Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Disappearing Lake

Inks Lake State Park is located on one of the Highland Lakes of Central Texas.  There are seven lakes formed by a series of dams along the Colorado River.  Five of the lakes are kept at a constant level, while the two largest are used for flood control and irrigation and are highly variable.

Inks Lake is very small but constant at 831 acres. It sits just below Lake Buchanan which is the largest at 22,333 acres, when full. But Lake Buchanan is suffering badly in the drought and is a long way from full.

Teri and I decided to take a drive around Lake Buchanan as it has historically hosted some good waterfowl. We were shocked however to see how low it was and how far away the water was from some "favorite" birding spots.

Our first stop was at Black Rock Park which has a group of cabins that are supposed to sit right at the waters edge. Here I am on a cabin porch and that water is a long ways away!

The boat launch area hadn't seen any water for quite some time.

For owners of lakefront property, it looks like a good time to work on their docks. Easy access!

As we drove on around the lake, each park and boat ramp we encountered looked the same.  The image below is a boat launching ramp that has been extended several times, until there simply wasn't anything to extend it to.

Knowing Texas weather, we'll get a hurricane or some other significant weather event and this lake will be refilled in just a few weeks. But until then, it surely is a sad sight. 


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Working on the Boat Dock

One of the projects that I've been involved with here at Inks Lake was the replacement of some rotted wood on the boat dock.

Our first task was to remove the old lumber and hardware.

We measured for the new boards.  Measure twice, cut once!
The new portion of the dock should last a good long time. I'm not so sure about the rest of it though!
One final task: The entire time we worked on the dock I could see a red plastic cup in the water.  So Teri and I came back with our nifty new "pickers" and I fished it out of the lake.  One less piece of junk in the water...


Thursday, January 23, 2014

What a difference a day makes

Last weekend we experienced a nice, sunny, 3-day weekend here at Inks Lake.  WOW!  I don’t think we were quite prepared!  The parked was packed.  I think every boy scout troop in Texas was here.

We put out 2 cords of wood.  The Friends group made over $500 on wood!  It’s a little pricy at $1 a stick (sold in bundles of 5).  But, if you’re freezing, it’s worth it.  They estimate that about 30% of the people do not pay for their wood. 
 Monday morning 
Tuesday morning
Monday morning
Tuesday morning
Monday morning
Tuesday morning

We have been told that during spring break (in March), we will have two weeks of this same activity. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Why Volunteer?

1.  We really feel that we are providing a valuable service for the various parks and refuges.
(We want to work and we want to be useful)

2.  We like to stay busy.
(Even when we both worked full time we were able to do a lot of volunteering)

3.  It’s a great way to meet people.
(We have made many good friends, some of which we run into all over the country)

4.  It’s a good way to see the U.S.A.
(We have traveled to several foreign countries and I have always come home thinking the US is the best country in the world. There’s no place like home)

After almost two weeks, we have finally been assigned enough jobs to keep us busy.  It has taken a lot of effort on our part!  Even so, on Monday morning we received our latest job and were told to just start it the next Sunday!  They seem to be really worried they might “overwork” the volunteers.  We went ahead and worked a full day on Monday.  We didn’t see any reason to put it off for another week.

So, as of now we have three specific tasks assigned to us. 

We will be checking the honor system firewood caches every day. We have heard that on busy weekends we might have to replenish them morning and evening. Every Monday we will be getting all the loaner fishing tackle and making sure every rod and reel is in working order and has hook, sinker, and bobber.  Our third and newest task will be to clean cabins Sunday and Monday mornings. The other volunteer couple that cleans the cabins are very nice and were helpful in getting us assigned to this coveted job.

We finally feel like we are settled in.

There are a lot of fun things to do in this park.  Inks Lake is on the Colorado River.  It’s a manmade lake created during the great depression of the 1930’s. The Lower Colorado River Authority built Inks Lake with the creation of Buchanan Dam and Inks Dam. It is the second lake in the chain of six lakes called the Highland Lakes.

There are kayaks, canoes and paddleboats. Fishing inside the park doesn’t require a Texas fishing license.  Longhorn Caverns is part of the park and just down the road a little ways. There are also lots of hiking trails. 
This isn’t the most glamorous volunteer position that we have had.  But, the park is beautiful and the volunteers are a lot of fun!

Mark is in disc golf heaven with 5 courses within an hour from here.  We hope to get out and take advantage of all the park has to offer - stay tuned!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Backup Plan

We’re still trying to find things to do around here.  We seem to be the only ones concerned that we don’t have any tasks or even certain days to work. 

All the volunteers we have met are very nice and all agree that things are slow and we will probably have to find our own work.

One job that we did pick up from one of the other volunteers is “firewood”.

There are 5 honor system firewood stations here in the park.  Our job will be to check each one and, if needed, replenish the firewood.  The firewood is neatly stacked in 5-stick bundles.  Each bundle is $5.  It doesn’t seem like this will take up too much time but might result in a few hours. 
There are 20 cabins in the park and we have talked to a couple of volunteers about helping to clean them one or two days a week.  We should find out soon if that will be a job we’ll be assigned to.
We have noticed lots of volunteers walking around picking up trash.  Most folks have their own “pickers”.  We headed to Home Depot and picked up a couple of pickers and a bucket.
Our thought is that if there is nothing else to do, we can always spend a few hours picking up trash.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Out Our Window

We put up a bird feeder as soon as we arrived at Inks Lake State Park, and immediately started attracting birds. It took us several weeks to get birds at our feeder in Enchanted Rock, so I suspect that the previous occupant of this spot may have fed birds as well.

Our first visitors were the familiar Carolina Chickadee and Black-crested Titmouse.  This place is absolutely crawling with Titmice, with as many as four or five working the feeder at once.

Carolina Chickadee
Black-crested Titmouse
Our most colorful visitors have been Lesser Goldfinches.  A few bright males have been visiting the feeder regularly.
Lesser Goldfinch
Sittin' in a Tree...
Less colorful in their winter plumage, American Goldfinches have stopped by as well.
American Goldfinch
Chipping Sparrows have arrived in force.  Many field guides refer to their "gray unstreaked rump" as a way to distinguish them from similar sparrows.  Having an eye-level view of the feeder gives a good view of this particular field mark!
Chipping Sparrow
Gray Rump on Chipping Sparrow
The End!


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

We’re Pretty Laid-back Around Here

Seems like everyone we have talked to here at Inks Lake has said to us “We’re pretty laid-back around here".  That seems to be true.

We are having a hard time getting anyone to tell us what work needs to be done, or what days we need to work.  There are a couple of volunteers who have assigned tasks, like cleaning the cabins or working in the park store.  Those folks are holding tight to their jobs!

Last Friday we got dressed in our park shirts and walked down to the maintenance building where we were told everyone starts in the morning.  After talking to some of the volunteers for an hour or so, we were finally able to get with the volunteer coordinator who told us to just take it easy a couple more days and come back on Monday and he would have something for us to do.

Sunday we walked down to the little park store and talked to the volunteer and staff person there.  This is a fishing lake and the park has lots of fishing rods that they loan out.  The staff mentioned that they needed someone to check out all the rods and reels and untangle them (they are all just thrown in a corner) and make sure they all have hooks, bobbers, etc., and work properly.

So, Monday morning, after waiting around the maintenance shop for an hour, we were told that it was too cold to work.  We mentioned that the park staff needed someone to work on the fishing rods and we would be happy to “tackle” that job.  

It took us a couple of hours and we were able to move everything into a heated garage to work on them.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me while we were working but we stopped by the RV and I was able to get a pictures before we put all the rods back in the fishing shed.  We worked on 20 rods and did everything from putting on new line, to adding hooks, sinkers, bobbers and checking the drag on all of them. 

It has been bitterly cold here the last few days.  We’re hoping it warms up and we can find enough work to keep us busy.

Monday, January 6, 2014

An Out-of-Town Visitor

Teri and I headed over to the Inks Lake National Fish Hatchery, which is just five miles from our park. In the past this has been a good place to see waterfowl and other birds along the river.  A friend had let us know that a Long-tailed Duck had been reported there recently, so we hoped to see that bird as well.

We arrived at the fish hatchery and started walking along the edge of Inks Lake. We saw a pair of Osprey overhead as well as some Ring-billed Gulls and Forster's Terns.

Osprey with Ring-billed Gull in the Background
A single White Pelican was flying down the treeline along the lake, and several Vultures were out looking for a snack.
White Pelican

Black Vulture
Black Vulture - Love the White Legs!
We made our way up to the fish ponds, finding most of them empty.  Only a few had water, and we didn't see a single duck anywhere.  We noticed two photographers had set up next to one pond so we headed that direction.  Sure enough there was one bird on the pond, and it was the wayward Long-tailed Duck. This duck is normally found on the east coast, so having this one sitting on a pond near Burnet, TX was a treat.

Long-tailed Duck - female
As we left we saw one of the workers aerating the water in a pond using a tractor and a large agitator. I think that they were probably testing it as the ponds don't have fish in them now and they usually need to aerate only in hot weather.  It was fun to watch though!

Aerating a Pond

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Where Has The Time Gone?

Mark and I had our first date on January 4, 1980.
We got married on January 4, 1983.
Today is our 31st anniversary.
It has been an amazing 31 (34) years!

Friday, January 3, 2014

(New) Home Sweet Home

After a quick 10 weeks at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, we made the short one-hour drive north to Inks Lake State Park.  In doing so we went from a park with three volunteer sites and tent camping only, to a park with 22 volunteer sites and literally hundreds of RV and tent sites.

They have a few of the volunteers scattered throughout the various camping loops, but most are in a specific area of the campground.  We chose a site in the volunteer area, and we like the location.

We like this area. The town of Burnet is 15 minutes away and Marble Falls is 25 minutes away. Teri reports that Marble Falls has the biggest, nicest HEB that she has ever seen, and both towns offer plenty of restaurants which we enjoy. For me, the nearest disc golf course is less than 15 minutes away and there are two others within 25 minutes.  

As far as our duties here, we don't know anything yet. Some of the volunteers have let us know that things are very "laid back" here as far as volunteers go. There is no specific schedule of workdays, and it seems like you are expected to track down your own project.  Part of the issue is that there is no grass to mow and, relatively few campers this time of year, and so not as many of the usual duties as during the busy spring and summer months. 

We hope to meet with the Lead Ranger soon and get started on something. Anything.  So stay tuned on that!!


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Love My Stash!

I’ve been crocheting for over 40 years but have really been enjoying it since my retirement three years ago.  I’ve got a gigantic stash of yarn, due in part to my mother-in-law who picks up donated yarn from the Linus meetings.  Some of the yarn is donated and some of the yarn is bought with donated money.  I also buy a lot of yarn, I can’t pass up all the pretty colors!

Here is my yarn stash before I moved it into the RV:
Most of my stash is stored under our king size bed.  In the beginning I only had 4 tubs.  After a small amount of whining (maybe a little more than a small amount), Mark graciously removed some more of his things out from under the bed and I got another big tub to fill up. 
That worked pretty well last summer, but then, I don’t know what happened!  For some reason I bought a whole bunch of yarn.  Lots of different colors and a whole lot of pink!  There is a wonderful craft store in Kerrville (Craft Town) that has the best selection of yarn I’ve ever seen, I just couldn’t help myself, I wanted it all.

My stash has started creeping to other areas of the RV, mainly, the bottom of the closet.  So far, it’s only on my side of the closet.
I’m crocheting plenty of afghans but my stash doesn’t seem to be going down.  Hummm, I’m not sure how that is happening.

All the afghans I made while we were in Colorado have been donated (three full-size afghans and 15 preemie afghans with matching caps). 

These are the latest afghans that have been given to my mother-in-law for her to take to the next Linus meeting.

I’ve got enough crochet patterns to keep me busy for at least 50 more years.  I’ve already started on the next one.