Sunday, June 21, 2009

Inks Lake, Summer of 09

If you've read some of my previous posts you know we purchased a camping trailer. The trailer was a compromise. Debbie wished to recreate her childhood experiences she enjoyed and I wanted to please her and yet maintain an air conditioned environment.

I work for the State of Texas and so we get an insane number of holidays. There is, on average, one per month. This particular holiday trip fell on Juneteenth, celebrating the day the slaves of Texas learned of their emancipation after the civil war. While I'm not aware of any ancestors who were slaves of African decent I am more than happy to celebrate the holiday by hauling a twenty-nine foot trailer for an hour to a state park.

Its hot in Texas. Not as hot as other areas in the US but still pretty darn hot. The temperature during the day is in the high nineties which felt around 120 outside the shade. Did I mention that part of my criteria for camping involved air conditioning?

I thought it would be difficult to out-do our last outing to Inks. We went in the winter but winters in our part of Texas are not that cold. We had a fire and went for long walks on the trails. It was a great trip.

In between that trip and this one we traveled to Mustang Island State Park out near Port Aransas. The facilities at that park weren't nearly so nice as Inks although the beaches are nice. If you like sand and surf its the park for you. If you like lake activities and hiking, Inks is more your sort of place.

Not that the beach isn't fun. We saw a baby black tipped reef shark, a huge blue crab, a purple jelly fish, tons of nighttime sand crabs and a baby leopard shark that I accidentally kicked and yet still have all my toes. Fun, but not Inks lake level of fun.

Now, for the record, this trip to Inks did not start well. My youngest teenage step daughter decided to have a female moment the night before we left that upset Debbie. So we were late getting off the next morning as we played catchup from the previous night's fun.

My advice to any of you with thirteen year old daughters: your lovely daughter is about to disappear to be replaced with a fire breathing, irrational dragon. Not to worry, someday she'll be back but for now you should consult a physician for mood stabilizers. Not for her, for you. But I digress.

We arrived at Inks State Park around 9:30, an hour and a half later than planned. Unlike winter, the wait time to get a camping spot in summer is considerable. We waited for about forty-five minutes an assignment. I was minding Zack, our son, and Milo, our dog, when our name was called so Debbie went inside to get campsite number. We were given 151.

We loaded up and drove to the assigned area. It was at the very back of the park next to the small highway. While the area was heavily forested with lots of trails it was extremely crowded. There were tents and cars everywhere. Later we learned this was the closest spot to a popular swimming area but we didn't know that at the time. To make matters worse there was someone in our assigned campsite.

We weren't sure what to do about squatters so we drug the trailer back to the park entrance to inform the rangers. Note I still have twenty-nine feet of air conditioned comfort behind the truck waiting to be plugged in. We drive up to the station and Deb hops out. I drive past not sure I can make the turn around at the station with the trailer attached. I drove down to the campsites on the other side of the park then back. Debbie is waiting on me with a pissed off look.

“They have until 2 pm. to leave,” she said.

“Did you ask about the other campsites we like? 76 was empty when we drove by. That one's a dream.” ask I.

“She said they were all taken,” said Deb.

“Hmm, how about I give the Athey charm a try?” said I with my best grin.

Debbie just grimaced. “Fine but they're all taken.”

Now, as a side note the Athey's are known for their ability to BS. There's nothing but preachers and missionaries on one side of the family and nothing but business men and ranchers on the other. All in all its a lethal combination when properly used.

I walked into the ranger station and there is a short Hispanic lady reloading the brochure holders. She did not look happy. The rest of the rangers were in back laughing. Apparently she was the new person that got stuck with the jobs others did not want.

“I'll be with you in a moment,” she stated curtly.

“I'm in not hurry,” I said. It was true, we had until 2 for the squatters to vacate. “I see you survived the morning rush.”

“Barely,” she said.

“We were here in the winter. They told us it got crowded during the summer but I wasn't expecting this large a crowd,” I said conversationally.

She snorted a bit. “Yes, very busy.” She finished loading the brochure racks and walked back behind the counter. “How may I help you?” A burst of laughter came from the back. She looked in that direction and frowned.

Now the next few seconds were going to be very delicate. What we were dealing with was a pissed off civil servant who was having a bad day. She had very little power in life but what she had she wielded like a hammer. I was the supplicant seeking a favor from the ruler of the campsite assignments and knew it would be best if I acted that way. A little understanding, it turns out, goes a long way.

I put on my most likable grin. “We're in slot 151 and...”

She cut me off. “They have until 2 to leave.”

“And that's fine. But I was wondering if there were some empty slots somewhere to pull our trailer into. I'm really not a very good driver and I would hate to have to haul that thing all the way into town to wait until two. Do you have anything that's not full?”

“Nothing on the lake,” she said. Her tone wasn't quite as curt.

I continued. “I'm not picky, really. It doesn't have to be on the lake. Whatever you've got would be fine.”

She sighed, the tightness drained a bit from her face. “I've got slot 121 and 76. 76 is a drive through if you have problems backing.”

“76 would be fine,” I said trying to keep my grin from shit eating stage. The deal wasn't sealed yet.

The ranger did some stuff at the computer then gave me the slot assignment.

“Thanks,” I said. “Try to have a good time until the next rush.”

She actually smiled back and waved.

I hit the door and THE grin spread across my face like peanut butter on Mrs. Beards. This is the grin my wife hates. Its the one I get when I'm inordinately pleased with myself.

I climbed in the truck and showed Debbie the assignment. “How? What did you do?”

“I just smiled and asked nicely.”

She hit me. “I was not rude to that woman! I was nice!”

I looked at her still grinning. “You think its cute when Zack does it. Where do you think he got it from.” Zack if famous for people giving him stuff.

Debbie smiled a little but still seemed unwilling to let it go.

“We got it baby. We got one of the best spots in the park!”

Debbie cheered up and thanks to a level pad and a drive through camp site our setup was the easiest yet. No backing up and pulling forward four times to get the trailer centered. Just drive up and put the truck in park.

The campsite was beautiful. It was across from our last Inks Lake site. It has a huge drive, 5 large trees, a grill and a fire pit. The lake was just across the street.

As I unhooked the trailer Zack requested his bike. I took it out and he took off with Debbie yelling out the boundaries as he rounded the first corner. He drove back and then down a trail. When he rode back up he had a friend with him. It takes Zack about 5 minutes to find a friend anywhere we go.

Other notable events on day 1 involved the renting of a canoe. I'll have more on that in my next post.

'Til then,