|All photos @Heather Kuhlken/Families in Nature
Getting outside to feel the warmth of the sun and hear the birds sing has never been more alluring. Texans have mostly stayed at home for a year now and still shudder at the memory of the recent, seemingly endless winter storm that paralyzed us.
Spring Break — staggered mostly over the month of March — usually draws large crowds of young people to the most popular state/national parks, beaches and wild areas. Of course, that kind of scene isn’t what everyone is seeking for their nature getaway.
If your favorite Texas State Park is already booked up…. What now?
So. Many. Options. Get creative!
Parks are everywhere! Private, school, city, county, national — parks are run by all sorts of entities. Pocket parks can be found in many neighborhoods; you don’t even have to drive to enjoy nature. Dreaming bigger? Plan a national park getaway by playing with their Park Finder.
Find a lesser-known Texas State Park — truly the state’s hidden treasures. Several parks throughout the state have day-use and overnight reservations available for the upcoming spring and summer season, including Goose Island, San Angelo, Lake Somerville and Sea Rim state parks.
Make new friends
You can join an outdoor group to enhance your opportunities and experiences outdoors, whether it’s a fly-fishing club, a mountain biking group or helpful organizations like Texas Children in Nature and Families in Nature. They can connect you to adventures and activities that satisfy your outdoor yearnings and expand your horizons and skills.
Sarah Coles of Texas Children in Nature offers three great Spring Break ideas.
- Take a family nature walk around your neighborhood. Check our Texas Children in Nature's Facebook and Instagram each day for a new thing to observe on your walk. Share photos from your walk on social media with #texaschildreninnature
- Participate with the Texas Nature Challenge. Challenges range across the state and feature both challenges at parks and nature centers, but also lots of challenges you can do at home. Find challenges near you.
- Check out a new wild place near you at Nature Rocks Texas.
Heather Kuhlken of Families shares their planned Nature Spring Break events.
- Camp with us at Turkey Bend (LCRA Park) March 12-14 Register here.
- Day trip to Enchanted Rock March 21. (Make your own day pass reservations, register on the FIN website so we know who will be meeting us.) Register here.
- Earn Ecologist School badges by getting outside with your friends. Lessons here. Badges and Nature Journal here.
Choose your own adventure
Families in Nature put together this amazing list of ideas you can do on your own, with friends or family. You can put together an outdoor adventure that sparks your creativity, teaches you a new skill or makes you feel good about giving back.
- Creek and lake clean ups. Very few volunteer groups have been able to pick up trash along our waterways during the past year, so our creeks, parks and rivers are in need of cleaning. Take a bag out on your next socially distant park visit with friends or paddling adventure to pick up the trash you encounter.
- Go for a hike on the greenbelts, city or state parks and explore a place you’ve never been before.
- Go camping. If you can't get a reservation over spring break at a state park, you can also check our LCRA and County parks for reservations.
- Create art in a park. Take your watercolor or drawing pencils, paper and a clipboard or sketchbook out to your nearest nature space and draw spring. Notice the colors you see — the bright greens of new leaves emerging after the freeze. Or take your camera and photograph spring plants and wildlife.
- Visit a swimming hole before it is warm enough to swim. Wade in the cold water. (Krause Springs, Emma Long Metropolitan Park, Pace Bend, Barton Springs, Hamilton Pool, Jessica Hollis park, etc...)
- Rent a canoe or kayak to paddle with your family. Or learn to stand-up paddleboard.
- Sleep outside at home. Set up a tent in your backyard to enjoy the perfect camping temperatures of spring in Texas
- Set up a backyard habitat. Create spaces for wildlife or birds to find shelter, get water, get food and raise young. This could include planting wildlife-friendly plants that attract hummingbirds and insects to replace any of the plants in your yard that froze in February’s snowstorm.
- Plant a tree or two. Many trees in Texas froze or were badly damaged by our February snow. Plant a new tree to replace one that was frozen. You may even be able to do this in your local park.
- Have a socially distanced picnic. Take your meal out to your front yard or meet up in a park with your friends or family.
- Build bird feeders out of your recycled stuff. Hang them in your yard to watch/photograph spring birds.
- Create an outdoor study space so that you can resume your zoom classes outdoors. Set up a table and chair outside next to an extension cord to power your laptop. Decorate the area with potted plants to make it feel like you are working in a cafe or a park.
- Climb a tree. Hang out for a while and enjoy the new perspective. Say hello to your inner 8-year-old again.
- Set up buddy hammocks in a park in a spot with three trees near each other. Invite a friend to set up a hammock next to yours. You can hang out together outside while still remaining socially distant. (Please, always use tree-friendly straps to attach your hammock to the tree.)
- Build elaborate rock cairns with your friends. (Outdoors is the safest place to gather with your friends, so make some temporary art together.) For inspiration, watch Andy Goldsworthy’s "Rivers and Tides" before you go outside.
- Build or purchase a fire pit for your backyard or use one in a state park campsite. Learn to build a fire and cook a meal over the fire you build. (Be sure to put the fire out so that coals are cool to the touch before you leave the area.)
- Learn to build a shelter out of natural materials and then spend the night in your shelter. (Helpful tools: Learn a basic lashing knot and use sticks from introduced species such as ligustrum and bamboo to build your shelter.)
- Have a star party with your friends. Download a star-finding app on your phone to identify what you see in the sky at night or locate the space station when it passes overhead. It is easy to hang out with friends or family and stay socially distant by putting blankets on the ground and laying 6 feet apart to look up at the sky.
- See critically endangered whooping cranes by boat in Aransas National Wildlife Refuge near Rockport.
- Watch some real “wild’ life at Brazos Bend State Park to see huge numbers of birds and the alligators waking up for spring.
- Learn to fish. Hooked for life!
- Try out shinrin yoku (forest bathing) by slowly walking through a park or preserve and noticing the sounds, smells, colors, textures and details surrounding you. Breathe deeply. (You can do this often to give your brain and body a break and counteract the hours and hours of Zoom time.)
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