Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Camping At Its Best

If you haven't ever heard of Long's Fishing Camp north of Kingsland, then you are not alone. It was only recently, in visiting with a friend, that he recommended this campsite for my son's fourteenth birthday party. We went prepared with tents, food, and lots of blankets. The night of October 30th was going to be cold. We arrived rather late (4pm), and followed the signs along the roadway that led us to the "office". Now the office is a small room inside a barn. No fancy or modern amenities here. Chickens, goats, peacocks, mules, and other barnyard animals milled around the yard, and a goat attempted to follow me into the office. Everyone in our group was looking around, feeling for sure that this was not where we were going to be staying. But sure enough, we were on the reservation list, and since we were already here, we mind as well make the best of it. Our host pointed us through the trees, and said "turn at the sign, and go down the hill."

Down the hill led us to Campsite 3 (the only one really worth renting). I say this, because after you drop off the hill and turn into your camp area, any doubts you had about staying here are soon forgotten. You are merely 20 paces from the water and at a bend in the river. This site provides shallow enough water for wading, and in any direction holes deep enough for fishing, swimming, and kayaking. Nearby is also a rope swing that the kids had a wonderful time on and somehow never broke. After a quick trip up river to explore, we hurried back to set up camp.

Night quickly fell upon us, and our campfire was blazing. Long's provides wood for your fire. We brought a little extra since it was going to be cold. However, we didn't have to. Our hosts made several trips to our campsite to see if we needed more. With a long day behind us, and our camp mascot (a carved pumpkin for Halloween) casting an eerie shadow on our tents, we bedded down for the night. At some point during the night the temperature plunged to near freezing, and the blankets we brought provided little protection from the cold. It was going to be long night. Unable to actually sleep because you can't feel certain body parts seemed a might trivial once the coyotes began calling. Now if you are having trouble getting kids to settle down because of the excitement, let a coyote's howl reach their ears. Dead silence. With three to each tent, I believe they felt safety in numbers and did not run screaming to our tent. However, after the first coyote began to howl, we never heard another peep. I'm assuming they felt the need to be quiet, so they would not be discovered.

Sleeping in was going to be one of the highlights of our trip, but before the sun even made its presence, we were up building a fire. Between the cold and the coyotes,enough was enough. After a breakfast of campfire coffee, hot chocolate, eggs, bacon, and toast it began to warm slightly. Leaving behind our thermal underwear, sweats, and fuzzy boots, we opted for river shoes and shorts and headed upstream. Our destination was an enormous rock mountain that provided views in every direction of the Llano river. As we made our way south, we broke up in two different groups following different streams, all leading the same direction. Almost everyone fell on the wet granite rocks while wading. So if you go make sure you have the endurance and ability to travel on foot over the rocks and through the streams.

The Llano river is a beautiful site this time of year, made up of solid granite with multiple streams all leading south. The very width of the river is something to see. We found pools of water, falls, and all kinds of wildlife. The trip up the mountain was uneventful, but "sitting" on the top was quite an experience. If you have ever wondered what it was like in the 1800's as an indian or cowboy, visit this landmark. I'm certainly not old enough to recall that time period, but while noting that moment in time, I was taken back hundred years. Halfway down the mountain is a small overhang that we all sat in and fantasized about taking shelter in on a long ago stormy night.

After climbing down we decided to take a swim in some of the deepest yellow cat holes on the Llano. Keep in mind it is late October, and we have had several cold nights. What I'm saying is the water was cold! After wading out hip high, I realized the only way to go for a swim was to just plunge in. I did. And after a brief moment of trying to regain my breath, I took off again and made several small laps. I don't think I've ever felt so alive in all my life. After exiting the water, my skin was on fire! Every nerve ending I have was awake. It was truly exhilarating!

We followed the cow trail back to camp on the east Llano river bank. Keep in mind, if a cow travels this path, so can you. There is a way. Just follow the trail. We refueled at camp with sandwiches, leftover frito pie, and pico de gallo. After reliving all our morning adventures, we headed upstream. Although not quite as eventful as downstream, we had a great time walking every stream that made up the river. The kids found a gopher slinging dirt, preparing to burrow for winter. They tossed small twigs at him, and he promptly turned around showing them his teeth every time. This earned a few screams and a lot of laughter. Good luck, little buddy.

Long's fishing camp does provide outdoor bathrooms, wood for your fire, and not much of anything else..perhaps a little backwoods chatter. Campsite 3 or 4 are definitely the spots to be. The other camp areas do not provide access to the river like these sites do. There are cabins for rent, but I believe I would feel safer in my tent. I say all of this with the utmost respect to the owners of Long's for sharing a piece of their land with us. I highly recommend this campsite to all.

The day ended all to soon. We had to leave at three, but the memories will be with us forever. The kids said it was the best Halloween they ever had. Imagine that. And we didn't even have candy. We left there with many valuable lessons. One. It takes a lot of different folks to make life interesting, so enjoy people and be glad they aren't exactly like you. Two. Don't drink downstream from the cows. Three. Well, sometimes you just have go figure out a few things for yourself. Have fun!