If I’m honest, our first impression of Garner State Park was not great. The main office is set up like a DMV, complete with a number dispenser and cubby counters, so it’s a little intimidating when you first get there. Not to mention, the girls who worked the desk were the least friendly Texas State Park workers we’ve met thus far. The first girl who helped us, assigned us to a site we could have never fit in, even after attempting to confirm with her that it would fit our 42 ft. 5er. It was pretty obvious she didn’t want to be there, and could really care less if we could back our trailer into a site. We took her at her word and started toward our site. Let’s just say, “There was no way on God’s green earth we were fitting in site #415.” We drove around the crowded park 3 times before attempting to get in it. When it became obvious it wasn’t going to happen, we found a site down the way that would fit us and backed in (site #422). It was right across from the restrooms and we right next to a dumpster. Score! We figured we’d drop off the trailer and drive back up to the office to change our permit. We would have called them to let them know what we were doing, but we had zero Verizon service out there. When we made it back up to the office, Paul spoke to another girl, and she acted aggravated that we had helped ourselves to a different site. Paul explained the situation and she eventually relented and got us a new permit. Again, this is the first time we have experienced such frustration at a Texas State Park. It’s usually not a big deal at all to check in or make adjustments. It was so bizarre!
We were all a little on edge after that experience, but decided we were going to take a deep breath, get set up, fix some supper, hang out, and figure out all of the logistics the next day. It was a very beautiful place. By morning, we had a little better frame of mind, and decided if at all possible, this time of year, it was not a good idea to move on a Friday or Saturday. Lesson learned. We came to the conclusion that we caught them on an extremely busy day coming in on a Saturday afternoon. By Sunday morning, most people had cleared off, and the whole place took on a much more relaxed feel.
We did have to figure out how to make contact with family to let them know we arrived safely and Paul had some business to take care of. We found out there was a Walmart in Uvalde (about 34 miles away). We figured if we couldn’t get Verizon service there, we could at least jump on their wifi. We started picking up cell phone service about half way to Uvalde in some places. By the time we got there, we had good reception. We picked up some groceries and took care of some business while we were there.
On Monday, I decided after the kids finished their school work (which we had to improvise on, not having internet), we would go exploring. Paul had to go back into town to take care of a few work-related things, so the kids and I loaded up on water and snacks, and took Tipper and started walking.
Wow! It was BEAUTIFUL! We hiked down to the Rio Frio and put our feet in, skipped stones, and saw some frogs and tadpoles. Then, we found a trail that went around to the other side of the park. We had decided, although it was listed as a challenging hike, we wanted to check out the Crystal Cave Trail which led to an actual cave.
It was a challenging, but beautiful trail, and the cave was really cool! Tyler was so excited to go into a “real cave”. We also walked down to the gift shop and putt-putt course, only to find they were closed. Bummer!
I guess they are only open on Saturday and Sunday this time of year. There is also an onsite restaurant, Garner Grill, run out of an airstream, which I believe was open, but we didn’t stop. We walked down to the river from that side of the park. The Day Use area was down there and some smaller tent and RV sites. It was a very pretty area.
The trees are gorgeous! The water is crystal clear. It wasn’t very warm that day, so no one was in the water, but there were tons of people down there over the weekend. We eventually made our way back to Our Moving House. It was a great day. The kids had a blast, and we were all exhausted that evening. When Paul came back that evening, he came back with goodies.
I’ve been wanting a zero gravity chair for a while, and he’s been wanting a bike to ride with the kids. So, while the boys rode their bikes, Emily and I tested out the chairs! 🙂
Over all, it was a great week! We spent a lot of time outside. There were so many different kinds of trees and birds. The birds were incredible. I snapped this picture of an Eastern Bluebird. It’s a little blurry, but you get the idea of the bright colors! So cool!
We were truly “off the grid” so to speak. We had no cell phone service, internet, or TV. Our antenna wouldn’t pick up any channels. Not a big deal for me. I prefer sitting outside, watching the birds, and reading a book anyways! 🙂 But, this is the first state park we’ve been to where we haven’t had any of these things.
It’s not a big deal for the kids and me. We have lots of “work-arounds”, but it was hard for Paul to get his work done. He ended up going into town almost every day we were there to make phone calls and answer emails.
If you are looking for an escape, this is the place for you. It is beautiful and there is so much to see and do. There are lots of hiking trails for all levels, and lots of pretty things to take pictures of.
Things to know before you go:
- This is a large state park with almost 500 sites. If you don’t like to be around a lot of people, this is not the park for you. There are a lot of people, especially on the weekends.
- This park has some of the cleanest public restrooms and showers we’ve seen at Texas State Parks.
- There is no Verizon service until 17 or so miles South on 83 toward Uvalde. Not sure about other carriers, but I would check before you go if you plan on needing phone or internet while there.
- If you are going through Junction, TX, there is a Pilot Truck Stop (great place to get gas in a big rig). There is nothing else until Leakey, TX (about 61 miles).
- There is a small gas station in Leakey (15 ft. clearance) with both unleaded and diesel.
- Uvalde is a 34 mile drive from Garner State Park. Is a beautiful drive. Has an HEB and a Walmart.
- We weren’t able to pick up any TV channels through our antenna at the park.
- The staff is not very friendly. Although, I did get a wave from a park ranger driving past…once…
- It’s not a good idea to pull up on a Friday or Saturday in a big rig, even if you have a reservation.
- If you are in a smaller rig, and like to be close to “the fun stuff”, go for Oakmont or Pecan Grove. Not many big rig sites in that area though.
- We stayed in the Rio Frio Area. It was a very crowded and completely random sites…we had tents on both sides of Our Moving House. Our fire pit was next to our neighbors’ picnic table. It was weird.
- We really liked the look of the Shady Meadows Camping Area, but there weren’t many big rig sites there either.
- If we ever go back, I wouldn’t mind staying in the Live Oak Area. There are plenty of big rig sites, some even backing onto the river.
All things said, it’s a beautiful place to relax and unwind. We had a great week! We learned a few lessons about camping this time of year, and we’ll try to plan better from now on. 🙂