Sunday, June 29, 2014

Hiking in North Texas Part 3: Arbor Hills

Since yesterday was overcast and not too hot in the morning, my family decided to go hiking again to build up our endurance for hiking on a vacation we have planned for early next year. We really want to try Cedar Ridge Preserve, but since we had already been in the car with the kids for 12 hours this week we were not looking forward to another 2 hours in the car. So we decided to hike the paved trails at Arbor Hills Nature Preserve in Plano. (Even though I really don't consider walking paved trails hiking, more like recreational walking).

The parking lot was quite full, and I was surprised to see there was a new parking lot expansion since the last time I was there.

We got out of our car, and my husband took one of my kids to the restroom before we got started. While they were in there, I looked at the park map in front of us. And I was surprised to see the Arbor Hills now has a whole series of un-paved nature trails! I guess it really had been years since I've walked around there. I still remember the observation tower and new paved loop under construction. The online maps still do not show these additional trails, so it was a very pleasant surprise. So we decided to take the Outer Loop trail.

We had to walk on the paved trail for a little while until we got to the turn-off for the Outer Loop trail. The first mile or so was very shaded.

We came across a few benches on the trail:

Best buddies...

...but we had to separate them only minutes later.

The trail went close to a fence and apartment building in the back, and eventually opened up into this meadow. This area had no shade and we became real hot and sweaty.

We saw the observation tower eventually, and decided to alter our path to check out the view.

This was the view:

We then walked the paved path for a while again:

And took another detour on the Old Pond path.

Finally, we made it back to the parking area, with the playground we promised the kids could play at after our hike.

We were all hot and exhausted by this time. We had walked about 2 1/2 miles. My daughter crashed on the sofa after we got home. I think we are going to put our hikes on hold until the fall when the weather is a little cooler.
Arbor Hills Pros:
*  Close to our house
*  Plenty of parking
*  Free!
*  Playground and picnic facilities
*  Paved and unpaved trails
*  No bikes allowed on unpaved trails, there is a separate mountain bike trail

Arbor Hills Cons:
*  Crowded on a Saturday morning
*  The unpaved trails were not labeled nearly as well as at Oak Point. There were a lot of smaller trails that broke off from the main trails that were not labeled, and we had a hard time knowing which way to go.

We will keep Arbor Hills on our hiking rotation for the fall. Have you been there lately?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Texas Road Trip: Victoria

If you know me or read this blog, you may think we only do Disney vacations. But my kids have seen a fair amount of other places, and we try to explore different parts of Texas every year.

Since we have family in Victoria, Texas, we make the 6- to 7-hour road trip there several times each year. My kids love going there!

On our most recent trip there this week, we took the kids to the Children's Discovery Museum. This place is not open during holidays, so we can only go there if we visit over Spring Break or summer. But the kids can keep busy here for hours!

The museum has a costume and puppet selection with a stage where the kids can put on a show.

It also has a giant Lite-Brite.

And a large arts and crafts station, as well as a pretend veterinary hospital, shopping market, playground, milking cow and other Texas-themed stuff.

On this trip, we also visited some places that showcase Texas history. My husband and father-in-law went to the Museum of the Coastal Bend. And all of us made the 30-minute trip to Goliad to see the Presidio La Bahia, a Spanish fort and battle ground built in 1749. I was surprised at how large it is.

I was afraid my kids might find this place boring, but since they could touch the cannons and climb on parts of the fort, they found it interesting.

The visitors' center showed a 15-minute video explaining some of the history of the fort. We also saw a list of the names of men who died in battle here, and found the name of a relative.

Across the road from Presidio La Bahia is Goliad State Park, which has the Mission Espiritu Santu. We did not visit this since it was closed for renovations.

We did visit the famous Fannin Battleground a few miles away.

There was a small museum inside that explained the major events that took place in the area that led to Texas independence. Since I am not a native Texan, I never learned these details in school.

This monument stands where bodies from the battle were found.

On this trip, we also drove 30 minutes to the coast and spent the day at Lighthouse Beach in Port Lavaca.

This beach is a campground and RV park, but it only cost us a total of $3 for a day-pass for our car.

If you have been to beaches in Texas, you probably realize that they do not compare to beaches in Florida or the Caribbean. Texas is not known for its nice beaches. But my kids don't care! They had a blast in the water and on the sand. Since it was cloudy, the water was murkier than usual--we couldn't see ANYTHING in there!
This beach is very shallow for a long ways out.

There is a long boardwalk and bird sanctuary.

And the beach also has a splash park and two playgrounds. Bonus!

When we visit Victoria in December, we always drive 30 minutes to the nearby town of Cuero to see the fabulous Christmas in Cuero light display in the park.

Have you visited Victoria?