Resolve to Reconnect with Your Family and the Outdoors This New Year

BASTROP, Texas – When considering a New Year’s resolution, try setting a goal to spend more time reconnecting with what matters most — your family and the natural beauty of Texas.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department wants to help by inviting you and your family to a Texas state park to enjoy one of America’s favorite pastimes, camping. The Texas Outdoor Family program returns this spring season and with an offering of 28 new camping workshops throughout the state. Toyota continues to be a proud sponsor of the program.

Are you interested in camping but not sure if your family will enjoy it enough for it to be worth the investment of purchasing the gear? Here is a chance to give it a try with no strings attached.

During the overnight TOF program, participants revisit or learn for the first time the skills that lead to a successful camping experience. To make it even easier, TPWD staff provide all of the camping essentials and lead a day’s worth of family-friendly activities.

Each program’s activities reflect each park’s unique amenities and natural resources. Events may include all or some of the following: kayaking, fishing, crafts, evening programs, nature photography and more. Also included in each TOF weekend is an introduction to the increasingly popular sport of geocaching.

“Geocaching is basically a high-tech scavenger hunt that anyone can be a part of,” said Robert Owen, a ranger with the TOF program. “Something called a cache is hidden in the park, frequently in a scenic area. Then, participants are provided with a set of coordinates and a GPS unit to lead them to the treasure. Both kids and parents alike love the adventure.”

The workshops cost $55 per family (up to six people), with the cost covering park entry, campsite rental, quality restrooms, professional park ranger-led programs and instruction, a family friendly environment, a specially designed curriculum tailored to each state park, a state park Junior Ranger certification program, and most importantly, all of the quality camping equipment needed for the night! All campers need to bring are sleeping bags or bedding, and food and drinks.

For each two-day workshop, participants receive in advance a checklist of what they need to bring, along with a suggested shopping and packing list for meals and personal items. Tents, lanterns and other camping items are provided. For further details visit the TOF website at or search for the “Texas Outdoor Family” on Facebook to see what other families are saying, and view the pictures from past events.

“We don’t limit the program to just nuclear families,” Owen noted. “As a result, the diversity that we’ve seen among our participants has been amazing. Camping is an experience that should be and can be enjoyed by anyone. ‘Family’ can be a relative word so we encourage groups of all sorts to join us. Extended families, groups of friends, scout groups, adults without children, and more are all welcomed.”

“There’s no experience or equipment necessary for these workshops,” added Chris Holmes, outdoor education coordinator for Texas state parks. “We know there are lots of folks out there who want to get back outdoors, get their kids away from the computer and television, and we’re simply here to provide the opportunity and a few tips along the way.”

Holmes says people who are apprehensive about taking their family into the outdoors for a camping trip will find this an excellent program. As one Texas Outdoor Family graduate said after attending the program at Brazos Bend State Park: “I personally had a fear of camping, but I truly had a great time! My kids also had a great time and didn’t want to leave! It was a fantastic family experience and we will definitely camp again.

The spring 2010 TOF workshop schedule includes several specially themed weekends centered around such activities as an introduction to fly-fishing, a two-night campout at Big Bend Ranch State Park and an introduction to Dutch oven cooking. Check the TOF Web site for more details.

Families can register by calling (512) 389-8903 between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. and speaking to a Texas Outdoor Family representative or by sending an e-mail to: After registration, a confirmation packet with details will be sent.