My camping experience began and ended the summer before fourth grade, at a Girl Scout retreat in Palestine. The breaking point was the latrines, glorified outhouses that were infested with daddy longlegs. There was no amount of swimming or horseback riding that could make spider-toilets acceptable to me, so my camping days were done.
Or so I thought: My fiancé loves to camp, and I held him off for nearly three years using my patented method of hiding all the camping gear in the back of the closet and casually responding, “Yeah, we should do that sometime,” whenever he mentioned a weekend in the woods. I trusted his lack of follow-through to get me to our silver anniversary without ever seeing the inside of a tent. I was wrong.
Still, it turns out camping does not have to mean roughing it. Daingerfield State Park in far north East Texas has four cabins—one is technically a group lodge that sleeps 15—situated on a bluff, with a view through the pines over the park’s namesake central lake.
Each cabin is equipped with air-conditioning, a fridge, a stove, a modest bathroom and even a coffee maker, making it feel like staying at a relative’s country house, quilts and all.
But the cabins are popular, and as there are only a handful of them, they book up early, so we had to spend night two at a campsite. Though the grill was more primitive, the serene views of the lake from 30 paces were incomparable.
Like almost every campsite at Daingerfield, ours included electric and water hookups, which meant that I spent the evening watching downloaded movies and listening to music playlists on my tablet instead of staring into the campfire.
The upgraded amenities are the result of a $5 million renovation to the park completed in 2011.
Among the improvements are a new boat dock with canoe and paddleboat rentals and the Little Pines General Store, which sells snacks, ice and firewood so that you never have to leave the park.
Most importantly, no campsite is now more than a three-minute walk to one of a trio of modern restroom structures.
When a day in the woods starts with a hot shower, even devoted urbanites might find themselves volunteering for a walk on the trails around the lake, or going for a swim, or just watching the sun set in a blaze of glory through the pines.