Becky and I enjoy trailering to our wonderful Texas State Parks. Usually, we spend 3 to 4 days hiking the trails, watching the wildlife, meeting other campers, and breathing in the invigoration of nature. Since attaining my Master Naturalist certification, I realize how to give back to the parks. I check in with the park superintendent, introduce myself, and ask how I can help. Usually, the request is to clean up the hiking trails and report any maintenance issues that I may find. This is our second visit to Mission Tejas State Park.
The park is located between Alto (12 miles) and Crockett (21 miles) at Weches on State Highway 21, the Old San Antonio Road section of perhaps the most historic road in Texas. Known as El Camino Real, the Royal Road stretches 2500 miles from Guerrero Mexico to Louisiana. In Texas it begins in Laredo and exits just outside of San Augustine before ending at Natchitoches, Louisiana. President G. W. Bush designated it the El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail in 2004 .
After checking in with the park staff have a look in the “museum” that gives one an enticing overview of the history of the area. The fox shown below fell to the fate of a motorist, so she became an addition to the room.
There are about a dozen RV sites, all blacktop and none level. Like I was told, they were designed and built in the 1950s, not to accommodate the trailers of today. All have 30/50 amp electricity and water. No sewer, but a dump station is available. Tent sites offer pads with water and electricity, but offer little “privacy” due to their closeness. Still, during both of our visits the sites were full of family-oriented campers. Restrooms are 50s style as well (I think they were built even earlier by CCC.) with a toilet , a sink and a shower stall in each. If you are down in the tenting area, enjoy those 3 dozen steps up to the toilets.
The historical section of the park is splendidly done. The 1828 family home of Joseph and Willie Masters Rice was moved in 1973 to the park from just down road. It is in such good condition that one can wander through the house imagining life in each room during that period. The craftsmanship alone is worth the visit. Just behind the house sits an original “doctor’s buggy” popular during the 1880s.
The Spanish attempted to counter the French by building a mission in 1690 on the grounds of a Caddo Indian village (not sure if that was Caddo Mounds, a mere two miles east). Mission San Francisco de los Tejas became the first Spanish mission in Texas. However, it did not last long. After a smallpox epidemic the Caddoans distrusted the priests. Fearing for their lives, the Spanish burned down the mission and fled to Mexico in 1693. The Civilian Conservation Corps Company 888 erected a replica in 1934 that still stands today.
A pine savanna stretches throughout the camping area and along some trails. However, the northern section shows off some hardwood bottomlands around San Pedro Creek. From there trails circle around to an upland forest with some steep hiking in store.
Some of the trails began for fire fighting access, so the width accommodates vehicles. Gary Coker, park superintendent, explained that these are used to get to the other hiking trails throughout the park.
All hiking trails are generally well maintained with difficulty levels of 5 easy, 4 moderate, and 4 challenging. We have hiked 11 of the 13 plus 5 of 6 cross over trails. One can hike most of the trails in under 90 minutes. The Olen Matchett-Lightning-Cemetary Hill-Big Pine combination will take considerably longer. These seem to be used infrequently as they are narrow with several moderately short down & up breaks. Consider this loop challenging with a brief break along the way.
And, yes, there is a chimney on Chimney Loop, remnants of a hunter’s cabin.
Like all Texas itself Mission Tejas State Park Is unique given its history and diverse ecosystems. Take time to visit, sit in the bird blind, find a new crop of pine seedlings, or just enjoy the ever-changing, never-changing beauty of natural Texas.
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