I’ve been exploring Texas state parks since I was a little sprout. I’ve got memories of running from a snake in the river at Pedernales Falls, catching a tiny fish with a bit of American cheese at Inks Lake, celebrating my birthday at McKinney Falls, sliding down hills covered with pine needles at Bastrop State Park and leaping off a rope swing at Garner State Park.
Someday, I’m going to fulfill my goal of visiting every last one, which is why I fell in love with a tracking map made by woodworker Julia Simmonds in Fort Worth.
I discovered the map a few months ago, while helping Chet Garner of the PBS series “The Daytripper” judge the Texas Works awards competition. The competition featured cool Texas-made stuff, from engraved spurs to bourbon, ice cream to dog shampoo. (You can see the winning products at https://www.texas.works/awards).
Simmonds started by making a national park map last year. Someone suggested making a Texas parks-themed one, and she went for it. Since Texas has so many parks, she thought it would take forever. Then the pandemic hit, and Simmonds had a lot of time on her hands.
The wooden boards come with a packet of tacks, so you can mark places that you’ve visited. They also feature a small, hand-drawn design to represent each place – a big tree represents Goose Island, for example, and a Native American figure represents Seminole Canyon.
Unlike me, Simmonds didn’t grow up pitching tents and cooking over a camp stove. Neither did her husband. “It’s just not anything we did,” she says. “I’m a late bloomer when it comes to camping.”
But woodworking runs in Simmonds’ family. Her grandfather was a skilled carpenter, and her father is a lumber salesman. “I was often with dad in the garage, just poking around getting in trouble,” she says.
Most of her boards are made of white pine, which is native to Texas. They sell for $35 to $180, depending on size. (I want the 12-inch by 17-inch one for $55.) Check out her website at https://www.etsy.com/shop/FrancesAndTheFir.