Palmetto State Park (2/2019)

Day 1
Today has been a great day. With the new reservation system of the state parks, you have site specific reservations. That means, unless you know for sure that your site was empty the night before, there is no reason to rush to get there too much before 2:00 pm. That means you have a big chunk of morning to do your packing and can leisurely get around to hitching up and heading out. It really makes for a much more relaxed trip.
I left the house at about 11:30 and made good time getting here. There is a lot of construction on I-10, but it wasn’t a problem for me. I go pretty slow anyway. I got here just as the rangers were coming back from lunch, so I would have had to wait anyway, had I been earlier.
Check in was a little slow. The computer didn’t want to cooperate. I was served by the superintendent of the park, Liz Palfini. She has come to the Master Naturalist training and presented on the art of interpretive guiding. She was the inspiration behind Jared and my going to training for that in July.
I was a little too confident backing into my site today. I got myself in a jack-knife position and had to take a lap around the camping loop and try again. The second attempt was picture perfect. I don’t know what I did wrong the first time. After that, setting up was a piece of cake, except that I put the stabilizers down without the pads. It was an easy fix, but an annoyance, just the same. I hooked everything up but the sewer connection. I don’t need that right away anyway since my tanks are all empty from the last trip. I even got the water heater "un-bypassed", as this is my dewinterizing trip. I flushed all of the pink antifreeze out of all the plumbing.
I was anxious to see if the birds were going to be cooperative on this trip, so I headed out on about a mile and a half hike. I didn’t take binoculars or my camera, because I just wanted to get some steps in before lunch.
When I got back to the Colby 2.0, I ate lunch. Texas friends please skip to the next paragraph. I don’t want to get my Texan card revoked or get tarred and feathered when I say what I ate for lunch. I had a can of Hormel tamales. Yes, the really gross ones that are wrapped in soggy paper. It seemed like a good idea. It wasn’t. But, being me, I ate them anyway. They tasted like tamales that had been soaked in water for a week or two. I honestly don’t know why Hormel bothers.
After lunch, I went on a three mile bird walk. It was a good time. There were lots of birds, but I could only identify 13 species. I hardly got any photos, and the ones that I did, save for maybe three, really suck!
It is getting dark now. I am going to drink some Merlot and watch something that I downloaded from Netflix. I hope the movies I chose are in English. I have really bad luck with that.
Anyway, the plan for tomorrow is to get on the trail as soon as there is enough light to see the birds. I want to get at least 20,000 steps in tomorrow. We’ll see how that goes.
Day 2
My alarm went off at 7:00 am as planned. I sat up on the bed and pulled the blind up on the closest window. It was so foggy out that I could barely make out the picnic table on my site. Not exactly perfect conditions for birding. I reset the alarm for 8:00 and fell back to sleep.
The next time the alarm sounded, I got up and made the bed. I ate a quick breakfast, dressed in birding gear, and headed off on the first of three bird walks.
I crossed the San Marcos river and walked around the other camping area before taking the two trails that are on that side of the park. I tried to get photos of as many birds as I could, but I just don’t have that down very well, yet. I did get a good shot of a bluebird. I haven’t seen one of them here before. Then, after hiking around the lake, I came to that old Baptist church. I could hear a hawk calling from high in a tree, but couldn’t get my eyes on it. Suddenly, another one came flying towards it, and I was able to find the spot. For just a few seconds, I watched what I think was mating. The one that flew in was on top of the other one with his wings flapping. By the time I had the camera ready, it was over and done. I did get some good shots of the two of them together in the tree, though.
I hiked back to the camper just long enough to use the facilities and get a drink of water. Then I realized that I only had four more bottles with me, so I got my Britta pitcher out and walked to the site next door to fill it. I didn’t want to trouble with disconnecting my hose. After that, I headed out for the longest hike of the day.
When I got back, my back and feet were all complaining. I ate some lunch before laying down for a nap. That only lasted about an hour, because I kept having the same dream, and it woke me up every time. It was the Hugo, Texas dream that I had once before. People keep asking me to either help them get to or get out of Hugo. I tried to find Hugo on the map once, but couldn’t. Oh well.
I decided to go to Buccee’s to get gas and buy some more microwave popcorn. They didn’t have any, so I drove into Gonzalez and got some at Walmart. I got my gas there, too. I could have gone to the HEB in Luling and saved about 8 miles, but I like the popcorn at Walmart more.
I was kind of shocked when I saw how late it was when I got back to the Colby 2.0. I knew I wanted another hike. I’m trying to get at least 20,000 steps today and tomorrow since they are full days at the park. Anyway, I changed back into my birding stuff and headed out. This hike wasn’t as long as the second one, but it was nice. The sun was shining, which gave everything a fresh look.
Just as I got back to the camper, Rachel called. We talked for a few minutes, but there was a sound related to the air conditioner that I couldn’t figure out. I finally realized that the cookie sheet stored in the oven was rattling whenever the compressor came on. It had me worried for a while though.
Anyway, I’ll be repeating last night from this point on. I’ll drink Merlot, read a little, and watch a Netflix movie. Oh yeah... I’m also going to take a nice hot shower and get the trails off me. It is so nice to be dewinterized and have all systems up and running.
Tomorrow, I am going to focus on photographing birds. I might not even do an eBird checklist. I really want to get better at it. I am posting my daily best bird photos to a new blog site that I started. You can find it at: https://mybirds.postach.io/
Day 3
Today is the last full day of this particular trip. Once again, I woke up early to go on a hike, but saw bad weather and went back to sleep for an hour. This time, it was raining. It was also pretty cold. I didn’t see that coming. Last night, or I should say last afternoon, the sun has finally come out enough that I actually put the air conditioner on for about an hour to cool the trailer down. Now, today, I’m running my heater. Crazy!
After a quick breakfast and 2 cups of coffee, I dressed in some warm clothes and got my birding gear ready. Even though it was cold and drizzly, I was determined to get a long hike in so that I would be on track for hitting my 20,000 steps today. I can’t say that the birding was wonderful. Well, actually there were plenty of birds. But, since I had to keep my camera and binoculars inside my jacket to protect them from the drizzle, I got very few pictures. By the time I unzip the jacket and pulled the camera or binoculars out, the bird I wanted to take pictures of where is long gone. I did get a few that I was happy with.
I got back to the camper just as it started to rain a little heavier. I had planned on heading on over to the other side of the park just in case the weather got worse. It never did get much worse, so after a brief rest and another cup of coffee, I went ahead and hiked over there. I tried to get a picture of the elusive pileated woodpecker. Unfortunately, the only one I saw wasn’t very cooperative, and my picture isn’t very good.
When I got back from that second hike, I saw a park ranger going around the camping loop changing the reservation signs on the sites. I asked him about tomorrow’s bird walk. He called into the office to see if it was still on. It is. I asked him if I would have a little leeway with the 12 PM checkout time, since I wouldn’t get off that bird walk until 11:30. I had planned on getting as much of the pack up done as possible so that all I would have to do after the walk was rush back and hitch up. He told me that I should just go ahead and get hitched up and park the trailer in front of the refectory. I had thought the original notice said we were meeting at headquarters, and I know there’s not enough room to park a trailer there. So, it’s a plan. I’ll get up at six, REGARDLESS of the weather, and do all of the departure stuff.
After chatting with the Ranger about a few other things, I came back in the trailer to find that it had gotten even colder inside than when I left. I put the heater back on and fixed myself a nice hot lunch. I messed around with my camera a bit, because the card I was using filled up on me. I had to transfer some pictures off, which took a little while.
I still needed about 5000 steps to finish off the days quota, so I bundled up again and took another hike along the San Marcos River trail, the Ottine Swamp Trail, and a few of the spurs. Then I went back over to the refectory, and sat on the back patio for a while looking at the river. That brings me to now. I’ll add more later as it happens.
Well, I had a nice dinner. Then I sat back and relaxed for a while. I got a little restless though. I started doing some of my pack up stuff – you know non-essentials. Once I get in that frame of mind, it’s hard to get out. Then, I read on one of my RV groups that there’s a Freeze expected next week! I quickly looked at the San Antonio forecast on weather bug only to learn that we were going to have two freezing nights in a row. One of them is projected to be below freezing for six hours. I guess I’ll just stick with the plan I mentioned to Rachel before I left home. I’ll get up and empty all my tanks as usual, and, if the forecast holds true, I’ll run over to the storage lot and re-winterize again. It only takes me 15 minutes and a few bottles of anti-freeze. It’s just that, had I known, I wouldn’t have dewinterized on this trip.
When I finally settle down and got ready to watch a Netflix movie, I picked the quartet. It looked interesting to me, and since the stars are all well known British actors, I had no reason to believe it would be in Italian! So, now I’m watching a series from England about people whose houses have turned into disasters. Boy, I hope my luck is never as bad as theirs.
Anyway, I’m going to watch a little bit more than read for a while. I’m planning on lights out at 10, but it’ll probably be 11. I’m going to get up at 6 AM and do all things I need to do indoors before it gets light enough for me to finish up outside. The goal is to be totally hitched up and ready to go at 8 AM. The bird walk starts at 8:30.
Day 4
Wow! That 6:00 am alarm hit me like a ton of bricks. Even though I went to bed early, I guess I had a restless night. I know that I snored a lot. I woke up with what I call a "snore throat". A few cups of coffee took that away.
I ate a quick breakfast and started right in on the pack up. I had to make up the bed, vacuum, wash dishes, move the stuff that goes home to the truck, top off the air in my tires, dump the tanks, and stow all equipment. I had plenty of time, because the ranger I spoke to yesterday told me that the bird walk was at 8:30. Then, in the middle of hitching up the trailer, my calendar reminder went off saying it started at 8:00. I checked the website, and it said 8:00, so I put it in hyper gear and got everything done. Then I walked to the refectory and waited for the ranger to arrive. We started at 8:30!
The bird walk was really nice. We saw 29 different species of birds. There were only 6 of us on the walk. There was a couple from Lulung, two men from New Braunfels, Ranger Jason True, and me. Everyone melded well along the trail. The woman from Lulung told me that she and her husband had just registered for the Master Naturalist training. We had a pleasant conversation about that. The only negative was the cold. I didn't feel it until the second hour. It seemed to surround us from out of nowhere, almost like they portray it in a ghost movie. I was chilled to the bone. I was really happy when I was in my truck with the heater blasting all the way home.
The trip home was non-eventful. I was kind of tired, though. Anyway... I'm home.

Photos from this trip: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1QrRs-eD8XvQOZGM2r9I7XNn7zNx8d75x
NOTE: most of my pictures won’t be there until I get home. I am using my Canon camera a lot these days. It’s really hard to upload them from the campsite.