My Child Groom turned sixty three a week ago, and we celebrated a bit in advance by taking Porco and the animals out to Lake Benbrook for a few days of P and Q. We're pretty obviously not the only ones to think of this, because most of the state parks we looked at were booked up. And since he had been eager to try an Army Corps of Engineers site I checked at Benbrook (where his forest ranger sister had once worked, and which is only a couple of hours away) and found our desired window open. So, taking about two weeks to get Porco in shape to travel again, we ventured forth. This was our first trip since the pre-plague January visit to Palmetto.
The park was well-occupied, but not packed. The fact that we arrived on a Monday didn't make occupation much sparser, since many families--even in this science-denying state--are home with their kids and probably anxious to get them out before things really close down again. There was a family camped across the road in tents, but most of our other near neighbors seemed to be older couples like us. One such were full-timers in a big rig with a toad (See? I'm even learning the lingo!). They were on their way back east, but liked USACoE sites and thus were parked at Benbrook for a few days.
What was really nice, besides getting away from the local traffic noise and the next-door pool pump, was that even though the kids were noisy for a bit, the rest of the stay was blessedly quiet. And we heard no traffic at all (even though this lake is only ten miles away from Fort Worth). Very loud jet noise went over a couple of times, from the nearby Naval air station, but that only lasted long enough to scare the bejeeziz out of Molly and send her into hiding.
We were camped quite near the boat ramp at the South Holiday section of the park, which made for easy walks along the shore. When I finally got the Eos SLR out (forgetting that I had a zoom lens I could have used), I managed to shoot a few bird photos, inspired by one of my favorite Skywatch Friday contributors, Rosyfinch Ramblings. I don't see awfully well these days, and tend to miss stuff I shouldn't, but I did turn around at one point quickly enough to see a couple of herons (one white and one blue) take off from tree stumps near the shore.
The Great Blue then took up residence on the railing of the pier next to the dock, and stayed there making rude noises for a while.
After it fell silent again, I soaked up the quietude for a bit before I turned back to the campsite. On my way back, a murder of blackbirds started going at it, including crows, grackles, and a few turkey vultures. The grackles seemed to be upset about something, and after I'd taken the photo, I noticed what it was: a bald eagle!
The eagle flew off and things quieted down, so I headed back to camp and to my hammock to read. The sun was coming out and the temperature was mild enough to be able to enjoy lying in dappled sun and shade for a couple of hours.
There were also bluebird boxes around, but I didn't see one (box or bird) until we were leaving. Had I realized that there was a box attached to a "Slow" sign on the entry road near our site, I'd have parked myself there for as long as it took. Maybe next time. And there probably will be, now that the Beloved Spouse has expanded our exit gate and it's much easier to get Porco out of the yard, and now that we know where the best spots are at this particular park. We also took advantage of a wide equestrian trail for a hike, but it's littered with trees from floods and not particularly well groomed. I managed to trip and scuff myself up a bit, but with no lasting damage. There's a bird blind not too far in, so next time we'll be better prepared to spend some time waiting for wildlife to saunter by. Nylah certainly enjoyed her many walks, and even got to see some deer on one midday stroll.
It's good to know that even fairly close-by there are places we can go to regain a measure of sanity. The next week is going to be a tough one, and I'm glad we had some time to decompress before election anxiety sets in full force. Regardless of the outcome, the Plague isn't going away around here, and we're glad to find even a short-term change of landscape to help us make it through.
Mask up, Folks, and be safe. And happy Skywatch Friday