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STOP #260

Finally a travel day with no drama, well almost!

The traveling portion of the day went just fine. We left our campsite at 10:00AM, just like we planned, and we're scheduled to arrive around 1:00PM for our Texas State Park reservation. Check-out time here is at noon, with check-in time at 2:00PM. In order not to have a repeat of being unable to check-in early we pulled off the road about 30 miles away and ate lunch in THE POD. That pushed us back to a 1:30PM estimated arrival and we decided to try our luck checking in early. I also insisted on this so we didn't have another episode of the hangry set up comments to apologize for later! - T

We arrived at the check-in station, I parked the truck and went inside to hopefully check-in. There was no one else there so I began to worry. A Park Ranger came into the room from a back office and asked if she could help me. I meekly asked if I could check-in early for my camping reservation. She replied, "Sure! Do you know what site you're on". Man was I relieved.

In Texas State Parks there is an $8 per person per day entrance fee, even if you are camping. That could add up quickly if you pay each time you visit a state park. Fortunately they offer an $70 Annual Pass that covers those fees for up to two people. Additionally you receive a 50% discount on your second night's camping fee.

Here's a trick for anyone planning to camp in a Texas State Park. If you purchase the Annual Pass and make a 6-night reservation you'll receive the discount on the second nights price. But if you make three 2-night reservations, back to back to back, you'll receive the discount on all three of the second night visits. Since there are no fees when making a Texas State Park reservation, none of that savings is lost to any additional reservation fees.

There are two drawbacks to using this strategy however. If you are like me and booking your sites 5-months in advance when they first become available, you run the risk of securing your first two or four nights on your desired site, only to be outdrawn by someone else when trying to book the final two nights for the same site. This is especially true when your visit involves the highly sought after Friday and Saturday night dates.

The second drawback is where our little bit of drama comes in. By having three separate reservations it means every two days I have to return to the check-in office and receive a new hang tag for my rear view mirror. Not a big problem except this week the daytime high temperatures will only reach into the mid-30°F's. A little too cold for this "Florida Guy" to be leaving the warmth of THE POD for no good reason. Maybe I can take care of checking back in by phone, yeah that's what I'll do! Sure, or sweet talk the Northern Girl into going for him! - T

Inks Lake State Park is located in a shallow canyon that was created by Texas' Colorado River. In the early 1930s two large government projects were put into motion here. The first was the construction of the hydoelectric Buchanon Dam to generate electricy for the neighboring communities. The second project was necessary due to the first. The town of Bluffton, TX was at the bottom of the soon to be flooded canyon and had to be relocated up onto the rim of the canyon.

It took eight years to complete the dam, but that wasn't enough time to move the entire town. The concensus was that it would take years for the river to fill the bottom of the canyon, but in 1937 due to unseasonable storms and flooding this occured in mere months. This created an underwater ghost town of the original town of Bluffton, now some 30 feet below the surface.

Several times since 1937 under severe drought conditions, namely in 1984 and 2011, the water levels dropped low enough for the ghost town to be revealed. In 2011 it had resurfaced long enough for the Texas Historical Commission’s archeological division to excavate sections of the town. The water did well to preserved many parts of the town and visitors flocked to the site to see tombstones and graveyards, the remains of a cotton gin, homes, a local bank, and a hotel.

The water levels have been back to within a normal range since 2016 and the town has been safely out of site since then.

Campsite #275 here at Inks Lake State Park in Burnet, TX.

WEDNESDAY - But we didn't plan a trip here just because there is an underwater ghost town in the lake behind our campsite, nooooo! We are here because six miles from here, in another state park, there is an underground attraction we are interested in visiting.

Longhorn Cavern State Park has a cave tour and we are signed up for the first tour of the day today. At 10:00AM we were led underground by our tour guide Cheryle, with two other paying customers and three "soon to be" cave tour guides in training.

What the cave lacked in awesome formations and features was more than made up for by the presentation of our tour guide. We learned of the history of the cave, it's rather unique formation caused by an underground river, rather than dripping water. The lack of dripping surface water is the reason for the lack of the usual cave formations we have seen elsewhere.

At the end of the day, it was a pleasant cave experience, even if the cave wasn't as well decorated with formations as other caves we have visited.


The elaborate pathway leading down to the cave entrance built by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp) in the 1930s. Everything was constructed using the rock that was removed from the cave.
Now we are at the cave entrance looking back up at the 52 stairs of the pathway.
A natural stone bridge formation covers the cave entrance.
Finally we arrive at the ornate gate guarding the entrance to the cave.
Right away we saw these chunky crystal formations.
They are made up of calcite.
And in certain sections of the cave they were everywhere.
The CCC workman thought they had found diamonds because they are so shiny.
The other interesting thing about this cave is their colony of 75-100 tricolor bats.
They are only about the size of your thumb. Here is a closeup view of one hanging from the ceiling just two feet above our heads.
Some small 100 year old soda straw formations that are still growing.
A large flowstone formation that reaches from floor to ceiling.
One of the large rooms we passed through along the cave tour route.
Some rooms had an other worldly look to them.
More flowstone draperies.
Outside near the parking lot was an observation tower also built by the CCC.
A winding staircase leads up to the observation deck.
A panoramic view of the surrounding countryside from above the tree tops.

After the cave tour we headed into town to buy gasoline and some groceries. Mid-week and mid-day is usually the best time to go grocery shopping to avoid the crowds. We looked up the nearest H-E-B grocery store (a Texas favorite, almost as good as Publix) and found cars two and three deep at the gasoline pumps? Also the parking lot was full?

When we got into the store some shelves were already empty, like bread and for some reason potatoes? There is a winter storm warning for this area over the next four days with sleet and snow most likely. The schools are closed Thursday and Friday, the city busses are not running Thursday through Sunday and the airport is already canceling some flights into Dallas/Fort Worth airport over the next few days.

I haven't seen this much scrambling going on since the last hurricane warning we went through back in South Florida.

If the power goes out we have plenty of propane, we filled our fresh water tank and we have plenty of solar power to keep the furnace fan running. Other than pickup and move several hundred miles west there's not much else we can do to prepare.

We don't leave here until Monday morning and everything is supposed to be back to normal by then.

THURSDAY - We awoke today to a wintery mix of freezing rain and/or sleet outside, that's the "official" term AccuWeather is calling it. It doesn't qualify as snow because that melted in the lower atmosphere before refreezing just before reaching the ground.

But what do I know, I'm from Florida. It sure looks like snow when it accumulates on the ground, inches deep in some spots, so that's what I'm calling it.

It didn't fall below 30°F until 3:30AM this morning, I know because that's where the alarm is set on our weather station and it woke us up. By the time we got out of bed several hours later and finished eating breakfast it was down to 25°F at 9:00AM.

In preparation for the cold, before we went to bed, we had set our furnace at 62°F to blow warm air throughout the trailer and under the floors to keep our holding tanks from freezing. The winds have also been gusting in from over the lake and blowing the icy mix into small drifts around any vertical surface, like our ground grill and picnic table platform.

This is our view outside the rear dinette window on the side protected from the wind.

This is the view out of our rear window from the other (exposed) side of the trailer.
The ice is stuck to the outside of the glass, but there was a little bit on the inside too.

I almost forgot to mention, just before we started to eat breakfast I got a phone call from the park office asking me if I was still planning to arrive today for my reservation. I explained we were already here on the site and he was more than happy to re-check me in for another two days over the phone.

"Two Big Thumbs Up" to that Texas State Park employee who called us and asked if we were doing OK out here and then asked if there was anything else we needed. I joked and asked him if he could bring back the weather we had yesterday and he quickly replied, "I'll see what I can do about that". I thanked him!

The other five times we've experienced snow while on the road all had one thing in common, before lunch that day it was all melted and gone. That's not the case with this ice we have on the ground today.

It hasn't rained any more ice since early this morning. Yet here we are at 4:00PM and not much has changed outside. We finally had to go outside to flip the switch over to our second propane tank and found this view from the outside.

This is what's hanging on the outside of the trailer window on the exposed side.

This is the ground on the exposed side, this ice is just not going away today.
It's 4:00PM and the outside tempurature has not risen above 28°F.

With 28°F being the high temperature for the day it shatters our previous record of 40°F as our coldest day on the road.

If the forecast turns out to be correct, we could possibly tie or break our lowest temperature ever experienced while on the road of 19°F before waking each of the next two mornings.

Don't worry, we easily have enough propane to last another 4-days with these temperatures and it's supposed to start warming in the next 2-days. At least the daytime temps will be above freezing and we can go back to using our electric space heaters during the day and save some propane. Of course that only works as long as the electricity doesn't go out! If that happens, it will be time for Plan B.

SATURDAY - Well we made it through Thursday night and when we woke Friday morning we found the overnight temperature had only made it down to 22°F. But last night the temperature dropped to a record tieing 19°F. The foreseeable future has overnights forecast in the mid-20°F's to upper 30°F's so fortunately our chances of breaking that record are over with for now.

SUNDAY - Today is our last day here at Inks Lake State Park and there's one more sightseeing adventure I had planned to see while here.

Tricia was thrilled when I told her I had a hike planned for today, but not too thrilled when I told her it was fifty miles away. Her thoughts were we could hike right here in the park where we are already at. Actually, I believe my comment was, why do we need to drive 50 miles to see a rock!? We have hills to climb here. - T

But I convinced her my hike was better, so off we went. Besides we have an annual Texas State Park entrance pass so it won't cost us the $8 per person fee to enter the park. As you can probably tell by now, Phil was right, it was a cool hike and I'm glad we made the drive - just don't tell him! - T

The Summit Trail at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is only .8 of a mile long, but there is an elevation gain of over 400 feet. The park brochure lists it as a "challenging" hike of 45-minutes one way. That one way time must be the return hike coming back down the rock because it took us closer to an hour and a half to reach the 1,823 foot summit on the way up. We did have several rest breaks, usually whenever I could find a rock the right height to sit on.

Anyway, here are some photos we took today at Enchanted Rock.

That's a pretty imposing looking rock and we're still five miles away!

The first half of the summit trail starts out nice and flat and easy,
which only adds to the difficulty later on the top half of the trail.

We are halfway up the trail now looking back down at where we came from.
That big rock in the middle was our last rest stop.

360° views from the 1,823 foot summit of Enchanted Rock.

We also found this at the summit of the rock, pools of water with two inch thick ice on top.

It wasn't just rock, water and ice up there. We found some hearty plant life too.

Notice the horizon is level, the rock trail we were on sure wasn't!

I hope ROVER is still waiting for us down in the parking lot.

On the 50 mile drive there and the 50 mile drive back today I kept hearing a song in my head, it was a 1972 song by Loudon Wainwright III.

Here are some of the lyrics:

Take a whiff on me, that ain't no rose
Roll up yer window and hold your nose
You don't have to look and you don't have to see
'Cause you can feel it in your olfactory

Did anyone figure out what song this is?

It's called "Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road".

Here is a LINK to the YouTube Video if you care to listen.

We must have seen a dozen or more dead skunks today, but they were all on the side of the road. Like the song says, about two seconds after we passed each and every one we caught a whiff of that unmistakable smell coming through the air vents. Even with the windows rolled all the way up it still made you want to grab hold of your nose.

When we were almost back to the campground when Tricia said, "I didn't even see that last skunk, but I sure did smell it". When she looked over at me I was smiling and she asked, "Was that you?". I just shook my head, smiled and kept my eyes on the road. I sure hope we don't encounter any more of those "invisible skunks" before we get back to the campsite!

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