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Support your parks: take the kids and visit

Bastrop State Park cabin area (Scarborough photo)We just returned from a quick weekend trip (along with the grandparents) to see one of the most unique and wonderful state parks in Texas — Bastrop State Park, about 30 miles southeast of Austin.

It’s hard to beat a place with pine trees, ponds, a golf course, an orienteering course and a pool.

Many of the amenities don’t get much of a workout in December, but we still enjoyed our stay.

The highlight was our 1930s-era stone and log cabin, one of many in the park that were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. CCC was one of the Federal government’s New Deal recovery programs during the Great Depression. They were also called “Roosevelt’s Tree Army.” The Corps put hundreds of thousands of young men to work improving municipal, county, state and national parks all over the United States.

Their projects are sturdily enduring examples of construction craftsmanship in our natural areas; many of the CCC buildings are still with us today, to be enjoyed by your family.

Examples include the Painted Desert Inn in Arizona’s Petrified National Forest, Mather Lodge in Arkansas’ Petit Jean State Park, White Pines Park near Chicago and the Myakka cabins in Florida. Go to your state park Web site and search for “CCC” to find out whether there are any near your home.

We loved our little cabin in Bastrop, with its Hobbit-like doors and windows, a teensy kitchenette (small fridge, microwave and 2-burner stovetop,) beamed ceilings, simple furniture and yes, a combo air conditioner/heater to keep us comfortable in any weather.

Carved log mantel, Sam Houston cabin, Bastrop State ParkThere was a nice fireplace with a big log mantel, and we lit a fire in the evening to make S’mores and another fire in the morning to enjoy while eating breakfast.

All of the cabins have sayings carved into their mantels: my favorite one is pictured, “Old friends are best.”

Our family combined the park visit with a stop at a cut-your-own Christmas tree farm, so now we have happy camping cabin memories and our house’s Christmas tree. Pretty good haul for a cold December weekend.