Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Galveston, Part II - The Sandpiper. Half Empty or Half Full?

We loved Galveston so much on our first visit, we decided to sneak down there one more time before summer was over.  Our favorite spot, Dellanera Resort, was fully booked, so we decided to try The Sandpiper RV Resort.  We knew it was also on the beach side of the road, so we crossed our fingers and booked it.  Guess what?  Dellanera is still our favorite!

Before I get to the campground, let me give you a tip on a free place to stay on the way to Galveston.  The rest area off I-35 at Huntsville, Texas - formally known as Walker County South Bound Safety Rest Area.  Sure, I've seen rest areas with playgrounds, but a walking trail? Curbside parking for RVs?  Plenty of pet walking areas?  Pefect.  We could even put our slides out!  The only thing that was missing was power.  Have I mentioned the solar panel on top of our camper?  Yes, we were just fine.  This rest area is only about two hours north of Galveston, though, so it was quite a haul to get there.  Still, I'd take a guess that most rest areas in Texas will be a fine place for a quick, free sleep.  (Note to self:  there's another rest area about 95 miles north.)

Now, on to the campground.  The Sandpiper has an infinity pool situated so that the pool fades off into a view of the ocean.  It also has a big kitchen/social room that campers can use for gatherings.  The resort has several hotel rooms, which would be very convenient for friends/family without a camper.  It's a small, clean, quiet resort.

Do you hear the but?  The resort is gated, but kids aren't allowed to ride around inside the gates.  It's on the same side of the road as the ocean, but the ocean is 100 yards away.  Since it's right next to the streeth, traffic noise on Seawall Boulevard drowns out the sound of the gulls and the waves.  Maybe it's quieter at night, but I couldn't sit outside to listen because of the horrible mosquitoes.  When I booked, I'd been told a range of spots we might be in.  When I arrived, we were assigned a spot that wasn't even close.  I was not happy.

Again, but.  Who could be mad or unhappy when they are camping on the beach?  Not us.  We had fun swimming in the ocean and swimming in the pool.  We rested.  We walked on the beach.  We took our bikes out of the resort and rode on the roads surrounding the beach.  We played at a nearby park and discovered a crab!  We ate at our favorite restaurant.  Best of all, we spent lots of time with good friends.

I'll leave you with a photo taken just adjacent to Stewart Beach at sunrise.  I managed to capture the beauty of the ocean, even though at that early time, the beach behind me was full of litter.  Turns out, that was the point of the whole trip - finding the good amid the bad.  We did!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Why do we love MarVal so? My favorite moments...

Hello!  I'm participating in Teacher's Write, a virtual summer camp for teachers.  I've decided to incorporate today's lesson into my camping blog.  We visited MarVal Family Campground near Gore, Oklahoma, over the July 4th weekend, and I'm so glad we did! Read below for a short description of my favorite moment of our trip.

Short description:  It was the hottest part of the day, and I was sitting in my camp chair, dangling my water shoe-clad feet into the icy water of the trout stream.  My eyes were on my husband as he was swinging a flourescent yellow line into the water across the stream.  At the same time, I watched my daughters, one tall and skinny, the other shorter and plumper with her puddle-jumper fastened around her middle.  As they splashed in the river, their gleeful squeals filled the afternoon.  Out of the corner of my eye, I watched my own mother as she slowly ventured deeper into the water, a smiling memory in her eyes.

Sounds:  Water.  People.  Insects.  Nature.  The loudest, most constant sound is the water rushing by.  I'm sitting right by an area where the water rapidly crosses some rocks.  Water is often personified as laughing or giggling, but this sound was not human.  The constance of the sound quickly relegated it into the background, but I think it helped cool the hot day.  The sound of my children's voices was welcome, as my mother instinct constantly monitored their safety in the water.

Touch:  The water is icy cold.  Yes, it's July.  MarVal is located near the dam of Lake Tenkiller, and the water that's released into the stream is from the bottom of this large lake.  The temperature is so cold that one can't swim in it for long without teeth starting to chatter.  Cold, icy, freezing.  The cold makes my daughters squeal and laugh as they step in.  My mother smiles through the pain as she gradually steps deeper and deeper.  It idly occurs to me that there's no need for a cooler; I could just dunk my drinks into the water and keep them there.  My favorite part of this spot is actually the leaving.  The stream is in a slight valley lined with trees, so the icy water cools the air and the shade helps create a spot of natural air conditioning.  When I walked up the hill and back into the real world, the hot summer sun slammed me with the reality of July.

Short description revised, adding sound and touch:  As I climbed the small hill, I left the shade and the natural air-conditioning of the icy river.  I glanced back over my shoulder, and in my memory I could still see my husband hopefully casting this flourescent line as my gleeful daughters splashed nearby.  The background noise of the rushing water only added to the refreshingly cool feeling of this secret summer spot.  Once more, I watched as my mother ventured in, smiling through the pain of the cool water, so recently trapped at the bottom of a deep lake.  In her eyes are memories of the man she loved, wading into this same water in search of succulent trout.  Her slow, steady journey shoulder-deep into the water reflected her painful journey after my stepfather's death.  I watched her determination and then her newfound joy as the cold river caught her and she rode the gurgling current downstream, a purposeful rider finding joy through the pain.

Well, that turned into a mini story about my mom!  It's so interesting where writing takes you.

A bit about MarVal:  It's a family campground, complete with a pool, craft center, and other fun activities.  Since it's gated, the campground is safe enough to give older children a bit of freedom.  We always camp with friends, and we try to find spaces near the playground, so the children can run back and forth from the campers to the playground.  There's also an arcade, so the kids are often begging for quarters to play games.  Of course, the stream is cold and stocked with trout, so there's great fishing!  In the hot summer months, it's fun to grab a raft and float down the river.  If you have children, you should camp any weekend in October to enjoy their Halloween festivities.  MarVal is a must for families who love camping!

My stepdad, several years ago, fishing at MarVal:

These were taken just the other day at the same spot:

Saturday, March 22, 2014

It definitely wasn't Oklahoma, but...

We found a wonderful campsite on the beach! If you find yourself planning a trip to Galveston Island, Texas, try Dellanera RV Park. We liked spot 28 just fine.

I'll come back later and add more details, but think quiet and on the beach. Think seagulls waking you in the mornings. Think crashing waves lulling you to sleep at night.

*More details added below!*

Below is spot #28. Behind the camper, there are a few parking spots for day visitors, but no one used them while we were there.  Just past those spots are a fence, dunes, the beach, and OCEAN.  We had a wonderful view.  To get access to the beach, we walked about 70 yards to a gate.

We could walk to that fence above, look at the beach, and see something like this below.  My girls loved the beach!

This marsh was on the south side of the campground.  There were bike paths through it and the nearby dunes.  I thought it was stunningly beautiful, even with spring just beginning.

The beach was so quiet, our dog got to run free!

Here's a link to the Google map of our new favorite beach hangout.  Let me know if you try it out!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Okmulgee State Park and Dripping Springs State Park

I have a new favorite camping spot.  It's at an old campground, built during Roosevelt's days of the WPA.  It has cool old rock picnic shelters, but it's been remodelled, too, with a brand new playground.  This park is super shady, and while it does not have shoreline sites, Okmulgee State Park does have breathtaking views of Okmulgee Lake.

There are several camping areas on the lake, and we stayed in the Red Oak area.  We really liked spot #28, and I'll also recommend spots #1-8, as they are near the playground.  Red Oak has a swimming hole, playground, showers, and plenty of shade.  It also has critters.  See below.

Our friends stayed at nearby Dripping Springs State Park, and when we visited, we were intrigued.  This park is where the fishermen stay.  It also has a playground and swimming hole.  It's pretty high on our list when our 2014 camping season begins.

If you want to stay at either of these parks, it's first-come, first-served.  There are no reservations.  You can call to see how full the parks are, though, at 918-756-5971.  You can also keep an eye on their Facebook page.  We'll be back to this hidden gem of a park, and I'll try to capture some of the beautiful views to share with you.