Choke Canyon State Park

All the trees are gorgeously spring green.

On my day of no destination, I decided that it was time to get out of nature for a while. I looked up things to do in Corpus Christi and found a nice art museum, so after taking my time packing up and cleaning, I headed that way.

Nature had other plans.

It was 89 degrees by the time I got there. I parked the van and stared at the temperature display and thought bad words and the temperature display ticked over to 90.

90! In February! When the weather apps had promised temperatures in the 70s!

Obviously, Serenity has a generator that allows me to run the air-conditioning without being plugged into electricity, so I can keep the van cool(ish) when it’s hot. And I have a temperature monitor that uses wi-fi to send me a text message to let me know if the interior temp goes past 80. But that’s five things to rely on: the generator, the air-conditioner, the temperature monitor, the wi-fi router and my cell phone connection. If it’s hot enough that the dogs could die, I don’t rely on those things.

Which means I don’t go to art museums.

So I hung out in a parking lot for a while and thought about what to do. I’d been tentatively considering going down to Padre Island National Seashore, but I really didn’t want to go there on a February weekend. I like empty beaches, not crowded beaches. And even more, I didn’t want to go there on a really hot weekend. I would need to run the generator to keep the dogs cool, it would be loud and hot and sandy and sweaty… It just didn’t sound like fun.

So I drove around Corpus Christi for a while—some very pretty houses around the waterfront, some very run-down houses away from it—and ate some lunch and considered my options and finally I said, ugh, I hate how hot it is, I’m heading north.

North wound up being Choke Canyon State Park.

I’m in a tent site, not a camper site, so I’m basically in a parking spot, with a picnic table within hailing distance, but oh, it was so perfectly what I needed and wanted. Still hot, but spring-green everywhere, and lovely. I was the only person in the tent area when I arrived and the solitude was bliss. After dark, a bunch of other cars showed up, so it was noisier and less peaceful in the night. Lots of flashlights waving around outside which stressed Zelda out. She kept doing that low dog growl of warning and I kept telling her to go back to sleep.

But the sunrise this morning was beautiful. We had a peaceful solitary walk down a dirt path through trees. I wanted to call them woods, but honestly, the trees just feel too short to me to be woods or forest. Maybe a grove? And I definitely don’t want to call it wilderness — it’s doesn’t feel wild enough for that. Just nature, maybe. Lots of bird noises — nature really does sound like a video game, sometimes, or maybe that should be vice versa. I was seriously jolted awake when we startled some birds though — a whole flock of them shot forth from the brush right next to us, so loud that the whirr of their wings almost sounded like a motor starting up.

And I had my bird app out trying to identify the swooping predator birds. I was fairly sure they weren’t vultures — they weren’t flying together, the way vultures do, or circling, and they were a little on the small side, plus the coloring seemed wrong. The app offered northern harrier as an option, which seemed to fit best, but I’m honestly not sure. They were beautiful, though. And they flew really close to the treetops, which was cool. The trees are short, so that meant they were remarkably near to the ground for swooping predators.

Because there weren’t any camper sites available and I’m technically not supposed to be in the tent sites, I’m headed north again this morning. This time with a reservation. As it turns out, while I like serendipity and while I approve of flexibility, I also don’t want to waste my days feeling uncertain and driving around aimlessly. I will miss some things if I only stick to places that take reservations (Padre Island doesn’t, for example, it’s first-come, first-served), and I definitely don’t want to make plans too far out into the future. But knowing where I’m going to spend the night is less stressful for me. Yesterday I seriously considered staying in a Walmart parking lot — I even asked if it was okay, and was told that it was fine — but I hated the thought of waking up there and having our morning walk be around cars and blacktop. I’m so glad this morning that I moved on!