Monday, April 28, 2008

Camping at Inks Lake

With the window of mild weather quickly closing, we decided to schedule a camping trip and chose to try out Inks Lake State Park, located in Burnet, TX (just west of Austin). We called up Aiden's Gran and Gramps, who live in Bandera, and Uncle Warren and his girlfriend, Tara, and asked them to meet us for a good ol' fashioned weekend of camping. We made the reservations 3 weeks in advance and just happened to luck into a cancellation--Inks Lake is VERY popular-- and hoped for the best with the weather.

The weekend prior to our trip, I checked the forecast and things looked great: a small chance of showers on Friday, but great mild weather for the rest of the weekend, 80's during the day and 50's at night. I figured it was safe to go buy all of our groceries and supplies for the weekend and started prepping, full steam ahead. Then, on the Thursday before we left, I decided to check the forecast again and was shocked to read the forecast: 30% chance of thunderstorms, that could include flash flooding and large hail, for Friday, and a 50% chance of rain and severe thunderstorms on Saturday night/early Sunday morning. I called Brad, frantic, and my optimistic husband reassured me, saying to look on the bright side--there was a 50% chance that it wouldn't rain! We decided to go ahead with the trip and hope for the best--figuring we could always hole up in a cheap hotel in Burnet or Marble Falls if the weather went south. We packed the rain gear and sent up a few prayers for a dry weekend.

We arrived at Inks Lake early Friday afternoon to stake out our camping spot and found two great camp sites (#284 and 285) right across from one another, giving us the best of both worlds: a large flat grassy area large enough for 3 tents in one, and a shady table and fire ring right next to the lake in the other. Warren and Tara arrived shortly after we did, and we all quickly set up our tents in anticipation that we may need some shelter from the rain later in the day. The heat was sweltering in mid-day, though, so after we finished the dirty work, we changed into bathing suits and waded into the lake.

We were situated right on a shallow cove of the lake that allowed Aiden to wade quite a distance into the water. The water was quite refreshing (read: cold), but in the heat of the day, it felt fabulous. Aiden delighted in splashing us all with the frigid water and hearing us yelp, and couldn't be coaxed out of the water, despite an awful case of the shivers. Even the dogs, Scout and Freckles, joined us in the water for some fun, and Aiden quickly learned to avoid Scout's leash after getting a rope burn across the face. (It looks much worse than it is--he barely flinched, never cried, but it turned into quite a scary-looking scab!) After a couple of hours of splashing and playing, we headed up to our "cooking site" and prepared a classic campfire dinner of hot dogs and baked beans and s'mores.

As the evening settled in, the breeze picked up and the clouds began rolling in. The skies turned dark and for hours we sat around the fire and waited for the rain and storms to arrive. But the rains never came. On every side of us, lightning flashed in the distance, we heard of reports of heavy rains and thunderstorms, but we stayed completely dry and had a wonderful evening. The breeze was cool and perfect for sleeping outdoors and we awoke to a cloudless and sunny morning.

After a breakfast of pancakes and bacon (and dragging Aiden back from the waters edge a handful of times), Brad's parents arrived at the park. We helped them unpack and then enjoyed some fishing and lunch. After lunch, we hiked out to Devil's Waterhole, a calm, picturesque waterhole surrounded by large granite rocks and cliffs that all of the teens and young adults had to jump off of. We watched them jump for a while and Aiden waded in the water with a few other kiddos. Then Brad and Warren decided they had to give the cliffs a try. Brad swam away to Aiden's cries. "Come back, daddy! Don't go jump! You'll get an ouchy! Come back!!" I reassured him all would be fine and we watched as the boys jumped. Aiden couldn't be consoled until Brad swam his way back to us from across the lagoon and boy, was he mad at his daddy when he returned. "Don't go jump again! Don't do that, daddy! You'll get an ouchy!!" It was pretty adorable the way he worried about his daddy.

We hiked back to our campsite and then gathered together the fishing gear for a little angling off the point. Aiden helped reel in three very large sun perch, one right after the water. They caught a total of 5 fish within just a short amount of time.

We began to look at one another and realized we were all pretty scorched, despite a million sunscreen applications that day, so we headed back to the shade to fix some dinner. I barbecued up some chicken and sausage while the guys played washers. As we finished up dinner, the wind began to kick up a bit and the clouds started rolling in and we began crossing our fingers that we'd stay dry again that night. We sat around the fire for hours, eating campfire bananas and s'mores and drinking coffee. We all turned in around midnight--only to be awakened at 4:30 by howling winds, thunder and lightning. The lightning was fairly intense, so we all piled into our vehicles for a couple of hours, waiting for the storm to pass over. Aiden was in quite a mood, keeping us all awake for hours with his whining until finally, we were ready to face electrocution over another minute stuck in the car with that kiddo in the early hours of morning. We piled back into our tents and settled back in for a few hours of sleep.

At around 9:30, the rains subsided and the skies cleared. I began cooking breakfast and making coffee, but about halfway through my preparations, the wind started howling again suddenly, the skies darkened, and we all abandoned thoughts of breakfast and began scrambling to get our tents and things packed before the rains returned. After an hour of scrambling, the cars were packed and we all headed home. It was an abrupt end to our trip, and despite the hours of listening to Aiden whine in the wee hours of morning on Sunday, we had a great trip. We'll definitely be heading back to Inks Lake--although Scott (Gramps) says that we need to invest in a camper if we're going to do THAT again!

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