Sunday, May 16, 2021

Camping On The Beach

As with any good vacation, there were many firsts on this Epic Homeschool Road Trip. One big first was camping on the beach, mere feet from the ocean. The waves crashing against the shore lulled us to sleep. We were woken in the middle of the night by a lightening storm over the ocean (the waves were so loud that we couldn't actually hear if there was thunder too). The minis woke up the next morning and went right into the ocean. It was as close to magical as you can get. There were some unexpected things too; like the wind being so crazy we couldn't get a fire started, no cell signals, sand stuck in all the places, and leaving the night before we had planned so we could avoid severe storms while camping on the beach.

But before we get to all of that, let's start at the beginning, which takes us to the planning phases. We knew ahead of time that the National Seashore doesn't accept camping reservations. It's all on a first come first serve basis. There are primitive beach camping or spots in the campground, where there are toilets and cold rinse showers. Our plan for the day was to get down to the seashore and then decide where we wanted to camp. The drive down was longer than expected, plus we made a few stops.

Our National Park pass came in handy this trip! Once we were onto the National Seashore area, we stopped by the visitors center to get all the info about camping. We decided to pay ($14 per night) for a camping spot at Malaquite Campgrounds. We could keep our car up at a campsite, have access to a grill, picnic tables, bathrooms, etc., but we could also set up camp on the beach. So we did just that.

It took us around two hours to unpack the car, set up two tents, dig a hole (for the fire that we were never able to have), and keep an eye on the kids and dog while they played in the ocean. After that, we played with the kids all night at the beach, got to know other campers, while the kids made friends and played until dark. It was one of those nights that are made of magic every step of the way.

We had to watch carefully as we walked through the sand dunes because there are rattlesnakes! We didn't come across any thankfully.

As the sun set, I noticed something that blended perfectly into the sand. It was moving around quickly. I finally got a look at one and realized they were ghost crabs! These little ones tried helping start our fire. Unfortunately, it was MUCH too windy for a fire, so all the firewood went to waste and we had to cover the hole back up. 

The view when I looked outside my tent in the morning was priceless.

The minis attempted boogie boarding (with their trusty sand-puppy nearby), but the waves were much too harsh for it. They were pretty bummed since the youngest two have waited nearly a year and a half to use 2019 Christmas gifts.

The shoreline was filled with washed up sea creatures, beans, trash (unfortunately), and items covered in barnacles.

We had to leave the beach for a bit, so we could get cell service. The reception is spotty. I'm not talking about in certain spots along the Seashore that have service. I saying we went from having zero bars, zero reception to suddenly have a text or an email that came through and we couldn't respond. We went into town on the island (still technically Corpus Christi) and sat in a parking lot so we could respond to messages and look up the weather. Going to the island, we knew there was the possibility of severe storms and after hearing other campers talk about them, we decided to check for ourselves. Based on the forecast, and now knowing how windy the National Seashore is without storms, we made the decision to pack up camp later that evening. Despite knowing we would be leaving, we had a blast with our remaining few hours.

We took time to drive on the north shore beach, swim, take a nap in the tent (before taking it down), swim, and build a sand castle. 

Our favorite turtle squad. We didn't get to see any, but sea turtles are common on the beach. This is the time of year they come ashore and lay their eggs. The Turtle squad comes along, looking for turtle nests, gathers, them, make sure they hatch, and then safely make sure they return to the water before sea gulls or other predators can snatch them up. This has helped the sea turtle population in the area. I had always wanted to visit during a sea turtle release, but we didn't get to see one. I'm still slightly bummed about it.

We had sand on EVERYTHING as we left the beach. We stopped for a quick spray down wash (the dog tried to jump at the water as it hit the car) and then made our way off of the island before storms rolled through. It's not how we had planned on ending on beach trip, but the time we had on Padre Island National Seashore was wonderful