Day Trips & Beyond: Mid-September Travel Updates

Travel news from around Texas and beyond

Finding ways to travel and stay safe during the pandemic requires looking beyond the crowds. Private and small-group tours offer some protection.

Nahla was found wandering the streets of Conroe before TWAS-TX was given custody of the large tiger. Founded in 1988 as the Texas Exotic Feline Foundation in Boyd, the organization changed its name to The Wild Animal Sanctuary-Texas in May, but continues to care for rescued wild animals. (Courtesy TWAS-TX)

In 1998 I visited the Texas Exotic Feline Foundation (TEFF) outside of Boyd in North Central Texas. As my niece, who was around 10 years old and small for her age, walked past the enclosures, the big cats slowly stalked her with an intense gaze. She decided to skip the rest of the tour and wait for us in the gift shop. Fast-forward 22 years later and the nonprofit animal sanctuary is still giving abused and neglected wild animals a safe forever home. In May the 32-year-old organization joined with two accredited sanctuaries in Colorado to become The Wild Animal Sanctuary-Texas. This will be the fourth name change for the sanctuary, but the mission has remained to protect captive wildlife. Within the 41-acre facility are 70 lions, tigers, bears, wolves, and other rescued animals. The animals’ stories before coming to the refuge can be heartbreaking. There is a tiger that was found wandering the streets of Conroe. Two bear cubs arrived after their mother was shot protecting them. The sanctuary is no longer open to the public, but is open one weekend a month to active supporters who donate more than $200 per year. This is a pretty good deal for animal lovers and the animals. The animals get the financial support they need, and active supporters get into the sanctuary for free up to four times a year and can bring up to three guests.

Travis County’s Hamilton Pool Preserve has reopened to hikers. Swimming in the natural waterfall-fed pool remains off limits until further notice. The trail to the Pedernales River also remains closed. Visitors to the park southwest of Austin will be required to make a reservation for morning or afternoon time periods in September. Time slots for October or later are not yet available. It is highly recommended that guests wear face coverings, maintain social distancing when possible, and bring their own hand sanitizer. There is no potable water available at the preserve. Admission is $12 per vehicle and is due at the time the reservation is made. For the most current status of the park, call the information hotline at 512/264-2740.

The Great Storm Memorial on the Galveston Seawall at 47th Street was done by Houston artist David Moore to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the hurricane of 1900. This winter and spring Dr. “Hurricane Hal” Needham takes visitors on a private tour of Galveston’s historic weather sites. (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

Galveston was hit by the deadliest natural disaster 120 years ago this month. The Great Storm of 1900 killed between 6,000 and 10,000 people along the Texas coast and left a watermark on the island city that can be seen today if you know where to look. This winter and spring you can take a private guided tour with Dr. “Hurricane Hal” Needham, a hurricane scientist and storm chaser, to get the behind-the-scenes story of that fateful event. The Galveston Hurricane Tour goes to sites around town that illustrate the impact of the storm. The tours are by reservation only, limited to small groups, last around 90 minutes, and cost $30 per person.

A friend recently returned from visiting family in Missouri and commented that there were no statewide rules on wearing face coverings, social distancing, or size of gatherings. In lieu of state guidelines, each town was free to create their own procedures, creating a confusing checkerboard of regulations. Without a coherent national policy on a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, states and towns are left to their own devices in establishing, or not, responses to this contagious virus. To fill the gap of a lack of a national database of state rules on travelers, InsureMyTrip has put together a list of state restrictions and safety measures as of Sept. 2. For instance, Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma have no restriction for out-of-state travelers, while New Mexico requires all travelers to quarantine for 14 days or for the length of their stay, whichever is shorter. Regardless of the local regulations, my friend who visited Missouri, a former physician, recommends that whenever you’re traveling, wear a face mask when in public spaces, maintain a social distance as much as possible, and use the free hand sanitizer or better yet, bring your own.

One result of the coronavirus pandemic is the growing number of used personal protective equipment (PPE) found littering the roadways and parking lots, according to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). In response to this unsightly and disgusting new phenomenon, TxDOT has created public service announcements with Matthew McConaughey, George Strait, Eva Longoria, and others urging Texans to clean up their act by properly disposing of used PPE. To show your support for keeping Texas litter-free, purchase a “Don’t mess with Texas” reusable face mask.

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Gerald McLeod has been traveling around Texas and beyond for his "Day Trips" column for more than 25 years. Keep up to date with his journeys on his archive page.

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Day Trips, coronavirus, COVID-19, Texas Exotic Feline Foundation, The Wild Animal Sanctuary-Texas, Hamilton Pool Preserve, Great Storm of 1900, Galveston, Dr. Hurricane Hal Needham, Galveston Hurricane Tour, InsureMyTrip, Texas Department of Transportation, Don't mess with Texas

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