A couple of weeks ago we decided I needed to have a break from the Black Friday craziness so we headed out to Abilene State Park.  It was a really nice trip; well, for a day trip.

Abilene is about 150 miles from Fort Worth and that comes out to about 2.5 hours travel time.  We started out fairly early, about 9:00 am, and it took us forever to get there!  It was a little after 4:00 pm when we pulled into the Ranger office.  Fortunately for us, it was due to the wonderful surprises we came across on the drive there.

As we drove towards Abilene on highway 20, I noticed a white bridge just off to the right.  Well, I pulled off 20 and headed to the bridge.  Turns out it was a bridge built over the Brazos in 1932 along old Highway 80.  This was the main highway to be used until the new Highway 20 came about.  Unfortunately, it bypassed this small area causing there to not be much traffic.  However, it has been preserved by a family who decided to keep it alive by creating an RV/camping area.

Just off the Brazos River, under the bridge is a place called Brazos River Camp Ground and The Catfish Cafe.  We stopped and walked the campgrounds to find a really nice area for both RV’s and tenting.  The RV area had good hookups and a nice area to park; however, it had a pretty steep driveway.  The tenting area was just as nice and spread out.  I can’t wait to visit them this next summer.

The Catfish Cafe is a mom and pop place as well.  They originally opened to feed the weekenders who stayed at the campground so their hours are Thursday-Sundays only.  The food is very good and well worth the hour trip from Fort Worth!  We stopped in and had pie for a snack and then moved on towards Abilene.

We weren’t on the road thirty minutes when we saw this tower in the distance.  Turns out it was Thurber, Texas.  Now a ghost town, Thurber was a town owned by Texas and Pacific Coal Company and was very much alive from 1888 until sometime in the 1930’s.  It is well worth your stop to visit the ruins and grab a bite to eat at the Smokestack.

After walking around a bit, we drove onward to Abilene.  The drive is a very pretty one that was rather surprising to me.  I had never realized the landscape had huge ridges and the elevation was higher in the west than in Fort Worth.  Downtown Fort Worth is only 612 feet above sea level while Abilene is about 1,790 feet above.  While we drove up a 6% upgrade at one point that put us up to over 2100 feet!  I realize this is nothing compared to other places we will visit in the future, but we were thrilled.  I had no idea elevation went higher the further west we went.  It has answered so many questions about why West Texas gets worse winter weather than we do in Fort Worth.

As we came closer to Abilene, we could see wind turbines in the distance.  Being who I am, extremely too curious for my own good, we turned off the highway and took a gravel road to find these amazing monsters!  The wet mud-gravel road and huge amounts of dust were well worth the adventure.  You could hear them cutting the air as the wind moved them. The wind farm we found was the Lone Star Wind Farm just off hwy 351.  If I would have realized there was a paved road to them, I probably still wouldn’t have taken it.  It’s just how we adventure.

After this side trip, we drove through Abilene to find food and then headed out to Abilene State Park.

It is a very pretty park and one of the few that has a swimming pool.  Most of the parks are located just off a lake and you will find all sorts of water sports to be had.  However, Abilene Lake is just down the road from the State Park entrance.  They have lots of camping spots for tenting and RVing, cabins and YURTS!  I was out of my mind with excitement when we came across the yurts.  What made these so wonderful is they each come with a fridge, microwave, air conditioner, heater, AND furniture.  These rent for about $50 a night and some of them come with an actual shelter and outdoor grills!  I really want to go again and stay in one for a weekend.

This park is full of other interesting structures as well as the yurts.  This was a place that was part of the Civilian Conservation Corps  (CCC). Most of the public buildings on the site are from this time period which was from the 1930’s to the 1940’s.  To learn more about the CCC there is an interactive exhibit called “A New Deal for Texas” and it is well worth your time.

I am in love with this park.  There is so much to do and many hiking trails.  We actually did a short one that took us to the bird watching shelter.  After we looked around and explored, we decided to go to the lake just down the road.  It is Texas State Park owned and we had a surprise waiting for us.

Texas is in the tenth year of a drought.  Apparently, the DFW metroplex area and East Texas hasn’t been hit as hard as West Texas.  Neither Scott or myself had any clue how bad the drought was until we turned the corner to enter the lake gate.  The gate was closed and locked and the lake was gone.  It has dried up. Lake Abilene is only a skeleton. From the gate, you can see where the dam water works are, the shelters, the lake house, but that is it.

After we spent time trying to comprehend what has happened to the lake, we decided it was time to head home.  This was a sobering trip and helped us to understand the great need the great state of Texas has.  So please, when you think of us, think of Texas and pray for the much-needed rain.

Ren