Lost Maples and Falling in Love with Cracker Barrel

We’re gonna just blow right past last month, okay? I tried to write a blog post before this one, with photos of all the best stuff we ate last month, and pumpkin patches and Halloween costumes and baby Ollie and adventures with my mom, and I just can’t. It’s too much ground to cover and I just missed it by not writing blog posts in the moment. October brought an onslaught of activities, good ones, but ones that required me to do/build/cook/create things in relentless waves, so it felt like I was just hurtling from one project to the next. This camping trip to Lost Maples was a beautiful break- an obligation-free three days where we hiked around and sat around and went to bed when it got dark outside. I came home feeling good and productive and utterly unwilling to try to put words to the the 40-picture blog post draft that was meant to recap everything we did last month. So, camping! Let’s just talk about camping.

[I had to get up to go pee after writing that mea culpa paragraph and there was a big cockroach in the bathroom and Andy isn’t home because he’s out seeing Thor: Ragnarok so I had to deal with it and tried to jam it to death with George’s potty, which I failed to do, so I went and got my sandal and smashed the thing and then I had to clean it up and so my entire worldview has changed between that first paragraph and all that will come after because everything is terrible. Also my new neighbors are having some sort of party in their garage which involves alternately shrieking and then singing Adele’s Hello in chorus. That’s apropos of nothing, but I thought you should know.]

Lost Maples was a lot less maple-y than I was expecting. There were maple trees there, but there were not big acres-full of endless maples in a panorama of fiery fall colors. We saw them here and there. They planted one on each of the 20 or so campsites, one of which we, callously, I was to learn, used to support one half our hammock. A park ranger stopped by to tell us that they did not allow folks to use maples to support hammocks, which made a lot of sense once I stopped and thought about it. I am a boorish city slicker.

While Andy and I set up camp, the kids explored the woods surrounding our site. George promptly climbed a tree and then fell halfway out of it, catching himself and hanging precariously from a branch. He screamed awfully, which he’s wont to do even when he’s not dangling from a tree limb, so Andy went and got him down while the mom at the neighboring campsite looked on, scandalized. Andy came back and said he thought he’d picked up on some judgment from the lady, which is fair, I guess.

Sloppy Joes. We finally got our fire going, having forgotten any form of fire-starter and finding only damp things for kindling, and used it to reheat a skillet-full of sloppy joes that I had cooked at home the night before.

Bonus shot, with foot. We ate it with Doritos because we are living our best lives, and when George saw me taking this picture he stood up on the bench and lifted his foot so it could be in the picture too. We may never know why.

It was pitch-black by six o’clock. We sat around the campfire after dinner- the kids roasted marshmallows and then we burned a mystical fire and watched that for a little while and then just called it a night. We read to the kids until they fell asleep and then I got to stay up reading Lonesome Dove, which maybe I love more than any book I’ve ever read. I haven’t finished it yet- I’ve still got a couple hundred pages to go- but it is my new favorite thing. I have never seen the mini-series, and after reading this far, I can’t really understand how they ever made one, because it’s all whores and grizzly death scenes, but maybe I’ll watch it when I finish the book. I love Gus so much. In spite of everything that has happened so far, I think it’s so funny and moving and captivating. I want to read lots more McMurtry books after this so will you tell me if you have a special favorite? Anyway, we all slept pretty well except for that time some unidentified night monster tried to chew its way through our tent so it could fall on my face. It was, thankfully, unsuccessful.

Sausage and Egg Breakfast Tacos. Our standard camping breakfast. The dry ice froze the sausage and carbonated the eggs (they got really frothy in the pan before they settled down and scrambled like you’d expect a healthy young egg to do) but everything worked out okay anyway.

There are miles of trails at Lost Maples. Andy and the kids expressed interest in doing the third of a mile, twenty minute long Maple Trail but, but, I said, what if we did the four hour looping trail that would start with the Maple Trail, take us up the 2,200 foot high cliffside past MONKEY ROCK, whatever that might turn out to be, and connected back to the parking lot where we left the car instead? No one but me was overly enthusiastic about this, but I was a relentless and dogged champion for the cause and I won, you guys, I won.

Henry and George’s Simon and Garfunkel-inspired album cover. They don’t actually have an album cover that looks like this, but they could have done. Also, Henry and George have the right relative heights and hairstyles, just saying. At the beginning of our trek, the kids insisted on climbing each and every rock they encountered, and which they mysteriously referred to as “whoppers.”

Us on a bench! I had taken a photo for a lady earlier in the hike, and then she walked past us while we were sitting on this bench and said, “that’s a good picture- do you have a phone?” And she took this photo for us, which I thought was very kind and thoughtful!

I guess this is another Simon and Garfunkel-inspired album cover. A real one, this time.

Bow down before your new monkey overlord. We found monkey rock! And it did not disappoint. Isn’t that the monkey-est rock you ever saw?

About halfway through the hike, things got real. We had to climb up a lot of steep hills and George, who had walked the whole way so far, began to wring his hands at the difficulty of the whole thing. We told him we’d stop as often as he needed to for breaks, but that we were not going to carry him on this hike, because we were also tired and we didn’t want to. Here’s Henry on one such break, while we tried to encourage George with a pep talk and plied him with the M&Ms out of the trail mix bag.

The scenic overlook! We made it! The shots in this post were carefully curated to not show the absolute swarms of other people on the trails with us. There were so many other people, whole giant extended families hiking together while listening to Journey on some sort of portable stereo. So we were less remote and disconnected from society than this sprawling wilderness picture might imply. And look at that mist! It was real moist up there.

I just thought it was pretty.

We found a fern-y waterfall on the other side of the mountain! (It’s not actually a mountain, I just don’t know what else to call it, because calling it a hill feels demoralizing). The heavy mist stole the puffiness from our hair.

We also found a puddle and threw some rocks at it. Also, my kids are filthy.

There’s the fall foliage! It was on the ground.

Jambalaya. After our hike, we headed back to the campsite to laze around for the rest of the sunlit hours. We built a fire and had an early dinner of jambalaya, which Henry said was his favorite part of the whole weekend. We ended the evening with another marshmallow/mystical fire/early bedtime extravaganza and it was warmer that night, so we all slept a little better than we had the night before.

Such a good sport! I think Andy is too practical a person to ever truly and deeply enjoy camping, because why would you drive away from your bed and your food and your shower to sleep in the woods on the dirt? But he never complains and is very kind and helpful and I sure do love him for indulging me in this.

The Holiday Sampler n’ Cinnamon Biscuit Breakfast at Cracker Barrel. None of us had ever eaten at a Cracker Barrel, even though there’s one very near to us in Buda, so we stopped to eat at one in Kerrville on the way home the next morning. Honestly, I fucking loved it. We all did. Look at all the things they give you for breakfast! Every breakfast menu item, I am not joking, comes with a side of biscuits and gravy! Isn’t that equal parts insane and delightful?! This holiday sampler also came with a cinnamon drop biscuit with a double-coating of icing and that was amazing too. Also you get three kinds of meats and two eggs and a slab of hashbrown casserole and a bowl of grits and a dish of fried apples. And it’s 8 damn dollars! And the kids menu is legit. George got a lovely big pancake with his own tiny bottle of maple syrup and Henry got a plate of country fried shrimp with cocktail sauce and a hushpuppy (“It tastes like a risotto ball without the risotto!”) and a side of dumplings. Dumplings! And there are fun games on the kid’s menu too. The waitresses were all real folksy and there’s a general store-style gift shop that sells moon pies and goo goo clusters and giant novelty versions of candy bars, and just the whole thing, top to bottom, was glorious. Have I dropped a little in your esteem? It’s okay. I’ll comfort myself with sweet sweet cinnamon biscuits.

So, you guys, we’re back on track. I wrote a blog post and we’re forgetting about all the other stuff that came before this, and I promise to share some pictures of my glorious fatty new nephew in the next one! Also, please give me all the McMurtry recommendations and Cracker Barrel feedback you have. Thank you! Good bye!

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9 thoughts on “Lost Maples and Falling in Love with Cracker Barrel

  1. Abbie November 15, 2017 / 1:17 pm

    It’s been so long since I read McMurty I have forgotten everything so I will look for recommendations too. Have you read The Son? No? Do it next. Seriously.

    • Gangie November 15, 2017 / 2:42 pm

      I accidentally delete my first comment. Suffice to say I’m glad you’re back! Monkey rock, wow! Can’t remember if I️ read Mc Murtry.

      • arielleclementine November 15, 2017 / 3:52 pm

        thanks, mama! I really think you would love Lonesome Dove! did you know it won the pulitzer prize? Amanda turned me onto it and I’m so glad- I had zero interest in reading it before she mentioned how much she loved it.

    • arielleclementine November 15, 2017 / 3:53 pm

      thank you, Abbie! I have never heard of The Son but I trust you implicitly and I absolutely will read it next! you’ve been on my mind all month- I wanna come see you and Alice! I’m gonna text you!

  2. Raven November 15, 2017 / 3:17 pm

    Oh man I love Cracker Barrel too! Also, really lovely write up and photos of the camping trip. It kinda makes me want to go on one, and that has never happened to me before. 😆

    • arielleclementine November 15, 2017 / 3:46 pm

      Haha! High praise! And I love that you love Cracker Barrel!! What is your favorite thing to get there? I’m excited to see you and talk about dumplings and things!

  3. Barbara Mojica November 15, 2017 / 4:18 pm

    I love reading your Blogs and everything you include in them!
    While learning English I couldn’t find a word for (Not a mountain, Not a hill, but in between). I did a bit of research to find the correct terminology, but gave up. Anyway, in Spanish, we call them “Cerros” (plural) or “Cerro” (singular). 🙂

    • arielleclementine November 15, 2017 / 4:55 pm

      Thank you, Barbara! I love this! Thank you for sharing the perfect word to describe these not-hills, not-mountains with me!

  4. Amanda November 17, 2017 / 7:13 pm

    Yaayyy!!! Love that you love LD!!! And so nice to see pictures of the camping trip. Sorry there wasn’t as much foliage as you expected. Can’t wait to see you all soon. The boys look huge/old/mature?! All those things. Xoxo

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