I Had No Idea Texas was Beautiful–then Covid Forced Me to Camp Across the State

Boston, Santa Cruz, Minneapolis, Western Australia…I’ve interned at these places with the explicit goal of not being in Texas in the summer. Don’t get me wrong, Texas is my home state and I love it. But consistent 100+ degree weather? Not so much.

If I had an office job, then maybe I could manage. But as an ecological field technician, my office is the outdoors and my desk chair is the occasional flat rock. So, I consider it a reasonable endeavor to flee Texas every summer.

It was for this reason that at 21, I somehow didn’t realize just how beautiful Texas is. It took a whole pandemic for me to open my eyes.

The summer of 2020 no internships were hiring. We were fresh into a pandemic and no one quite knew what that meant or how long it would last. So, instead of an internship in France, I was faced with a volunteer position. Two weeks of primitive camping (read: no AC) in the literal oven that is Texas.


Everything I’ve described is true. I was incredibly bummed that my summer plans had been cancelled and I was apprehensive of working outdoors in the Texas summer. But there were two saving graces.

  1. At least I had an internship. A team of 3 in an outdoor setting posed little Covid risk.
  2. The field leader was my beloved and trusted mentor. Two weeks with her? It was almost too good to be true.

But when I actually began the internship, the pros continued adding up! Here’s some amazing things I learned and experienced through this initially unwanted internship.

My Home State is Beautiful!

My last semester of college, I became friends with a French exchange student. One of the first things I asked her was what she thought of all the touristy areas.

She had never been to the Eiffel Tower.

It seemed an impossibility. How could she not have been to the Eiffel Tower. It was a four hour drive for her!

But don’t we all take for granted the tourist attractions in our neighborhoods?

People travel to San Antonio for Six Flags and the Alamo. But in the ten years my family has lived here, I haven’t gone once.

And so, perhaps it’s not surprising that while I’ve camped extensively across California and Western Australia, I had never camped in Texas.

After all, California has the redwoods. Australia has the fairywrens (the most beautiful birds I’ve ever seen, pics). What did Texas have to offer?

Texas is beautiful.

Scrubby and hilly, it has an unappreciated beauty. If you look past the spikes of the cacti, you find flowers. If you make it to the top of the craggy hill, you find a spectacular sunset. And always, always the birds sing.

A Chuck-will’s-widow was both my lullaby and wake-up alarm, sending me to sleeping bag and calling me from it with it’s ethereal tone.

Exclusive Access to Texas Private Property

You’ve probably heard of southern hospitality. A warm, nice feeling characterized by the smell of fresh-baked cornbread and brisket. You’ve probably also heard that this hospitality isn’t really for everyone. And if there’s one thing Texans hold as a golden rule it’s “Do not trespass on my property, or else.”

That puts 99% of Texas off limits. On this internship, a small percentage of that opened up.

Exhibit A: A new neighborhood in development along the Frio River.

Swimming in the Frio River is a common Texas summer pastime, but to have the entire portion of the river to yourself? The gentle lapping of the river, the cheerful songs of birds, and no screaming kids? That’s next level.

By this point, much of this pristine habitat has been destroyed for new homes. Thankfully, large parts of the river are protected and open for public recreation. It’s definitely worth a visit! (Texas Highways has a great post on what the river has to offer)

Exhibit B: The Dogs

Not only did we have access to Texan’s coveted private property, but we had access to their dogs! They loved the attention and we loved the cuddles.

A Cured Soul

Though I know people who really loved the whole stay-at-home quarantine life, I was not among them. In the dramaticness of youth, I legitimately felt that my life was over. When the pandemic first started, most of my friends left for home to finish the semester. I stayed behind in the stubborn hope that I could finish a research project. But living all quickly became emotionally unfeasible.

I was still reeling from these losses when the internship started. But in the field one forgets those things. There is a shared deliriousness that comes from a mix of exhaustion and lack of access to the news. Without reception and without contact with the outside world, the pandemic and the losses it had caused faded away. It was just me, two friends, and beauty.

I have learned not to neglect the beauty of my own backyard. Is there a tourist attraction in your own neighborhood that you’ve never visited? Go check it out this weekend!

Though this was a volunteer position, I received funding from a separate source. Check my previous article out for how to score FREE travel as an undergrad. You can also read more about my trip on the Texas A&M Honors Blog.

Come back next week for a blog post on traveling as a seasonal field technician. Subscribe so you don’t miss it!


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