Texas State parks have a different atmosphere than Corps of Engineers parks.
The first difference I notice are rules and procedures. Lots of them. Signs everywhere. The gate lady is a young woman named Annette. She wants to know the license plate numbers for both the PTV and the Casita. She says a back-in site is $15 with water and electric. And if you want a pull-through, that’s $5 more. However, if you want a view of the lake from your campsite, you can’t have electric. It’s an either-or situation. Oh.
“How long are you staying?”
I try to give Annette eye contact. However, there’s a large poster right behind her head that rivets my gaze. It shows a large snake on a step with the words: WARNING! WATCH YOUR STEP!
“Have a lot of snakes around here?” I ask dumbly.
“It depends on what you mean by a lot,” she replies. Um, a lot is like . . . one. One is a lot.
“This IS west Texas,” she adds, politely refraining from a sarcastic tone.
“One night will be enough,” I answer, immediately wishing I hadn’t added will be enough. I didn’t mean to sound rude.
The bill comes close to $20 for one night. $4 day use fee plus tax added to the $15 electric and water back-in site with no lake view. No charge for snakes.
Annette suggests site #36 because it has a tree. Not a good sign. I wonder if it’s the only site with a tree. A tree being defined as something with leaves on it that throws shade big enough to stand in. A tree as in the opposite of mesquite, of which there are many, none big enough to be worthwhile to any human what with the brutal sunshine.
Watching my step, I return to the PTV where the crew is yelping.
I drive up to site #36 and, lo and behold, a pick-up is parked under the lone, normal tree. No one responds to my shout, “Helloooo! You wanna come move your truck? Pleeeeze, anyone?” It’s getting hotter every second. I phone Annette and she says she’ll send someone out right away.
A few minutes later, up drives an Official State Park Pick-up. A slim guy in a tan uniform steps out. I can’t help but notice how tidy he is. Uniform is pressed, buttons and badges are shining, hair is perfectly combed. Fresh as a daisy in this heat!
He goes into the scrub to follow a path down to the lake. A path, by the way, I will never enter, not on your life, not in a million years will I walk that path. Miraculously Mr. Neat Park Guy returns alive, still looking as if he just stepped out of his dressing room. He gives me a crestfallen look.
“Gee, you’re the only camper in the park and you can’t get the site you want.”
He examines the sticker on the truck. “They’re day use people. They could be anywhere.”
I tell him not to bother any more about it. I’ll find another back-in site.
He apologizes and drives away.
Apparently he made an official call, because he loops around, lowers his window, and smilingly says, “Go up to site#49. It’s a pull-through but we won’t charge you extra.”
And, he proudly adds, “It’s the second favorite site.”
Two things cross my mind: 1) How do these State Park People stay so fresh and neat? Annette was all spit-and polish, too. The COE people look fine, but they look like they could have been watching television on the couch. 2) Of the 150 or so sites, how could there possibly be TWO favorite sites? Let me elaborate on item 2.
First of all, the tree situation.
The vegetation consists of mesquite or some big honking cacti with treacherous-looking thorns an inch long. Spike attempts to lift his leg on one, but I yank him away in the nick of time. Ooh, nick . . . wrong word.
Also when one walks across the bare, dried up, rock-hard ground, one notices a three-inch diameter hole about every ten feet in every direction. Said holes are obviously made by some form of wildlife. Spike attempts to sniff one and then backs up never to sniff another. This is not good. And it’s 115 in the shade if there were shade.
Oh yeah, lest we forget . . . snakes.
Spike looks at me: “Where the h— are we?”
Bridget: “Can we go inside now?”
The Casita is delightfully cool. Trees or lack of them don’t matter any more because we surely aren’t leaving this trailer, not unless absolutely necessary. Tomorrow morning it’s goodbye Colorado City State Park. You may be beautiful in spring, fall, and winter.
However, in summer you’re only good for a one-night stand.