Saturday, June 11, 2011

Grasslands Reconn

I've been itching to find a new place to go camping. For me, the S24O of my imagination looks something like those excellent images I see of folks camping on Mt. Diablo, near Rivendell headquarters. We just do not have such vertical variety out here on the prairie. However, there are some nice hilltops within S24O distance that might be quite suitable. Finding one was the purpose of today's LBJ National Grasslands reconn expedition.

To minimize travel time, and maximize on-site reconn time, I carried the bike in the pickup. I found a relatively high spot that had a breeze and a shade. The nose of my truck is sticking out of the trees, just past the curve.

It was a nice spot for a sort of "base camp". Without a map, I simply pedaled off to explore for awhile, and return for a bit of shade and a water bottle refill. Then I'd set out in a new direction. It was only for the morning, but my base camp served me well.

Just beyond the shade cover of my base camp, I was able to enjoy my first "view". This was a good sign. I pedaled on with a heightened sense of optimism. There must be a great camping spot around here somewhere.

The LBJ National Grasslands are located north of Decatur, Texas, and about 30 miles from my house. The area seems to be controlled by the Forest Service, and is a delightful mixture of wide open grasslands, spotty tree and brush cover, and rolling hills. There are plenty of gravel roads to explore.

Based on my limited reconn, it appears that the area is a favorite of horse riding enthusiasts. They haul their trailers, find a nice place for their own base camp, and explore the vast network of trails. These folks found a spot with plenty of water, but most of the area is rugged and without the comforts afforded by more "developed" commercial or state park campgrounds. Certain adjustments to a more primitive style will be required for me to camp here.

At first, I kept to the gravel roads to simply get a sense of the general area. There were many trails that I rolled by that could be explored another day.

Another use of this land is for oil/gas activity. There are some of these guys dotting the area. Most are located some distance off the main gravel road. This one (inactive), however, was larger than average, so I turned in to take a look. Bicycle parked at base for a sense of scale.

Sometimes, the double track looked attractive and I left the main gravel road to explore further. Most of the time, it would either fade to nothing, or turn into a trail for the horses and hikers.

It seems whenever I do not have a planned route, like water, I end up at low elevations. Why is that?

Apparently others have ended up here also. It seems to be a well-used swimming hole.

The swimming hole was a part of a finger from one of the more prominent lakes in the area. I believe the main body of the lake is just beyond the view (and to the right) in the photo above.

So much for noodling around. It was time to climb out of that hole into which gravity had drawn me, and find that prized hill top camping spot. My target was at the crest of one or more of those more prominent topographic features shown in the map above.

I hiked to the top of a couple of those features. I found wildflowers, cactus, and pleasant breezes.

I found color-tipped grasses contrasted against the green tree tops.

In some places, I could see multiple ridgelines.

In others, I only saw the next ridge across the valley, and bits of the road I had been on a little while earlier.

No, it is not as high up as Mt. Diablo, but things were looking pretty good. Now, where would be a good spot to set-up camp?

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner. This view is looking northeast, and I believe watching the sunrise from my tent door right here would be nothing short of spectacular.

Can you imagine how excellent the stars would be out here?

Yeah, me too. It's time to get this trip scheduled.


  1. You've got me itching to do another overnighter. I'm not so blessed with options where I'm based and wild camping is a no-no in England. However, there are a few nice sites within a couple of hours ride and I could extend my range by doing a multi-modal bike/train S240. Now there's a thought...

  2. Eddie, it would be great to read your overnighter story. Since the train multi-modal option is not practical for me, that would be especially interesting.

  3. It looks like you've found a great campsite. I've been to Decatur a couple of times over the last couple of weeks but I haven't had the opportunity to drive out to the Grasslands and take a look around. The gravel roads look very promising.

  4. Looks pretty awesome.Just be sure to not lay your sleeping bag on a cactus!

  5. Looks like a great spot. I'll bet you can see a gazillion stars from up there. Those gravel roads and scenic vistas should add up to some great riding and exploring.

  6. Chris,
    That's a great find! I will be looking for the S24O report.
    Peace :)

  7. Great pictures -- makes me miss Texas! Best, Rob

  8. Pondero, I use to fish all over this area and is a great place to camp. If you're looking for a side kick for one of these trips let me know. I'd love to join ya sometime.

  9. Dave, due to the heat lately, I'm not sure when I'll attempt a campout next. I just might do it, if there is a healthy overnight breeze in the forecast. Nevertheless, I traditionally try to get out on Saturday mornings, and enjoy guests immensely.

    By the way, I took a look at your new blog. What a cool bike! I'm looking forward to future posts. Has that second child arrived yet?

  10. Thanks Chris, Bella has arrived and my excuse for no new posts. I'll admit that your blog is my inspiration for my blog. It's going to be about riding in the metro area and sort of a yin to your yang, lol. In fact tomorrow I'm going to try add a new post. Thanks for reading it.
    Also I agree with the heat. Maybe fall is a better time for an S240, but always up for a day trip. I have coffee, will travel, lol.

  11. Very nice. Very. We certainly don't have those types of grasslands around here. Lots of forested knolls. Great post.

  12. Gorgeous! What a beautiful place to visit, camping or no. I hope you will get those sunrise shots ... they should be quite stunning. Great find.