Grab a fresh, warm cup of coffee and put your reading brain on. This is a longer than usual post.
Remember way back in March 2020. Covid-19 hit, we hit a pothole, crashed right outside of Gallup, totaled our rig and truck, and we had to completely shift gears and reroute our travel plans?
Well, all of this happened on our way to spend time with friends and family in Dallas-Fort Worth. We were supposed to arrive in early April 2020. Alas, we arrived in December 2020 and spent a whole month with friends and family. Better late than never, right?
I was sort of on a mission to explore this area in ways I never did when I lived there. I lived in DFW for about 7 years (I moved away when I was 19) and I do not ever remember going on a walk/hike through a park or visiting a state park.
What is worse, after exploring the area for a month, I can sort of see why it didn’t occur to me to explore the outdoors in this way. It just isn’t a priority in the area. There are parks and playgrounds, but not really many trails. We did find a couple gems, but largely the area is just not hike friendly. I had to search long and hard (and drive 40-60 minutes one way) for the ones we did find.
I do not want to discourage you. If you are ever in the area and want to explore the great DFW outdoors, here are some good options.
Cedar Hill State Park
The first two weeks of our time in the area was spent in this state park. It wasn’t a terrible place to be, but ants are a huge problem in this park. Their website even mentions the problem, so I should have been better prepared for the ant invasion that happened in our RV. It was awful. Ants everywhere and in every space of our tiny home. We bought some Terro and the problem was gone in one day. WIN for us. Not so much for the ants.
There was a playground, some trees, and Joe Pool Lake is nearby. The campground is not near the lake, though some sites have a good view of it from on top of a hill. We would stay again, as long as we are armed with powerful ant killer.
Anywho, shortly after arriving we celebrated the Winter Solstice with a sunset picnic and an after-dark walk.
We also celebrated Christmas, went for our annual Holiday Jammies Hike in the campground, and celebrated New Years here too!
We also really enjoyed the outdoor space right outside our home a lot. We had ample room to just be outside without worrying about cars or neighbors. And since the park was empty often, we also were able to just run and explore when we were in the mood.
We tried to hike one trail in the state park with my mom (Grammy), but after several bikes almost ran us over because it is a shared hiking and mountain biking trail, we gave up and went down to the lake.
The lake was a mostly a bust too. The mud right near the water’s edge was so thick, we all sunk before we reached the water. The 6-year-old had a blast, but everyone else just sat and watched him explore the squashy mud. Grammy had to take his favorite thrift store outfit home and use fancy soap on them to get the mud stains out.
Loyd Park – Grand Prairie
We spent the following two weeks on the other side of Joe Pool Lake. This was another nice campground, though our site did not have full hookups, so we had to break camp after a week to dump our tanks. Another issue that still bothers me, is that on top of the camping fee, we had to pay $10 per day for our vehicle. So now we have this delightful year long unlimited entrance pass that we can’t use. But hey, if we make it back to DFW before February 2022, we won’t have to pay to go to that park.
Anyway, while we were at this delightful place, it snowed. It was also the day we had to dump our tanks, so that was fun. Check it out.
We also hiked a trail in this park right after the snow. It was quite lovely and I wish I had made more time to hike it earlier and more than once during our stay. Maybe we will use that unlimited entry pass again to hike this trail again – you know if we make it back before February 2022.
Grammy and Grandpa’s House
We visited my mom and step-dad a lot while we were in town. Here are some photos that captured the fun we had. We made gingerbread cookies, played with their pups, took a trip down memory lane so the kids could see me and my sister as little humans, and the 6-year-old dissected an owl pellet. This is now his new obsession.
Fort Worth Water Gardens
I had never heard of this place, but I discovered it while I was looking for a place to explore in downtown Fort Worth. We needed to drop off hygiene supply donations we had gathered to a shelter and these water gardens were not far away.
It was actually really neat and we all had a wonderful time.
Southwest Nature Preserve
This is another one of those wonderful green spaces I was excited to find! The pond was a bit gross, with dead fish and trash, but the trail itself was nice. There were birds everywhere, neat mossy rocks to look at, and I imagine the place would be so different and interesting in other ways in other seasons. I can say it was a lovely place to explore in winter and highly recommend it.
Windmill Hill Nature Preserve
This was a wonderful trail system with several different trail options. We had a blast randomly choosing the color trail we wanted to follow. Luckily, I snapped a photo of the trail map at the beginning of the hike, so I could make sure we eventually took trails that would lead us back to the car.
Okay, this isn’t a green space and we didn’t hike. But we were outside for about 5 hours and we spent the day with Grammy and Grandpa, so it was a total win. Doug and I each got to ride one real, big, awesome roller coaster and a few small ones. We took the kids on a couple small roller coasters and now they are both a bit scared of them. Oops. It was also Holiday in the Park, so they had hot chocolate, holiday lights everywhere, holiday performers, and my favorite was the Christmas Story window display.
Also, they do have Covid-19 precautions in place. They take everyone’s temperature when you arrive, you must wear a mask the whole time, and they even disinfect the rides really often. I am personally hoping they maintain the last one forever. There was also almost no one there. Which was a huge bonus for us!
Mockingbird Nature Trail
This was another win! This trail would likely be too hot in summer, but it was perfect in winter. Plus, there are birds everywhere and even bird blinds.
Walnut Creek Linear Park
This is essentially a paved path with several entry points that follows a creek. I was blown away by the wildlife we saw. I saw a fat fox squirrel squeeze into a hole in a tree, we saw lots of birds, and even some sort of bird of prey. I assume it was a hawk, but the 6-year-old swears it was an owl. The creek was full of trash, but otherwise this was a great place to explore and we’d do it again for sure.
Dinosaur Valley State Park
One of our 2021 goals as a family is to complete one adventure together each month. We sat down and compiled a list of possible adventures and then narrowed it down to 12. Because I knew we were near this state park, I selected fossil hunting for January.
Spoiler, we did not see any fossils in the wild, but we did have a blast with Grammy and a dear friend and her family. I went to high school with this friend and I love her and her family to pieces. I am so glad we got to spend time together.
Fort Worth Zoo
We also explored the Fort Worth Zoo with a couple of other cherished friends from high school. It was neat, but of course it was my children who melted down first and forced us to leave just a touch earlier than everyone else.
Bob Jones Nature Center
Grammy joined us again on another adventure. This time we explored a nature center and the nature trail. The nature center was actually open during Covid-19 with a small interactive exhibit and they had a Little Free Library, so the children had a blast. Side note – we carry books in our truck to exchange whenever we see a Little Free Library.
The trail wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t spectacular either. We did find deer prints, so that made the kids happy. After the trail, we drove to a nearby playground so the kids could get even more wiggles out and play with Grammy.
Colleyville Nature Center Trail
One of our final adventures was on a particularly windy day. I decided we could squeeze in one more nature trail and so we did. The wind made the kids a bit uneasy, what with the large trees swaying in it, but we explored a chunk of this trail system. This is a neat area and I would love to explore it again next time we visit the area.
I know that was a lot. I apologize for the length, but the content is gold, as usual!
Stay tuned for our January 2021 adventures in Austin and San Antonio!
CURRENT ADVENTURE STATS:
On the road: 18 months
Miles towing our home: 15,640
Campgrounds visited: 88
Breweries visited: 38
National Parks visited: 18/62
National Monuments/Seashores/Historic Sites/etc.: 8
State Parks visited: 26