Molly Hitchings

Garner State Park

Molly Hitchings
Garner State Park
  • Drive from Austin: 170 miles/ 2 hours 50 minutes
  • Where am I? Concan, TX - South of Austin
  • Hikes: Old Baldy. And many trails along the Rio Frio
  • Where to stop for groceries: Early... don't wait.

For two organized and schedule-oriented people, we were very unprepared for this trip.

One thing on Chris’ bucket list was to do a camping trip in a VW Bus. We have a friend, Montana, who owns a 1974 VW bus named Chuck. He let us borrow it for the weekend with a warning that it may break down a few times because that’s just what they do. It didn’t bother Chris as much as it did me, even though when Chris went to REI to grab some propane for the trip the bus didn’t start up when he was trying to leave... not a great sign. We had to call Montana who came to the rescue and showed Chris what the issue was. Chris then felt confident he could handle it from there. We hit the road after loading up the van on our long journey to Garner (the bus added about an hour to the drive due to not going over 60 mph, broke down once at a gas station, Chris fixed it).

We passed HEB after HEB always stating that “we would stop at the next store”...  That never happened and next thing we knew, we were approaching Garner, and fast. We found a grocery on google just outside the park, Johnnie’s Happy Hollow Grocery. The spot had great reviews and seemed to be a great outpost close by, so we decided that would be our stop. However, on this particular day, Johnnie’s happened to be closed.  Lesson learned. We were right at Garner and over 4 hours on the road at this point, hangry and annoyed that we hadn’t stopped prior to getting this far in.  We decided to go ahead and check in and set up camp. Worry about food later.

Garner is beautiful. We drove around a bit to get the lay of the land before finding our camping spot in the Rio Frio camping area. This site was water/electric and was pretty much one of the last ones available. We got lucky and found a nice quiet area with a nice view. Chris ran to the park store while I started to set up camp for the night. As I was setting up the tent, I looked down to see my foot and leg covered in fire ants. This just added on frustration and pain to our current situation. Chris came back empty handed and my feet were on fire. But he discovered there was a food truck on the property (I know right, we were surprised).

We were at the point of being defeated because nothing was going as smooth as it usually does. We proceeded to finish setting up camp and headed to go get some food from the truck. We remembered we had saw a small grocery back up North in a town called Leaky. We hit the road back to Leaky and found the small grocery. They don’t have a huge variety, but they had enough for us to get by on the trip and at this point we couldn’t be picky (there is also a liquor store right next door to the grocery too, we took advantage of that). Everyone in Leaky was very nice and they absolutely got a kick out the the VW Bus. It made our mood a bit better and after stocking up we headed back to Garner with our spirits a little higher.

In a more positive light, Garner is great. The camping spots are nice, the hikes are good, Old Baldy at sunrise is quite the view, and the river (Rio Frio) is very pretty. We recommend staying in the camping spots closer to the hiking trailheads, around Pecan Grove. There's also a general store on site with supplies, a mini putt putt course, and a good burger food truck