Tuesday, January 1, 2013

August 2010-Late Summer Trip

It was the end of the summer and I wanted my son to get to the coast for fishing so I decided to plan another one of our circle trips centered around fishing on the coast. It was a great expansion from our previous shorter trip to the Hill Country. Half of the fun-okay maybe not half but a good portion of the enjoyment I have is searching the web for places to go and explore. I use Google Maps a lot, I plug in caverns or zoos and it gives me a bunch of plugs where the destinations are in close proximity to where I plan on traveling.

Our first destination was the Cameron Park Zoo, a zoo I can't believe I hadn't visited yet as I went to school in Waco Texas, in that time I enjoyed Lake Waco, the mall but never the Cameron Zoo. The first thing that struck me about the zoo was the fact that this city park zoo seemed like you had departed from Waco, it is situated on the Brazos River which gives a relatively small zoo a large feel. There are river settings filled with fish and turtles, deep lush vegetation that makes you feel you have left waco for some jungle destination. We spent more time looking at the fish and the water areas than any one animal-okay maybe the komodo dragon also got much of our attention but it was the lush scenery that really struck me about this zoo. I also liked the way the zoo broke areas out- the South American exhibit, the Asian forest-it seemed more intimate as well and we saw many animals do things we normally didn't see in other zoos. An elephant, very close to the fence washed itself in the water and even shared a bit with us onlookers. It seems every zoo we go to there are different experiences or things you remember. This zoo made you feel like you were up close and personal with many of the animals without feeling like you needed to run.

The next place we went to was San Antonio-we stayed in a really nice hotel that seemed like it typified the spanish feel of the San Antonio area. It was the Riverwalk Inn and it did not disappoint. On going into the hotel my son found a brochure for ghost hunting the Alamo and this is how the wild card destination came to be-I said why not and soon was calling the local ghost tour company. We had hours before sunset which is when the tour began so we went on the riverwalk. There is a freedom to not having a car and just walking to where ever you need to go and that's what we did. We walked along the river looking for a place to eat. The atmosphere of the riverwalk is so exciting and there is such a social feel to it all. After eating at a steak house right on the river we walked along the street and stumbled upon Ripleys' Believe it or Not, it was a bit pricey but well worth it and one of our highlights of the trip.

Just about sunset we met our tour group. We were able to walk the streets of San Antonio and learned about the local history and took readings along the way with various meters we took with us. We didn't see any ghosts but got many interesting tidbits of information and visited the Alamo which was very interesting.

The next day we visited the  San Antonio Zoo, we both had been there before without the other but this time we were able to share it together and that made all the difference. It was a nice sized zoo with all your favorites-lions and tigers and bears-oh my-Dorothy never showed up-but I digress. The butterfly exhibit was amazing-giant butterflies with owl eyes on their wings and flash of amazing cerulean that no artist would attempt to imitate. My son really enjoyed taunting the monkeys-I frowned on the process but he insisted on looking them in the eye. There was a flamingo area that was amazing-the scenery and the way they lay out the scene-you don't feel like you are in Texas for sure. We both really enjoyed the reptiles and amphibian exhibit.

On the way down to the coast we went to the Cascade Caverns just outside of the city. A bit out of the way on our trip but so worth it. I would say it was one of the more wild caves-there were Eastern Pipstrelle bats, Cascade cavern salamanders, Cave Crickets, and leopard frogs, we saw all the wildlife but unfortunately the waterfall wasn't present at the time. We met some great people and enjoyed the cool atmosphere in the cave. It was one of our favorite caverns because of the wildlife and how alive everything seemed, from the running water to the bats so close you could touch them-but don't. Another interesting aspect of the cavern was the Mastodon bones, Sabertooth cat and bison as well as indian artifacts-lots to explore. They have an up close and personal tour both of us want to take one of these days but didn't this time.

After enjoying the trip to the cavern it was off to the coast, both of us were eager to see the ocean and get some seafood. The ride was long but enjoyable as the coast got closer and closer with every mile.
We stayed at the Lighthouse Inn, it was a beautiful stately looking place. It felt like we were really soaking up the coastal feel and I would highly recommend both the amenities and the atmosphere. The staff was very friend and accommedating as well. Close to the Inn was the Copano fishing Pier where we fought with the many dolphins for the small but plentiful speckled trout and the wild jumping ladyfish. We stayed there into the evening and enjoyed great success on light tackle-well lit and overall a very comfortable relaxed setting. The next day we fished at Goose Island State Park-we didn't catch much but my son enjoyed looking for crabs and exploring the pier. There was a conservation film going on at the time so it was interesting to talk with them.

I had planned the whole trip around the fishing guide that we were going to hire for redfish and specks, weeks before I had looked for places to stay in Rockport Texas and guides that I could go out that were not ridiculously priced and seemed to have a personal approach to getting out and fishing. It's extremely hard to decipher as there are so many out there-I can tell by the voice and how quickly they respond and how excited they are about bringing you and your son out fishing, it's still a crapshoot but we got lucky.

I chose Lanny Phillips at Tigernet fishing guide service, we were not disappointed. He was a fireman and a previous baseball player for the Boston Red Sox and the Brewers. There is never a shortage of stories and he was very helpful in explaining fishing and all he knew to my son who was just starting to get into fishing. We had a long process of waiting at first and in that time we had a very enjoyable conversation from firefighting to baseball playing and all his time fishing. It was so interesting and my son really loved the discussions we had. My son caught a keeper speckled trout, a hammerhead shark and a batfish-a very strange looking fish.

Than as promised, he found them and we were into reds, for the next 40 minutes or so we were fighting redfish. Lanny passed rods between both of us and did all the legwork to make sure each of us had only to worry about catching fish, as soon as I had one one and Lanny landed it, my son had another on and was fighting it. The sound of the screaming drag and the excitement of all of us was intoxicating. It was an amazing experience and well worth waiting for. When we got into the dock after limiting out, our fish were cleaned and prepared for us to take on a long trip back to Dallas. I would highly recommend looking Lanny up as we will in the future.

On the way back to Dallas we found one more zoo to check out-it was the Texas Zoo. A bit out of the way and small but still interesting to explore. Great zoo for young kids as are there is a dig site, a reptile house and a conversation caboose as well as an education center. Kids can also feed the fish and turtles, it's a nice family friendly place to visit.

Our second circle trip was a great success and we were already talking about our next place to explore-the scope of driving and the availability of funds and an ever expanding base of interest was motivating us for the next great trip out there. We decided on a trip to Arkansas-caverns and trout fishing-stay tuned.

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