Two weeks ago, one of my hiker friends asked in our hiking leaders chat if anyone wanted to spend the last Sunday of January at Inks Lake with her. Periodically, we like to spend some time hiking with each other rather than leading groups, so we plan these little outings. Inks Lake is so far my favorite state park (I’ve only been to 10), and I’ve been twice. I really, really wanted to go, but I wasn’t sure if my sciatica would allow it, especially after the two hour drive to get there. I let Sarah know that I was tentatively interested depending on how my body felt that week. After a no-pain walk around the neighborhood, followed by a no-pain hike with Sarah, I decided that I could indeed make it to Inks Lake as long as I could stop to stretch my back whenever it acted up. That last part wasn’t going to be a problem, as this was a group of friends who are all super supportive when it comes to health issues!
There were three of us who ended up on the trip. Sarah drove herself as she is not yet comfortable with carpooling, and Alia and I met up to drive together. This was their second time at the park and, as I said above, my third. During Alia’s last trip, she noticed a set of trails that led to a waterfall. None of us had been on those particular trails, and we planned a 3-4 mile route.
The think I love about Inks Lake so much is that it’s such a diverse landscape. You can walk down a path lined with cactus and scrub on one side, and ferns on the other. In a quarter mile, you cross into marshland, and in another quarter mile, you’re suddenly in a burned out forested area. The elevation isn’t too heavy (about 500ft is the max I’ve done there, I think?) and it’s gradual enough that you hardly realize you’re climbing. There’s so much wildlife – we saw skunks, pelicans (!!!), lizards, butterflies, and geese on this trip. It’s just a beautiful place and I’m sad that it’s a solid two hours away.
So back to our trip. We set out on our route, making sure to start with the more gradual incline so that we could get warmed up properly. At one point, we had to gingerly pick our way over a creek crossing. It’s a good thing there hasn’t been more rain or that might have ended that section of our route, since none of us brought extra shoes! After the creek crossing, we started climbing in earnest to get some great views of the lake and waterfalls (not to mention a million photos!). We could have gone further along the lake before turning back, but at that point, the trail became more “giant steps up boulders” and I didn’t think my back was going to handle too much of that. We decided to turn around – like I said, these ladies are so wonderful at respecting each other’s physical limitations! – and it ended up being a good thing (more on that in a bit).
Another creek crossing back to the other side, and we continued with our initial loop, which allowed us to climb down to the waterfall itself! We also came across this really cool tree growing out of a giant mount of rocks over 20 feet high (you can see the rocks with the tree on top in the right-most of the collage above this paragraph). Sarah and Alia decided to climb to the top, while I stayed on the ground to film and take photos. I didn’t trust my hips to climb, nor did I want to risk it with my nice camera on a harness around my chest!! They were rockstars, though!
Not long after that, about half mile from the end of the loop, Alia’s hip began to act up and she said she was really glad we’d turned around when we did because she didn’t think she’d be able to go much further than what we had left. We made it back to the original trail, took a rest in the shade by the lakeshore, and eventually meandered our way back to the parking lot. It took us something like 2.5 hours – including all our stops to enjoy views, take photos, and soak in the beautiful weather – to hike three miles. Heh. And this is why my group talks about hiking at a “natural-admiring” pace! It’s the best.
After our hike, we drove to nearby Marble Falls for lunch, passing a Bavarian castle along the way. (One day, when it’s open again, we’re going to tour it!) The Colorado River – not the Colorado River, but a Colorado River – goes right through the middle of Marble Falls, so we found a restaurant that had patio seating overlooking the river. We’d worked up major appetites and it was 3pm before we got “lunch,” so we really enjoyed the food!!
Then it was off to head back to San Antonio. I got home not long before sunset, after leaving my house at 8am, so it really was a full girls’ day out. And it really was the best day. I’m so happy to have found such wonderful friends and to be exploring so many beautiful places!