Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Mother Neff State Park

Two days after Christmas, and five days before our 23rd anniversary, we took our RV down to Mother Neff State Park for four days.

Mother Neff State Park (MNSP) is in Moody, Texas about 30 miles SW of Waco. It's the oldest and one of the smallest of the Texas State Parks. The land for the park was donated by Mrs. Neff who was the mother of the then governor of Texas. It was the first Texas state park. Now there are over 90 (i tried to find out the exact number but no one said anything more specific than "more than 90".)

It was our coldest trip in our RV yet. The temperature got down to one degree above freezing for at least two nights. And the day time temps weren’t much warmer.

Despite the park's small size, frigid temps, and battles with headaches and allergies, we still had a fun time.

There isn't much growing here at this time of year, but I took a lot of pictures anyway!

The low light and stark contrasts among the trees made it difficult to get good photos sometimes. Here I tried my hand at using manual focus and a slow speed: 1/15 sec. f/9 18mm ISO 200. I don't know enough photography to know why f/9 was the right f-stop here. But it seemed to work. I also did a little editing later. I increased the light a little and decreased the contrast. I don't remember how much. I wish my photo editing program saved that info.

There has been a lot of rain lately so all the streams were happily streaming!

The "Washpond" One of the special destinations in the park. It's too full of algae for swimming or washing things in it now. But it used to be a favorite place for both.
The Washpond reflecting the sky and trees opposite.

John, next to the Washpond.

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There were very few flowers but this end of a dead tree trunk looks almost floral.

A lady offered to take our photo at this "table" made in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Core.

John at the Cave, another special geological feature of the park. It is quite impressive. We went back again on Sunday when there were fewer people and the lighting more conducive to taking photos.
Is it a moth or a butterfly? I would guess a moth given its large fuzzy body. It was so still for such a long time that I wondered if it was dead. But it started up as we walked away so I guess it was just dozing.

Above the trees in the Rock Tower, also made by the CCC in the 1930s.

A very impressive bird blind. The birds unfortunately didn't cooperate.

interesting rock

Even this dead tree looked pretty.
Clumps of Mistletoe in the trees. John made sure we took advantage of them ;-)

A close up of the Mistletoe with its waxy white berries.

In lieu of flowers I took several moss and lichen photos.

These bright little red leaves really stood out on the mostly colorless ground on a bleak cold day. The heart shape seemed appropriate given that it was the day before our anniversary.
I was impressed with the bathrooms. They were definitely the prettiest and cleanest in the Texas state parks we've been to so far.

The showers were also very well designed and appointed.

John at the cave again on Sunday. We had the place to ourselves. The weather was too cold and damp to sit and enjoy the view for long. But at least the overcast sky made photographing easier. 

John doing his Atlas impression.

I only needed one hand!

According to the informational placard at the cave: It's called Tonkawa Cave after a well-known tribe that once lived in central Texas. No one knows if they actually lived in this cave. But in the 1930s when the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) excavated the site they found "stone projectile points" [aka: arrowheads] and other tools used to hunt and prepare wild game.

This rock reminded me of an island with miniature gardens tucked into its cracks and crevices.

More moss and lichens.

Friday afternoon we went exploring. We drove our Honda to Lake Belton, a large lake about 20 miles south of MNSP. My AllTrails app found hiking trails we wanted to explore in Miller Spring Park on the other side of the Lake Belton dam.

There was also a town called Morgan's Point Resort next to the lake that I wanted to see that was on the way. Before our trip I saw it on the map and was curious so Googled it and found an old promotional video from the 1960s on YouTube. The narrator called it the "Switzerland of Texas." The little we saw was reasonably pretty. But I think he was exaggerating a little-- not that I've ever been to Switzerland.

By the time we found where the trails were it was getting dark.

I was feeling hungry and suggested we try a restaurant I had noticed while we were searching for the trails. John seemed to need some convincing. Maybe it was the inauspicious name of the place: Dead Fish Grill. I finally convinced him to humor me and check it out. It was a really nice surprise for us both.

Dead Fish Grill is a delightful mix of elegant, classy and casual. There was still enough light outside to enjoy the beautiful lakeside view when we first arrived and the interior with its polished hardwood floors, fire place and Christmas tree gave a cosy ambience after the sun went down.

Our server was friendly and helpful with my gluten problems. I got grilled catfish and shrimp with coleslaw and a "loaded" baked potato. The catfish was so delicious! It didn't need any tartar sauce. Everything else was also excellent. John seemed to enjoy his fish and chips too. I think they even brought him vinegar when he asked for it.

It was a delightful way to celebrate 23 years (a few days early)!

Ducks on Lake Belton at the Morgan's Point Resort marina