AUSTIN, TX — The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department suggests setting aside your everyday stresses and frustrations, and spending a relaxing fall weekend camping under the watchful eyes of outdoor experts. More than 1,700 families already have experienced the Texas Outdoor Family program that is helping family members reconnect with each other and experience many of the natural wonders that make Texas a special place.
Close your eyes and imagine a perfect 72-degree evening. Lake waters gently lap against the shore just a few feet from your campsite as you watch the sun begin to slide below the horizon. You hear the crackling of the fire and the laughs of nearby children, and smell a wisp of campfire smoke. For many Texans, such an evening outdoors will conjure up vivid memories of childhood weekends spent camping with their families – a time when they caught their first fish or first paddled a canoe. The Texas Outdoor Family wants to help you rekindle those special memories on an overnight campout with your family in a beautiful state park.
Now in its third year, the how-to-camp program has been touching lives across Texas by making the outdoors more accessible by teaching outdoor skills to instill the confidence needed for families to continue their journey to becoming an “outdoor family.” This fall’s lineup of state park campouts begins Sept. 10 at Inks Lake State Park in the Hill Country and ends Dec. 3 at Estero Llano Grande State Park in the Rio Grande Valley.
For a fee of $65, families of up to six people are provided all of the camping equipment and instruction they’ll need for a comfortable overnight experience. The cost includes park entry fees, campsite rental, a tent, stove, air mattresses, pots, pans, utensils, lantern, an afternoon full of activities catered to each park, and much more. Campers only need to bring their own sleeping bags or cots, and food and beverages.
The outdoor workshops, which can handle up to 20 families, also engender a sense of community. Kids make fast friends with youngsters in their neighboring campsites; parents find comfort in knowing that others are sharing in their first night in the outdoors in quite some time; and park rangers are available throughout the weekend to help demonstrate camp skills and share their knowledge of the outdoors and state parks.
“The Texas Outdoor Family has changed our life” says Jennifer Dunham, a participant and Texas Outdoor Family volunteer. “We’ve taken the workshops’ camping skills and leave-no-trace principles to heart and have continued to camp and enjoy respectfully all that our wonderful state park system offers with a sense of confidence about our abilities. We have grown closer as a family with a shared love of the outdoor adventures that we would not have experienced without this program.”
Jennifer is not alone in her sentiment as 94 percent of surveyed participants have already recommended the program to a friend. Join them at one of the 22 workshops happening this fall throughout the state at some of Texas’ most treasured parks.
Consider a “stay-cation” by picking a park close to home or set out to find a new Texas favorite in the Hill Country, West Texas, the Rio Grande Valley and beyond. For more specialized adventure, try a special themed Dutch oven cooking workshop. Learn how to whip up “gourmet” dishes over a campfire using at Stephen F. Austin State Park on Nov. 5 or Dinosaur Valley State Park on Nov. 19.
Or plan a two-night outing to take camping to a new level at such perennial favorites as Garner (Sept. 23-24), Buescher (Sept. 30-Oct. 1) and Lake Tawakoni (Oct. 21-22) state parks.