Popular Posts

If you would like to see some Taking It Outside videos visit my YouTube Channel

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ft. Parker - near Mexia, Texas

Getting away from the Dallas/Ft. Worth metromess is always a treat.  It is great to get away from the traffic, the noise, the air pollution, and the light pollution.  Texas has many great places away from the big metropolitan centers to visit.  One such place is a small historic Fort Parker State Park just south of Mexia, Texas.  - Map

Fort Parker State Park is one of two area historic sites connected to the 1836 abduction of Cynthia Ann Parker, mother of the last Commanche Chief Quannah Parker.  The other site is the Old Fort Parker Historic Preservation.

The state park has 750+ acres of land and a 700 acre lake on the Navasota River.  The heavily wooded area is home to a variety of wildlife including raccoon, opossum, deer, coyote, squirrel, and a wide range of birds.  The lake is a popular site for canoeing and fishing.

Most campsites are shaded and many are heavily wooded on at least one side.  The park is away from the state highway so it is a quite campground.  We set up our camp on site 12.  It had a nice flat area for the tent, a fire ring, and a picnic table.  The showers were about 100 yards from the site and the pier was about the same distance.

We enjoyed two nights of fine campfire cooked food, quite evenings around the fire, and unobstructed views of the stars (we had to walk out from under the trees, but there was no noticeable light pollution).  On the second day camping out we visited the Old Fort Parker Historic Preservation in the morning and in the afternoon we went on a short hike in the park.

After breakfast we drove 3.7 miles to the Preservation (map).  The Old Fort Parker Historic Preservation is a 37.5 acre park that was rebuilt in 1967 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).  This is the actual site of the abduction of Cynthia Parker.  We visited the visitor center and gift shop after touring the fort and viewing the cabins.  When touring the fort we were able to climb the blockhouse and look over the top of the fort walls.  It was quite enlightening to see how the fort was constructed and how the defenses were arranged.  My son and his friend really enjoyed it.

Once back at the park the boys, my friend, and I decided to go on the short hike to the Fort Parker Lake spillway.  The Springfield Trail Loop was about 3miles.  The trial winded through the forest tracing the northeast end of the lake.  There was not much change in elevation.  There were two different piers we walked out on to view the waterfowl and the lake.  Once at the east end of the lake we viewed the spillway and then proceeded to the end of the trail where there is a natural spring.  We backtracked for about 0.2 miles and then the loop took us north and away from the lake.  We crossed fields with wildflowers and Texas shrubs.  We did notice deer tracks, but saw no deer.  The loop took us to the Springfield Cemetery where there are some very old graves, including soldiers from the Civil War.  The trail then continues back to the trailhead.

The park is very simple, but a nice place to get away and get outdoors.  I highly recommend Fort Parker State Park for a good camping experience.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Staying dry

Staying dry while outside is usually important unless you are involved in a water sport/activity. There are many options on the market today so finding the right waterproof jacket can take time.

I wanted a light waterproof (not water-resistant) and breathable shell so that I could layer up as needed.  After some research I chose the GORE-TEX Men's Pro Shell.

This jacket weights about 17 oz.  The cuffs are adjustable using the hook and loop fastener to allow maximum customization.  Once tight the cuffs keep rain and wind off of the arms.  The hood has a small "lip" under the bill so that you can hook it over your cap and it will not slide forward or backwards and it keeps the bill of the jacket ridged and shielding the face.

There are two zippered chest pockets on the outside, one inside zippered pocket on the left side, and zippered venting under the arms.  All six zippers work smoothly and easily.  The waist and the hood have drawstrings to allow customized fitting.

The jacket is a great protector against the wind and provides exceptional protection against rain.   I have found it easy to add layers under the shell when needed.

The fabric has been durable and comfortable although it makes a slight rubbing sound. Water beads up and rolls off the fabric.   The tight weave of the fabric makes it very snag-resistant.

I have worn the jacket in heavy and light rain, in calm weather and in windy conditions.  I love it.  It is a great jacket and I highly recommend this high quality jacket.  It will keep you dry while not adding a lot of weight or bulk.  Give it a try.

Disclosure: I test some products for Gore