desirable because it is bordered only by a hiking trail and small playground, rather than other campsites, providing a (usually) quieter, more "park-like" setting. Situated on a hill overlooking the Guadalupe River valley, we discovered the campsite is also superb for taking sunset photos and stargazing. Aviation buffs that we are, we were pleased to observe a few aircraft flying over the park, including one aircraft Justin observed do a barrel roll and a jet aircraft we distinctly heard go into full afterburner. No doubt, the scenic expanse below these pilots inspires some good-natured fun just as it does for those of us on the ground!
Relaxing at our campsite in the early afternoon before many other campers had arrived, we revelled in the natural cacophony of the park -- cicadas and birds sang above, grasshoppers popped and hopped among the dry grass and armadillos rustled through the leaves. Just sitting at our picnic table over the course of our visit, we observed several painted buntings, a 15"-18" walking stick (insect), numerous spiders of varying sizes, a couple eastern cottontails and white-tailed deer. At night, a large spider that had descended the tree directly above our picnic table camped out by our lantern and, to our surprise, caught a moth flying toward the light. This trip, Guadalupe River seemed to be a haven for spiders of every description, and in good numbers; upon arrival at our campsite, we noted two large webs spun high in the trees, each with a sizable spider standing guard at the web's center. At night, these spiders were visible as ghostly black shadows floating between the trees. We counted a half dozen or more such spiders while walking from our campsite to the restroom. While I am not a "spider person", and did have a few chills descend down my back at night as I hoped none of these web-weavers would descend ON me, they were nonetheless a fascinating sight!
The bulk of the park's activity centers around the Guadalupe River, a scenic locale for picnicking, bar-b-ques, swimming, splashing and tubing. Although Justin and I are not big fans of large crowds anywhere, much less the parks we retreat to for rest, relaxation and exploration, Guadalupe River does provide ample opportuities for summer recreation. We recognize everyone goes to parks for slightly different reasons, and that part of having fun is being loud and bringing lots of friends or family. <Obligatory camping etiquette rant> However, having fun should not mean turning your radio up and having loud conversation well past "quiet time" (10 PM in all Texas State Parks). Regardless of their music tastes, your fellow campers will not think it cool and will have a rather fitful sleep, as we did during both nights in the park. </End rant> Thankfully, they were so loud the following night a park official came by after midnight and politely informed the boisterous family "quiet time" meant no radios and, well, actual quiet. For the intervening hours before daybreak, after the chastized family decided to set off their car alarms six times over the course of an hour, we finally enjoyed the sounds of crickets chirping and trees rustling in the light breeze.
We hiked the trail from our campground down to the river day use area several times during our stay, usually early in the morning due to the large day use crowds. The hiking trail was a new and spectacular find for us, providing unique photographic opportunities such as this experimental panoramic photo of the trail (215k JPEG). Previously, we had camped on the opposite side of the park road in either the walk-in campground or the water/electricity sites, and this trail had gone unnoticed. Our "discovery" is proof it takes a long time to fully "know" a park -- there is so much to explore and familiarize yourself with! Speaking of which, shortly before we left the park to return home, we discovered the new 5.3 mile mixed-use (hiking, mountain biking and equestrian) trail. The trailhead is adjacent to the park entrance station, and we will do a write-up on the trail as soon as we have had an opportunity to hike it ourselves. It's good to see the park providing additional trail mileage, in addition to the beautiful, protected Honey Creek State Natural Area where guided hikes are provided each Saturday morning.
Saturdays appear to be the park's busiest days on the river; shortly after the park opened (8 AM), we passed several large groups already staking out prime picnic spots as we headed back to our campsite.
Our walk along the river on Sunday morning, after the monumental day use crowds of Saturday were long gone, was eye-opening and unsettling. I really have to wonder about the mentality of people who visit a park, thereby enjoying the beauty and escape it provides, yet leave it trashed and wretched. I apologize for my tone, but if you walked the shores of the river on a Sunday morning in summer as we did during this trip and saw the five or more soggy, soiled diapers on the shoreline, or the pinata candy and ribs left on the ground to rot, or the scores of plastic bottles and cups, aluminum cans and plastic bags scattered in and around the river and its banks, you would feel the same way. That is why I took photos documenting the good, bad AND ugly of this trip and that is why I share them here; more than words could ever do, these photos capture the essence of what the problem is -- a lack of respect and responsibility.
|Soggy, soiled diaper left by someone who thought a park official or fellow visitor would find it less disgusting to pick up and throw away.|
|Copyright © Shannon D. Moore|
See more photos at OutdoorPhoto.com
Needless to say, the park was so trashed it would have taken a group of 10 to clean it up before the park opened Sunday morning. As it was, it took me a half hour to find a couple discarded plastic bags with which to pick up and dispose of the particularly disturbing remnants of previous visitors. Given what is left behind, in the future I'll probably be packing rubber gloves and large trash bags when visiting any public lands during the summer. So much for our state slogan, "Don't Mess With Texas".
|Responsible Use of Our Parks|
|The goal of WildTexas.com was never to encourage the rampant abuse and over-use of public land such as Texas State Parks. Our goal has been, and always will be, to encourage the responsible, thoughtful use of our park resources, following the principles of "Leave No Trace". Park staff, fellow campers and visitors should not have to see a trail of destruction left by your party or family gathering; if you're responsible, others should not even be able to tell you were there at all (except for additional trash in the trash bins, where it belongs). Visiting parks is a privilege we have only as long as we show respect for the resources parks are set aside to preserve and protect.
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