George Bush worshipers, gun lovers, religious fanatics, pickup truck drivers, corrupt oil tycoons.
Those are a few of the Texas stereotypes I brought with me to Inks Lake State Park last month. I forgot about all of them by the end of the week.
After trolling the San Antonio-to-Austin circuit for the second time, I ventured a bit off the beaten path to explore some lesser-known parts of the Lone Star State. Inks Lake State Park is within a two-hour drive from both cities, and just north of Longhorn Cavern State Park.
The park takes up 1,201 acres along the Colorado River and has been open to the public since 1950. We chose this campground over nearby Pedernales Falls State Park because of the tent site area and the Internet situation. If I didn’t make a living working at campgrounds, I would shun Internet access entirely. But alas, something has to fund the nightly fees (which were about $20 per night, by the way).
My absolute favorite places to camp are next to flowing water. We were able to secure a campsite next to the lake for the week, which was mighty convenient for frequent kayaking. Since we have an inflatable kayak, a trip on the water usually entails about 15 minutes of hand pumping. However, our Inks Lake campsite had enough space to leave the kayak sit out inflated each day.
Check out the campsites between space 85 and 91. These have lots of space and nice sunset views, although they tend to get crowded with RVs during peak times. There’s some small, but cutesy, looking cabins a few yards away too if you’re a little less hardcore.
Although the lake isn’t enormous, there are a few good kayak routes to check out. One leads to Devil’s Waterhole, where low-key thrill-seekers take turns cliff jumping. There’s also a small island off the coast of the pavilion on the northeast end of the park. This is a great place to kayak to for a secluded lunch or swim to, if you’re not worried about your feet touching the ground.
There’s really only one hiking trail inside the park boundaries, and that’s the Pecan Flats Trail. There are some unexpectedly nice vista points along the trail and a good number of cacti to scope out. Parts of the trail are severely overgrown, so you might have to turn around and head back if the insects are driving you nuts. Take a look at this trail guide to brush up on plants you’ll see along the way.
One of the coolest part about the Texas State Parks is the free fishing. Never have I encountered another recreational area that lends you fishing poles and tackle for free. As someone who occasionally (and impatiently) dips a pole in the water but who has never actually caught a fish, “free” is essential.The park staff isn’t all that concerned about you keeping the gear for a few days either. I was simply asked to bring the pole back at the end of the week when I check out. The park general store sells live bait for a few dollars, as well as souvenirs and snacks.
That general store also rents out kayaks, canoes, and paddleboats by the hour for about $15-20. Since we have our own kayak, we decided to take a paddleboat out on day for a lunch break from work. There’s no way around it – paddleboats are really dumb. However I justified the experience by smuggling a couple beers on board and declaring the peddling to be an adequate leg workout for the day.
I felt simultaneously more work-productive and more relaxed at Inks Lake State Park than anywhere else in a long time. Since I’ve returned home to my home base in Chicago, I haven’t been able to find anywhere near the motivation or focus I had while working and playing here. Not only was Inks Lake a breath of fresh air for my confidence and my state of mind, but it was also instrumental in changing my perception about the state ofTexas.