Tuesday, October 27, 2015


Following a Texas A&M afternoon football game, we headed east to the Stubblefield Lake Recreation Area in Sam Houston National Forest for an overnight stay followed by adventures on the Lone Star Hiking Trail the next morning.
Here is a general orientation map showing Stubblefield (near the top) relative to Lake Conroe and IH-45.  PDF maps are available from the Forest Service and also from the Lone Star Hiking Club, which is the go-to source for info on this trail.  
Here's a closer-in map view, which makes an important distinction between the Stubblefield campground and its Overflow campground.   
There is no chance of getting last-minute camping reservations on weekends in most areas of Texas right now.  This is our prime time of year with ideal weather for outdoor recreation.  Additionally, much of the state experienced destructive floods earlier this year, which left many of our public and private facilities closed and has squeezed outdoor enthusiasts into a smaller selection of local destinations.  The main Stubblefield campground is first-come-first-served, and provides campsites with amenities for a fee.  The Overflow campground is basically an unimproved parking lot offering dry camping, and that's where we ended up because we rolled into the area well after dark, long after all the pay spots were taken.
View of the Overflow campground shortly after dawn the next morning, with our Airstream Interstate Sprinter-based Class B RV at photo left.  This place served as a temporary home to a wide variety of tent campers, RVers, and trailer folks.  
I'm a "football widow" at this time of year, so I enjoy any opportunity to snag my husband for a hike, no matter how much we have to work around the game schedule.

Football season or not, every good hike begins with a good breakfast.  I didn't turn on the generator to make toast on this day (I'm a toast aficionado), because none of the other RVers or dry-camping trailer owners turned on their generators.  Nobody wants to make the first racket!!  And that's fine because we enjoyed the peace and quiet.  
We found the Overflow campground to have a crude "speed bump" formed out of pushed-up gravel.  Getting in was not a problem, but given the long wheel base of the Sprinter, we had to use our Valterra leveling blocks to vault the rear wheels over the incline on the way out, in order to prevent damage to the undercarriage.  You can see how close to the ground the running board is at photo right.  
After we finished breakfast in the Overflow campground, we headed over to the trail head parking area in the main Stubblefield campground, which was by that time starting to clear out (it was a Sunday).  It's not necessary to pay a day use fee (I think) if you just park at the trail head and don't use any of the camping facilities available there.  
Dog is anxious to get underway.  
The Lone Star Hiking Trail is 128 miles long, and the part we hiked on this day represented just a tiny fraction of it.  
I thought I knew the forests of the greater Houston area, as I have lived here for decades now.  But this one held a few surprises.  
In many respects it was a familiar edge-of-Piney-Woods, pine-and-palmetto Houston transitional forest, although the Stubblefield area boasts a more mature assemblage of vegetation than many other local areas that were last logged more recently. That assemblage included a lot of standing deadwood. This is prime Red-Cockaded Woodpecker habitat, although we neither saw nor heard any on our hike.  
Every once in a while we would see this bizarre sight - a lightning strike victim surrounded by forest that remained untouched. 
Something else new to me and not nearly as enjoyable - this type of sticker that I have never encountered in any other forest understory around here.  They required pulling out one by one.  
I'm constantly amazed at the quality of photos obtained by the iPhone, such as this one.  I carried my phone plus one of my trusty Nikon DSLRs on this hike.
This is Nikon work, obviously.  Despite local drought conditions, Cardinal flower was in good supply.  
As were other wildflowers at the edge of Lake Conroe. 
This section of trail remains inland for about three miles, and then approaches the lake. 
Husband and dog watch a squawking great egret go by.  
A bit of macro photography during the break before the hike back. 
Here's a trace of that part of the trail, one-way, using the free Map My Walk app for iPhone.  I'm not much of an app user, but I find that one to be somewhat useful.  
All in all, a beautiful hike, plus we gained confidence in our ability to find last-minute dry-camping resources in the National Forest during peak season.  I'm looking forward to our next exploration.

Sunday, October 11, 2015


Shoe storage doesn't sound like something that would warrant a blog post, but I often have to travel with at least four pairs of of the danged things, two of which are massive:  street shoes, hiking boots, steel-toed boots, and public shower flip-flops.  Add one other person to that traveling mix and suddenly there are at least six pairs of shoes.  In the small space of an Airstream Interstate, this can become a case of All Shoes, All The Time.  I got tired of tripping over the danged things in the middle of the night and having them tumble from overhead cabinets, so I decided to give them special accommodations.

For smaller women's shoes storage, I simply expanded on the idea I had for food storage in Airstream's triangular overhead cabinets, except this time I used my Container Store over-door shoe pocket remnants for some actual shoe storage.
Our model of Interstate has three drop-down under-cabinet doors for accessing the fresh water tank, the water pump, and the black tank.  I used one of the fresh water access doors for two pairs of smaller women's shoes.  
The procedure is identical to what I had done for the small individual food items - cut a row of shoe pockets, sew a sleeve into which a length of shelf-hanging bar can be inserted, and then screw the resulting assemblage to the back of the cabinet door.  
Tevas and shower flip-flops (I walked 7 miles in those Tevas so far this week). Conveniently, both of these are now stored right next to the bed.  We have learned the hard way not to store shoes anywhere under the bed.  They become temporarily off-limits once the bed is opened up and someone is sleeping in it, duh.   
Two down, three or four to go.  Next I wanted to figure out what the heck to do with two large pairs of hiking boots and/or one pair of hikers and one pair of steel toes.
I had this wasted space on top of our black water tank that was annoying me (I hate waste).  I can't imagine what I'd store on top of a black water tank besides nasty shoes.  
Especially in our Gulf Coast region with its characteristic clay "gumbo" soils, hiking boots can get incredibly nasty.  I wanted some kind of a catchment device to store the mud, sweat and tears associated with a hard hike.
I found my solution in this Sterlite brand storage tote that I had bought previously at Walmart for about five bucks.  
It looks rather large at first sight, but check this out:
It had the perfect footprint (pun intended) for two pairs of hiking boots, and the footprint was all that mattered for this little project. 
I took a box cutter and chopped the top section off until I was left with a pan about six inches high.  
This can slide into place on top of the black tank in a way that does not interfere with any PEX water lines or electrical components.  The shoes are not very heavy and the bottom of the cut-down storage container has a large surface area, so it will not place undue weight on the black tank. 
In order to keep it from sliding around on top of that tank, I used adhesive-backed Velcro to secure one corner of it in place on the tank surface.  When I want to remove it, I slide one finger between the pan and the tank to release the Velcro.
Presto!  Easy access and it does not matter how muddy they get - it stays within the pan, which I can remove and wash.  
Well, I have to carry more than I would prefer, but at least now I have places to put most of them.