Monday, October 17, 2011

Inks Lake Campout with Live Oak

Suna says: Ursula got to head to the Hill Country this weekend for a campout with a few of our friends from Live Oak UU Church. We went to Inks Lake State Park, a place where we have been many times, even when the kids were little. Inks Lake is the smallest of the Highland Lakes, and is located near Burnet, Texas and the town of Buchanan Dam (guess what they have there? Yep, the dam that makes Lake Buchanan—pronounced Buck-annan). The park is really pretty, and huge. There are more than 200 campsites, and there are lots of trees. The lake is a constant-level lake, so the shore is where it’s supposed to be.

I liked the way the trees framed the lake here. The kid was not in frame when I snapped the picture. Only after I started working the pictures did I realize he was wearing one boot and one sneaker.
The main problem with this lovely place is that it is extremely popular. And this is the first weekend after a nice rain, so everyone in the world was here. This includes at least a dozen Cub Scout, Boy Scout, YMCA club, and other groups of young folks. They had a great weekend, judging from the screeching. But, of course, this is what they are supposed to be doing—learning about nature and the outdoors. Nonetheless, there is not a lot of restful nature enjoyment at Inks Lake, with all the tents, dogs, people and adults.

Everywhere you looked people were crawling over the park like ants. Oh, wait! These are ants!
You do get to watch people canoeing and kayaking, and that is pretty. People near us brought a small sailboat and we had fun watching them learn to sail it.

The little sailboat that mostly could.
Mostly we have sat around and chatted with our friends from church. There wasn’t a huge group, but it included many of our old friends, so it was fun to catch up.

Our circle the second night.Our “official” group photo……and our “official” stragglers
And speaking of old friends, when our friend Martha went into the park store, she recognized the woman working there as an early member ofthe church. She and her partner came by and joined us at the “campfire” last night, which was really nice. And as for that campfire—the burn ban is still in effect, so this is what we put together:

Our solar lights, Connie's solar lights, and Martha's fake candles cast a mighty light.
But I am ahead of myself. So…we managed to leave home at 5pm, which worked out well. We found a route that really didn’t run into any bad traffic—we made great time, and arrived before it was dark. And I didn’t rush Lee at all, honest. After some confusion as to which campsite was ours (and we got the better end of that deal—not next to the extra-patriotic Boy Scouts, we settled in and proceeded to hang out and laugh and enjoy wine with our friends until bedtime. That was fun.
I think they call it “The Devil’s Water Hole” because it is so hard to get to and in the middle of some very dry country.
Saturday morning was also very pleasant. After chatting and coffee, Lee and I were joined by our church friend Tina on a hike to the DevilsWater Hole. We sure got to enjoy the presence of a LOT of young people and their chaperones. There were lots of high pitched squeals, shouts, and boyish laughs.But we had a great time anyway. The area where this park is located is one of my favorite parts of the world (really—it feels almost as good as Gainesville,Florida and certain parts of Ireland). The terrain is karst—rocks on the surface with interesting wild flowers on it. The Burren in western Ireland is very similar. The rocks are mostly the amazing pink granite that they mine inMarble Falls, which is the material on the capitol building in Austin. Here are some photos:

It is so much fun to see the seams of colored rock wandering around.
We climbed all over the rocks, found a wren and some other birds, chased some lizards with interesting stripes on the undersides of their tails, and watched dragonflies in the process of making additional dragonflies.
These guys were having fun.
And this guy was hoping they’d come close enough for lunch.
We finally got to hear something other than angry bird sounds from this lovely.
Remove the pricks and prickly pears can keep you hydrated in the desert.

Eventually we even got to spend some time without other people around, and got to sit and look at the water. It was nice to see puddles of water in the crevices—I am sure they were empty all summer. Looking at all the pink, gray and white rock made the entire trip worth it, I just love this place—if it weren’t so crowded around here, I would love to live here.
Not sure where this honeysuckle gets its water from. It’s way up on a rock hill.
There really isn’t that much water here. I just took pictures of it all.
After the hike we had lunch and proceeded to pretty much hang out and talk the rest of the day. We kept moving as Ursula’s shade moved.Games were played, and beer and margaritas were consumed. It was a nice time.We were pretty amazed at how many grackles and starlings descended on our area sat sunset. Lee took some wonderful photos of the flock, flocking.
Remember The Birds?
This morning I am sitting and typing while our friends cook breakfast. It’s very civilized. I ate bread, so I am enjoying the smell of Janet’s eggs from her happy chickens as they turn into breakfast taco ingredients.
Suna takes time out from blogging to smile at the photographer.
Lee and I took another walk (even though all that climbing had my legs feeling a bit wonky) and saw two beautiful herons from the fishing dock. I also managed to have a lucky focus with the binoculars and saw a coot emerge from the lake with a fish in its mouth. That was fun to watch. Lee got a great photo of a duck with its mouth wide open and a couple of ducks landing, but that was about it for birds this trip. Too many people, I think.
Most of Sunday was spent looking at the lake, conversing about nothing, and cleaning Ursula up for the ride home.We had loaned out the restroom facility to our friends, so they would not have to walk all the way to the campground bathrooms, so a wee amount of dirt got tracked in. However, the reason we brought Ursula was to share her, so we did not mind one bit. She did a great job casting shade, too. A fellow camper walked by and said she was very nice. Then she related the story that she was in her trailer Friday when suddenly everything went dark. She looked up, and it was us lumbering toward our parking space. Yes, Ursula blocks the sun. She is mighty.
Hey, brother! Can you spare some nuts?
I have never tried fly fishing, and watching this guy didn’t inspire me to want to.
You can see the dam from the fishing peer.
Oh, and here’t the fishing peer
Trip Report
Highlight: Hike to the Devil’sWater Hole
Lowlight: Crowds. Lee said it was more like living in an apartment complex than a restful nature adventure. There were just too many people—like 300 campsites, nearly all full.
Park Review: Here is a great publication (PDF) about the Inks Lake State Park. It really is in a breathtaking location. I have always liked this place a lot. We camped here in tents last spring, which was not as much fun for me as Ursula camping. I wish I hadn’t gotten overheated setting up the tent that time, because hiking would have been more fun with fewer people. There are amazing hiking trails in this park—Lee andI went on most of them with a group of friends in 2007. The terrain and geological formations are simply fascinating, and unique to the area. The lake is not overly large, but perfect for canoeing and kayaking because there aren’t a lot of giant boats and jet skis buzzing the calmer vehicles. You can also easily take a swim very near most of the camp sites. This lake was NOT dry. A disadvantage of Inks Lake is that it is so popular. It is huge and crowded on weekends, though the store worker/friend said it’s not busy at all during the week. Next time we come, it will be a weekday adventure! Down the road from this park is the absolutely wonderful Longhorn Caverns State Park. This is one of the most fun caves I have ever visited, and I have also had the fun of attending a concert by my friend Jeff IN the cave, followed by a lovely dinner. I think they stopped having the concerts, but they sure were fun. If you live around here and have not visited this area, please do. It is especially beautiful I the spring, when wildflowers cover the rocks. Even if you live far away, this is a worthwhile destination.
Photographs can’t capture the awesomeness of the late afternoon light on the drought-stricken trees. Talk about making sadness pretty!
Good News Postscript: Part of the talking among the campers included planning for two future group events. We intend to visit McKinney Falls again at the end of January, and then Perdenales StatePark at the end of March. That will take care of my need for camping with people, and allow plenty of time for me and Lee to do individual introvert-style camping as well.

1 comment:

  1. It is actually spelled Pedernales, but you can't help aren't a Texan who can't spell to save their life. Silly Texans. Can't spell or pronounce anything.
    I do love reading about Ursula, though.