Once again the long-range mid-week weather forecast called for no rain, cool morning and moderate afternoons so, of course, I grabbed my gear and headed out.
This time I was headed for a place with water because I had a new toy to try out and - well - it doesn't work too well without water.
Inks Lake State Park is clearly one of those 'family' places. You know the kind; packed with noisy kids with their boom boxes, loud voices and even louder engines, not to mention all the children running and screaming under their feet!
The park has a couple dozen cabins, a couple hundred campsites, several playgrounds, a store, canoe and kayak rentals and even a fishing gear loaner program.
Not a place I'd be too eager to frequent on a weekend but I figured mid-week a couple weeks before school lets out for the summer wouldn't be too bad, and, like I said, it has that all important water thing going for it.
Besides the cabins, the park offers a variety of camping options from hike-in primitive to walk-in electric to water only drive up and, of course, full water/electric. Being a popular destination and having a lot of infrastructure, this is one of the more expensive parks in the system but I chose a water/electric site anyway because I still had a couple second-night-half-off coupons left on my Texas State Park Pass and I figure I get more for my buck if it's half off the more expensive campsite. My two nights of water/electric with coupon cost the same as two nights of water only without coupon.
At up to $6 a day per person plus camping fees the Texas State Parks can get expensive in a hurry but for $70 you can buy an annual pass which covers all entry fees and gives discounts on some of the activities like guided cave tours, plus 4 of those half-off-the-second-night camping coupons. After 3 trips, 11 days and 8 camping nights I'm now $27 ahead of the game on my $70 investment and still have one half-off coupon left. (Lost Maples is another one of the expensive parks, maybe I'll squeeze in a 2 or 3 night trip over there. . .) From now on every time I enter a park with a daily entrance fee I'm making money!
On the way over to Inks Lake I stopped off to check out the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge. I got the skinny on the place from one of the volunteers at headquarters. This is in a major flyway for migrating birds and is one of the dwindling habitats for the Red-eyed Vireo and the Golden Cheeked Warbler. I picked up guides for the refuge's two separate trail systems (For another trip.) then wandered the short nature trail right out back of the headquarters building for a while before finally finishing the drive to Inks Lake.
I thought this old abandoned bridge deck across the creek (The highway is now a couple hundred yards south of here.) acting as a backdrop for one of the oldest plant types on earth was interesting.
Though only a few hundred feet from the headquarters building, this is the kind of place that can make the technology of the past couple hundred years insignificant.
Of course that doesn't mean we can't help out a little with some nesting boxes on predator resistant poles under a live oak.
After toying with me for a half hour or so this is the best shot (Right there in the middle.) I was able to get of what I think is a Red-eyed Vireo (Apparently they are more yellow than olive here in Texas.) hunting caterpillars.
And since these are Purple Martin nesting boxes I assume the birds using them are Purple Martins.
Finally over at Inks Lake, just behind my campsite, I encountered a much less endangered bird doing their best to stay much less endangered.
I decided to leave the geese to their swimming and wandered a mile or so on down the lakeshore. For a while I watched these guys doing a little fishing.
And having some success
Later I lurked in the trees and watched these two having a romantic dinner cruise.
But the drake sure was having a bad hair day!!
And as the sun set I spent time at the campsite trying to catch a shot of this Swallow Tailed Flycatcher in flight. He would sit there on the ground until he saw something delicious come his way then jump a couple feet into the air with his tail spread before diving on his snack. Problem was I never did get the knack of anticipating his jump well enough to get a shot with the camera at the right time. That's one of the downfalls of electronic cameras. When you push the button so many things have to happen there's a delay between button push and photo snapped.
The next morning I was up in time for Moon-set. (Because of the low res of these blog photos you will probably have to click on the photo and open it up full screen to see that the moon really is hanging up there in the sky above that reflection.)
And to prove it, I took a shot of the moon at full zoom. Not bad for aiming a lens 40mm in diameter at something a quarter million miles away!
I followed moon-set with sunrise on the lake.
So that's the new toy I was talking about there just beyond my toes. I used to have an inflatable kayak by Sea Eagle years ago. It was OK but had a bit of a toy feel to it and, being the inherently timid type, I never felt it was up to serious kayaking, like striking out across a mile of open water with whitecaps slapping at me, yet here I am with another Sea Eagle. You can blame a blogger I follow for that. She also used to own the same model kayak I had then upgraded to a different model, also by Sea Eagle, that uses a new technology that takes away the toy-like air-mattress quality and has a flat floor stiff enough to stand up in. Hearing her sing the praises of this new kayak and seeing her photos from the water side of the shoreline I couldn't resist.
And this is what a kayak is for!
But eventually I ran out of floatable water at the head end of the lake and got out to do a little hoofing.
Now we're talking some serious oomph to bend and fold this one billion year old granite!
But the lake was calling so it was back to the kayak and some more shore-side coasting.
Later in the day I was back on foot and wandering bottom lands supporting Pecan and other hardwoods, as well as scrambling a few hundred feet higher up on the Cedar/Mesquite scrublands and slick-rock of the Llano uplift.
Where I found a precursor of Stonehenge
And veins of brilliant white quartz gripped hard in the granite.
As I left this ancient world and returned to lakeside I had to wonder at the mark we seem to be compelled to leave.
But back on 'my' side of the lake things were looking much better
The next morning; Ho-hum, just another sunrise on the lake.
As I coasted along the shore this Green Herron kept pace with me. Maybe I was disturbing the fingerlings enough to push them over to where he could snag a few for breakfast.
But I'm pretty sure he gave me the stink-eye a few times. Maybe he thought I wasn't pushing enough fishy goodness his way. . .
I missed getting a shot of the raccoon tip-toeing along the shoreline and slinking into the reeds, but I did manage to catch this White-tail doing a little wading.
But alas, as the sun got higher the wind was picking up (But not to worry, that's why I headed southwest at dawn, straight into the faintest of breezes, so now the increasing wind was blowing me back where I came from.) and I had to think about getting out of here before the weekend hoards messed with my Zen.
So one last shot of the kayak before I head towards home. The 4 piece paddle, a collapsible canoe-style emergency paddle, a large dry-bag for my backpack, a small dry-bag for my camera, an emergency repair kit and the foot-bellows pump are all there in the sack with the kayak, leaving only the bulky life jacket which is hanging above and to the right from one more of those super useful Command hooks. But you can see that now my bath-towel is slightly cramped. Oh the sacrifices we have to make. . .
My travels at Inks Lake, both foot and boat borne