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Written by Lois M. Rodriguez

Every once in a blue moon, I lament the fact that I never went to summer camp as a kid (Vacation Bible School doesn’t count, but thank you, Jesus.). I did the outdoorsy thing for years with my Bluebird/Camp Fire Girls, but I later grew up to realize that the "big forest“ where we learned to pitch a tent, make fire and turn a coffee can into a stove was really Bay Area Park in Clear Lake area of Houston. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lovely, wooded park next to Armand Bayou and I’ve canoed from there as an adult, but it’s not the wilderness. Maybe Hollywood images of summer camp (Friday the 13th aside!) makes me feel like I missed out on some real fun. It’s too late for me now (or is it?), but I want to live it out vicariously through our readers. Maybe I’ll get it out of my system. What is summer camp REALLY like? What kind of summer camps have you experienced? What are some of the top choices in Texas where you might consider sending your own children? I'd love to know.

Blessed day, as it is, the Easter memory that I always enjoy recalling involves a special Easter egg hunt at Bastrop State Park. Mom asked if we wanted to go on an Easter egg hunt. What kid says no" to that? Even though we fully expected that a hunt would be in our plans that Sunday, we were jumping for joy, as if it were a surprise. I was already imagining (and salivating over) the kind of treats we'd find hidden inside the eggs. Mom is very creative! As we rode along, empty baskets guarded carefully on our laps, time passed and eventually we started chiming in with "Are we there yet?" We were still clinging to our excitement of the hunt, but a little put out that we still hadn't reached our destination.

It turns out Mom thought it'd be nice to do the Easter egg hunt at Bastrop State Park. Did I mention we were living in Houston?

What a blast we had, though, and what a great idea Mom had! After nabbing the hidden eggs, we just enjoyed the park, and the picnic mom had prepared for us. I absorbed, as much as I could, this rare sight of fresh air and greenery in such a vast amount of space. This atmosphere was as much a treat to me as the one time I had seen snow (at the time). I remember how beautiful this was to me and the sound of pine needles crunching underfoot. I remember the CCC cabin, too.

Ever the rockhound, I found a rock that I thought was utterly fabulous and brought it home. I have it still. It's special because it reminds me of that perfect day. Anytime I visit or drive past Bastrop State Park, that memory resurfaces.

As an adult, I still appreciate Bastrop State Park and its beautiful trails. I also now better appreciate that my widowed mom made time, though I can't imagine how she found it (or the energy), to do this for us four kids. The deep-seeded pleasure and the lasting fond memory of this road trip is true testament that one can never forget the value of a simple road trip and quality family time.

I'm terrified of heights, so naturally, I wanted to go on an adventure that would challenge that fear. Yes, I'm a little insane. But isn't that the way to conquer fears? Well, I suppose a healthy fear is good for survival, but I found what I thought would be a safe way to face that fear head-on: ziplining. I highly recommend the experience.

After revisiting an article that we ran in Texas Highways last August, I decided that this was the year I would brave it. Luckily, one of my best friends in Houston had the same idea (always on the same wavelength, that's why we're buds). Within a week's time, we drummed up a group of 10 friends (me in Austin, the rest from Houston) to visit the Cypress Valley Canopy Tours in Spicewood. What fun!

I put on my brave hat while shaking inside, but after the first leap, I was having a blast. You're so securely harnessed in and connected to the zip line that it's hard to truly feel vulnerable. Plus, our trusted guides, Lindsey and Andi, used their expertise and a bit of humor to take the edge off and make it fun. Granted, this probably isn't as high or as long as zipling down a mountain in Costa Rica, but it's a fun adventure just the same. And it was just my speed, so to speak.

I didn't even mind the three rope sky bridges we had to traverse (and I've never gotten on them, even at amusement parks, because I'm even more terrified of them!), but the harness helped quell that fear, too. We zipped along six lines from one tree platform to another (up to 40 feet high), passing up Lofthaven, the furnished tree house that you can zip to and rent for the night.

Thanks to the drought, there was little water running through the property, but I'm sure it adds an extra dimension of excitement and natural wonder, so, I definitely hope there will be water on my next visit.

When I go again, and I will, I will try the more challenging tour, which has longer zip lines, and challenges that they say ranges from "moderate to difficult." I'm up for it!

If you've ever had a curiosity about ziplining, but are being held back by fear, I say DO it! If I can, you can.

If you've been, what was your experience like and where did you go?

May the luck of the Irish fall upon you! For me, St. Patrick's Day brings fond memories of a special blessing.

Valentine's Day Is on its way And thus here goes This poem

It's silly, I'm aware, But I'd love for you to share Those romantic Texas spots if you know'em.

Where, in Texas, would you find the most romantic setting for the perfect "I love you."

Remember, our diversity is what makes us special, so non-traditional settings are welcome, too!

With spring bringing us many blooms, it's a good time to brush up on your knowledge. Give it a shot. Place your cursor over the image for answers. Good luck!

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