Camping at Eisenhower: Round 2

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.

dscf4716
October 2014 at 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:

  1. We prefer a destination less than 2 hours from home. Camden doesn’t love car travel, but under 2 hours is reasonable.
  2. 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.
  3. We want electricity and running water.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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. happy_camper

After this weekend, three preferences were added:

  1. Hubby needs a good flat space that accommodates our 6-person tent.
  2. Mama likes a water-view.
  3. 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.img_3037
  • #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. Camden Site 20

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.

img_3048
packed and ready to roll

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. img_3090

Here are two panoramic shots of our site to give you an idea of our surroundings: img_3107img_3109

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.

IMG_8235
flat terrain at Lake Bob Sandlin Campground

 

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.

img_3256
here’s a mediocre shot of the sandy beach area

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. eisenswim1eisenswim3img_3212img_3220img_3232img_3246

img_3254
Carson writing in the sand

There are some small caves to explore and rocks to climb near the sandy beach. I stayed with Camden while Brian took Carson. cave

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! img_3210If you’d like to read about some of our other camping trips, here they are in the order in which we’ve taken them:

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!

 

 

Advertisements

Camping at Cooper Lake (Doctor’s Creek)

I am giddy to announce that we had a successful camping trip this past weekend!! Our camping trip to Cooper Lake (South Sulphur) last May was 24 hours since we found out my dad was really sick. Our camping trip to Turner Falls over Labor Day lasted about 24 hours because it was CRAZY! We were quite pleased that we made it over the 48-hour mark with this excursion.

After the CrAzY that was Turner Falls, we wanted to camp in a familiar spot so we’d have a decent shot at success. We camped at Cooper Lake on the South Sulphur side in May, and since we liked it, we wanted to go back. The sheltered sites were all booked, so I made reservations on the other side of the lake known as Doctor’s Creek.

The park is only an hour and fifteen minutes from our house. Easy drive. Here’s a fuzzy picture of us pulling out of the driveway. Our van was packed. Brian put some metal contraption on the back so we can haul the boys’ bikes and the cooler and such. When we drove out of the driveway, it scraped on the concrete. Camden piped up from the back seat, “This is terrible!” Bwahaha! He cracks us up when he takes phrases from his shows and uses them appropriately in conversation! =) Carson did bring Little Dog, but he’s holding Texas, the class pet. It was Carson’s weekend to care for him, so the little mutt came along with us.
headed to Doctors Creek

We headed out after lunch on Friday, and arrived early enough to have our pick of spots. My husband was thrilled with the sites. They were flat and spacious. Met the criteria on our list of camping demands:

•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) to store our stuff…a place to flee from bugs when we are eating…a place to take refuge from rain.
•We need electricity and running water.
•We need 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.

Here’s a picture of our site (#7) from the front. We ended up relocating our tent under the trees. There was tons of room to play. To the left is site #5, and there were two other screened shelters just across the road. This would be a great set-up for families and friends to do group camping.
Cooper lake Panoramic front Here’s a shot of the area taken the other direction. Look at all that room!
Site 7 big viewCamden always seems fascinated by watching the tent go up and come down. He followed Brian around and then assisted a bit.
tent set upWhile Brian was setting up the site, the boys rode their bikes and put the binoculars to good use.
binocular boysThere were all sorts of insects flying around when we first arrived. I called the front office to see if they’d tackle the wasp situation. Some guys came right way to spray and check things out. They were super friendly. Told our boys about the deer that hang out at our site and all the armadillos that live there as well. We had just spotted two armadillos, and the staff encouraged us to whisper so we could get a closer look. Camden hasn’t perfected the whisper quite yet, so the armadillos went running. The park ranger guys were walking through these trees and bushes looking for them.
armadillo spottingSince the weather was so nice and warm, we decided to head to the sandy beach area for a swim. Here’s a shot of the playground and sandy beach area:playground panoramic
And here’s a shot of the just the sandy beach:
sandy beach panoramicAs soon as we approached the water, Camden exclaimed, “At the beach!” He’s a hoot! Camden floated around, the guys tossed the ball around a bit, and there was much digging in the sand. We were the only people on the beach. It was wonderful!
Doctors Creek beach collageSince Carson had the class pet for the weekend, we had to get a picture of him and Little Dog on the sign.
no pets on beachHere’s a shot of the inside of our screened shelter. Many people sleep in them. We sleep in our tent and use the shelter to store our stuff, to prep food, and to eat in if the bugs are bad.
inside the shelterThe lake was less than 100 yards from our site. We walked down to check it out, and I snapped this picture of the boys before the sun set.
boys at sunset

Here’s a peek at the showers. They were pretty clean. Two shower stalls in each restroom. One stall had one shower head, and this one had two (a taller one and shorter one). Brian had shower duty and he said it went really well. Last year when we first camped, the shower situation did not sit well at all with Camden. He has never been a fan of water in his face, but due to his allergies, he needs to bathe every night. Brian has been working with him for quite some time trying to get him more used to the water. Two weeks ago, he had his first shower at home and he hasn’t turned back. Something as seemingly simple as a shower made this trip so much easier. YAY!
showerWe did spot quite a few armadillos. They kind of freak me out. So weird looking.
armadilloAfter showers, we sat by the campfire with Texas, the class pet. The boys were ready for bed at 9 o’clock so we turned in. Glad we did, because Camden was up in the night for a while. I was scrolling through Facebook and was reminded that we did our first camping trip to Eisenhower exactly a year ago. Super cool! We’ve come a long way in that time, and we are pretty convinced that the first weekend in October is perfect for camping!
camping sleeping collageHere’s Brian cooking breakfast while Camden warms up at the fire. Beautiful sunrise. Yummy aroma! Hottie hubby. Check. Check. Check.
Brian cookingThe boys had a blast driving the remote controlled cars. There was tons of space and even some mud.
RC adventuresWe had never done any of the hiking/biking trails in the past, so we decided to give it a whirl this trip. There were several different trails that were rated “easy” and close to 30 minutes. On Saturday, we did the south loop trail. The signs say “loop” but there really isn’t a loop. You just ride to the park/sandy beach area and then come back. We took snacks so that we could munch and then play for a while. The trail is great for little kids. Camden held his own on his adaptive bike.
south loop trailWe went back down to the sandy beach on Saturday. The boys played in the water before moving onto the playground. Camden loved the swings during this trip and wanted to swing way more than we were willing to push. That’s pretty standard in our world though.
Sat beach and playgroundThere was a small playground that was between our campsite and the restrooms.
little playgroundBrian and Carson played a lot of soccer during the weekend. It was awesome that there was so much space to play! Last time we were at Cooper Lake (South Sulphur) Brian did get some chigger bites when he was gathering fire starter in the brush. This time he sprayed himself and the boys down with white vinegar and we sprayed them with our homemade bug spray.
soccerWe started packing up mid-morning on Sunday. Camden was not pleased to be putting the tent away. Every time we came to our site during the weekend, he’d say “home sweet home.” It was so cute and fun affirmation that he was a happy camper.
snackin'After our site was packed up, we decided to go for another bike ride. We did the west loop this time. Labeled “easy” as well and same 30 minutes as the other one. There were lots of shady oak trees. Camden was disappointed that this trail didn’t take us to the beach or playground like the other one.
CooperLakeDocCreek1-002This was a really good trip. Sweet times for our little family. We are definitely fans of Cooper Lake State Park.
Camden happy camper

Camping at Cooper Lake (South Sulphur)

Our little family camped at Cooper Lake back in May. Since I am writing about the trip four months later, we’ll look at it like a Throw Back Thursday kind of thing or a test of my memory.

I recently shared about our Turner Falls Camping Trip. The good thing about that trip is that it helped to refine our camping accommodations wish list. Here is our current list of demands:

•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) to store our stuff…a place to flee from bugs when we are eating…a place to take refuge from rain.
•We need electricity and running water.
•We need to camp at a time of year when the temps get 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.

This was our first time camping at Cooper Lake. There are two different areas of the park to camp: South Sulphur or Doctor’s Creek. We haven’t visited the Doctor’s Creek side, so South Sulphur is the one I know a little about…based on our 24 hours there. The park did meet our criteria. It is 75 miles from our house. About an hour and a half drive.

Here’s a picture of the boys at our first site attempt. I am not in charge of setting up the tent, but Brian felt there wasn’t much flat space for a good-sized tent. To me, the sheltered spots looked nice and open. The majority of the sheltered sites had a good amount of room to play and set up a tent and had a view of the lake. I like being able to see the water from our spot. It makes my husband a little nervous. We’ve heard way too many heartbreaking stories about kids on the spectrum wandering into water. We are pretty crazy vigilant, but I realize it only takes a second. Typically, when we are putting up the tent, we’ll sit Camden in a chair with the iPad so we can see him and know he’s staying put. The first site allowed you to gradually walk into the water, while the site we ended up at was more of an abrupt drop.
first stop The boys paused for a picture for their mama. Melt my heart. They have such a sweet relationship.Sweet camping pose
Since we realized that the boys enjoy camping and we hope to keep it up, we upgraded our 4-man tent to an 8-man. So much more comfortable! The boys like helping Daddy pitch the tent. The shelter behind Camden (in the picture on the left) is our closet neighbor. Not bad.
Pitching TentThis site had enough room to roam. The boys played with their remote-controlled cars and played soccer and still weren’t in anyone’s way. This is a place where we could’ve brought their bikes and been fine. This shot gives you an idea of our space. The lake is in the background. Our spot had a metal lantern-hook as well. The campground did have firewood available. Brian walked around in the brush pictured here to get little twigs to start our camp fire. He ended up getting some chigger bites, so beware and plan accordingly.
boys at Cooper siteIt was an extremely wet May in Texas and we knew the reports were calling for more rain during the weekend. Indeed, it didn’t take long. We sought refuge in our shelter, played on our devices, and enjoyed the view of the lake.
shelter to the rescueOnce the weather subsided, the guys got the fire going for dinner.
campfire prepWe feasted on steak and baked potatoes for dinner. I so love the view of the lake while I’m stuffing my face.
campfire steak dinnerWe cleaned up after dinner while the boys had a blast playing with the shovel. Didn’t know it was gonna be such a big hit.
shovel playEnjoyed an evening campfire.
boys at campfireLOVE LOVE LOVE that Camden enjoys camping, and that it’s something fun for our entire family!
Mommy Camden Cooper LakeWe spent lots of time throwing rocks into the lake, playing soccer, driving the remote-controlled cars, riding scooters, stuffing our faces, etc.free time at cooper lake
The boys enjoyed the fishing pier. We didn’t actually fish, but they loved walking along the pier and seeing what other people had caught. People were catching lots of fish! They were fascinated by the caught fish that were flopping around. Camden didn’t step on it, but did put his foot on it to see what would happen. The fish totally had his attention.
Cooper Lake PierWe walked along some of the trails. Little muddy, but that’s to be expected.
walking trails at CooperThe playground was in great shape. Well taken care of when we visited. There is a bathroom right there (you can see in the top right picture).
Cooper lake playgroundThe sandy beach area, playground, restrooms, volleyball court and covered picnic tables are all in the same vicinity. There were a lot of covered picnic tables.IMG_0391
This was our first time to the park so I have no reference point for what “normal” is, but the water level was definitely high. There were hardly any people in the water. It was a little cool and misting. You can rent a canoe in this same vicinity. You can see the boat ramp in this shot.boat ramp view at Cooper lakeWe found the beachy area to be clean and pleasant. Despite the mild temps, our boys still had fun playing in the water and digging in the sand.
Cooper Lake sandy beach areaWhile we were at the swimming area, my brother called to tell me that my dad wasn’t doing well. He had been put on Hospice three days prior, and my brother said the nurses didn’t anticipate him living more than a few days. Dad had been sick for a few years with lots of close calls, so I tried to think through what to do.
Me, Dad, Kerry the 70sMay sound silly that it was even a question. We had planned to stay three nights, the boys were having a good time, and I anticipated they’d be disappointed to pack it up and head home. Realized we’d have more opportunities to camp but maybe not more opportunities to say goodbye. We told the boys what was going on. Then we set the timer (always a good idea with transitions for Camden) and gave them a little more time before heading back to our site. Brian started breaking down the tent and since the flies were pesky, I had the boys eat their snack in the screened shelter. Here’s a picture that gives you a bit of an idea of size. Many families sleep inside the shelters. We just use it to store our stuff and a place for refuge if needed.
shelter at Cooper LakeDuring a bathroom break, I had Carson stand in the shower area to give you and idea of size and such. Granted, it was a slow time that we were there, but the bathrooms were pretty clean during our visit.
Cooper lake showersCamden followed Brian around as he broke things down, and kept saying “tent” over and over and over with an occasional “no thank you” tossed around for good measure.
Camden and Dad taking down tentCarson “helped” pack the bedding before he fell asleep in the van.
Carson helping break down tentWe made it back home, and then I got back in the van and headed to see my dad about an hour away. I arrived in time to tell him goodbye. And then he stopped breathing. We weren’t super close so those last words and the fact that I have no regrets…well, that was big.

Camping at Turner Falls and Carson’s 1st Orioles Game

Forgot two things last week. Imagine that! Thanks to some sweet friends, the Youngs, who happen to be season ticket holders with the Texas Rangers, Carson and Brian were able to see the Orioles take on the Rangers. This was Carson’s first MLB game. Here are some fuzzy pics. =)
Os GameLast week we went on a bike ride. Carson and Brian went up ahead of us to check on something. As soon as they were out of sight, Camden says, “Catch Dad and Carson! Daddy and Carson are getting away! We have to hurry!” It was awesome!! To the best of my memory (not saying much), that is the longest chain of words that Camden has strung together that was unprompted and unscripted. Woohoo!!! Btw, have I mentioned how much we love Camden’s AMBUCS bike?! 😉
bikingI have been wanting to see the movie Inside Out. My kids aren’t really into full-length movies.  Carson said he’d go with our friends Ms. Leslie and Peyton. Carson saw his first movie (Frozen) with them as well. Peyton is a sweet friend who, like Carson, is not a fan of loud noises. They both bring their noise-cancelling headphones and tasty snacks, and we’re set. I’m a melancholy, so I loved the message of how joy and sadness go together. It’s life. Read the Psalms.
Inside OutWe’re still fairly new to camping as a family. Figuring out what works for us. We spent a day at Bonham State Park. It’s not a place we’d stay the night. We camped at Eisenhower State Park and will definitely return. We spent a night at Cooper Lake State Park. I’ll blog on that one of these days. Since we had a 3-day weekend with Labor Day, we decided to try out Turner Falls in Davis, OK.
After this most recent experience, we’ve been able to refine even more what helps to make a successful camping trip. Here’s what we’ve learned:

  • We prefer a destination less than 2 hours. 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) to store our stuff…a place to flee from bugs when we are eating…a place to take refuge from rain.
  • We need electricity and running water.
  • We need to camp at a time of year when the temps get 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.

Man, we sound high-maintenance.

So…we planned on going to Turner Falls for 3 nights over Labor Day. My little guy gets super excited and asks often “how many more days” so we make him countdown calendars when he has something he’s looking forward to. Keeps us all more sane.
Countdown CalendarOur weekend at Turner Falls didn’t go so well, but I must admit…the reviews said DO NOT GO OVER LABOR DAY. But we didn’t listen. We went over Labor Day. Three days before we were to leave, we called the park to see if they sold firewood on site. No answer. For three days. We were a tad uneasy about heading out as we weren’t entirely sure they were open since no one was answering the phones. We kept Camden home from school on Friday. He’s allowed three unexcused absences in a 4-week period or ten in a 6-month period. Change of routine is tricky for him, so it was just easier to keep him home. Also gave us a chance to pack and load. Our goal was to leave after lunch. We pulled out a little after 1PM. It is about 120 miles from our house to Turner Falls. Close to two hours. I really wanted to get there before it got crazy crowded. I read that you could wait a couple of hours in line on holiday weekends just to get in. The park is first-come first-served, except for the screened shelters. We had called and reserved a shelter ahead of time. There were no lines when we arrived at 3PM. Woohoo! I had also read numerous reviews on how dirty the park was and how crowded it was. Since Texas and Oklahoma received so much rain at the beginning of the summer, there were a lot of parks that had to close, so I just kind of assumed that Turner Falls was getting the overflow from folks that didn’t have other places to camp. After all the talk about the trash, I was expecting it to be filthy. It wasn’t. (The bathrooms were disgusting, but hard not be with so many people.) You could tell they had lots of folks on duty to tend to trash and port-a-potties. I picked up about 7-8 grocery bags, but I think that was just the wind that got to someone’s sacks.

So…things went smoothly on the way in. We got a map and headed to our site. Screened shelter #3. Let me show you what we are used to in our limited experience. Here is Carson in front of the screened shelter site as Eisenhower State Park:

Outside Shelter
site #30

Here’s me inside of the shelter. There’s a picnic table and a concrete slab.
Inside ShelterWhen booking Turner Falls, I tried to find pictures of the shelters, but no luck. So I assumed they’d be similar. When we pulled up, we were surprised by how close together the shelters were to one another. Not nestled in the trees. Just a row of shelters. There was a place to park, but no spot for our tent. Inside the screened shelter were 4 twin beds. No table. We had a friend that was joining us for the weekend. She was bringing her small tent. We realized there was no place for our tents, so we had to come up with plan B. I so wish I would’ve taken pictures of the shelters to share, but my mind was thinking, “We have to hurry and get back down there to change our reservation before it gets busy.” We explained the situation at the gate and they were super friendly about switching our site. The screened shelters are $40 per night plus park admission (for us, daily admission was $30…$12 for each adult, $6 for Camden, and Carson was free since he is 5), so we were saving some money. Yay!

We drove around looking for tent sites. Brian and I had camped at Turner Falls back in 2006 and remember enjoying it. We even drove past our former tent site. It looked different. Like part of it had eroded. We had previously camped there in the fall, so it was prettier and less crowded. We were newlyweds. Young-ish and in love. We didn’t care so much about all this extra stuff. Anywho, we drove around till we finally found a site that seemed suitable. Near a stream. Flat and big enough for our tents. Here’s Brian getting ready to set up our tent. Not a bad site. Brian, as well as the spot for our tent. 😉
Tent Set UpThe boys rode their bikes and then took a break. We were the only people in this specific area at this point.Biking TFs
Seems like a pretty nice and peaceful little spot.
Break timeThen Brian realized some important info. Our spot had no water or electricity. Hmmm. In our limited experience, the standard tent sites had water and electric but the remote tent sites did not. Just never crossed our minds that none of the tent sites would have these lovely amenities. Water is super helpful for washing our dishes, and electric is super handy for a kiddo with autism. I’m sure there are kids on the spectrum that don’t need their iPads or electronics to go camping, but it’s super duper helpful for our family. If we are cooking or putting up the tent or whatever, we can get the iPad, put Camden in a chair, and know he’ll stay put. Screen time is limited when we camp, but it is still used. It wasn’t a deal-breaker, but a bit of a concern when staying three days.
Camden on pillowHere’s our tent set up. The storage containers would typically be in our screened shelter. Again, not a bad spot. Trees. Space. Near the stream.
Tent at TFs

I mentioned earlier that we had called for three days trying to see if firewood was available at the park. No answer. Our awesome friend, Courtney, said she’d bring some with her to be safe. She was coming later, so we needed a little bit of wood to start dinner. When we checked in, the gal at the front told us where to buy wood. Brian set up the tent and then went to get some. The place where they sell firewood was closed before 5pm. We looked around our area for some. Carson wanted to ride Camden’s adaptive bike so Brian pushed him up the little hill where he was looking for wood. I was also searching nearby. All of a sudden I look up to see Carson heading down the gravel/rocky hill on Camden’s bike. I hollered at him to slow down. It happened so fast, but he was out of control and couldn’t stop the bike as it went down the hill. My heart was racing and I was yelling at Brian to get him. We ran to Carson as fast as we could. I recalled a huge dumpster, our van, and some big trees on the way down. Thank God he didn’t run into any of those. The bike went from the top of the hill all the way down to the creek. Brian pulled a terrified Carson sopping wet out of the creek. He had a couple of bruises. I just kept hugging him and thanking God that he was okay. I couldn’t get a good picture, but here is a small part of the hill he came down and the creek where he and the bike ended up.
site of bike crashHere’s a shot of Courtney and Carson by our campfire. It was an odd placement and the area around the campfire was really uneven. Not the end of the world. Just a little odd. Kids tipping over in chairs and such.
Court Carson near streamThe stream was shallow and full of slippery rocks. I had read that it was important to bring water shoes for this reason. Glad we did. Carson fell in the water three different times while in his clothes. Should’ve kept him in his swimsuit most of the time. We were walking and I was telling Carson to be cautious. Not even five seconds later and I fell in. I should practice what I preach.
Walking in the creekHere’s another angle of our spot with Courtney’s tent set up. She was directly under the street light and was able to read her book at 10PM in her tent. Looking on the bright side.
tent viewCourtney brought her guitar since she knows our boys love music. We do our “Jesus music” before bath each night, so she was planning on playing her guitar to some familiar tunes. So sweet! We sang a few songs by the campfire and then Camden was really hankering for his familiar dvd. Courtney brought treats for ‘smores.
smoresBy this point we had relocated from our shelter to a tent spot with no water or electricity. It was hot. Brian had set up our tent and site and was sweating like a pig. We weren’t able to buy firewood so we collected our own up until Carson made that bee-line down the rocky path and into the creek, nearly giving us a heart attack. But we had a spot, were glad to have a good friend with us, had full bellies, etc. When we made it to our beds that evening, we were the only ones in our section (Cow Pen Road). Throughout the night, campers kept coming and coming. Lots of hammering rocks and tent stakes and lots of screaming kids. It was hot and the wind wasn’t blowing. Camden did not go to sleep that night. I used to struggle big time with migraines. Once I ditched artificial sweeteners, they decreased by about 95%. After that point, my triggers became extreme heat and cold and lack of sleep. Since it was hot and we didn’t sleep that night, I had a migraine the next morning. Brian made breakfast and took care of the boys while I laid in the tent. He was ready to bail on Turner Falls. The fact that we didn’t sleep combined with my migraine AND all of our friends that had joined us throughout the night, Brian felt it was best for us to cut our losses and go home. Let me show you what was going on next door to us.

Less than 15 feet from us, was a group of six tents in one small area. The only assigned spots at Turner Falls are the RV pads and the screened shelters. Everything else is a free for all. The place was packed! Filled to the gills packed. I admire how some cultures do life as a family unit. The whole crew comes together. Our little family could benefit from more of that. But we do like our personal space. We like being assigned a number and having our boundaries. The vast amounts of people at every turn is not what we are going for when we go camping. There were so many people that it was too crowded for the boys to ride their bikes or play with the remote-controlled cars.

Here’s a shot of our sheltered area site at Cooper Lake State Park. We did the South Sulphur side. We had lots of room.
boys at Cooper siteBrian thought it was best to head home, while Courtney and I were encouraging one more day. I had taken some Ibuprofen and applied essential oils. Courtney gave me a shoulder massage and I was feeling better. We hadn’t even been to the falls yet. We decided to go for a swim. There was a shuttle to take us up to the falls.shuttle bus
LOTS and LOTS of people everywhere. Forgot how to use the panoramic feature or I would show you. Just trust me. Lots of people. Courtney and I got in the water with the boys. It was crazy cold. We had fun. Camden laughed and laughed. =)
the falls
After the swim, we hit the hiking trail thinking we’d hike above the falls, but we ended up at a dead end where there was a little natural pool of freezing cold water.
hiking trail
More pics in the cold water.
Cold Cess Pool
We headed back to our site to eat lunch. We were on the fence about heading home. Courtney and I were still hoping to stay another day. Brian saw the wisdom in leaving. I was thinking we could get in another swim, have dinner, and then get some rest. Things went south, fast. Camden was exhausted. He was super upset. Brian and Camden stayed back at our campsite while Courtney, Carson and I went for another swim. While we were swimming, we realized it probably was best for us to pack up and head home. When we got back to our site, here’s how we found Camden:
Camden Napping
Camden hadn’t taken a nap since the flu of 2012, so we knew he was wiped out. Also realized that with the heat, he would more than likely struggle to sleep another night if we did stay. So while Camden napped, Courtney helped Carson get his fishing pole set up. She brought the pole as a surprise for him, but it didn’t seem like we’d have time. Carson asked numerous times about it, so I told Courtney just to humor him and drop the line in the little creek by our tent. Lo and behold that little turkey caught THREE fish in a row. He was so excited! Courtney is amazing with kids and she was so sweet to hook Carson up with fishing equipment. Here’s his first catch:
Carson's first catch
Here he is with Courtney during each of his three catches.
Carson 3 catches
We finished our lunch:
Carsons Chili
Took a group selfie:
TFs Group Selfie
Then we got the heck out of Dodge. Felt bad that Courtney had taken time off and we only stayed a night. Unfortunate that we did all the planning and packing for three nights. There are things we didn’t get to do like: visit the Arbuckle Wilderness Perserve, hike around the castle, consume the local fried pies, etc. I’m glad we went. We made some fun memories and we learned a bit more on what works and doesn’t work for our family camping trips. Camping in triple digits during Labor Day is not what works. Now we know. =)

Camden Turns 7, Frisco Aquatic Center, and My Thoughts on Bonham State Park

We enjoyed a typical summer Monday. Just three more of these till school starts back. Could not be more thankful for the summer we’ve had thus far.
Monday Week 7 CollageI was happy to get a picture of my boys with Mr. Bruce after we ate lunch. Up until this year, Carson referred to In & Out Burger as “Mr. Bruce’s.” He genuinely thought that was the restaurant’s name. Mr. Bruce is a very kind and hard-working man. He has been calling us (and many of his customers) by name for years. Such a nice guy!Mr. Bruce'sCamden had ABA therapy Tues/Wed/Thurs. He’s continuing to make such great progress. Most of his IEP goals are mastered and we’ve added several new ones. Carson had a dental appointment on Tuesday. Amazes me how much he enjoys going to the dentist. Our dentist has four boys of his own. Here’s Carson during his appointment.
Carson DentistOur sweet Camden turned seven on Wednesday. He is such a gift! Here are a few pictures from this year.
Camden Turns 7We went to Texas Roadhouse for his birthday dinner. He digs their prime rib. We opened a few gifts at home. He shows a good amount of interest in his little brother’s scooter, so I’ve been researching scooters for him. Went with a three-wheeled one, but it’s still a bit tricky since you steer it with your whole body instead of just turning the front wheels. We’ll see how it goes. Camden 7YO CollageOn Friday afternoon, Camden and I ventured off to the Frisco Aquatic Center and water park. We typically do a water activity on Fridays, and I was glad I only had one kiddo with me on this occasion. The place was pretty packed and it’s impossible (at least it would be for me) to keep an eye on multiple kids. Camden loves a lazy river, which is what we did for about three hours. He played in the indoor water playground for about 30 minutes. We had a great time and I was happy to have the one-on-one time with him to play in the water and just soak in his preciousness.
Frisco Aquatic CollageWe left the Frisco Aquatic Center and went to Mardel’s close by. Camden has shown great interest in one of Carson’s t-shirts. It says “Jesus is my Superhero” on the front. When I saw a similar tee at Mardel’s recently, I ordered one in Camden’s size. We went to customer service to pick it up, and I showed it to Camden. He read it and then ran off laughing and said, “I’m so happy!” To my knowledge, that is the only time I recall him spontaneously saying anything about emotions. It was so sweet!!
Jesus is my SuperheroCamden has been loving the book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom lately. I took this video of him reading it. So so cute! I’ve watched it no fewer than fifty times. Makes me smile and chuckle. =) Our favorite part is at 1:19. It takes almost 3 minutes to watch the entire clip. He’s in no rush. Plenty of breaks for tickle requests and Mommy’s hair.

We celebrated Camden’s birthday when we were in PA, and we went out to dinner and opened gifts on his actual birthday. On Saturday, my brother and sister-in-law and our twin nephews met us at Bonham State Park for more Camden celebration. We had considered camping at Bonham before so I’ll share some pics and my thoughts in case you are interested in camping (or just visiting) there as well. When we drove into the park and saw the lake, we assumed that there had to be more to it. We pulled out the map and drove around the entire park. There are biking and hiking trails that we didn’t explore. We essentially just looked at the campsites and the lake. We have friends who love this park. It’s nice that it’s close to us (under and hour), and due to the flooding we had in May, it is one of the few local state parks whose sandy beach area is open right now. That was nice. But in our opinion, the camp sites were extremely close together, the sandy beach was lacking (perhaps due to all the recent flooding?), and the lake pretty underwhelming. I sound like a jerk. Goodness. Perhaps it’s just in comparison to the other parks we’ve visited (Cooper Lake, Eisenhower, and Ray Roberts). Here’s a panoramic of the lake. And FYI, this panoramic shows the entire lake. You can see the camping area to the left by the trees. They also have a different area for group camping. The dock to the right is where you can fish and rent paddle boats. You can see the wood structure I am standing under. There was lots of shade and plenty of tables under the pavilion. More good points. =)
Bonham panoramicTo give you and idea of what the sandy beach looked like at the time of our visit, here’s a picture of Carson playing in the mud. The area probably does look different when we haven’t had flooding. When we visited, there just wasn’t much beachy area. It was nice that there was plenty of shallow water for the boys to play in. Carson in the mudHere’s Camden sitting in the pavilion. It’s big.
Bonham PavillionThis shot shows you the size of the swimming area. There were people swimming in the middle of the lake. There were no buoys marking it off, so I guess swimming was allowed anywhere. Perhaps.
Bonham swim areaWe swam for about an hour, and then decided to give the paddle boats a whirl. Camden had been requesting to ride in them, so we thought it would be a genius idea to pay $11 to ride in a paddle boat in the middle of the afternoon in triple digits for an hour. Or maybe we didn’t. But we did it any way. They had life jackets that we borrowed.
Bonham Boat DockI told Brian that we should take a family picture before he got hot and tired and grouchy. =) So we did. I spent the entire time pouring water over everyone and the boat to keep us from passing out. Good news…no one passed out.
Family Paddle BoatThe boys enjoyed floating and playing around in the water. Though a lot of the water was shallow, I did have Carson wear his floaties while he was playing catch in the deeper area.

Summer2015Week7-004
Bonham Swimming

No matter what I thought of the lake, my little guys had a great time and they weren’t ready to leave. That’s always a good sign to me. Three hours was enough though.  We packed up and all headed to Whitewright for bbq. Nom nom.