Wednesday April 10 Through Wednesday April 17, 2019
After arriving at Fort Richardson State Park and Historic Site on Wednesday, we did an abbreviated camp setup that didn’t include putting up the gazebo. All of the weather forecast sources predicted high winds across north Texas. The predictions ranged from 40 to 60 MPH wind gusts. We didn’t want the gazebo torn up. The wind started after 7:00 PM and the camper was buffeted by high winds most of the night.
This is the second time we have camped in this park. First time was almost fifteen years ago. We were assigned one of five sewer sites. There are five more sewer sites but these are technically cabin sites and cost more. Each of the sewer sites is level. Both AT&T and Verizon cell signals are good enough for fast data and reliable phone. Over the air TV signals are good but the total number of channels is limited. A restroom with showers is located near our campsite. The heated bathrooms were clean but needed updating. We showered in our camper.
Finished setting up the campsite Thursday morning before leaving for a day trip to Lake Mineral Wells State Park (blog post).
After touring Lake Mineral Wells State Park, we stopped for lunch at the Braum’s in Mineral Wells. This was our first meal at a Braum’s. Braum’s is all over North Texas, Oklahoma and Southern Missouri. We first noticed them in Oklahoma on our many trips between San Antonio Texas and St. Louis Missouri. I had the chicken tenders dinner. Bad choice. Linda got the burger and fries. We both had shakes. The chocolate milkshake was good. Next time I’ll do the burger and fries. And another milkshake.
The dogs get bored when they don’t get the right kind of stimulation. They are happiest when they get exposed to new trails, especially ones with wildlife. After dinner, we walked Kicking Bird Trail. This short loop trail has deer and turkeys. Turns out that in this park, both turkey and deer are shy. They run away when the see people. There are stepping stones for crossing the creeks. When raining, this trail will be muddy and the stream crossings may be tricky. There are four stream crossings. During or after a big rains, don’t expect to cross without getting wet.
This park has more stone fencing than any park I’ve been to. This section of stone fencing is along the park boundary.
Bird houses like the above are not just found on Kicking Bird Trail, they are on other trails as well.
After walking the dogs with Linda, I set off alone crossing the field across the road from our campsite. West because that is where the big modern windmills were.
The field had an assortment of different grasses, shrubs, cactus and wildflowers. There were rocks, flat ones, like natural paving stones laid by a drunken mason. The terrain was rough and crossing the field was slow going.
Finally reaching the park boundary, I headed south following the fence line.
In the adjacent property, there were pumpjacks lifting crude oil from deep underground oil wells.
Wind Power Farm
The adjacent property also held a wind power farm. At least a dozen giant windmills silently spinning electricity from the evening breeze.
Oil field equipment could be seen on the other side of the park’s southern fence.
The sun was setting. I needed to cross back through the field to the park road before dark. I couldn’t help think about how technology changes occur. Old and new coexisting. The old slowly disappears while the new takes over. Then later new becomes old and the cycle repeats.
Is this then and now, old and new, one replacing the other or something else? Horse and buggy being replaced by the automobile? “Clean” energy taking over unclean energy?
It does make for some good visual contrast.
Back at the campsite, with all of the camper lights on as I boiled water for breakfast oatmeal, I turned around to see this. Day turns to night. Pumpjacks and windmills.
Friday morning leaving the dogs behind, we got in the Jeep and drove up toward the Historic Area parking lot expecting the parking lot to be empty like usual. We planned on doing the 10:00 AM historic site ranger guided walking tour.
The parking lot was completely full. There was a standby ambulance. Uniformed park rangers were everywhere directing traffic. On the other side of the park road, fifteen large rural school buses waited for their charges to return. It looked like the Governor was coming to give a speech.
Not what we expected. Change in plans. We drove through the camping loop running along the other side of Lost Creek. Then back to camp to jump on the Internet. On the Events tab of the Texas Parks and Wildlife website was a notation for Fort Richardson Days. Bad news. On Friday school groups could see reenactors demonstrate life in the 1860’s and 1870’s, the fort’s heyday. The public (that would be us) was not invited. Good news. They were doing Fort Richardson Days again on Saturday and the public was invited.
After lunch we left the park squeezing our way past the crowds and turned left on US-281. Turning left at US-380 (Belknap Street), the destination was on the left. Jack County Museum.
The museum is located in the former home of Tom Marks, founder of the 4-H Club in Texas. The parking lot was exceedingly small. Getting out of the parking lot may require backing out around other cars and then backing with impaired visibility out onto a US highway.
We were greeted by the docent on entering. She was a former school teacher and had lived in the area all her life. As she talked, it was if we were listening to an aunt describe what had been going on in the family for the last 150 years using the objects on display as props for the family stories. It felt compelling, intimate, personal and relevant. History is story telling.
After we left, Linda turned to me and said “This is the best museum like this we have ever been in.” “Why?” I asked. “Because women got equal billing to the men.” I thought about it. Linda was so right. How rare and unfortunately unusual for museums of any size to tell womens’ stories with equal emphasis and importance to mens’.
Friday night I took the dogs up and down the Lost Creek Nature Trail. Parts of the trail are paved, other parts are gravel, dirt or rock. This trail is well marked.
The trail design and construction is reminiscent of Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built trails. However, CCC involvement in park construction is unlikely as park ownership was transferred from Jacksboro to the state in the 1960’s.
Before bed, we looked at the Saturday weather forecast. High winds, thunderstorms and lots of rain all day. Fort Richardson Days would be… interesting.
After midnight, storms started rolling through the area. A weather break provided a short window for the first dog walk walk of the day. Just before 10:00 AM, the rain stopped. Looking at the weather radar, there was a big break before the next band of showers. This was possibly my only chance to see Fort Richardson Days. I asked Linda if she wanted to go. She said “No.”
There was plenty of parking in the parking lot. Small visitor groups could be seen moving between the buildings and old fashioned tents. There was some rain falling as I walked through the soaked grass toward the hospital building. Having been on the guided tour on a previous visit, I was really looking for the reenactors to see something new.
The hospital kitchen was as I remembered it. There were some children running around the hospital and in and out of the morgue behind the hospital.
Other than the park office manager in period dress, there weren’t any reenactors in the hospital. Wanting to be reasonably systematic in my search, I headed over to the bakery.
On reaching the bakery, there wasn’t any baking going on.
No guard house reenactors.
There were no reenactors in the gunpowder magazine either.
The weather wasn’t improving at all. I climbed a rise in the terrain to where there used to be railroad tracks.
With a slightly elevated view of the parade ground, I got a better idea of where I should go next. A canon and some tents were visible. Canons make good pictures. Tents must be where the reenactors were hanging out.
A plaque on the canon read: “Presented on November 1, 2014 by Key’s Battery & 15th Texas Cavalry Company East Cleburne’s Division of Reenactors.”
They probably wouldn’t be firing the canon this day. Hard to keep the powder dry.
The Nature Center door was open, luring me in. The owl inside chased me out.
Just kidding. No people, only dead animals in the Nature Center.
The first tent was empty. I did spend some time trying to understand how the tent was put up. It isn’t that different from how tents are done today.
Both of our tents and gazebos use small plastic tensioners that are smaller versions of the large wooden ones used on the reenactor tent. Who knew modern tents would be using technologies developed over a century ago?
The second tent had reenactors. The woman holding the doll was showing doll making, marbles, tops and other toys. Her daughter, who is leaning against the tent pole, had a reversible doll. It was a doll with two heads and torsos joined end to end. They shared a common long dress and when the girl flipped the dress over one dolls head, the other doll appeared. The other little girls watching were intrigued.
Next stop was the officer’s quarters. One reenactor demonstrated knitting.
The other reenactor demonstrated spinning wool into thread. She talked about working the treadles with bare feet to feel thread tension and improve speed control.
Next, I went over to the largest tent. It was sprinkling pretty steadily by this time. The tent flap door was closed. Poking my head in, I realized that this wasn’t a public space. There were racks and racks of period clothes. On the floor was a patchwork of colorful quilts creating a carpet of sorts. A man and two women were arranging clothing on racks. I excused myself for intruding and the man invited me in anyway. It turns out that the man and his wife ran a reenactor period clothing business for events like this. They had a large enclosed trailer long enough to carry the complete tent and all of the contents. Clothing was hung on rods like a giant walk-in closet. Large tent poles like the center pole went above the clothing with the actual tent. Smaller tent parts like stakes went below the clothing. He towed the trailer with a Ford Expedition. Neat business. We talked quite a bit about the tent. It has to be put away dry. He bought it used. It was made out of tightly woven canvas. If you touched the wet tent from inside, it would drip. Don’t touch! They had different tent pole configurations for different needs. Optionally, rooms could be added inside to be used as private quarters for owners or as dressing rooms for reenactors.
All the reenactors were wearing clothes from the big tent.
I saw a platoon of reenactors marching in the rain toward the Barracks. I hurried over to the barracks. The platoon leader, realizing that the platoon was cold and miserable, was trying to get his troops to move into a dryer warmer area of the barracks. I left them alone and headed for the Interpretive Center.
The Interpretive Center has a number of displays covering complex and unfortunate events around European American and Native American conflict. In short, it explained why the fort was where it was and the role it played in ensuring European American political and economic supremacy over the region. Cowboys and Indians. Soldiers in the fort saw combat. Some were killed. The toll on Native Americans was severe. Both sides killed non-combatants.
Half way through reading displays, I ran into some chatty Daughters of the Republic of Texas (DRT). We chatted at length until Linda called me in a panic. While inside the warm and safe solidly built Interpretive Center, a line of intense thunderstorms had reached the park. Winds were rocking the camper and buffeting the gazebo. The back camper awning was still out. Immediate action was called for. Time to come back to camp pronto.
Stepping out the Interpretive Center door was like stepping into a cold windy shower. Pelted by large cold raindrops, I ran flat out to the parking lot where there were only a few cars left.
Reaching the Jeep, my drenched pants and coat clinging to my skin, I immediately started the engine. As the satellite radio booted up, in came a weather warning. This was a tornado watch area. Expected wind gusts to 60 MPH. Yikes!
Taking one last look at the hospital, I jammed the Jeep in reverse hoping the low water crossing over the creek was still passable.
Back at the campsite the first order of business was to get the awning back in. Then it was to lower the gazebo. The gazebo’s side curtain lost an elastic strap. There was no other damage.
Once inside the camper, I shed my outer layer of clothing and hung it up in the wet bath. The clothes still wet Sunday afternoon.
Saturday night, the rain bands and camper buffeting wind gusts lasted until morning. The wind continued to blow all day Sunday. After lunch, we headed out on a day trip to find the Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) National Grasslands (blog post).
Monday morning turned out to be a cool but not cold with moderate breezes. We left the dogs behind and took a day trip out to Possum Kingdom State Park (blog post), an hour drive from Fort Richardson on mostly good highway.
On the return trip from Possum Kingdom State Park, we planned to stop at Herd’s Hamburgers. We arrived in front of the restaurant just after twelve. The parking lot was full and so busy with people coming and going we had trouble turning around. We decided to eat lunch back at camp and come back to Herd’s Hamburgers for dinner.
Wanting to avoid crowds, we arrived at Herd’s before 5:00 PM. Herd’s has simple grill foods. Hamburgers, grilled cheese, patty melts and so on. They don’t have a fryer so no french fries or onion rings. Chips. No soda machine. Instead, there is a refrigerator loaded with bottled soda and water. We both ordered double hamburgers no cheese with chips. Cash or check, no credit cards. Think the checks need to be local?
We sat at school seats inside against the back wall. Not the most comfortable seating. I ate my chips while waiting for the burger.
The woman who took orders delivered the burgers direct to our hands. Now THAT is a double.
First bite confirms. Great hamburger.
The sign wasn’t fooling. They could very well be World Famous!
Back at camp, I walked the dogs on the Rumbling Springs Trail starting at the trailhead near campsite #13. The trailhead is at the south end of the trail which runs north.
This is one of those trails where that is NOT marked well. There are a number of places where staying on the path requires taking a few wrong turns and then knowing when to backtrack to find an better choice. The terrain is uneven in places. Rocky, muddy, slippery with enough places that are stunningly beautiful to make it all worth while.
The trail starts by crossing Lost Creek. The creek was still up pretty high from the storms on Saturday. Across the creek, it was slow going and exceedingly rocky.
The trail was unclear. Backtracking to find the right route through the rocky terrain was challenging.
Then suddenly, in places, the trail became clear.
The trail passed through verdant meadows where deer might find bedding and good grass.
In places, the Rumbling Springs Trail touched the creek providing unobstructed views like the creek ford above.
Creek side boulders ultimately morphed into boulder fields crowding the trail pushing it away from the creek.
After these short diversions, the trail would again run alongside the creek.
In places the creek spreads and slows down.
The park provided trail map shows Rumbling Spring, “a natural water fountain” where “groundwater bubbles up through porous limestone and flows into Lost Creek” to be at the south end of the Rumbling Spring Trail where this hike started. The above spring is near the north end of the trail and the water flows out of the rock instead of bubbling up through the rock.
The trail ended at the Park Road between the low water crossing (across Lost Creek) and Historic Area Parking Lot.
Tuesday, walking the dogs well before sunrise, coyotes howled nearby from the field in front of the campsite at the same time another coyote band howled from the area directly behind the campsite. Very creepy. Coyotes had been heard most mornings but never this close and always a single group. The dogs went back inside the camper and didn’t come out again until after the sun was in the sky. As the sun came up so did the wind. It stayed windy all day.
In the afternoon, I put camp away making us ready to leave in the morning except for hookups.
Wednesday morning, after unhooking the camper from utilities, we hitched the Jeep and headed south on US-281 to our next stop.
Hope to see you on the road ahead!