Horses on the Beach: Corpus Christi, Texas

After my recent trip to Texas, I successfully doubled the amount of times I’ve ridden a horse. Yep, you guessed it – I’ve gone horseback riding a whopping two times now!

Kettle Morraine Horseback 1

I took my first ride in the summer of 2012 with Dream A Horse in Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine State Park. My guide took me on a one-hour trail ride, which involved some slopes that felt scarier than they should have and plenty of branches to scratch me up along the way.

Kettle Morraine on horseback 2

Texas and horseback riding seemed to go hand-in-hand, so I was determined to “play cowgirl” when I set up camp down there for a couple weeks. There are a couple horseback riding options around Corpus Christi, but I settled on Horses on the Beach (clever name, right?). It was located near the Padre Island National Seashore, where I was camping, and it got decent customer reviews.

Horse instructions

I called ahead to reserve my spot for a 1 1/2 hour sunset ride, which came with a $65 price tag. I mean, how do you NOT choose the “sunset ride” over the “sunshine ride?”

Apparently, I wasn’t the only person who thought it would be fun to ride ride a horse along the Texas coast in the setting sun. There were about 20 other aspiring cowboys and cowgirls in my tour group, all with varying degrees of skill and experience. I’ll just say my confidence level was on par with that of the 10-year-old first-timer riding next to me. Unsurprisingly, the operation was a bit touristy, but horses seemed to be treated well.

Follow the leader

Based on my (lack of) experience and my height, I was paired up with a horse named Titus. While on the beach ride, I was amused to learn that Titus was famous. Our guide, Brennan Wells, told me how Titus was recently cast for a role in a local Western movie that was called something to the effect of “Red and Yellow to Kill a Fellow.”

Oddly enough, people are allowed to drive cars ON the beach in the most areas of the Padre Island National Seashore. This was a little disconcerting atop a horse.

Nervously holding the reins

On a somewhat related note, I run the blog for the adventure experience company, FunSherpa, and recently wrote an article about good places to go horseback riding and tips for first-timers. Now more than ever, I understand that I’ve got a lot to learn about horses before venturing to one of these destinations atop a horse. First of all, I need to learn how to relax, loosen my grip, and trust in the fact that people have been successfully getting around on these things for thousands of years.

Sun has set, cars drive on the beach

But for now, I’m simply pleased with myself for not falling off of Titus and not causing a majorly embarrassing scene on the beach. Perhaps my next ride will be a little more relaxing and little less nerve-racking. Or perhaps a little more secluded and a little less crowded. But it’ll be hard to beat the sound of waves rolling into the shore and the sight of birds soaring high above the gulf.

Titus and I on the beach

So this post goes out to Titus: my second riding partner, my little movie star, and the horse who gave me one of the most beautiful and memorable sunsets I’ve ever experienced.

Pre-Shutdown Weekend at Padre Island National Seashore

Tent site above the beach

Tent site above the beach

Undoubtedly, there are thousands of blog posts flying around in a political uproar over the federal government shutdown. Although there’s a political science degree hanging on my wall, this is not a political blog and it never will be.

But as I sit here on Shutdown Day 2, one particular closure hits close to home.

Sunset stroll

Sunset stroll


I spent last weekend at Padre Island National Seashore near Corpus Christi, Texas. I packed up for home on Monday, as scheduled, which happened to be the day before the Shutdown. I must admit I’m having a hard time believing that the beautiful place that I called home for four days is now barricaded and vacant.

Pavilion setup - #24

Pavilion setup – #24

I wish I could provide you with a link to the campground I stayed at, but as with all of the national parks, the Padre Island website has been replaced with this ominous closure message:

Due to the lapse in appropriated funds, all public lands managed by the Interior Department (National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, Bureau of Land Management facilities, etc.) will be closed. For more information, FAQs, and updates, please visit


Malaquite campground

Malaquite campground

So until those idiots pull their heads out of their asses, I guess you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Malaquite Campground is the main campground inside the national seashore boundaries, and it’s situated along the dunes of the Gulf of Mexico.

It’s a semi-primitive campground with fifty sites: eight are tent-only and twenty-six can accommodate RVs. You can’t make advance reservations here, so you have to take your chances and show up to see what’s available.

Sites cost $8 per night here, but you do have the “luxury” of flush toilets and cold-water pump showers. In actuality, these are the most luxurious campsites because the other camping areas have zilch for amenities.



The best place to kayak is Bird Island, but head to the windsurfing area and not the boat launch. You can put in anywhere along the shallow shore, and the waves are much calmer than over at Malaquite.

You can also camp over here at Bird Island, which has a couple pit toilets and a kayak rental shop, but not much else. Be prepared to shell out $5 at the front gate to do any of the above at Bird Island.

If you’re looking for a deal, you can camp for free at North Beach, but you’re pretty far from the facilities if you’re shy about pooping outside. It’s also totally acceptable to drive ON the beach, so your tent could very well come in contact with a Ford F-150.

Footsteps in sand

Footsteps in sand

When I asked a park ranger for hiking suggestions, I was reminded that there are seventy miles of undeveloped coastline to tread along. Silly me. Turns out, this was my favorite part of the park. The sand wasn’t too hot, the waves refreshing, the beaches uncrowded, and the water clean(ish).

Apparently, there are 380 species of birds here, but I can’t recall seeing more than four or five. You can find lots of crabs in the sand and along the shore here. They come in a variety of colors and sizes, and I even had the pleasure of chasing one of out of my shower with a flashlight!



There’s no denying that the mosquitoes were horrendous. Spray yourself with insect repellent ’til it seeps from your pores, but it won’t even make a difference. It’s also crazy windy here, especially when setting up a tent, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Rogue tree in the gulf

Rogue tree in the gulf

Padre Island National Seashore felt like one of the last undeveloped places of its kind. It could have easily turned into another Miami Beach, with sprawling hotels, cocktail bars, and tourist shops.

However, this place was a true example of nature at its finest. To me, there are few finer things in life than waking up on the sand to the sounds of crashing waves and the first rays of morning light.

Political commentary aside, I truly hope that this and the other national parks will be reopened soon so we can continue having these experiences and loving the good parts of our country.

Sunset on Padre Islanad

Sunset on Padre Islanad