Caving with the Kiddos

Ever since Curby and I went caving and rappelling at Colorado Bend State Park, our boys have been begging to go on a spelunking adventure of their own. They've been working on their climbing skills at a local indoor rock gym, but last week they finally had the chance to check out some of the awesome formations they have been obsessed with learning about. 

We took them to a great spot in Georgetown called Inner Space Cavern. Many kids in central Texas will at some point in their elementary school careers make a stop here (or at Natural Bridge Caverns near San Antonio). It was discovered in 1963 during drilling surveys related to the construction of an overpass on Interstate Highway 35. A portion of the overpass is actually built directly above the cave! Three different tours with varying degrees of difficulty are offered at the caverns. The Adventure Tour was perfect for our young beginners. It is an hour long excursion on a man-made, lighted path. Not exactly wild cave exploration (though you can get your fix on the four-hour Wild Cave Tour), but perfect for families or people with physical limitations. There is no crawling or climbing involved and all of the rooms are open and spacious. 

soda straw ceiling

temptation rock

During the tour, the boys were very excited to point out many examples of the formations they had seen in pictures and videos. They also enjoyed learning the names of some formations our guide showed us including soda straws, cave bacon, flowstone and the kissing column, a stalactite/stalagmite couple that will grow the last half inch needed to be considered an official column in a short 50 years. We also saw the original man-made entrance to the cave, an excavation site (the fossils and bones of more than 40 species of animals have been found inside the cave, including eleven that are now extinct!), and experienced total darkness—I’m not sure how much the boys appreciated that part! 

Beautiful example of flowstone

They did appreciate Temptation Rock. Since this cave system is considered live, or active, you are asked not touch any of the formations in the cave to minimize the risk of depositing foreign dirt or oils that might threaten the growth of a the beautiful formations.  Temptation Rock is a dead spot within the cave that the boys (and everyone else on the tour for that matter) were excited to be given permission to touch. Probably our least favorite part of the tour was getting cave kisses, a nice way of describing the droplets of water that sometimes fall right on top of your head from the cave ceiling. It can be quite surprising and cold! 

We had a great experience and for folks that are interested in exploring a little bit of the underground, Inner Space Caverns is a great place to do it. The employees were friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. For more information on these amazing structures, visit the Texas Speleological Society webpage. They also have links to more of Texas’ show and wild caves. Happing Caving!

~The LIN Crew

Lake of the Moon

Park Preview-Arthur Storey Park

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The Scoop

Arthur Storey Park is a 175 acre park off of Sam Houston Parkway in West Houston.  Situated along Brays Bayou, its detention is ringed with a hike and bike trail that is just short of two miles. A playground, Tai Chi court, picnic tables, duck pond, gazebo and restrooms round out the list of this park's amenities.  

tai chi platform

tai chi platform

What We Loved

We stopped by this park while out running errands and had no idea what to expect. Unfortunately, our visit did not begin well as we were greeted by construction noise, trash everywhere and a horrible smell wafting from the detention pond. However, as we were walking back to the car after finding a decent place to eat our lunch, we happened upon this wonderful Tai Chi space. Somehow, despite the noise from the highway and nearby construction, this area of the park had a feeling of peace and tranquility. There were several large oaks providing shade and I was really glad that this was our last stop before leaving the park. 

What We'd Like to See Instead

I was immediately turned off by the gator warning signs. With small children, this is an animal that simply make me nervous (This is probably the reason we haven't braved Brazos Bend State Park yet!). In addition to the aforementioned observations, the park was just too crowded. Kids were practically on top of one another on the playground. It reminded me of an elementary school playground at lunch time. We were there on a Friday afternoon and while it was nice to see so many people enjoying the outdoors, the patrons clearly did not respect the park as trash littered the ground. We would also like to point out the upon reason other reviews of this park, we discovered numerous accounts of car break-ins and a general consensus that it is not safe to walk alone in the park in the early morning or evening hours. This park is definitely not our best Houston find. 

Campsite of the Month-Pace Bend Park

Don't let the name fool you! kid's cliff is not for little ones!

Don't let the name fool you! kid's cliff is not for little ones!

The Scoop

Another Hill Country gem, Pace Bend Park does not disappoint. This scenic 1300-acre park run by the Travis County Parks Department offers 20 miles of multi-use trails, 9 miles of shoreline (boat ramps and swimming only coves), improved and unimproved campsites, restrooms and showers for overnight guests, and numerous picnic tables, barbecue pits and fire rings sprinkled throughout the park. Boating, fishing and camping are among the most popular activities here. It is also a popular cliff diving spot! 

Improved lot with water and electricity

Improved lot with water and electricity

What We Loved

The trails here are a great combination of technical and scenic. You'll constantly find your attention being tugged between concentrating on your footwork and taking in the views. Campsites on the east side of the park offer views of the sunrise and easy access to the lake for swimming and fishing. On the west your campsite will sit atop ledges that overlook the lake and offer prime views of the evening sky. The northern section of the park is tucked away from the main park and is a great place for a large group to claim sites near prime swimming coves. Pace Bend currently only offers camping reservations for its 20 improved lots, so be sure to arrive at the park early on prime weekends to get the best pick of the unimproved sites.

Unimproved Lots along Levi cove

Unimproved Lots along Levi cove

What We'd Like to See Instead

Evidence of the real estate development in the area is apparent in the number of structures that are visible in the hills across the lake. The park is quiet and there is still a lot of green on the horizon, but you are definitely reminded of your proximity to the city. Our only other negative observation was how very close together the improved lots are to one another. Campers in this area will find privacy lacking. All of the lots circle the restrooms and showers and the convenient location is nice, but the steady steam of traffic near camosites is not as appreciated. Regardless, we encourage you to check out this great park and if you're brave enough, take a jump off of Kid's Cliff!

Park Preview-Galveston Island Beach Pocket Park #2

11745 San Luis Pass Road
Galveston, Texas 77554
409-797-5102 or 888-425-4753 ext 102
http://www.galvestonbeachinfo.com/pocket_parks.asp

The Scoop

While it doesn't have the most glamorous name, this beach pocket park more than served its purpose for our short day-trip. Located on the west end of Galveston Island, Pocket Park #2 is a short distance from some of the island's main attractions, but quiet enough to feel like an escape from all of the hustle and bustle. Its ammenties include restrooms, outdoor rinse-off showers and chair and umbrella rentals.

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What We Loved

This was our first time on the beach in a few years and while it may not be the most beautiful of beaches (a person can get slightly spoiled after living in Hawaii for a few years), there is something very humbling about standing at the water's edge and looking out at water and sky as far as your eyes can see. It was a clean, relaxing place to spend a few hours with young kiddos. 

Promising restroom and shower facilities...too bad they were closed. 

Promising restroom and shower facilities...too bad they were closed. 

What We'd Like to See Instead

When we arrived, there was no attendant at the park entrance. Usually, there is a parking fee and we were happy to hang onto our few dollars, but a lack of staff meant amenities were limited. We didn't realize the restrooms were locked until we were getting ready to leave and needed a place to change and take care of business. Restrooms are key with little ones in tow. If we were to visit again, we'd make sure the restrooms were open before getting settled. There are numerous stops along the shore, so we'll probably explore other parts of the island rather than make a repeat trip to this location.