PITCH A TENT

9 gorgeous places to camp in Central Texas for a quick getaway

Pedernales Falls boasts 69 campsites, plus a four-person hike-in primitive site and an equestrian group camp. Pedernales Falls State Park/Facebook

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

Perhaps you're looking for one last outdoor adventure before summer ends, or maybe the prospect of cooler fall nights has you dreaming of, well, dreaming in a tent. Either way, it's easy to make it happen in Central Texas.

With its natural beauty, rolling hills, and picturesque vistas, the area is teeming with places to enjoy the great outdoors with a camping adventure. Pitch a tent at a primitive campsite, or rent a cabin in the woods. Regardless of your style, these nine spots are perfect for a camping getaway.

Bastrop State Park
Famous for its extensive loblolly pine forest, better known as the Lost Pines, Bastrop State Park was ravaged by forest fires in 2011 and 2015. It remains a great spot for camping though, with 35 full-hookup sites, 19 electric-only sites, and 16 tent-only and six walk-in sites. Choose one of the latter and you won’t have to share your peace and quiet with air conditioning or TV noise. Some of the longer hiking trails are closed, but seven miles remain open. The hilly, 12-mile Park Road 1C between Bastrop and nearby Buescher State Park by car or bike is a contrast of recovering and still-forested areas. (And don’t even think about throwing that butt out the window.)

Black Rock Park
Enjoy swimming, kayaking (rentals available), and bank fishing at this Lower Colorado River Authority park on the west shore of sprawling Lake Buchanan. Or just float. Overnight options include cabins, tent camping, or RV sites. For land-based recreation, choose from a playground, horseshoe pits, and a volleyball court.

Canyon of the Eagles
A 940-acre park on the northeast shore of Lake Buchanan, Canyon of the Eagles offers tent camping at wooded Chimney Slough and at Tanner Point, and hike-in-only sites on a small peninsula. It also has an RV park if a real bed is more your groove. Tent campers have access to the RV bath house and amenities including a swim beach, nature programs, observatory, and 14 miles of hiking trails. And if you suck at camp cooking, there’s a great restaurant on site.

Inks Lake State Park
This state park, a classic Texas Hill Country landscape, has nearly 200 campsites, many on the shore, and 22 cabins (two ADA-accessible). Oh, it also has a lake, of course, where you can swim or paddle in a large, no-wake zone (paddleboats, canoes, and kayaks available for rent). Fish for sunfish, catfish, and bass from two piers or the shore — no fishing license needed — and clean your catch at one of two cleaning stations. Plus, there are nine miles of hiking trails. The park store sells all the essentials and there’s even a food truck that sells snow cones, root beer floats, nachos, hot dogs, and more.

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The right shoes are a big deal for runners. Courtesy photo

I bought my first pair of running shoes in 2007. I decided that I was running the Houston Marathon. I had no idea what I was doing, so I found a running group to train with (Kenyan Way, because I wanted to be as fast as the Kenyans). The next thing I needed was shoes. So, I went to Lady Foot Locker.

Until then, I bought my shoes at Payless or Wal-Mart, so I was really excited to buy real running shoes. I looked at all the shoes lined on the walls. The smell of leather, rubber, cloth, and whatever else shoes are made of filled my nose. A gentleman came by and asked if I needed help.

At this, I proudly announce:

“I need a pair of running shoes because I am running the Houston Marathon this year!"

He immediately recommends the $200 pair of shoes on the top shelf. I was thinking more like $70. After bargaining and pleading, I walked out of Lady Foot Locker with a brand new pair of Nike Shocks and $160 less in my bank account.

.The next morning, I meet the group for hill running at Allen Parkway. I was so excited. My first time in the runner community and.....

Everyone I met kept looking down at my shoes. Turns out Nike Shocks were the worst shoes to run in because of their heavy soles. That's what I get for going to Lady Foot Locker.

The problem is there are too many shoes and way too many opinions. Who is right and who wants a fat commission on their check? After twelve years and many pairs of running shoes later, I've gotten the whole thing down. So, I made a guide for you first-timers.

1. Buy your shoes at a specialty running store.

(I recommend Fleet Feet). The staff is usually made up of marathon runners who make it their personal business to keep up with running technology. You can also find out about running events.

2. Find the Right Salesperson.

This person should be friendly and patient. They would start by asking about your goals and they should find out about prior running experience that you may have. They would then start the gait assessment.

3. Gait Assessment.

This procedure separates Fleet Feet from Academy and Lady Foot Locker. This assessment is done in two ways:

Manually. The salesperson records you running on a treadmill to see exactly how you run. They are looking at how your foot strikes the ground and how much your ankles move while you run.

FitID. This is new, cutting edge technology. You stand on what looks like a scale. Sensors literally take the topography of your foot. You can tell how high your arches are and which way your foot tends to pronate.(that's the inward or outward roll of your foot when you run or walk. This dictates the type of shoe you need).

4. Choosing your shoe.

There are two things to consider: your shoe type, and shoe style.

Type. There are three types of shoes based on the support you need. Neutral. Stability. Motion Control. This is the whole point of the assessment. Neutral shoes are for people who don't pronate. Stability shoes are for people who do. Motion controlled shoes are for people whose feet are all over the place and need stability.

Style. There should be a vast variety of the lastest shoes. Choose from brands like Nike, ASICS, Saucony, Brooks, Mizuno, Adidas, On, and more. Back in 2007, running seemed like a sport that only middle-aged men in those crazy shorts (you know the ones) participated in. Now younger people have taken up the sport, so running shoe brands have really stepped up their shoe game. Instead of crazy neon orange and greens, you can find knit shoes in the sexy colors like grey, black, navy blue, and pinks. So take your pick. I use a nuetral shoe with good cushioning. Currently, I'm giving the Brooks Ghost a try.

5. Size.

What is your shoe size? If you are a 7 1/2, you would answer 7 1/2, right? Wrong. Your running shoe size needs to be an entire size larger than your regular shoe size. So, if you wear a 7 1/2, then your running shoe size is an 8 1/2. While you run, your foot repeatedly jabs the toe box of the shoe. This extra space reduces unnecessary injuries like your toenails turning black and falling off.

6. Price.

A good running shoe should cost between $120 and $150. If you are squeamish about the price, I assure you, it is totally worth it. Just ask Fred Faour. He bets on his Brooks every single time because his injuries decreased and his times improved once he started wearing them. It's that serious.

7. Final Test.

Try them on and run around. This will let you know if the shoe is right for you. If not, choose another. This is where the salesperson exercises patience.

8. Accessories.

Good accessories will make your running experience go from good to exceptional. Good socks ( about $13) that are dry-wicking, padded, have a high thread count and stay in place are a must. Lock Laces ($8) that never come undone are well worth it.

9. Walkers.

Where are my walkers? Don't feel left out. Running shoes are walking shoes! So, this article applies to you too.

So, what's the whole point to this article?

Don't go to Wal-Mart. Don't go cheap. Do go to a place like Fleet Feet or another specialty store and get treated like a professional runner. Or don't cross the finish line.

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