Padre Island: Drive it Like You Stole it

A marine shipping container; double-click to enlarge.

A marine shipping container; double-click to enlarge.

Padre is an island off the southern tip of Texas.  I set up camp a half mile down the beach and went into town for dinner.  Returning in the dark, I opened my tent to find the interior covered in sand thanks to a strong wind from the Gulf.  This became a hallmark of Padre camping:  nothing could stop the sand.

Early the next morning, I met an older man who had visited Padre several decades prior.  He said that the island and the resort town 15 miles inland were far nicer now than they were back then.  The ranger told me that since I drove in after hours, I could pay on my way out – whenever that happened to be.  Our conversation convinced me to drive the entire length of the beach, 60 miles – few people go that far, etc.

Sunrise on Padre Island. Double-click to enlarge.

Sunrise on Padre Island. Double-click to enlarge.

Padre’s beach resembled a garbage dump.  All manner of junk washes in from far-away parts of the world.   Lumber (with nails, of course), decomposed animals, medical waste, giant shipping containers, crates, buckets, furniture, plastic bottles, balloons, tropical fruits, and dead trees were strewn across the entire 60 miles of shoreline.  The key in camping was to find a clean patch of sand surrounded by only harmless trash, not the disgusting stuff.

A sign warned that four-wheel drive was henceforth mandatory, and that many hazards were present.  A rising tide and prevailing trash deposits led me to set a course close to the dunes in soft sand.  The tires cut a 3-inch deep track as I slalomed through at 15-20 mph, the engine growling in a pleasingly deep pitch.  This was great fun, and as advertised I saw very few people.

Sunset near mile post 54. Double-click to enlarge.

Sunset near mile post 54. Double-click to enlarge.

Upon reaching the southern tip of the island, I met a man and his son who were camping there while Mom and daughters had a “girls’ night out.”  In an extremely rare event, I turned down their fajitas in the interest of setting up my own camp before dark.

The return drive the next morning was cake.  With a fallen tide, I cruised the shoreline a few feet from the waves at 30 mph with pelicans and shore birds out in force.  As I left, the friendly woman staffing the ranger station turned down my attempt to pay.  “That’s a nice gesture,” she said, but it’s not necessary.”

Additional photos below.

Double-click to enlarge.

Double-click to enlarge.

A lost buoy. The circular top is about 7 feet in diameter. Double click to enlarge.

A lost buoy. The circular top is about 7 feet in diameter. Double click to enlarge.

The "backcountry" campsite near mile post 54. Double click to enlarge.

The “backcountry” campsite near mile post 54. Double click to enlarge.

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About Jerry
Working in Corporate America for many years, I wanted to break free of the office walls for a bit and explore the world. Having put the pieces in place, I am first exploring the USA by road. Colleagues and friends expressed interest in my travels, giving rise to Office Escape. It is my honor to share my adventures.

2 Responses to Padre Island: Drive it Like You Stole it

  1. TBM says:

    I remember in college this was a popular destination during spring break, but I still haven’t been there. Will add it to my list.

    • Jerry says:

      If I were doing it again I would check ahead on the dates (twice yearly) that volunteers clear the beach of trash. The trash on Padre is truly epic. Sorry about the tardy response. Safe travels.

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