Friday, March 25, 2011

Tyler State Park -- March 21 - 24, 2011

The beautiful spring weather called to us, so we decided to hitch up the trailer and head for the great out-of-doors. However, rising fuel costs made us look for someplace close to home, and we decided to visit Tyler State Park.

Tyler State Park is a 985 acre park in northern Smith County, about 10 miles north of its namesake city, Tyler, Texas. Located about 2 – 3 miles north of Interstate 20 on FM 14, the park is convenient for East-West travelers who need to make an overnight stop.

View video of Tyler State Park.

The centerpiece of the park is a 64-acre lake that is popular with fishing enthusiasts, swimmers, and various boaters, including those who prefer canoes and kayaks. During the past decade or so, the park has really become popular with mountain bike enthusiasts, who enjoy the rolling hills and the 13 miles of bike/hike trails that are contained in the park.

Weekends at the park are notoriously busy due to the park’s proximity to Tyler and its recent popularity among the mountain bike crowd. One of the nice things about being retired is that we can visit such spots during the week when most people are either working or are in school.

This trip turned into one of our most pleasant camping experiences. We selected site 54 in the Big Pines Campground (see map). I was able to position the trailer so that the steps from our rear door allowed us to step down onto the picnic table concrete pad. Our awning extended over most of the picnic table. The fire ring was just beyond the awning. This was one of the coziest campsites we’ve enjoyed. We also had a partial view of the lake.

Campsite 54 in the Big Pines Campground
There are about 173 campsites within the park. It can become quite crowded on weekends and during holidays. During our stay, probably only 30 or more sites were occupied daily. However, when we pulled out Thursday, the sites were already filling up for the weekend.

We arrived on a Monday, setup our camp, then went for a short ride through the park to get our bearings. After returning to camp, we hopped on our bicycles and took a short ride around the campground. We always enjoy seeing the various RVs and how other people do things. We learn a lot this way. As evening approached, we built a fire, roasted some wieners, enjoyed some chili dogs, then retired.

Relatively Empty Big Pine Campground

The next day, we took a long hike along Loops C and D of the park. The dogwoods were in full bloom and dotted the hills. The hike was quite a workout because of the hilly terrain. After returning to camp, we built another fire, grilled some sausage, and enjoyed the evening.

Dogwoods on a slope on Loop C Trail
Donna was in a fishing mood, so she spent about 4 hours Wednesday feeding the fish. I spent time in camp doing odds and ends. Trailers require periodic maintenance, such as lubricating the arms for the slide out and the steps, making minor repairs, and just general cleaning. Storage space seems to always be limited on RVs, so I periodically repack items, taking out those things we never seem to use. It’s important to continually inventory all your gear to ensure you are not carrying more weight than you need to.

Wednesday evening was steak and potato night. Donna made potato, carrot, and onion turtles and a salad to accompany the steaks. It was great.

The trip was fun and it was very relaxing. Only 2 things bothered us. First, the wind blew steadily at 10-15 mph, occasionally gusting to 25 or 30, almost our entire stay. Second, the pollen covered everything. Once we returned home, I spent a great deal of time washing everything off. Otherwise, a great trip to a great little park.

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