Kickapoo Cavern State Park

January 1-7, 2018

Stop number one on the 2018 travel map and another place I hoped we’d like.  I did quite a bit of research to end up with our winter stops, but was still nervous that they wouldn’t measure up.  All the locals tell us we’ve made excellent choices and so far we’re very happy.

New Year, New State Park

Kickapoo Caverns State Park sounded so interesting when I originally read about it.  Here’s what the interpretive guide says about the place. “The park lies at a crossroads of nature…a patchwork of plant and animal life…At Kickapoo, sprawling live oaks from the Edwards Plateau interplay with the Chihuahuan Desert cacti and thorny shrubs of the subtropical South Texas plains.

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You end up with trees, some indeed sprawling, prickly everything, hills, and vast skies.  Sunset on our first clear night.  I say first clear night since we had to leave our Marble Falls oasis on New Year’s Day and it was quite cold and gloomy.  The closer we got to Kickapoo, the smaller the roads became with even some ice a few miles out.  At least we filled up the propane tank before we left town.  Low 20’s was not our idea of great camping weather, but everyone was sharing in the arctic plunge this time.

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Desert sunsets out our window.

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The park was originally a sheep ranch and the owner gave the land to the state back in the 80s.  Evidence of the original farm shows up on the trails.  Jackson drank from the cement water troughs and we picked our way around the old fences taken over by cactus.

We know we’re officially in a desert area now with all the prickly plants.  Anything with any good leaves is armed and dangerous.  Poor Jackson learned that the hard way getting sand spurs stuck between his toes when he ventured off the beaten path.  The sharp limestone rocks weren’t much better for him.  I’m ordering dog boots as soon as we can get package delivery again.

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The boys walking the trails.

Of course it’s not all bad for the J-dog.   With a ball and a good roll in the grass, life is good again.

Wild Cave

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As the name implies, Kickapoo Cavern State Park is home to a sizeable cavern and they offer a wild cave tour.  We signed right up and were told we needed to bring two flashlights each.  Also, helmets were required and we were given a stern safety talk.  The ranger explained that we’re in a very remote area and even with a medical team seated on the rescue helicopter, it would still take 40 minutes for help to arrive.

I don’t think I fully grasped what a wild cave tour really entailed.  We walked on a few smooth spots, but mostly scrambled over rocks and formations for the two hours.  The interpretive guide tells it best: “The floor of Kickapoo Cavern was once its ceiling – a breakdown of jumbled limestone blocks 130 feet thick – the equivalent of a 16-level underground parking garage.”  We’ve now toured several caverns, but this one was unique since it was undeveloped and unlit.  Also, since most of the cavern is considered “dead”, we could touch the formations and pick up crystals.  Touching has been strictly forbidden everywhere else.

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I touched everything I could get my hands on except this guy – a black scorpion.  We actually saw two of them and the second one was not happy to see us.  Although it was in the 50’s on the surface, the cave itself was in the mid-70’s and Florida humid.  And absolutely dark.  We worked up a sweat in there.

Wildlife

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This is Maynard.  He lived in a hole right beside our campsite.  We saw these little guys everywhere and Jackson barked furiously at each one.  I got a kick out of watching them lumber along with a funny little hitch in their step when they ran.  We also saw ring-tailed cats on the dark road into the park.  Elusive and quick, with a distinctive striped tail, and they’re actually part of the raccoon family.  There were black javelinas (wild pigs), and of course more deer.

Just the Two of Us

We’re on our way into town on Saturday night intending to go to 6:30 pm Mass in the closest town 25 miles away.  We get there at dusk, only to discover that my online info was incorrect.  It started at 5:30 pm.  Drat.  So, we get back in the car for 25 miles back and it’s pitch dark by this time.  I’m driving really carefully, though, since the deer are out and I don’t want to hit one in little Bitsy.  I see some lights catching up to us just as I brake and swerve for an enormous buck poised at the side of the road.

It’s obviously a big truck and it gets right on our bumper and stays there for a bit.  Then it backs off and follows for miles.  We’re just a few miles from Kickapoo when the red and blue lights come on and I pull over.  Other than the swerve to miss the deer, I was a law-abiding driver.  We wonder what’s up.  An Immigration/Border Patrol stop, that’s what.  The officer asks what we were doing there.  Said he didn’t recognize the vehicle.  “Yes sir, just the two of us in the car.  Headed to Kickapoo Caverns, sir.”  And just like that, we’re wished a good night and cautioned about the deer on the roadsides.  Guess we were indeed old people from Florida driving a pretty small car for smuggling illegals.  I’m not sure how I feel about that whole encounter.

Other Random Stuff

It’s a world record for us.  We cooked all our meals except one for seven days straight.  We didn’t make it that long even in Alaska.  That’s what camping in the middle of nowhere will do for you.  In fact, when we got to the Houston area back in December I got a call.  It was the ranger from Kickapoo Caverns State Park.  He said the reservation site had a glitch and allowed us to reserve the campground on days that they are normally closed.  We can stay, thank goodness, but we’ll likely be by ourselves in the park.  Is that ok?  Heck yes.  We did have a night or two with just the camp hosts and it was very nice.

And those stars.  It’s so dark out here that the night sky seems so close.  Mind you, I can only identify a handful of constellations, but they seemed within reach.  We’re a week into 2018 and it’s time to head out.  Next up – Seminole Canyon State Park.  See you on the way!

 

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3 thoughts on “Kickapoo Cavern State Park

  1. Very nice! If I remember correctly you are headed to Big Bend? I have spent three family camping vacations there! All in the Chisos Mtn Basin but we only had a little Coleman pop up for all 6 of us-and no AC but that is not needed in the basin (we were always there in the summer)-the nights get chilly in the basin even in the July Aug seasons. I recall in the evening and early am a deep fog would roll in and you could barely see 3 ft! RVs can’t make it to the mtn basin. There is also a campground down by the Rio Grande–that’s where the laundry facilities were because I remember we had to make the trek down the mtns to the store and to wash clothes. Of course all of this was so very long ago, and things have changed I am sure! Take a horseback ride to “The Window”, or the “painted ridge” -that one is a little scary on the trails-not sure if they even do that one anymore. (at least that is what they were called WAY back then)! I am so jealous! Love that area of Tejas!

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    • Aren’t memories of family vacation long ago grand? I just love thinking about those, too. We met a fellow camper last night who was quite passionate about Big Bend and gave us a whole list of favs and must-dos while we are at Big Bend. I’ll keep those two trails you mentioned in mind. We’re not camping in the park since we want some services for the month, but we’ll have lots of time for day trips. Wish you could come with!

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