Palmetto State Park

This week, we headed down to Gonzales, TX to drop off my oldest son for a week long camp.  On the way home from dropping him off, my younger son and I decided to spend the day at Palmetto State Park.

Palmetto State Park, located a little over an hour south of Austin, is probably one of the smallest state parks we have been to, but we both still had a great time.

There is a small, 4-acre oxbow lake with canoes, paddleboats and paddle bikes for rent.   

On the lake is a fishing pier with a ladder just perfect for jumping off and swimming! K met some new friends and spent a few hours swimming and exploring the lake!  

There is also a short 3/4 mile trail encircling the lake.  We saw some deer and other wildlife on our short hike.

We also tried our hand at fishing, but didn't catch anything.  We were going to try again at dusk, but I couldn't pull him away from swimming.  

Around mid-day, we left the lake to explore the rest of the park. 

We have slowly been collecting the various Texas State Park geocaches, so we wanted to pick this one up.  
As usual, the geocache led us to some really neat sights that we would have otherwise missed!  

Palmetto State Park is named for the tropical dwarf Palmetto trees that grow abundantly in the swamp like grounds.  

We started our hike on the Palmetto Interpretive Trail and found this amazing water tower built by the CCC in the 1930s and still functioning today!

We continued along the trail to the Ottine Swamp Trail to find our geocache. Who knew there were swamps in Central Texas??   While signing the log, my son found this little guy!

Just down the road from the trails is a low water crossing of the San Marcos river.  K and I hung out in the cool current of the river until it was time for dinner!  The park rents tubes (or you can bring your own).  Since we had the dogs with us, we couldn't take a ride, but if we come back, we are going to definitely try the tubes out!

We had originally planned on spending the night camping.  But after being away from home for the last week on vacation, we decided to pack it up around 8pm and head home to sleep in our own beds.  K decided that this was a perfect park for a day trip!!

Barking Springs

Ahhh - the first day of summer vacation.  There is no better day in the year :o)

One of the first things the boys asked me this morning is where we were going.  Well, we had a lot of things to do to get ready for summer:  empty and store school backpacks (woot!!), find this year's pair of water shoes, buy $40 of sun block , pack the summer bag.  All of those typical first day of summer chores...  So, we didn't get on the road until almost noon.  Since we wanted to be back in time to catch some of the UT game, we decided to keep it close.

The boys picked Barking Springs, an old favorite.

Stock Car racing at the Central Texas Speedway

 Watch a race at the Central Texas Speedway

Okay, I must admit, I had never been to a car race before.  I've never even watched a car race before.  So when our family pulled up into the grass field to park, I had no idea what to expect.

Central Texas Speedway, located about 25 miles south of Austin right off I-35, offers stock car races, go-cart riding and concerts.  Today they were hosting the Bobcat Showdown.

When we arrived, the boys were starving (of course, they're teenagers, right?), so we picked up some barbecue and sausage wraps in the concession area.  

Due to timing, the races were at intermission when we found a seat in the stands.  During intermission, all of the cars that race that day pull onto the track and spectators are allowed to get onto the track to meet the racers, and even climb into a few of the cars! The racers ranged in age from ten years old (no joke!) to middle aged.

We then climbed back into the stands to watch our first race.  As the cars lined up around the track for their first loop, engines roaring and accelerating, my youngest son couldn't keep from screaming "This is AWESOME!!"

And screaming was necessary.  We were surprised when we arrived that the stands were pretty full, but there were still front row seat available.  Cool - we thought!  And then quickly moved backwards after the races started due to the noise. :o)

There is something very primal about watching the cars roar around the track - cheering on the winner!  I knew my kids would get a kick out of the race, but I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did.  It was a lot of fun!  And fortunately, the race announcer was very good at explaining what all of the flags meant and what was going on!

We stayed to watch two races, with each race being around a half an hour. Knowing nothing about cars, we'd pick a favorite to win, and watch them scoot around the track.  We watched the wipeouts, the jockeying for position, and the winners!  It really was a blast.

Tips and Thoughts

●  The races are loud ... really loud.  We saw lots of children and adults wearing ear protection.  If we had had any, we would have gladly worn it.

●  We had general admission tickets on the bleachers.  These provided a great view of the race, but were hard metal seats with no back support.  We saw many people bring their own comfy camp chairs to set up in the bleachers - and it looked a lot more comfortable that way!

●  Not knowing anything about races, I couldn't really figure out when to get there.  The tickets say 4pm as the start.  When we pulled up at 6pm, I was hoping we weren't too late.  Nope.  The opening ceremony was at 4pm, with the first race shortly thereafter.  Races contiued until 7pm, when there was a half hour intermission and chance to meet the drivers and see the cars up close, followed by races continuing from 7:30 until around 9:30pm.  So, you can come anytime in between 4pm and 9pm.  As the sun went down, the day cooled, and the evening was beautiful!

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