Going camping is like being in a giant playground where kids and adults can explore, share experiences and learn about the natural world; it's especially fun in a Texas State Park. On the podcast we'll visit with two families who have made state park camping a tradition together, and are building memories and educating their children about the wonders of nature in the Texas Hill Country.
Under the Texas Sky: S3E10: Family Camping
[CECILIA NARRATION] Ahh cool fall nights camping under the stars in the great outdoors... Spending time with friends and family next to a campfire. Listening to each other tell stories.
And listening to the sounds of wildlife too.
Going camping is kind of like being in a giant playground where kids and adults can explore, share experiences and learn about the natural world around us. And it's especially fun in a Texas State Park.
[PARKER] Hi, we're camping. We're having so much fun.
On the podcast we'll visit with two families who have made state park camping a tradition together. They're building memories and educating their children about the wonders of nature in the Texas Hill Country.
Stay with us.
From Texas Parks and Wildlife…this is Under the Texas Sky …a podcast about nature…and people… and the connection they share…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
[KRISTINA] Why don't we just start a fire and we can do the biscuits on the grate there...
[CECILIA NARRATION] Kristina Swan loves taking her family camping. She and her husband Peter have brought their son Parker to Pedernales Falls State Park for a weekend camping trip. Joining the Swans are their dear friends Katherine and Zach Morsbach (Moors-bock) and their two daughters Madeleine (Mada-lin) and Hannah.
They are just putting the last stakes in the ground for their tents and about to turn their attention toward preparing dinner. Producer Randall Maxwell visited during one night of their two-night camping adventure.
[KRISTINA] So we plan out the meals where we assign meals to families, like each family will take certain meals...
[BEGIN RANBDALL NARRATION]
Kristina Swan is the ultimate planner when it comes to family camping trips. It's something that just comes natural to her.
[RANDALL & KRISTINA]
[RANDALL] Kristina what do you like about camping?
[KRISTINA] Well, I like being outside and getting to experience all this with my family and our friends. It's just nice to get away and not have to worry about my phone ringing and errands and you know, daily life. There's a lot of work to it, but I do enjoy it, and we just have a good time.
That daily life keeps Kristina busy Monday through Friday from 8 to 5. Her work can keep her locked indoors for long periods of time.
[KRISTINA] Well, daily life I work in an office in Round Rock. It's a lot of computer, a lot of conference calls. It's a lot of sitting at a desk. I have an office, but just sitting in that office, talking on the phone to people all over the world, doing emails, conference calls, spreadsheets, it's very indoor and sedentary.
Oh my goodness, Calgon take me away. There's no wonder with so much sitting at work that Kristina is passionate about making camping a priority. But it's also her desire to be serious about investing time with her family and friends outside of work and the home. In fact, she says the effort is intentional.
[KRISTINA] If we didn't make an intention to do this, and make the plan, all of us. I mean all four of the adults. We make this a priority. And it does take a lot of intention. There's a lot of planning involved. There's a lot of work involved that falls to the adults primarily. But it's really great to have that time when the kids are not looking at TV and YouTube, and the Nintendo which is what he likes a lot.
Kristina is referring to her son Parker. Along with her husband Peter, they've invited their friends and family camping companions, Zach and Katherine Morsbach and their daughters Madeleine and Hannah.
Zach concurs that the intention is sincere and camping trips go on the calendar, even if a year out.
[ZACH] Yeah that's kind of how to did it. So we're together a lot, and my wife Katherine and Kristina are both unbelievable planners. And Kristina really enjoys the process of looking for campsites and being involved in the state park website and all that, so they'll sit down and look at the calendar literally a year out and go okay well, let's go in March and let's go in November and do whatever, so yeah they do. They are very intentional about planning it and everybody's just so busy and we all have so many other things going on, we have to put it on the calendar. Otherwise it would never happen.
So where did the Swan and Morsbach families plan to camp so far in advance? Just 33 miles from their home in Cedar Park, Texas. They reserved two campsites beside each other in a park that's one of the most picturesque examples of the Texas Hill Country.
[KRISTINA] So this weekend we decided to come out to Pedernales Falls State Park, and we're in a tent site. And out here they have great sites. They're big enough for a couple of tents and cars to be right here around the fire pit. And we have a prep table that we've bought, or brought rather for getting the food ready and setting up our stuff. We have a picnic table here where we'll eat. Zach brings these great lights to string across the campsite which give it a real homey and more like a social party feel. Really what we did here was we have enough room here that the kids can, I don't want to say run off, but the kids and go have their kid's area and play, and have some fun. Set up their own mini campsite. The adults can do all the work. (laughs) Get everything ready. So I really like that about how they're all good buddies, that they have a lot of room to play and roam, use their imagination which is great. And there's no technology, which is real good.
Sitting at the other end of the picnic table, I see Zach and Katherine's daughter Madeleine waiting to talk to me. She's got her wildlife diary notebook in her hand and she can't wait to read me her latest entry.
[RANDALL & MADELEINE] I like being in the outdoors because I love making s’mores. I love finding animals, and I always get to go with my bestest friends. And my family. I saw lots of things today.
[RANDALL] What do you got there?
[MADELEINE] I picked up my notebook so that I could read what I found today. We heard a coyotes howling. We did not know where it was, but it was pretty loud, so we know it is super close.
Standing by his mom, Parker is eager to talk to me as well. And I'm pretty sure he's in agreement with Madeleine about the s'mores.
[RANDALL & PARKER & KRISTINA & ZACH]
[RANDALL] What do you like about camping Parker?
[PARKER] Well, what I like about it is well, you just get to toast marshmallows and just be away.
[KRISTINA] You like the marshmallows and graham crackers?
[RANDALL] You like this weather?
[PARKER] Yeah. It's kind of cold. So we can sit by the fire and just warm up.
[KRISTINA] We're about ready to eat.
[ZACH] We're having Frito Pie if you're hungry.
[KRISTINA] A Frito Pie bar.
[RANDALL] Are you getting hungry? Did you hear what they are going to have? Do you like Frito Pie?
[PARKER] Yeah. It's like one of my favorites. (laughter)
[KRISTINA] We do like Frito Pie, and Katherine has a Frito Pie bar where you like get your Fritos and your chili on top, and then just go down like a buffet and select the toppings that you like. It's pretty cool and it's perfect for camping.
[PARKER] Can you get me some Frito Pie?
[KRISTINA] Yeah. Woah you guys, this looks so good. (Sound of children clamoring to be served Frito Pie)
[CECILIA NARRATION] From Texas Parks and Wildlife…this is Under the Texas Sky …a podcast about nature…and people… and the connection they share…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
Kristina Swan and her family have joined their good friends, the Morsbach family, for a weekend camping trip to Pedernales Falls State Park. Producer Randall Maxwell joined them on their first of two nights in the park.
[RANDALL NARRATION RESUMES]
After a filling dinner of scrumptious Frito Pie, Zach Morsbach shows me one of his contributions to the coolness of their camping experience.
[ZACH] So what we have in our campsite tonight is some Christmas lights, in November. And they'll go up in January or March, or whenever we go because they're just our camping lights. But they are sort of a classic pear shape, like a C6 bulb style light, but LED. And they just kind of make a soft white glow and just add a lot of nice ambiance. Yeah so what we did is I string them between the trees and kind of center them around the center part of where we all hang out, and so they kind of surround the campfire and the table. It ties everything together. As I'm thinking about it, that's actually what it does.
Kristina's husband Peter calls the kid's attention to the night sky.
[PETER] Ya'll see the moon? Look at the moon tonight. Pretty cool huh, right through the clouds? (voices of reaction)
[PETER] You know I really enjoy being in nature. I think tomorrow we'll probably hit the falls at some point, which is just gorgeous out here. You know at night it's just nice and relaxing. We got the fire going and when I see my kids out here, I just love seeing them have so much fun and use their imagination. You'll see them making mud pies and just having a good time. A lot of times the day is not overly planned. We have a general idea of what we're going to do, but it's nice to be spontaneous. It's kind of, see what the day offers you and you know, take advantage of it.
[RANDALL & KRISTINA]
[KRISTINA] This is such a nice balance to being trapped if you will in an office all the time. It's nice to be out here and, I love the campfire, all the sounds and the trees. And depending on where we are, we camp at different state parks, but just experiencing what is going on there. Here we have the falls and other places we might go hiking, more prairieland, so just the experiencing the texture of what's beyond the walls of my office really, and my house.
[RANDALL] What was your first introduction to camping?
[KRISTINA] So I was a girl scout, and we camped a lot as a girl scout troop. But my family never camped like this growing up. I always wanted to but my parents were just not into it. When I got to be a grown-up and I got to decide for myself what I want to do, thankfully my husband likes camping, and he's got a lot more experience camping than I do, so we have that common interest and then we wanted that for our family.
As evening sets in, it's time for a walk around the campground to take a look at the stars and catch any last views of wildlife.
[01—ZACH & KRISTINA—50]
[ZACH] Alright, you guys ready to go? It's getting late. Want to go for a walk? (children's voices)
[KRITINA] Yeah, let's walk around.
[CHILDREN] Let's grab a flashlight or a lantern.
[KRISTINA] Yeah. Good idea it's dark out.
[ZACH] Want a lantern?
[CHILDREN] Everyone get one.
[KRISTINA] I've got one.
[ZACH] If we find a coyote then we will keep our distance and hopefully be able to see it from afar, we'll keep walkin'.
[KRISTINA] I thought the clouds were going to break more in.
[ZACH] You can see the stars out here a little easier. I was thinking about this when the kids were younger, like they never really saw the stars, because first of all they're not allowed to stay up that late. Second of all, we live in town and so one of the nice things about coming out to somewhere more remote is to see the stars. (sound of car passing on park road) And because they're allowed to stay up later when we're camping. (laughs)
[KRISTINA & PARKER]
[PARKER] Did you see a female deer or did you see... what kind of deer did you see? A boy or a girl?
[KRISTINA] I think a girl deer.
[PARKER] I love you.
[KRISTINA] I love you too. You having fun?
[PARKER] Yeah. (laughs)
Sharing the love of family and friends while spending time in nature. S'mores and Frito Pie. That's what camping is all about.
For Under The Texas Sky, I'm Randall Maxwell.
[CECILIA NARRATION] Thanks Randall. Sounds like you met nice families and had some fun...and Frito pie. Not a bad gig, if you ask me.
I do want to take a moment to remind everyone that before traveling to any Texas state park, natural area or historic site, to visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife website for location updates or to call the site directly.
[MUS—TO ORBIT YOUR SOUL]
And so, we come to the end of another podcast. Under the Texas Sky is a production of Texas Parks and Wildlife and is available at UndertheTexasSky.org or wherever you get your podcasts.
We record the podcast at The Block House in Austin, Texas. Joel Block does our sound design.
Thanks again to Randall Maxwell for producing this podcast.
Susan Griswold and Benjamin Kailing provide distribution and web help. Whitney Bishop does our social media. I’m your producer and host, Cecilia Nasti, reminding you that life’s better outside when you’re Under the Texas Sky.
[PARKER] Well, what I like about it is, well, you just get to toast marshmallows and just be away. It's kind of cold. So, we can sit by the fire and just warm up.
Join us again next time for Under the Texas Sky.