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"Adventure Camping Program" Coming to Texas State Parks This Spring
AUSTIN — The increasingly popular Texas Outdoor Family program is branching out to deliver adventurous programs for families who are looking for something more than an introductory how-to camping experience.
Four Texas state parks, including Big Bend Ranch, this spring will host Texas Outdoor Family Adventure workshops designed to familiarize families with the outdoors and teach them how to tent camp, cook outdoors and get the most out of their outdoor experience. These events will occur in some of the Texas State Park System’s larger, more remote sites.
Texas Outdoor Family adventure campouts dates are March 25-28 at Big Bend Ranch, April 17-18 at Palo Duro Canyon, April 24-25 at Lost Maples State Natural Area and May 15-16 at Colorado Bend State Park.
The Big Bend Ranch adventure camp will include a guided canoe trip down the Rio Grande and a two-day desert camping program in the interior of Texas’ largest state park that encompasses more than 300,000 acres near Presidio. The cost for the Big Bend Ranch camp is $86, plus $53 for canoe rental.
Highlighting the Palo Duro Canyon campout will be a three-hour guided hike through the "Grand Canyon of Texas" to its famous geologic wonder known as The Lighthouse. The theme of the Lost Maples adventure camp will be an introduction to backpacking in which state park rangers will teach families the basics of successful backpacking. Participants in the Colorado Bend adventure campout will experience cave exploration, guided hikes to scenic Gorman Falls and river canoeing.
"These new programs are aimed at families who are looking for more adventurous camping experiences," explains Chris Holmes, Texas State Parks outdoor education coordinator. "We recognize that many families want to expand their outdoor recreation knowledge, but are uncomfortable going alone to a remote site with limited facilities. This series of adventure camping allows the families to be in a safe environment with knowledgeable rangers to guide and assist at any time."
TPWD’s Texas Outdoor Family program launched in the summer of 2008 has taught hundreds of families throughout the state, most of them from urban environments, how to safely enjoy the great outdoors.
The outdoor family workshops are designed to combat "Nature Deficit Disorder," a phrase coined by Richard Louv in his 2005 book, "Last Child in the Woods." Louv cites studies that show that playing outdoors strengthens a young person’s mind and body, leading to better performance in school and interactions with others. The first-of-its-kind Texas program has gained national attention from such national organizations as Leave No Trace and the National Association of Interpretation, spurring spinoff programs in other states.
The program was begun to try to eliminate barriers to families wishing to share the outdoor experience together. The campouts are designed for persons who have never camped before or may not have camped for many years, as well as for those who don’t have the necessary equipment or see the outdoors as being boring or dangerous. By providing quality gear to be used for the overnight stay and park-specific programs and activities, TOF’s outdoor specialists show how anyone can enjoy camping with no hassles. Texas state parks, with ample campsites and a law enforcement presence, prove the ideal setting for the structured campouts.
During a typical outdoor family workshop, participants are welcomed on Saturday morning to the host state park, where they have reserved a campsite and receive assistance with pitching camp and operating propane lanterns and other camping equipment. After an afternoon filled with fun outdoor activities, such as geocaching and cooking an outdoor meal, participants enjoy an evening presentation on night sounds to prepare them for what they might hear while snuggled in their tent.
The adventure campouts cost $55 per family. Program sponsor Toyota helps keep the program affordable by providing funding for equipment.
Visit the Texas Outdoor Family Web page for more information, including the complete schedule of this spring’s weekend workshops. Texas Outdoor Family is now on Facebook, where participating families post their pictures and share stories of their outdoor adventures.
Families can register by calling (512) 389-8903 between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. and speaking to a Texas Outdoor Family representative or by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. After registration, a confirmation packet with details, including a suggested shopping list, will be sent.
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