Bike, paddle, climb and more at REI Fit City Campout

Participants in last year’s annual REI campout ride mountain bikes. This year, REI is teaming with the Lower Colorado River Authority and Fit City to put on the Fit City Campout on April 28-29. Photo courtesy REI

I prefer a sleeping bag in a tent to high threadcount sheets at a fancy hotel, especially when I can roll out of that tent the next morning, jump into a river or go for a run. And eat a yummy breakfast.

RELATED: Cap10K to hand out medals in 2018

That’s all on tap at the upcoming Fit City Campout, set for April 28-29 in Johnson City.

Fit City is partnering with REI and the Lower Colorado River Authority to put on the campout at Pedernales River Nature Park in Johnson City, a 220-acre piece of Hill Country heaven about an hour’s drive northwest of Austin.

We’re planning an entire day of fun, outdoorsy stuff (my fave!), from guided mountain bike rides, kayaking, rafting, standup paddleboarding and rock climbing to fishing, hiking and swimming. We’ll have star gazing Saturday night, and I’m going to lead a (non-competitive) 5K trail run Sunday morning, too.

RELATED: Fit City declares her Year of Adventure

Lots of local companies are getting involved, including Kammok, which will set up a hammock lounge in the trees near the river, and PackIt Gourmet, which will serve up some of its backpacker’s breakfasts on Sunday morning. Subaru is providing dinner on Saturday, and we’ll have live music and s’mores around the campfire, too.

The family friendly REI Fit City campout is set for April 28-29 at Pedernales River Nature Park in Johnson City. Photo courtesy REI

Never camped before? Not a problem. The event is designed to help you get comfortable pitching a tent, setting up camp and diving into some cool outdoor activities. My motto has long been “get your hair wet,” and by that I mean don’t sit on the sidelines and watch everyone else have fun. This is your time to have fun, too.

Gear for the activities will be provided; participants must bring their own tents, coolers and camping supplies, including sleeping bags, pads and pillows.

REI traditionally hosts a campout each spring. This marks the first time the Austin store has partnered with other companies to put it on.

“The primary goal has always been to give multi-faceted time outdoors and a good introduction to camping confidently, even for people who have not had previous experience,” says Ivey Kaiser, outdoor programs and outreach market coordinator at REI in Austin.

Pedernales River Nature Park is one of more than 40 parks that LCRA operates along more than 600 miles of the Colorado River between the Hill Country and Matagorda Bay.

“This is a rare chance to spend the night in a park that is normally open for day visitors only,” says Drew Pickle, manager of business and product development at LCRA. “I’m looking forward to paddling, campfire cooking, and listening to some live music at the campout with other folks who enjoy being in the outdoors.”

The campout kicks off at 10 a.m. Saturday April 28 and finishes at 10 a.m. Sunday. Cost is $79 per REI member ($89 for non-members). Kids 6 and under are free. Registration includes all activities, plus dinner provided by Subaru on Saturday and breakfast from PackIt Gourmet on Sunday. Sign up here.

“It is going to be a beautiful setting next to the Pedernales River, with lots of options for activities and relaxation as well. It’s a great opportunity to reconnect with family or have some downtime in a pristine Hill Country environment,” Kaiser said.

Can you swim today? Check website for status of Barton Creek Greenbelt swimming holes

The water is less than 2 feet deep at Gus Fruh Pool this week. Photo by Addie Broyles/American-Statesman

Thinking about heading to the Barton Creek Greenbelt, but unsure if recent rains have filled your favorite swimming hole?

A website created by a former University of Texas student provides current water depth and flow rate information for eight popular natural pools along the creek, where people flock each summer to cool their heels.

The webpage gives information about water depth and water flow rates for eight popular spots on the Barton Creek Greenbelt.

“People like that it’s a quick way to check if there’s enough water to swim,” says Serena Nguyen, who created the website as a final project for a coding bootcamp she took at the University of Texas.

Nguyen loves to hang out with friends on the Greenbelt, and came up with the project idea after hiking there one day, only to find out her favorite swim spot had gone dry. pulls data from the U.S. Geological Survey website, which is updated automatically every few minutes. You can check the status of eight popular swimming spots, including Gus Fruh, Twin Falls and Sculpture Falls.

Because the pools are irregularly shaped and there is not a USGS measuring station at each location, the measurements may not be exact. Still, they give hikers a general idea of swimming conditions.

The website, which went live in June 2017, also gives the temperature and current weather conditions.

A recent check showed that the water is 1.67 feet deep at Gus Fruh Pool on the Greenbelt, and flow is 1.84 cubic feet per second, less than ideal swimming conditions.

The website does more than let you know how your favorite swimming holes are faring.

It got Nguyen, 24, a job. Thanks to the bootcamp project, she now works as a web developer for Mutual Mobile, a downtown tech agency.

Pool at Bastrop State Park closes for major renovation

The pool at Bastrop State Park has closed for a major renovation. Photo courtesy Bastrop State Park


Don’t expect to dip a toe in the swimming pool at Bastrop State Park this summer.

The pool, which opened in 1937 and was last renovated 20 years ago, has closed for a major renovation and will remain shuttered all summer.

In recent seasons, officials had to make temporary fixes to leaks and broken mechanical equipment at the pool. Officials say a major remodel was needed to keep the facility operating. Crews will resurface all three sections of the pool and install new plumbing, pumps, filters and chemical systems.

SITE: Five refreshing swimming holes that aren’t Barton Creek

“We came to a point where a significant project had to be undertaken to keep the facility in operation,” Jamie Creacy, superintendent of Bastrop State Park, said in a press release. “We look forward to having swimmers back in an efficient and modernized pool facility that the community will be proud of.”

Teens take a dive in the pool at Bastrop State Park at the monthly Splash Bash on June 16, 2016. CONTRIBUTED

The rest of the park will be open as usual.

The Bastrop YMCA has managed the pool for the past six seasons, offering swim lessons, summer day camps and community events. With the pool closure, Bastrop YMCA members will get free day-use entry to Bastrop State Park from Memorial Day to Labor Day; free entry to all YMCA of Austin facilities and pools during that same time period; free entry into the East Metro park pool in Manor; and swim lessons at the Cub Scout Pool at the Lost Pines Boy Scout Camp during the month of July, according to a press release.

The Bastrop YMCA will also offer youth, family and health and wellness classes, including summer camp at Bastrop Church of Christ for children ages 5-12 and summer youth sports leagues in July and August. The club will also unveil a new Aire Fitness outdoor gym at Fisherman’s Park, with outdoor fitness classes that are free for YMCA members and available to the community for a per class fee.

“We understand the challenge of not having access to a pool during the summer, but we’re committed to providing Bastrop County residents a variety of fun, healthy and engaging experiences that will keep them active while still helping to beat the heat,” said Terry Moore, executive director of the Bastrop YMCA.

Join former race champs at Cap10K warmup run Saturday

Runners in the Statesman Cap10K stream across the Congress Avenue Bridge during the 2017 race. RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Want to run with the folks who will contend for title of this year’s Statesman Cap10K champion?

Meet in the Austin American-Statesman west parking lot, 305 S. Congress Avenue, to run with former race winners and members of the women’s and men’s elite field at 8 a.m. Saturday.

RELATED: Austin woman headed to her 40th Cap10K

The athletes will be introduced, and you’ll have a chance to ask them for race tips and advice before heading out on an out-and-back run up Congress Avenue toward the University of Texas.

Parking is free. Refreshments, a photo backdrop and more will take place after the run.

For more information go here.

Want to run naked? Head to Star Ranch for Bare Buns 5K

A runner participates in the 5k Bare  Buns Run on Saturday, April 8, 2017, at the Star Ranch in McDade, Texas.Catalin Abagiu for AMERICAN-STATESMAN


A year ago this month, I peeled off my clothes and ran a naked 5K race, just to see what it would feel like.

It felt great.

The most awkward moment came when I initially removed my clothing. After that, it was just running as usual as I scampered over pine needle-covered hills, sandy expanses and a hay field. I wore running shoes and a straw cowboy hat, which blew off my head at one point.

RELATED: What’s it like to run a naked 5K? Fit City finds out

Although runners can wear whatever clothing they want (sports bras for women, for example), most go nude except for shoes. Last year’s race drew about 120 runners, most of whom didn’t live at the park. The residents were enthusiastic, though, handing out timing chips and directing athletes along the course. Afterward, everyone gathered by the newly-renovated swimming pool for a celebration and burger cookoff.

This year’s Bare Buns 5K Fun Run is set for April 14 at the Star Ranch Nudist Resort in McDade, a private residential community that opened in 1957 in McDade, east of Elgin.

Runners line up for the start of the Bare Buns 5K at Star Ranch in 2017. Photo by Catalin Abagiu for AMERICAN-STATESMAN


The resort is member resort of the American Association for Nude Recreation. The Bare Buns 5K is part of a series of naked races in the organization’s southwest region. This year, for the first time, Star Ranch will also host the closing race in the series – the Fall Bare Buns Fun Run on Oct. 13.

The chip-timed race starts at 1 p.m. A 1K kids fun run is set for 10 a.m. Entry fee is $35 for adults. Sign up online at Registration fee includes a T-shirt and goodie bag. Margie’s Nekkid Cafe will serve food beginning at 8:30 a.m. Refreshments will be available at the pool, with burgers starting at 2:30 p.m.

For more information, contact the Star Ranch office at 512-273-2257, go to or email

The best way to celebrate spring? Run the Cap10K, of course!

Bobbi Jo Chapman runs in a Rubix cube in the 40th Annual Austin American-Statesman Capitol 10,000 in 2017.


Have you registered for this year’s Statesman Cap10K?

On April 8, the largest 10K in Texas will snake up Congress Avenue, head west toward the big hill on Enfield Road, swing south near MoPac, then fold back along East Cesar Chavez Street.

If you’ve done it before, you know it’s much more than a run – it’s a rolling party. Costumes are encouraged, fans cheer on family and friends, and somebody along the route always tries to tempt participants by shoving a tray of doughnuts or bacon under their noses as they stream past.

Samuel Sydney, left and Sanjuanita Zavala race to the end of the race in the 40th Annual Austin American-Statesman in 2017.

As of Monday, roughly 20,000 people had registered for this year’s run. That’s about 1,000 people ahead of registration at this time last year. Race organizers hope to top off at 22,000.

The finish line festival will feature the circus-themed party band Electric Circus, followed by The Matt Wilson Band, which plays soul, R&B, rock, blues, funk and gospel.

Chavelo Jimenez Jr celebrates as he crosses the finish line of the 2017 Statesman Capitol 10,000.

The first Cap10K took place on March 12, 1978. Eight hundred runners were expected; 3,400 registered.

The crowd grew steadily in subsequent years. At its largest, 28,341 people registered for the run on March 29, 1987. Anyone who ran that year certainly remembers it: Temperatures hovered around 33 degrees and sleet fell.

Today the race ranks as the seventh largest 10K in the country.

Thinking of joining the fun? Registration is $50 for adults or $35 for ages 10 and under. (Prices increase next Tuesday). To register, go here.

Jacob Burzynski as Spiderman pose for a photo in the 2017 Statesman Capitol 10,000.

Like running and beer? Try the Brewery Running Series

The Brewery Running Series moves to Southern Heights Brewing Co. this weekend. Photo by Jo Huang

Imagine a foot race where nobody really cared about pace. You simply trotted 5K through a neighborhood, getting to know a new part of Austin, then someone handed you a beer while a band played live music.

That’s the Texas Brewery Running Series, and this week’s race is set for 11 a.m. Saturday at Southern Heights Brewing Co., 6014 Techni Center Drive.

At the end of every run, participants get a free beer. Jo Huang/Brewery Running Series

The series started in Minnesota in 2012. Founders Nate Herrington and Morgan Jappe wanted to combine their favorite things – being active, drinking beer and supporting their community, so they organized a series of casual runs at local breweries.

RELATED: Ride the wave to NLand Surf Park’s new brewery

Gabbi Lindgren participated in the races when she lived in Minnesota, and missed them when she moved to Texas four years ago. She reached out to organizers, who agreed to help her launch the series in Austin last years. The races started small, but have grown to draw between 80 and 100 runners each.

The key, she says, is keeping them small and friendly.

The series started in Minnesota and branched out to Austin in 2017. Photo by Jo Huang

“It’s a really simple, fun idea,” says Lindgren, founder of the Texas edition of the Brewery Running Series. “Our motto is ‘Be active, have fun and give back.’ People come and do the 5K, and afterward everyone drinks beer.”

Ten percent of proceeds are donated to a local charity of the brewery’s choosing.

“A lot of people get this idea of running a 5K, and they’re not sure they can do it,” Lindgren says. “This is casual and non-intimidating – and you get to drink a beer at the end.”

RELATED: At Urban Axes, drink beer, throw sharp objects

The 2018 series started in February, and races have already taken place at 4th Tap Brewing Cooperative, Hops & Grain Brewery and Black Star Co-Op. Plenty of opportunities to run and drink beer remain.

Here’s the rest of the schedule:

  • April 7, Adelbert’s Brewery
  • April 14, Celis Brewery
  • April 21, Meridian Hive Meadery
  • May 5, Oskar Blues
  • May 19, Friends & Allies Brewing

Registration is $30 in advance or on site the day of the event. For more information, go here.

The course is open; roads are not blocked to traffic. Runners must obey all traffic laws. Volunteers will help direct athletes. Bring a valid ID or driver’s license. Registered runners age 21 and up get a free beer. Those who are under 21 get a free non-alcoholic beverage.

Check out these free fitness classes inside a book store

Laura Merkel of Dance Waterloo will lead a free fitness class at Recycled Reads Photo courtesy Dance Waterloo


Add this to the list of free fitness opportunities around Austin – classes from Dance Waterloo, designed to improve your base fitness and alignment.

The What the Fit?! classes (fitness is better than cussing, we agree) combine techniques used in yoga, restorative yoga, Pilates and Barre classes. They take place inside a store that sells used books, which (we think) makes it even cooler. And they’re taught by Laura Merkel, who mashes up a blend of yoga, Pilates and barre techniques in the sessions. It’s an all-body workout, but each week she turns the focus to strengthening and stretching a separate area.

“It’s super fun,” she says.

Laura Merkel

The classes take place at 1:30 p.m. Saturdays at the Austin Public Library’s Recycled Reads Bookstore, 5335 Burnet Road. The March 24 class will focus on hips, the March 31 class on shoulders, the April 14 class on core and the April 21 class on spine. No class is scheduled for April 7.

The classes are open to all ages, levels and abilities. Bring a yoga mat, a towel and water. Thera-Bands, support blocks and yoga straps will be provided. The classes are free, but RSVP in advance here.

The small, Austin-based dance company offers performances and classes in public spaces. The lineup includes a dance-making class that combines story telling and activities for families with young children, a dance in public spaces class, and a modern dance class at Mueller Park.

“We’re trying to use either underutilized or under-appreciated spaces. The idea is to bring dance, fitness and education to people instead of making them come to us,” Merkel says. “All of our programming and performances are either free or pay what you can. We’re really trying to make dance accessible to everyone.”

Waterloo Dance’s classes are all free or pay what you can. Photo courtesy Dance Waterloo

The group’s next performance will take place in May on the patio behind Epoch Coffee in the Village Shopping Center, 2700 West Anderson Lane.

Dance Waterloo is part of the Austin Creative Alliance. The classes are funded in part by a grant from the City of Austin Cultural Arts Division. For more information about Dance Waterloo, go here.

Five fun spring events to get you outside and moving

Corrects date of Science of Sports exhibit to April 14.


Have you stepped outside, people? Do it, now. And check out these upcoming events, all of them either set outdoors or celebrating the outdoors.

1. Run through a working organic garden at Johnson’s Backyard Garden Spring Picnic and 5k Garden Gallop on March 31. From 11 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., enjoy picnicking, the run, music by Johnny Nicholas, Scrappy Judd and Oscar Ornelas, plus an egg hunt, arts and crafts and a sand pile for the kids. The farm is located on the banks of the river at 4008 River Road in Garfield. Bring your own blanket. Tickets are $5; free for kids under 12. For more information and tickets, go here.

Enjoy an array of outdoor yoga classes at Whole Lotta Yoga Austin on March 24. Photo courtesy Austin Fit.

2. Practice your downward dog and more at Whole Lotta Yoga Austin from 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. March 24 at Pease Park, 11 Kingsbury Street. Join Onnit, Austin Fit Magazine and instructors from local yoga studios at the one-day yoga festival benefiting the Pease Park Conservancy and the Whole Planet Foundation. Six different 30-minute classes will be offered, plus smaller group dance and acro yoga workshops and a vendor expo. A $20 donation gets you into all the classes and workshop. For more information go here.

Catch a free screening of “Dirtbag: The Legend of Fred Beckey,” at the Austin Bouldering Project on March 24. Photo courtesy Patagonia.

3. Celebrate the original dirtbag with a free screening of “Dirtbag: The Legend of Fred Beckey,” at 7 p.m. March 24 at Austin Bouldering Project, 979 Springdale Road. The documentary film follows the first ascents and other exploits of old-school, “dirtbag” mountaineer Fred Beckey, who died last year at age 94. Snacks and drinks available, plus a chance to win a pair of new climbing pants.

The Trail Foundation celebrates its 15th birthday with a party on April 7. Photo courtesy The Trail Foundation

4. How about an outdoor birthday bash? Enjoy refreshments, live entertainment, cake, children’s activities, yoga and giveaways at the Trail Foundation’s 15th birthday party. The free, family-friendly celebration of the non-profit organization that works to protect and enhance the Butler Hike and Bike Trail along Lady Bird Lake starts at 10 a.m. and wraps up at 2 p.m. at Festival Beach, 2101 East Segovia Street. Bring your own blanket. Dogs on leashes welcome. For more information go here.

The Science Mill hosts a Science of Sports event on April 22. Photo courtesy The Science Mill

5. Learn more about what makes our bodies tick at the Science of Sports exhibit at the Science Mill in Johnson City on April 14. Visitors can test their balance, measure reflexes, improve focus and more at eight stations designed to foster a better understanding of the scientific principles behind movement. The stations will be open from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. The museum stays open until 4 p.m. Admission is $10 per adult, $8.50 ages 3-18, $8 for seniors and military, and free ages 2 and under. The Science Mill is located at 101 S. Lady Bird Lane in Johnson City. For more information go here.

Austin runner shatters personal record, hopes to encourage others with Down Syndrome

Kayleigh Williamson dances at the finish line of the Austin Half Marathon. Photo courtesy Sandy Williamson

An Austin runner who in 2017 became the first woman with Down Syndrome to complete the Austin Half Marathon shaved an hour and 45 minutes off her finish time this year.

Kayleigh Williamson danced happily as she crossed the finish line of Sunday’s 13.1-mile race. Then she and her mother celebrated with a burger and fries.

“She did amazing. It’s hard for me to put it into words,” said Sandy Williamson, Kayleigh’s mother.

Kayleigh Williamson runs up the hill on Enfield Drive during the Austin Half Marathon. Photo courtesy Sandy Williamson

Last year, Kayleigh struggled, walking slowly up the daunting hill on Enfield Drive. This year, when she approached the same spot, she looked at her mother with a worry in her eyes. Sandy Williamson reassured her daughter, and together they ran most of the way up the steep slope.

“The whole way I let her know it was her race and she determined what that race was. It had to be her, and it was,” Sandy Williamson said.

Race organizers kept the finish line open for Kayleigh, and volunteers manning water stops cheered her and chanted her name along the way.

“It empowered her,” Sandy Williamson said.

Kayleigh Williamson shaved an hour and 45 minutes off her finish time at the Austin Half Marathon. Photo courtesy Sandy Williamson

Kayleigh had hoped to finish the race in less than 6 hours. She blew that goal away, with a finish time of 4 hours and 36 minutes. She has said that she wants to encourage others with Down Syndrome to run and get fit.

RELATED: Down Syndrome won’t stop this runner from finishing half marathon

She was more fit this time around, said her coach, Kim Davis, founder of RunLab, which analyzes gaits and treats running-related injuries.

Kayleigh Williamson hugs her coach, Kim Davis, during the Austin Half Marathon. Photo courtesy Sandy Williamson

“She looked so happy when we saw her at Mile 7,” Davis said. “Last year she was crying.”

Williamson began training at RunLab in July 2016. Her success should stand as an example for others with developmental delays, Davis said.

“I think if you get out there and work on the same thing that every other runner works on – endurance and biomechanics – they can run too. That’s the big message from my end. They have to work on all the same things the rest of us work on, and as long as someone is there to help them through it, they can do it to,” Davis said.

Kayleigh Williamson, left, and her mother Sandy, right, celebrate at the finish of the Austin Half Marathon in 2018. Photo courtesy Sandy Williamson

Already, Kayleigh has a goal for next year – to finish in less than 4 hours. Plus, she plans to run all the races in the Austin Distance Challenge.

Twenty-two runners, including Kayleigh, were part of the Down Syndrome Association of Central Texas team, which raised more than $25,000 to support programming for individuals with Down syndrome and their families in Central Texas.

Two other members of Kayleigh’s Club, a group of athletes with special needs, finished the half marathon as well – Bonnie Bratton and Melissa Grice.