I last wrote about being Unplugged while we were at Lake Mineral Wells, the outskirts of our cell reception area. Last week we were at Lake Arrowhead, near Wichita Falls, where the cell reception was intermittent at best. It’s in these times that you get the chance to rediscover the simpler things in life, like taking a sunrise walk with your daughter, or reading a good book.
We arrived at Lake Arrowhead well after sundown, the rangers in the park office had long since gone home, and I wasn’t looking forward to hiking back up from our campsite to register in the morning. The map that we picked up from the late check-in station showed a quaint little park with all of the RV sites arranged in circles of six just off the campsite driveway. Looking at the map, I instinctively picked out site 21 for it’s proximity to the bathrooms, the lake, and it’s distance from the road.
Sometimes I’m a genius, sometimes I’m just really lucky.
Zoe was up before dawn, excited to see what this park had to offer. I had already watched a promotional video (preview trailer?) of the park, so I was equally excited. Since we had to get to the office before 9am to check-in, I thought that a little walk around would be the perfect way to start the day.
Opening our front door at sunup felt like stepping through the wardrobe into Narnia. The silvery dew glinting off the soft grass looked like a velvet carpet up to the gnarled Mesquite trees hunched around the ring of campsites. Our particular site was blessed with its own path cut through the wooden sentries, leading to the road that separated the campsites from the lakeside picnic areas. The still rising sun gave a soft light that bathed Fezzik in a gentle glow, promising more warmth once its had its morning coffee. The previous campers were gracious enough to leave us with four stout logs for the fire ring, and we had the entire circle to ourselves. Just over the tops of the naked branches, you could make out the expanse of Lake Mineral Wells, and the faint calls of the gulls and coots greeting each other. What a perfect place for Anya’s birthday week!
An old pumpjack kept time as we marched down our secluded path toward the lake. The chitter of the morning birds greeted us like we were Disney princesses while we searched for our true prize -- Prairie Dog Town. Now, I’ve seen a lot of promotional videos that hype up the attractions of a state park and many will list the animals that live there. The odds of seeing these elusive creatures are usually not very good, so I was skeptical of Prairie Dog Town and its ability to impress me. What I wasn’t prepared for was the overwhleming number of praire dogs that we saw prior to reaching the actual Town. From skittish little ones to great lumbering fat ones, all barking at one another what I could only assume was the warning that THE GIANTS ARE COMING. I had hoped to catch sight of one, would have felt lucky to see two. I was completely unprepared to see twenty.
Prairie Dog Town is located toward the end of a peninsula, so we looped around the tip and walked along the shore back toward the camping area. There were about a dozen hardy fisher types out on the docks, braving the chill breeze. There were priarie dogs all along this side of the peninsula as well - in the playground, the picnic areas, and along the roadside. Zoe dashed at the flock of mixed waterfowl, laughing at their indignant squawking as they relocated themselves farther out in the water. “I really love this place,” she breathlessly confessed upon return. And I wholeheartedly agreed.
Afraid to break the magic, I reminded her that we still had to hike to the office to pay for this glorious experience, but she happily acquiesced. The walk from the shore to the park station was almost a mile along the paved road that split the dry, grassy fields dotted with more mesquite trees. We arrived at the office minutes after they had opened, and were greeted cheerfully by one of the rangers. While I took care of the reservation, Zoe gushed about how awesome the park was. She even donated her last birthday dollar to the collection box that was on the counter. The effusive ranger gratefully listed off more of the offerings of the park, including the Junior Explorer Backpack and rental fishing quipment. All of which was free. Zoe giddily clapped her hands and asked if we could go fishing. I hate fishing, but I am not a monster.
The ranger also loaded us down with stickers, jelly bracelets, temporary tattoos, an iron-on patch, a keychain, a flint arrowhead, and a magazine about the attractions of Wichita Falls. We thanked her and loaded everything into the Junior Explorer Backpack, picked up the fishing rod and tackle box, and made our way back toward our campsite. All of this after discovering that we got a discount for staying for the whole week (pay for five nights, get two nights free.)
There is even a disc golf course at the park.
Everyone agreed that this is now the best place that we have ever stayed, meeting all of our needs in all of the categories, with bonuses. Anya had a wonderful birthday that was mostly just relaxing all week, going on nature walks, communing with the prairie dogs and not fishing. Zoe and I tried a little fishing and built an awesome campfire, cooked a bunch of meat and found an LTE signal out on the fishing dock.
Life just keeps getting better and better.