Friday, February 10, 2012

Port "A" and the Magnolia Beach area.

Wednesday & Thursday

The weather forecast is rather dreary for the next several days; cool, windy and rainy with no short term improvement forecast. We decided to cut our TX trip short and move on to the Florida Panhandle area.
On Wednesday we went into Aransas Pass to do laundry then over to Port Aransas. We bought the $12 annual beach parking permit that will allow us to camp on the beach. Port A has become one of our favorite Texas locations. As in past visits, we spend the day parked along the jetty watching the shipping traffic, fisherman, birds and the occasional porpoise, and the nights south of the fishing pier along the Gulf shoreline.
We decided to head out on Friday morning to explore the peninsula south of Port Lavaca. It’s an area we’ve never visited before and that’s the primary factor in deciding where we go. Plus we’ve stayed in this area several times in the past so we’re ready for someplace new.

It did get me thinking again, about the two distinctly different camping styles:
The county campground here is close to full. For a fairly reasonable $25/night you get a site with electricity and water, free access to the dump station, the shower house and on-site security. You also get a close-up view of your neighbors RV plus the sound of your neighbors’ radio, conversations, smoke from their grill, their barking dog, etc.

We drove along the beach this morning about 8am. There were eight other RV’s camping along the beach. All widely spaced with a beautiful view of the Gulf. I can’t speak for the other campers, but we had electricity, water, our own private shower and access to a dump station (for a modest fee of $4); everything the county campground afforded except for an on-site guard. We’ve camped all alone at much more isolated places for several years and have never felt even mildly uncomfortable with the setting or with other people so the lack of a guard is not an issue with us.

We’ll take the beach camping any day. Since there are far more campers in the secure environment of the formal county campground, that’s clearly the preference of the vast majority of campers.
Everyone seems happy with their choice; what else matters?


Still cool, overcast and windy.
We dumped our tanks, topped off the water and headed east towards the Port Lavaca peninsula. Stopped in Rockport for a hair cut, an apple fritter and a trip to Wal-Mart. Today was an exploring day with no specific destination in mind. We came across the Indianola Park which is actually in Magnolia Beach, and not Indianola. There were three other RV’s camped on the beach so we pulled in for the night. We’re right on Matagora Bay; another beautiful free beach camping area. This is an interesting county park. There are 14 gazebos with picnic tables, a bath house, trash bins, and a playground. You can either park next to a gazebo or go just north or south of the gazebos and park right on the bay. The sand is well compacted and the beach area is very wide. That’s where we are now, about 20’ from the waters edge. Our nearest neighbor is from Iowa. It’s chilly here he said, but much nicer then Iowa.
We drove the length of the peninsula just looking around. Indianola was a prosperous community until two closely spaced hurricanes in the late 1860’s wiped it out.
About 4:30 today, the sun shined for about thirty minutes. What a wonderful site.

Indianola Park

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Monday, February 06, 2012

A long driving day. We left Deming at about 8:15am and drove to Orzona, TX, arriving just after 4:00. We’re “camped” in the parking lot of the Visitors Center. Nice and level, well lighted and next door to the Highway Patrol substation. Tomorrow we have one more long days drive to the Port Aransas(Port A) area. After that, it’s back to our maximum driving day of three hours.

Todays view.


On the road by 8am.
The nurse from Mom’s ACLF called this morning. Mom’s not feeling well at all. They set up an appointment with her doctor for tomorrow and Ginny’s going with her. Depending on what’s going on, we may cut this trip short.
We stopped for bar-b-que brisket in San Antonio. This Texas brisket is as good as it gets.
Finally, at about 4:00 we got to the Port A area. An exhausting drive. Last year we spotted this really neat boondocking area on the east side of the ferry. We’re here tonight along with three very friendly couples from Iowa, Minnesota and Ontario. The Iowa couple has a shelty and the Minnesota couple a Jack Russell. Dogs are really good ice breakers. Just cut your dog loose and in no time, you know everyone around. The folks from Minnesota have been camping here since October. They have been coming here for years and gave me a good rundown on all the local free camping areas. We’re camped on an abandoned paved road that's on a peninsula with a shipping channel on one side and Redfish Bay on the other. The view is just beautiful. The MN people have a kayak and a fishing boat they pull behind their big 5th wheel.

A couple staying in an RV resort in Port A stopped by earlier to inquire about the local beach camping rules. They will be pulling over here on Saturday when their commitment at the resort runs out.

Todays view. An ibis fishing.

The neighborhood.

On Sunday, we meet our old friends Ted and Liz at Indianola for some beach boondocking. Ted’s going to *try* to teach me how his campground data base operates. Good luck, Ted! I've been wanting to do my own data base of unofficial camping areas that don't meet Teds definition of a campground.

Until then we’ll just be poking around here and there.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Thursday, February 02, 2012

The Rovers Roost RV park is only 1.6 miles off I-8 making it a very convenient stopping place. The first night of dry camping is free. Dump and water is $5.

We were on our way to Tucson by about 9am. First stop was Whole Foods for some of their great fresh salads. After that it was Trader Joe’s. Carol had wanted some peanut oriental salad dressing that Annie used when making her broccoli and cranberry salad at Q. Unfortunately they were out of stock but we managed to find some unusual dinner ideas; things we don’t normally buy. Then for the Wal-Mart run to replenish the basics.

We arrived at the Catalina State Park about noon time figuring it would be a cinch getting a campsite on a Thursday. The place was full. Fortunately they have an overflow area for $15/night so that’s where we are now, along with 19 other campers. We have reservations in the campground for Friday and Saturday; also dry camping. The main campground has large and widely spaced sites, but by the nature of the desert environment, there is basically no visual privacy between sites.

Gopher and I took a nice walk on one of the many trails that run through the park. There was some rain a week, or so, ago and everything is nice and green. Gopher enjoyed seeing some nice, green grass after having been in the desert since December 29. Some of the cactus were flowering.


This morning we awoke to 26* and frost. Gophers outside water bowl was frozen solid. Reminded me of Woodstock ice skating on Snoopy’s water bowl. Enough of this. We’re changing our plans and heading south on Sunday or Monday. The new plan is to go to the Padre Island National Seashore (PINS) then follow the Gulf Coast to Florida. We’ve taken that route a number of times and have some favorite beach boondocking spots plus a couple of new ones I’ve heard about.

John and Marge met us at the trailhead parking area about 11:00. We all enjoyed a nice walk around the riparian area where the main trails begin. The park has several miles of hiking trails. Not so many years ago, we were up to long hikes. The saguaro cactus continue to amaze us although we’ve seen them time and again. From a very informative brochure about the Saguaro: The seedling will grow only one or two inches during its first 10 to 15 years. At age of 40 to 75, it will reach a height of eight feet and begin to produce blossoms. At about age 75, branches will begin to develop. If it does not fall victim to lightning, frost, or severe drought, the saguaro may live to be 200 years old, reach a height of 50 feet, weigh as much as 6 tons, and support as many as 50 arms. The biggest one I saw had perhaps 35 arms. I suspect it had to be well over 100 years old.

John and Marge treated us to a wonderful dinner at the El Charro CafĂ© which has been in business since 1922. It’s the Nations oldest Mexican restaurant in continuous operation by the same family.

It was a very enjoyable day catching up on family news and events. This summers Wagner family reunion is now a certainty. July 6-8 in New London/Mystic,CT.

The biggest Saguaro I came across

Our "official" campsite

The overflow area

A cactus in bloom


34* this morning. The Wave 3 propane heater keeps the interior temperature about 20* above the outside temperature. Still chilly, but tolerable. While Carol was still sleeping, I drove down the trailhead parking area then took a nice walk with Gopher. On Saturday, weather permitting, there is a very nice nature presentation put on by park volunteers. Everything in the exhibit came from the park or surrounding mountains. After breakfast we walked down. There were lots of different types of rattlesnakes, a Gila Monster, Pack Rats, etc. We’re always learning something new. This morning, a very knowledgeable women gave us a personal presentation about the skull collection. We learned that if the eye sockets are facing forward, the skull is from a carnivore predator because they need to be looking ahead for potential prey. For example, humans, cats(mountain lions) and dogs(coyotes) of different types. If the eye sockets are positioned to look to the sides, the animal is not a predator. They are potential prey and have side looking eyes to expand their field of vision so as to be able to spot predators. Animals like deer, mice, rabbits, and such. During our morning hike we photographed a plaque about bobcats, saw a bobcat skull and a bobcat skin, but not a live bobcat. Our friends Jim and Gayle have a great picture of a live bobcat on their blog. Much better then seeing just pieces and parts of a dead bobcat.

Johnny came down for a visit while Marge went to the big Tucson gem show with some of her friends who are also vacationing here.

Rattlesnakes. Forgot just what kind.

Bobcat sign

Carol and John


We stopped by Trader Joe’s. They had the salad dressing Carol wanted, plus a few other items, then to Whole Foods for some more of their super salads. Then we went to the Mission San Xavier del Bac which is located on the Tohono O’odham reservation south of Tucson, for Sunday Mass. We’ve been here before and return whenever we’re in town.
From the brochure:

A National Historic Landmark, San Xavier Mission was founded as a Catholic mission by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692. Construction of the current church began in 1783 and was completed in 1797.

The oldest intact European structure in Arizona, the church's interior is filled with marvelous original statuary and mural paintings. It is a place where visitors can truly step back in time and enter an authentic 18th Century space.

The local Indians set up food booths around the plaza in front of the church. Everything is made at the stand as you watch. Very authentic. We shared an Indian Taco and a chunk of very crispy cinnamon sugar fry bread for lunch.

Ordered lunch

After lunch we began the long trek south to Padre Island. Tonight we’re at the SKP Dream Catcher park in Deming, NM. Very basic, but less then a mile off I-10