Garner State Park sits on the Frio River in Concan, TX, west of San Antonio, about a 4.5 hour drive from our house. It is a party park where you can dance to the jukebox at the pavilion at night and rent an inner tube and float down the river all day – the type of park where women use curling irons in the bathroom in the morning and you have to take a number when you check-in. We aren’t exactly social butterflies so we snagged a good spot far from the action. Curling irons aside, the upside to this park is the mountains and the clear water. You’d probably call them hills, actually. Coming from Houston, I get really excited about elevation changes and clear water. It was beautiful.
Plus, I need all the practice with ups and downs that I can get! Dealing with the elevation changes is one of the hardest challenges I’m going to face on the AT. The first being lack of cats. The second being that I am at a great disadvantage in that almost all my hiking has been on even ground in temps well above freezing. I have to drive at least four hours to get to anything even resembling a mountain so the opportunity doesn’t present itself as often as I’d like.
I had to be at a meeting for work at 7am so we loaded the car Thursday night and headed out first thing Friday morning. Have you ever tried to get a teenage boy and a man of leisure out of bed at 6am on their day off? It’s possible I may have used the mom voice on both of them. They hung out in the parking lot while I sat through my meeting and then we were on our way. There is apparently a reason why we normally leave late. Leaving later than we planned is a good way to remember to bring everything. Turns out we brought the java press for the Jet Boil but forgot the coffee. We also forgot the sunscreen, bug spray, Rocky (our stuffed raccoon that watches over our campsite and tricks little kids into thinking he’s real), and towels. Fortunately, nothing we couldn’t live without but still a little frustrating… and my husband may disagree that coffee is something he could live without.
When we got there, there was still a tent set up at the water site we were assigned to but there was nobody around so they gave us the site next to the first one instead. A little while later, we watched as a park ranger scooped up the abandoned tent and everything in it into the back of his pickup. Then as we were leaving for the trailhead, the owner of the tent walked up with a very distinct “I know I parked my car here!” look on his face when he realized all his stuff was gone. We told him what happened and gave him a ride to the headquarters. I sat in the backseat and gave my son a very distinct “Do as I say, not as I do!” look, knowing that all he could think of was the sign we passed by in Hondo that morning that read, “HITCHHIKERS MAY BE ESCAPING INMATES”. The guy told us that he came with a friend but his friend left with the car and never came back. When we got to the office they gave him his wallet and told him they’d drop the stuff back off since he paid for another night. He asked for a ride to go get smokes and we should have said no but we didn’t. As we approached the gas station at the end of the street, he told us they didn’t sell cigarettes … that he’d been there yesterday … it didn’t feel right. I had already stealthily removed my pocketknife from my day pack and placed it under my leg when we all got in the car earlier; My hand was now on the knife under my leg just in case. I feel bad about it, honestly, but not at the time. I wasn’t exactly scared but I felt like it was a good idea to have a backup plan. Suddenly, he told Mike to make a turn and we found ourselves at a bar. We left him there and stopped by the gas station on our way back to pick up some extra water. While we were standing in line we, of course, saw cigarettes behind the counter. We saw him a few more times throughout the weekend, once while a ranger was going through his site looking for some stolen arrowheads, but each time I didn’t really say anything to him. After someone lies to me, I’m done with them. Period. I’m not sure how I feel about the whole situation. I really wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. My husband has been homeless before and I wanted to be nice to someone who maybe doesn’t have the fortune of people being nice to him very often. Instead, I’m just thoroughly disappointed that he didn’t just ask for a ride to the bar up front. Also, I wanted to get a head start on racking up some sweet hitchhiking karma points for when I need a ride on the AT. :P
Overall, it was a fun-filled weekend of mountain hiking, s’mores nomming, Geocaching, pyro trancing around the campfire, mini cave exploring, river sitting, and chauffeuring a pathologically lying drifter to a bar. Good times!