Mission Tejas combines CCC history and outdoor fun.
By Justin Rhodes
A piece of raw bacon and an old Zebco tucked in my pockets, I jumped on the bike, an empty bucket dangling from the handlebars, and headed in search of Beans Creek sunfish. Armed with that stolen bacon from the family fridge and a fishing pole that had seen better days, I was equipped for an entire day. That is, until mom stood on the front porch and called us home for dinner.
Now that I’m grown, I live with my family in a city where such encounters with nature are not so spontaneous. Getting outdoors often requires parental planning and kids willing to set aside organized sports and school activities in order to explore the outdoors. Lucky for us, state parks make that easier.
One of my favorites, Mission Tejas State Park, offers a quick escape, just a 2.5-hour drive from both Houston and Dallas, and an unusual landscape and rich history. Nestled in East Texas, the 660-acre park was set aside for outdoor recreation and to commemorate an early Spanish mission in the area.
Visitors to Mission Tejas can participate in interpretive programs about the Civilian Conservation Corps, which developed the park, or learn about area folkways from an experienced ranger. They may hike the path of Davy Crockett, Stephen F. Austin and other Texas legends, who trekked on the historic El Camino Real that winds through the park. Visitors may admire the craftsmanship of the CCC and appreciate the simple elegance of the 1820s Rice Family Home. They can walk the banks of San Pedro Creek that skirts the park’s western border and, of course, dip a line in the oak-stained pond just outside the camping loop.
Mission Tejas State Park will soon offer even more attractions. Thanks to a successful grant application to the Texas Department of Transportation, a new visitors center with state-of-the-art exhibits will interpret the historic route. Mountain bike and hiking trails will be extended to showcase both stunning views and sharp elevation changes throughout the mature, mixed pine-and-hardwood forest.
So grab your bacon, load up your bikes and make your reservations to spend a few days at Mission Tejas. If you find a good fishing spot on the creek, be sure to let me know.
Experience pioneer life firsthand during Mission Tejas State Park’s annual Folk Festival on April 29. Hear the clack of the weaver’s loom and smell the hot iron of the blacksmith’s forge. Youngsters can test their rope-making skills, then take a ringside seat for the outlaw shoot-’em-up. Admission is the standard park entrance fee.
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