Almost two years ago, we went on our first camping trip as a family of four. Last weekend, we went back to the campground where it all started…Eisenhower State Park.
Over the past two years, we’ve refined what we look for in a campground.
Our list of
demands preferences for camping:
- We prefer a destination less than 2 hours from home. Camden doesn’t love car travel, but under 2 hours is reasonable.
- We like having a site with a screened shelter. It’s not 100% necessity. Maybe 95%. It’s helpful to have a place (other than our van/truck) to store our stuff…a place to flee from bugs when we are eating…a place to take refuge from rain.
- We want electricity and running water.
- We want to camp at a time of year when the temps get at least down in the low 70s at night so that we can sleep.
- We like a campground that has a beachy lake swim area. Really nice if the day-time temps are warm enough for swimming. We gotta have stuff to do, and swimming is a great past-time for our guys.
- We need a reasonable amount of personal space. Instead of a free-for-all system, we like being assigned a number and having some room.
After this weekend, three preferences were added:
- Hubby needs a good flat space that accommodates our 6-person tent.
- Mama likes a water-view.
- The kiddos need room to play (and preferably where they can have some independence)…to ride bikes, play soccer, drive the remote-controlled cars, etc.
The week leading up to our camping trip, the forecast for rain was about a 90% chance throughout the weekend. The percentage went down the closer we got. We like the line in Peppa Pig where Daddy Pig says, “If you want it to rain, have a barbecue.” We would say, “If you want it to rain, go camping.” Most of our camping trips have involved some precip, and we don’t fret over it. Certainly one of the perks of staying at a site with a screened shelter.
I dropped the boys off at school Friday morning, and then headed to the campground to get a spot since it’s first come first served. This isn’t totally necessary, but I like to have a plan when possible. The park is a little under an hour from our house. I checked in at the main office to pay and grab a map. Cost for the screened sheltered spots is $30 per night. Entry fee is $5 per person (over 13) per day. Kids under 13 are free.
It was pouring when I arrived, and only two of the screened sheltered spots had been taken. I FaceTimed Brian to get his opinion on my top three choices. If you are a tent camper, there are not many sites in Deer Haven (the area with the screened shelters) that accommodate a large tent. If you like the idea of sleeping in the shelter, and you want to bring cots, you’ll be good to go! Get a park map when you arrive. Here are a few of my thoughts on some of the spots:
- #30-My favorite spot because of the water view and the seclusion being at the end of the cul-de-sac, BUT there is no place to put a decent-szied tent and it’s quite an uphill hike to the bath house.
- #34-A good flat space set back in the trees. You can’t see the lake from this site, but I’d still stay here. Hubby does shower duty when we are camping, and he felt it was too far and too uphill from the bathrooms. (This one was already reserved.)
- #35-This one is actually a “cabin” with air conditioning that you can reserve. It’s $55 per night and is good spot.
- #24 and #25-Both have good flat spaces, but are a little closer together than I’d prefer. If we were camping with another family and wanted to be close together, this would be a good set-up. Water view.
- #1-Good flat space and roomy but no water view.
- #14-Good flat space with water view and some grassy area to play.
- #8-A fun spot that is somewhat set back. Flat space for tent. Water view. For our family it was too far from the bathrooms and too hilly for the boys to ride bikes.
I decided on campsite #20. There was flat space for the tent. Water view for me. Close to the bathrooms and play area.
Brian and I packed and loaded while the boys were at school. Brian decided we’d pack everything in big plastic tubs to utilize space. We take the boys’ bikes, and since Camden’s adaptive bike takes up some space, Brian attaches the cargo carrier for the bikes and ice chest.
As you can see in the picture below, we were close to the bathrooms. Every single time Brian sets up the tent, Camden sticks close until it’s complete. He likes to help with the hammer.
The boys played with monster trucks while we unpacked and set up.
Brian got our hammock strapped to the trees. Both boys enjoy it, and it’s great sensory input for Camden since he loves to swing so much.
The play area consisted of three swings and a grassy area. Pretty simple.
Here are two panoramic shots of our site to give you an idea of our surroundings:
Saturday morning the boys rode bikes and drove the RC cars while Brian made breakfast. You can get an idea of the incline from some of these shots. Probably not bad for most kids, but for our sweet Camden with gross motor challenges and on his adaptive bike, he wasn’t able to ride independently. One of us needed to be close. Here’s a video of Camden going all kamikaze down the hill on his adaptive bike: https://www.facebook.com/candace.russell/videos/10157567289635571/
Our last camping trip to Lake Bob Sandlin had a very flat circle rode around the area where the boys could ride more independently. See what I mean? Lots more green space for the boys to play and run around.
Breakfast inside our shelter. My water view was just behind Brian and Camden. Always amazes me how everything I eat is so much tastier in nature.
It was hot on Saturday, which would’ve been quite uncomfortable if we were just hanging around our campsite. Our boys love the water, so we were thrilled to have perfect swimming temperature! Eisenhower State Park is on Lake Texoma. After the significant flooding in Texas two summers ago, the park did some maintenance to the sandy beach area. It was an improvement. Beware that the walk down to the water is pretty steep.
Not every campground has the sandy beach feature. We love it because it gives us options of digging and playing in the sand or enjoying the water. It’s a decent area for swimming and hasn’t been too crowded the two times we’ve been. Camden stayed in the water for the entire four hours we were there! He loved when speed boats would come through the vicinity and make waves. We took a camping chairs, a sheet to sit on, a shovel for the boys to dig with, some water toys, floaties, and drinks.
There are some small caves to explore and rocks to climb near the sandy beach. I stayed with Camden while Brian took Carson.
My brother and his family live super close to where we camped so they came up Saturday to swim with us and have dinner. Fun to get to hang with them!
After a long day playing in the water, we were pretty tired. It was a bit warm going to bed. This was our first time bring a fan with us, and it did make a big difference. I had a hard time sleeping. Kind of eerie that there was hardly anyone at the campground. Then we got a POUR DOWN around 3:30AM. Major thunder, lightning and rain. The weather report was calling for showers on and off throughout the day, so Brian made breakfast while I started packing up the tent. After breakfast, we loaded our stuff and headed out. Carson wanted to stop by the marina before we left.
You can rent boats at the Eisenhower Yacht Club, but we did not. Brian wanted to stop for lunch and I wanted to get back for an autism moms’ night out event.
Here’s a bonus tip for autism families. If that’s not you, it may be best to stop reading now. You’ve been warned…
Let’s see…without going into too many details, let me say that it’s important for our kids to be pooping regularly. This is a struggle for many of our children with autism. Some kids don’t like using unfamiliar bathrooms and will hold it. My hubby picked up this outdoor toilet seat from Academy for $5 and set it on top of a Home Depot bucket. Worked like a charm! If you’d like to read about some of our other camping trips, here they are in the order in which we’ve taken them:
- Our first Eisenhower State Park camping trip
- Turner Falls Camping Trip (Kind of a depressing review. I hear that Lake Murray is a much better option nearby.)
- Cooper Lake South Sulphur
- Cooper Lake Doctor’s Creek
- Lake Bob Sandlin
- Day trip to Bonham State Park
We have another camping trip next month to a new campground. Hoping a have a good update to share!!
If you have favorite campgrounds in Texas or have any tips to share, I’d LOVE to hear! Happy camping!