Texanna | September 2018

By Anna Mitchael

I visited my first Texas State Park about three months ago.

We were down around Fredericksburg when my husband asked if I had ever been to Enchanted Rock.

“I’m not sure,” I said.

“It’s a massive pink rock,” he said. “You’d remember it.”

“Hmmm…” I answered. As I recall, I was contemplating where to go for lunch. The only way I was interested in The Pink Rock was if it sold burgers. But he had already turned the car around.

“Wait, where are we going?” I asked.

“We’re so close, you should see it,” he said. And in five minutes we were at the end of a line of cars, all waiting for the magical experience of ascending the massive pink rock.

And either the climb was magical or I got a little lightheaded without my lunch, because I walked away from the gift shop with more than trail mix — I also had a pass for entrance into all the Texas State Parks for a calendar year.

“The kids will love visiting all the parks,” I said to my husband when I got back in the car. And he gave me the same look I delivered to him back when he said the kids were going to love having a PlayStation.

There was the chance that the state park pass would be forgotten alongside the other pieces of plastic in my wallet: credit cards and the Toys R Us gift card that still has two dollars on it but I will probably never throw away because, well, it’s Toys R Us. And I like remembering the time before we all grew up to be Amazon.com kids.

But the state park pass came along at the right time, in a season when we have been seeing a lot of mile markers on the highway. Part of it is having family across the state, but it’s also living out in the country — where even a trip to the grocery store requires a 30-minute drive. A certain saying had been running through my mind as I watched miles clock on the odometer. It’s a saying that gets put on inspirational coffee mugs a lot and you’ve probably heard it before — about the journey being more important than the destination.

As I drove my family around the state for various events, visits and vacations, I wondered if there was some larger truth in that I had been blowing by at 80 mph. Here we are, living in a place that is 790 miles long — roughly the size of France — and my kids were growing up believing that it’s just a mass of cities all connected by the insides of Whataburger restrooms.

Now we take a little longer to get where we are going. And I’m not going to lie, when my kids see me fishing in the glove compartment for my handy-dandy Texas Parks state map sometimes they groan. But now they have also seen lakes, landscapes, cliffs and waterfalls. We have learned how other people along the way live — and even met some of them. At this point on our cultural timeline when it’s regular practice to dismiss large groups of people — entire states, regions or coasts full of people — because they think about things or do things in a way that’s different from you, this seems especially important.

A few weeks ago we met a young couple from Montana, who were down camping in the Piney Woods. “What brings you to Texas?” I asked the woman, who was big-eyed and cheerful, the kind of stranger who makes you wish there was a coffee shop right there so you could sit down and talk for an hour.

“We wanted to see what life is like down here,” she told me. Even though I live here, this still rang true to me.