I’m going to be honest, I never quite understood the allure of camping. Being only one generation removed from poverty and very much aware of my middle-class upbringing when visiting extended family, when I discussed camping among friends (usually of the beige variety) I would respond with a simple “For why?”
To me, camping was synonymous with “let’s go pretend to be broke for a while”. Having experienced hot humid summers with no AC in Virginia, sleeping in your underwear with no sheets and every window open. Having also experienced washing and maintaining clothes with nothing but a barrel of water and soap. Having grandparents that still see children as “free labor” and spending summers waking up before the sun rises to help maintain their small home, including but not limited to cutting grass, tending/harvesting/prepping vegetables in their garden for that evening’s meal, helping with wood work, and whatever else.
Again I would ask, "for why?"
I love hiking, I love nature trails. I love going out and categorizing plants by their latin names (seriously, I took a biology botany class in college that literally consisted of going to different parks and memorizing the latin names of native Texas plants — I aced that ho). I also love my iComfort mattress and air conditioning. I love coming inside after a long day in the sun and cooking in the comfort of my home. I’m grateful for the privileges I have.
Slowly but surely, Mr. Hallease has consistently pushed camping into our mix of travel activities.
It has been met with resistance, but because I love him...I have conceded.
Our good friends in Austin invited us to McKinney Falls for the weekend. I have frequented this state park many times (again, botany class in college and like I said, I love a good walk amongst the trees as much as the next person). When they initially invited us I was actually excited, because of the recent rain I knew the Falls would be beautiful right now.
We packed up my 15-year-old CRV and headed out to the park. What’s really awesome about McKinney is its relatively close proximity to Austin proper, so if you realize that camping isn’t your thing a quick 15-minute drive will bring you to Downtown Austin.
As part of your camp site rental McKinney offers well maintained bathrooms with showers, firewood for purchase, water access, and waste dumping for RVs as well. They have 81 camp sites available for rent, but plan your trip a month or two in advance, the busy season is from March through November. I recommend coming in the fall, that’s hopefully when we’ve had enough rain and the falls are actually…falls. Also native Texas plants tend to be prettier during that time of year, more things are berrying and blooming.
If you’re not into having only a thinly veiled sheet protecting you at night from the outside but still want to experience nature, they also offer cabins for rent now too!
Each campsite comes with a fire pit/grill and a wood bench sitting on concrete. They also offer square patches for you to pitch your tents. It’s noted that they prefer tents to be pitched on the designated patches.
We arrived Friday night and pitched our tent. Mr. Hallease had purchased it from Academy a few months back, and for $50 it’s a good investment. More than enough room for the two of us, our bags and any other items we may want to keep inside the tent with us. (Remember, you’re in the woods — Texas woods at that. Raccoons are a serious thing here. Lock up your food or they WILL find it.)
It was already agreed that we were in charge of breakfast the following morning. Mr. Hallease is gluten-free so before we left we stopped by Trader Joe’s to pick up some ingredients. He’d been craving pancakes for a while so we decided to try their gluten-free pancake mix. We also bought 2 dozen eggs for scrambling and breakfast sausage patties.
As far as gluten-free mixes go, Trader Joe’s is a stronger contender. My only problem with the batter (as with many GF batters) is the thickness. It doesn’t spread like traditional pancake batters so the pancakes came out more like true pan-fried cakes. Very dense.
After cooking the sausage we drained some of the fat and used that as a base for the eggs. Being that Mr. Hallease is of the latino variety we’ve always invested heavy in cast iron, we have a 10in cast iron pan and a comal. Within our first year or two of marriage he insisted that we have a comal for tortillas etc and seriously that was the best investment. I use the comal at least once a week to quickly reheat leftovers, toast bread, quickly blacken a jalapeño. It’s a staple. Plus it makes a great pancake cooker, don’t waste money on a grittle.
Breakfast was a success!
After eating we hiked to the lower and upper falls. McKinney offers quite a few different hiking trails most around 2 or so miles long. Depending on where your camp site is in relation to your desired trail I recommend driving to it. Especially because it can get confusing where the trails begin and end. Also, McKinney is really good about having ample parking spots at each of the different entrances to the trails.
We hiked for about 2 1/2 hours across a few different trails so I’m guessing we did 3 - 4 miles. We got back to the campsite and relaxed for a few hours while Diego, who was in charge of dinner started grilling.
Unfortunately, it is the rain season here in Texas right now and because of McKinney’s location it’s prone to flooding. If you’re local to Austin for the past few years then you’re very much aware of Onion Creek, which floods — yearly.
Onion Creek feeds through McKinney, as we were wrapping up eating the deluge began. At first we thought it would be a quick pass through and hunkered down, but we soon realized that even if it passed we’d still have to deal with the flood water that was quickly beginning to rise.
We had to cut the trip short. Mother nature proved the victor and I ain’t even mad about. As a Texan I will never complain about rain. (Also, low-key I love the rain.)
If you’re a novice camper like myself, I think McKinney is a great first step, it’s close proximity to Austin and available amenities make it a great location. Check out the video to see our full experience.