Spring Break Land Cruise 2016
This was kind of an odd Spring Break in the conceptual stages. Rachel's mom had been pretty touch and go for awhile. First she had surgery to remove a blood clot from her leg. Then a week or so later, she had a minor stroke. She was in rehab for awhile with us on pins and needles. Now she is stable and back in her apartment with 24/7 care. It is what it is.
With all that going on, I decided to stay fairly close to home. But, I didn't want to go to the same go to parks that I always go to. I made reservations for two nights at Ink's Lake followed by two at Pedernales Falls. The two parks are pretty close to each other, and I could be back in San Antonio in about three hours, if I had to.
My trailer friends went to Big Bend. I wasn't really up for that. I need some time off to just work around the house and snooze on the Lazy Boy. My new special education job wipes me out. I knew that a long trip for the whole break would not work well for me. Just the same, when my buddy John signed up for the trip, I was feeling a bit envious.
Ink's Lake, March 14th - 16th
I woke up really early on Monday morning. I wanted to get on the road by 7:00 am with hopes of beating the worst of the rush hour traffic. Rachel got up then, also, to go walk with her friends. Everything went smoothly until I got on that access bridge from Bandera Road to 410. For those of you not from here, it is a bridge that takes you on a 90* angle and drops you off about a mile away on 410. It is usually awesome. Monday, however, there was a major accident that had the two left lanes of 410 shut down. We crawled along for 45 minutes an agonizing pace. Then, once we passed the problem, everything was smooth again.
I took 281 all the way to State Park Road 4. Then it was twelve miles of dips and winding curves to the park. They gave me several site choices. I chose 289 because the ranger said it was more secluded than the others. With all those Spring Break families, I definitely wanted that. Unfortunately, the site was still occupied. The people in the site had until 2:00 to vacate.
I drove around the park looking for a place to park the truck with the Colby T hitched up. I finally found the boat launching area by the park store and pulled into one of those long pull through spaces they have for trucks and boat trailers. I asked in the park store, and they said I was fine there even though it might be four hours.
With nothing else to do but hike, I went into the Colby T and changed clothes. I grabbed my old fart hat, some paper towels for sweat, and my camera and headed off. I hiked up towards Devil's Hole and took a trail that led me up to the bridge on 29. I crossed the bridge and took another trail that went right to where the guys were jumping off the cliff on the way to the bird blind. It was a long hike. My Fitbit went off to tell my I had my 11,000 steps (my daily goal) before I even got to the bird blind.
At first, I wasn't very impressed by the bird blind. When the trail ended onto a paved park road, there was a rickety old wooden hunting blind sitting there. It took me a few minutes to figure out that I had to walk down the road a ways. A sign would have been nice.
The bird blind is beautiful. It is fully enclosed with glass windows. There is room for about twenty people to sit there on nice benches. I sat for a while to rest from the hike. Even though it was a very nice trail with lots of hills and turns with amazing views, the thought of hiking three more hours to get back to the camper wasn't thrilling me much. Besides, I would be getting back to a trailer that had to be moved, set up, and COOLED down.
For whatever reason, the hike back seemed faster and easier. I went past my site and saw that it was cleared out. While I was there, I noticed that the loop it was on was one way. My site is the only site on the loop that backs in the wrong way. While I was there several cars went by so the thought of pulling in the wrong way was a little scary.
When I got back to the park store, I went in and bought a cold Gatorade. I asked the ranger working there what I should do. She asked another ranger and that one knew what site I was in before I even said anything. They called for a park host escort to meet me and block the traffic to keep me safe.
Anyway, I got all set up and made a batch of ice right away. I was pretty thirsty from my walk, even though I carried water with me. Since I had already taken an long hike, I decided to go into Burnet and see Fort Croghan.
The fort was interesting. They have about ten frontier structures there and lots of old-time farming implements. The museum has a lot of stuff on display. The walk around to see the buildings only took me about a half hour. When I went back to the museum on the way out, I got to talking to the docent. She and her husband moved to Burnet to be closer to their adult sons who had gravitated her by way of UT and the military. She was a retired special education teacher maybe ten years older than I. She got her masters in special Ed in 1981, the same year I graduated and started my career. We talked for about an hour about the changes we've seen in special education. She was fascinated by my going back after seventeen years.
After the fort, I wanted to go to Twin Liquors and buy a bottle of Scotch. I saw that they had one there on Google before the trip. Siri disagreed. He claimed the closest liquor store of any kind was in Marble Falls. I am weaning myself off of OnStar since we are letting it go to offset Rachel's retirement. I broke down and used it this time, and they were able to find Twin Liquors for me.
When I got back to camp, I was suddenly really hungry. Then I remembered I hadn't eaten anything all day. I had planned on eating breakfast in the camper once I was set up. Of course the 5 hour delay between traffic issues and waiting for my site changed all that. I ate one of those instant pasta meals.
I decided to take another hike around the park. I wanted to go by the park store for an ice cream bar. It was a pleasant enough hike, but my legs were kind of tired. I lucked out at the store. They had a food truck in front selling soft serve yogurt. I got a cup and ate it as I hiked.
I was really tired by about 7:00. I decided to just have a Scotch over ice, read for a while, and go to bed. I was too restless to sleep, so I tried watching a Netflix movie on my phone, but just couldn't commit to one. Instead, I decided to walk to the fishing pier and see what was happening there. That took all of twenty minutes. I think I was asleep by about 9:00.
Ink's Lake, Tuesday March 15
I forgot to turn off my 3:10 alarm on the Fitbit that lets me check and make sure Jared is up in the morning. (It has been three weeks now, so I think he can do without me.) It woke me up just enough to get up and pee. I fell right back to sleep and actually slept until 7:00am. Of course, my body thought it was 6:00 because of the time change.
I lounged around the trailer for awhile. I ate a nice breakfast of scrambled powdered eggs, Sriracha sauce, and squirt cheese on white bread. Then I cleaned up a bit, got dressed, and hit the trail. I went to the opposite end of the park this time. I stopped at the park headquarters on the way to the trailhead to ask if I needed and escort to pull out, or if I could just drive the whole loop the wrong way. They gave me a number to call when I am ready to leave. Seems they are used to this with site 289.
The hike took me up over the granite rocks to a great view of the lake. I took some panoramics with the iPhone and posted them on FaceBook. At one point, I lost the trail and came up on a big dome of granite. There was a huge family there trying to take a picture with the lake in the background. They were trying to use a timer, but had difficulty finding a place to put the camera. They asked me if I would help them out, and of course I did. They were from Clear Lake. One of the men, most likely the patriarch of the bunch, showed me some rock holes that were filled with water. Brine shrimp were swimming in them. It was amazing. Coincidentally, Rene Howard has some growing in our 1st grade class right now as part of our science unit. I took some photos, but you can't really see the shrimp.
I found the trail again and followed it across the highway to the interpretive trail and primitive camping loop. It was a nice pecan covered forest area. I wanted to go on an off-shoot, but I was running low on water and didn't want to risk it. Instead, I hiked back to headquarters and filled my bottle with cold water. I still had nearly a mile to go to get back to the Colby T.
When I got back, I started up the ice maker and made a batch of ice for the rest of the day. Then I did some work I needed to do like fill the fresh water tank. I will dump my tanks tomorrow on the way out, and need some water in the fresh tank to put in the toilet. You can't just leave the black tank empty. That causes problems. I wanted to add some bleach to the water and ended up breaking one of my mini blind supports when I opened up the storage compartment under the couch. Fortunately, I keep a stock on hand. They break easily. This new batch is metal. They might last a little better.
When I was at headquarters, I asked if they knew if I could take a tour of Buchanan Dam. They said that was stopped as a result of 911. But, there was a pub where I could see it from the patio. That was called Reverend Jim's Dam Pub. Since I could use a beer and the burgers were reputed to be awesome, I headed over when I was done with my work in the camper. Besides, they used to call me Reverend Jim at SWTSU, so how could I not go there?
It was just a short ten minute ride over there. The beer was cold. The patio was nice. The burger was great. While I was eating, I got a phone call from Jane's phone (Rachel's mother). They were trying to get ahold of Rachel, but only had my number for some reason. They said Jane was fine. I texted Rachel and she said it was something about food. She told them to call her sister.
I was stuffed and tired when I got back to the Colby T. I succumbed to a nap for about two hours. Then guilt set in and I forced myself to take a hike.
I went back up to the Devils Hole. I stayed there watching the young bucks jump off the for about thirty minutes. One kid named Victor kept going to highest point, but couldn't get himself to jump. He couldn't even get himself to stand up on top of the rock. His friends were brutal. I don't blame him. I wouldn't of even climbed up there, let alone jump.
I hiked around the campsites for a little longer and came back to the Colby T. I know I should have walked longer, but my legs just didn't feel up to it tonight. Instead, I got out my keyboard and wrote this. Now, I'm going inside to watch the Spurs. Or, maybe I'll just sit here at the picnic table and watch it. It is really a beautiful evening.
Wednesday, March 16, Pedernales Falls SP
Well it is 8:13. It has been a long day. I went to bed right after the Spurs game last night (they beat the Clippers). I had planned on getting up at 6:00, but I ended up going back to bed until 6:30. I ate breakfast and got the Colby T ready for departure.
At about 8:00 am, I called for an escort to get me safely around the loop. A ranger came right away and guided me out going the wrong way on a one way street. That site was wacky, but really nice. Heavily shaded and right by a little finger of the lake.
On the way out, I dumped the tanks at the dump station, then hit the road. I took a little over an hour to get to Pedernales SP. When I arrived, they only had three open sites. The ranger recommended #58, so I took it. By 11:00am, I was all set up and ready for adventure.
I decided to walk up to the Wolf Mountain Trail. I had never even realized that area of the park had trails on my last trips here. It was only supposed to be a six mile hike plus the mile it took to hike to the trail head. I had two bottles of water and my camera. Fortunately, I used some sun screen, which I often forget to do.
The trail was really nice. It crossed several different creeks and went up into the hills. I decided to take the loop through the primitive camping area just to see what kind of camping the people were doing after hiking four miles to get there. I was amazed at how much stuff they had with them. Some had some heavy duty wagons at their sites. Those people had elaborate camp sites with everything tent campers have in the regular loops. Lots of ice chests, bikes, huge tents, and hammocks strung up all over the place.
Unfortunately, when I came off that loop, I read the map wrong. My 6 mile hike turned into a half marathon. I had gone 13.4 miles by the time I got back to the Colby T. I rationed my water pretty well, but I was getting worried about electrolytes. I should have taken one of my little squirt bottles that has them with me. They had a drinking water spigot at the parking lot, so I filled up both of my empties for the mile hike back to camp. It was uphill a lot of the way and really wore me out.
I drank lots of Gatorade in the camper and ate lunch. I was feeling a lot better, so I hiked over to the Twin Falls trail. It is only a quarter mile long, so I figured I could handle it. My legs were wobbly and my feet hurt quite a bit, but I made it down into the ravine and back up. The falls were really pretty splashing down into a lush little pond. There is an observation deck to look down on them, but the area is closed off. I saw two idiots down there who were toweling themselves after an illegal swim. Sad how some people can't respect rules.
When I got to the Colby T, I had a minor panic attack when I realized I only had four bottles of water left. I decided to run into Johnson City (nine miles away) and buy some. While I was there, I also filled my gas tank.
On the way back to camp, I stopped at headquarters, which is up on a hill and has phone service. I posted a few things on Facebook and checked my mail, etc. Down here at camp, I have one little dot of service (4G) outside of the camper and none inside. They only thing I seem to be able to do successfully is text Rachel. I don't really mind being off the grid. I'm just not used to it.
Tonight is the 200th night in the Colby T. That number seems ridiculous, but it accumulates. I am going to celebrate by drinking scotch and ginger, eating pork rinds with canned salsa, and reading the rest of my novel. I hope I have an hour or to left to go. I forgot to download another one up on the hill.
Thursday, March 17, 2016
Well as fate would have it, my book only lasted about 15 minutes. I was able to download another one from my Kindle Library, but when I did, I realized right away that I had already read it. I was able to play my three word games. They downloaded when nothing else would work on the phone but texting. To sum it up, the 200th night in the Colby T was shortchanged. I went to bed at about 9:15.
I didn't set an alarm this morning. No need to. I had no events to attend or moves to make. I woke up at 7:00 am or around that. I wasn't hungry this morning, so I decided not to have breakfast. Instead, I sat at the picnic table and drank a couple of cups of coffee.
The sky was overcast most of the day. It felt like there was rain coming sometime, so I decided to get motivated and take a hike too the falls. This time, I carried three bottles of water, but still forgot to put the MIO squirt bottle with electrolytes in my knapsack. I never really needed it since the sun was never out. Even though it was muggy, I didn't "over sweat".
I hiked out of camp and took a little trail called Warfle's Trail. It is a shortcut to the rode that leads to the swimming area. When I got to the road, I turned away from the swimming area and headed out to the main park road. I followed that for about a mile until I got to the bird blind.
There was a ranger weed-eating all over the bird blind area. As a result, I only saw one bird, a huge bluejay. I got a photo of him, but most of him is behind a tree. Oh well.
From the bird blind, I took the North Loop Equestrian Trail headed for the Duck Pond. It is actually two different ponds. I saw three ducks, but they flew far across the pond as I approached. I did see what might have been a sand piper. I'll look it up when I get home.
From the pond, I hiked on until I could join the Pedernales Falls Trail System. The first part took me right down to the river. I was cursing myself for not bringing my walking stiff. It was very steep and slippery. The extra support would have been nice. I hiked for about thirty minutes along the river never seeing another human being. It was awesome. Then I came to the popular area and was joined by about a hundred people scattered over the rocks.
I spent about an hour walking around the falls area. It really is a special place. I took loads of pictures. After awhile, too many people were there for me. They were running all over the place like ants. Parents were screaming at there kids to be careful and so on. I headed up a rocky and evidently rarely used trail to get to the observation area. I couldn't figure out how people were coming down. The only ones I saw were climbing down a cliff. Not my thing.
I looked around at the observation area and took a trail off it that I thought would lead to the Hackenburg Trail. I planned to hike it later in the day and just wanted to see where the trailhead was so I could find it easily. It turned out that I wasn't on the right trail. I ended up in the parking lot.
I took the road back to the bird blind. While I was gone, the ranger must of weed-whacked the observation area. There were two cardinals there, but nothing else. I drank a bottle of water and rested awhile anyway.
I started to head back on the road, but realized my knapsack had broken. One of the ropes was just hanging there. I threw it over my shoulder with the good rope and hike on. I was planning on taking the road to the Organized Youth Group Camping Area. Just as I got to the road, a ranger turned in. I wasn't sure it was open to the public so I passed it and took the road to the swimming area. There was a picnic area, so I sat at a table, readjusted my right sock, and drank the second bottle of water. As I passed the dumpster, I threw my trash and the broken knapsack away.
It was about a quarter mile to the trail that leads down to the swimming area. The actual trail was a stair case. I took it down, gritting my teeth because my old knees did not like the stairs at all. There wasn't much to see when I got down. There weren't many people and the river didn't have much of a beach to swim from.
I started back up the stairs but had to stand off to the side so a group of 6 college boys toting fishing equipment and coolers went down. Those coolers were huge and heavy. They weren't having an easy go of it.
When I reached the top of the stairs, I leaned against the rail breathing out slowly trying to get my heart rate down. A bunch of kids ran up the stairs and kept going. I heard their dad shout at them to wait. When he and his wife (they were in their forties) got up there, they joined me on the rail. I left them there and headed back up the road to Warfle's Trail. As I went that large family passed me in a truck. I heard the dad say, "Damn, he walked all the way over here!" It made me chuckle. Most of the people in the state parks get in their vehicles and drive to the trail heads. Some even drive to the bath houses. That seems crazy to me.
I got back to the Colby T and stripped off my sweaty clothes and did a sink bath. Then I ate a delicious lunch of sardines on white bread. I fixed a cup of coffee and went out to the picnic table for a while. Then I took a 90 minute nap. It was one of those drift in and out dreamy kind of naps. It felt good.
I went back out to the picnic table just in time to see a man pulling a HUGE silver trailer. It was gorgeous. I have never seen anything like it. He turned into the loop and then slammed his brake right in front of my site. He threw it in reverse and had trouble with his gears for a minute. They were grinding like crazy. I could smell clutch. He backed up and then pulled back in. He yelled at me and asked, "How do you get to highway 71?" I told him I had no idea where highway 71 was, but that he needed to go out of the park past headquarters. He said, "Really?", threw it in reverse, did an awkward semi controlled reverse onto the road and drove back out of the camping area. I wondered if me meant "site 71", but there doesn't seem to be one on the map.
After he was gone, I remembered that I wanted to set the time on my truck's clock. I couldn't figure it out the other day and didn't think about it again until today. I got the manual out and figured it out. When I realized it was almost 4:00, I got back in hiking garb and drove down to the falls to hike the Hackenburg Trail. I wasn't up for the extra two and a half miles it would have added to get to the trail head and hike back after the trail.
The parking lot was way overcrowded. I found one spot that was a little tighter than I like, but beggars can't be choosy. I walked up to the road I thought would lead to the trailhead. It did. The trail was marked with a sign that said "River" and pointed to the right. Took it all the way down to the river. It was beautiful. They hike back on the second part of the loop was more grueling than I like, but I made it. At one point I had to squeeze sideways through a crevice between two giant boulders. My but was touching one side and my stomach was rubbing the other. I had to keep my hands over my head with my camera, water bottle, and hiking stick. For just a minute, I felt a little stuck and had a little tiny panic attack. Had I misinterpreted the trail? I sucked by big belly in as hard as I could and just forced myself through. How exciting.
Celebrating freedom, I hiked up about a quarter mile hillside until the trail became more trail-like. Maybe I had gone the wrong way. After that, it was an easy hike to the truck.
I drove up to headquarters to use the better phone service and park WiFi to download a book to my phone. It was taking forever, so I locked the truck and took the tiny trail to the scenic overlook and took a few photos. When I got back to the truck, it still hadn't finished downloading. I switched off the wife and downloaded in a second or two over the phone service.
Finally back at the Colby T at about 6:30, I changed into my comfy camping clothes and ate a quick dinner. I heated up one of those PACE brand rice pouches. It was pretty good.
I forgot that I made ice while I was napping. I filled my little ice chest with it. It makes 8 cubes every eight minutes. The cubes get bigger the longer it runs. I love the thing. I went ahead and drained it and dried it out. It is safely stowed in it's box sitting in the bathtub.
Since then, I've been sitting at the picnic table writing this with a scotch and ginger beside me. The sun is setting and the sounds of the campers around me are getting that evening amplification thing. I'll sit here with my drink for a little longer before I head in to the Colby T to read until bedtime. I think the Spurs are playing tonight, but there's no way for me to see or hear them without phone service. Hey, wait a minute. I could try to get the game on my radio. I doubt I could pick up a San Antonio station, but it's worth a try. What else have I got to do.
Tomorrow, I will get up early and head home. I want to be there before noon. We have a repairman coming, and Rachel doesn't like to be alone when they come. I'll upload my photos and blog sometime tomorrow. Until then, Happy Trails.
Follow up: I was able to get the Spurs on my radio, but only outside. I took my sports chair, the radio, my box fan, and my scotch and ginger and listened under the trees. It was kind of nice.
This morning (Friday the 18th), I got up at six and prepped for departure. I actually got on the road at 8:00. I decided to go through Kendalia and Bergheim instead of going all the way into San Antonio. I think that was actually closer. I was at Packrats at 10:03. It was a smooth trip.