February 27, 2011

The Camping Trip That Never Was

This blog is dedicated to Brent Foster.

Every fall, the city of Meridian, Texas hosts the National Championship Barbecue Cookoff.  This is an invitation only event for barbecue teams who have won or placed in a recognized barbecue event during the year.  My brother, Mike, introduced us to this wonderfully delicious event several years ago.

Needless to say, this is a must attend for any barbecue connoisseur or aspiring pit master. Since Joe is both a connoissuer and aspiring pit master, this is an event that we try to make every year.  Our friend and camping compadre, Brent, is equally enthusiastic about the 'cue.  So, this year we intended to bring Brent and his lady friend, Aime, along on this adventure.

It just so happens that there is also a state park in Meridian.  So, it is only natural for us to blend two of our favorite hobbies -- camping and 'cue.

Joe was making the arrangements. The plan was to depart Saturday, check into our campsite at the State Park, and attend the cookoff on Sunday.  As we were planning our departure early Saturday afternoon, Joe came to the disappointing realization that the Cookoff was on Saturday not Sunday.  We had missed the event.  Bummer!!  (Maybe this was a blessing in disguise as it was raining all day)

Brent was none to happy when we delivered the bad news.  He already had all of his gear ready and sitting in his living room to be packed in his car.  In exchange for his disappointment, his only request was to capture in the camping blog the "Trip that never was".

Oh well ... There is always next year.

January 23, 2011

Lake Texoma Redemption

Panoramic View of Lake Texoma from the Boat
In October of 2009, Joe, Kristi, Denny, and Carol took a memorable trip to Lake Texoma.  Memorable for many reason, but probably most notable for the weekend long rain storm that put a minor damper on our adventures (refer to the original Lake Texoma blog).

As we were planning our return trip to Lake Texoma (Big Mineral Marina and Campground), we eagerly looked forward to all of those activities that we had to forgo the first time around. Our trip was planned for Friday October 15 through Sunday October 17 -- two wonderful nights on the lake.

Camper Joe had to work until 6:00pm on Friday night.  Mom (Carol), Dad (Denny), and I (Kristi aka Cutie Scout) decided to head to the lake early Friday afternoon to get set up and settled in.  We wanted to enjoy a few hours of daylight before the night set in.
Beach Front Camp Site
  I picked a nice lakefront camp site right on the beach while Mom and Dad checked into their cute little cabin.  Once the parents unloaded their car, they took turns holding the dogs leashes while the other would help me get my tent set up.  It was a bright and sunny day.  Once I had the camp site set up, we enjoyed the day, the view, and each others company as the afternoon slipped by.

As the afternoon turned into evening, it was time to get a fire started to get ready for dinner and brighten our campsite.  Dad volunteered to get fire started.  We gathered around the camp fire waiting for cooking coals to form while we talked and waited for Joe to arrive.

There is no better burger than a burger cooked over an open campfire.  Joe arrived just as we were eating.  Our camping troop was complete.  We all decided to turn it in somewhat early as we had a full day planned for Saturday.  Mom and Dad retired to their little cabin while Joe and I got the campsite and dogs squared away for the evening.

The next morning, Joe got the fire going again.  Mom and Dad joined us shortly.  We heated up some sausage and egg breakfast tacos.  Penny and Bronte enjoyed playing fetch in the lake with sticks and tennis balls.  Joe and Dad formulated their fishing strategy for our afternoon boat rental.

Saturday afternoon, we rented a pontoon boat for the afternoon.  We hoped to have some luck catching some fish while meandering around the lake.  It was a glorious and warm Saturday afternoon.  It was one of those last days of summer before the fall officially sets in.  We had coolers packed with beer and snacks for lunch.  This was also a first for the dogs, as neither of them had ever been on a boat before. 

We were up and down the lake casting and trolling for fish.  We tried all sorts of hooks and lures.  But in the end, I was the only one to catch anything -- I caught a 30 pound pit bull.  Penny (a natural retriever) thought the bright fluorescent green lure (with two tri-hooks) was a toy.  After many minutes of watching us cast it out and reel it back in, she finally found her opportunity to jump at it.  Needless to say, there were a few moments of panic, but in the end the hook was caught up in her eye brow and came free without any problems.
Before we knew it, our four hour rental was over and it was time to return the boat to the marina.  We truly enjoyed our time on the boat (despite catching only a puppy).  We changed our clothes, put up our fishing gear, and returned to the camp site for fellowship and camaraderie.

For dinner, we enjoyed rib eye steaks and baked potatoes cooked over an open camp fire.  After an eventful day, we once again called it a day fairly early.  This was a good thing, because Joe and I were in for a bad night sleep.  Just to recap, the 2009 Texoma trip was marked by an all night thunderstorm that nearly blew our tent in.  This time around was not quite as dramatic, but we were challenged with a leaky air mattress.  We must have woken up 4 times throughout the night to re-inflate the mattress.  Finally, just before the sunrise, with nature calling and sick of dealing with the air mattress, we got up for good.

Joe headed up to the cabin to use the restroom.  I decided to embrace my early rising to watch the sun rise over the lake.  Penny, Bronte, and I sat on a beach towel on the sand and watched the sky changed from blue to purple to pink and eventually to orange as the sun peaked over the horizon.

I noticed that fish were biting at the surface of the water.  When Joe returned from his nature call, I encouraged him to grab his fishing gear and throw a few casts.  I am proud to say, that a puppy was not the only catch on this weekend adventure.  Joe caught himself a striper!!  Sweet redemption...

January 10, 2011

Let The Camping Commence

=Each year our "camping season" concludes with the annual trip to New Braunfels at the beginning of June.  Then we enter into the camping draught.  It is simply to darn hot in Texas to camp during the summer months.  As the weather cools down, generally October, the camping season decends on us, and we couldn't be happier to get back out and enjoy outdoor activities -- camping, fishing, hiking.

This year we commenced the camping season with a visit to Fairfield Lake State Park in Fairfield, Texas (about 30 minutes south of Corsicana).  We were so pleased that our dear friends Geoff and Staci Miller joined us on this trip.  It was more then appropriate that Geoff and Staci helped us kick off this camping season as they were the people that got us into camping in the first place.

We decided to head out to Fairfield Lake Friday night and stay for two nights.  The down side being that Camper Joe doesn't get off from work until 6:00 in the evening.  We knew it would be evening before we even departed Dallas.  And although it would be a pain to set up camp in the dark, we ultimately decided it was worth it so that we could just wake up Saturday morning and be ready to go. 

So, Friday evening, October 8, Geoff and Staci meet us at our house and we departed Garland around 8:00pm. The front gates close at 10pm.  We were on a mission to make it there before the gates closed.  Despite some traffic delays as we made it through downtown Dallas, we arrived at the state park about a quarter til 10:00pm.

It was full dark by this time and the camp sites have no lighting.  We spent some time picking out or spot for the weekend and eventually settled on a location.  It was near midnight by the time we sat down to enjoy a few adult beverages after setting up our camp site and tents. 

We did not realize until we arrived at the state park that this county was under a burn ban.  This means no camp fire.  Imagine our dismay.  It just isn't the same camping without a camp fire.  We were notified by the on-duty Park Ranger that we were only permitted to use charcoal in the grill or fir ring.  So, no fire.  Having said that, we opted to turn in for the night shortly after we set up.  We had a long day of hiking, fishing, and camp business ahead of us.

A relevant side note:  We had been eager to check out Lake Fairfield ever since we learned that it was a very popular winter fishing location -- perfect for us as winter campers.  A power plant on the lake uses the lake water to cool the turbines (or something like that).  This keeps the water at relatively warm temperature during the winter making the fishing especially favorable.  Fishing tournaments are held every weekend between November and February.  Since Camper Joe and Geoff are both aspiring anglers, it was only natural that we would eventually make our way to Fairfield Lake State Park. 
Lakeview Camp Site
Since we checked into so late Friday night, our first order of business Saturday morning was to make our way back to the office and "check in" to our camp site.  Imagine our disappointment when we were informed that the fishing was no bueno due to a massive fish die off.  I don't remember the details, but basically the water conditions could not sustain the right oxygen levels in the water.  Something to the tune of 1.5 Million fish had died.  Although the lake was recovering, it was no were near populated for favorable fishing conditions.


Geoff and Staci made there way into town stock up on charcoal and beer.  Meanwhile, Camper Joe and I decided to take the dog's for a nice long walk and check out the other camping areas and hiking trails.

This was the first camping trip for our puppy, Penny.  In the immortal legacy of Scrappy Doo, she embodies "puppy power".  Morning time is her most energetic time.  So, our morning/early afternoon exploration was in part to check out the state park, but also in part to help Penny expel some of her seemingly never-ending puppy energy.
Fishing at Sunset

When Geoff and Staci returned for there trip into town, we decided to make our way over to the other side of the lake.  We were told there was a little peninsula that offered the best possibility for fishing.  So, with camping chairs, cooler, and fishing gear in hand, we made our way.  Several hours later and empty handed, the sun was completing it's dip behind the horizon.  We packed up our gear and headed back to the camp site.

We whipped up some dinner and prepared for another night without a fire.

Although we were a little disappointed with the fire ban and the lack of good fishing, we were still very much enjoyed the opportunity to go camping with Geoff and Staci, especially since they our camping inspiration in the first place.  Good friends and good company.

No fire, no fish, no problem.