“It’s such a beautiful day today,” we both said in unison as we pulled away from the curb. We are having some unseasonably warm weather right now with temperatures today close to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s time to soak in the rays while we can as the forecast is predicting the temperatures to plummet into the low double digits and possibly into single digits for the next 5 days. A quick search online and we find a small park less than 2 hours drive from home. With a quick pack of the lunch box and a canister full of hot coffee (yes, I learned my lesson last time about packing cold drinks even when it feels warm – you never can tell how the temperature will feel next to a lake) we are off and on the road – again. Our destination today is Fort Parker State Park.
A few years ago a friend of mine stopped at this little gas station on Hwy 287 in between Waxahachie and Ennis to buy chimichanga. Never heard of them? Neither had I. This is more than a deep fried burrito! It tastes like heaven. Loaded with calories but aren’t all the tastiest things? I thought I had died and gone to heaven. This delicacy, and I mean delicacy is filled with chicken, green peppers, and cheese lovingly caressed and protected by a crispy, golden, deep-fried tortilla. Every time I travel this patch of road my mouth begins watering as we near this gas station (a-hum, restaurant). Although Andrew sweated all morning preparing gourmet salad wraps – I just cannot resist the urge to stop and purchase a couple of tasty treats. We stop and load up on two wonderfully smelling chimichangas. I tuck them away in the picnic basket right next to the salad wraps – I know what I’ll be having for lunch! Now, how to get to the park before I am tempted to devour one of these…if not both? I mean Andrew still has the meat wraps right???
An hour later, we arrive – the chimichangas still safely tucked away – uneaten. The park is located a little south of Mexia on Hwy 14. Anyone who follows celebrity gossip may remember Anna Nicole Smith, a Marilyn Monroe wanna-be and famous for marrying an octogenarian (I had written old guy but Andrew said this was a more descriptive term to use) billionaire from Texas when she was just out of her teens. I think she was also a Playboy bunny too. Born in Houston and raised in this place – Mexia. Alas, the marriage was brief. I really don’t keep up on such things but driving through the town brought up the topic and I remembered she was the same age as me. However, the hoop-la over her celebrity has not brought the image of the town up. It is a small country town….better than some….worse than others.
As we pull into the park we are greeted with friendly smiles and what is this…a British accent? Seems one of the attendants (Ranger) is from England – South London to be exact. A short “You’re Not From Around This Parts Are You?” is exchanged between our Ranger and Andrew – swapping their new foreign residences and immigration entry dates. We discover that she has been working at this park for the last three years and truly loves it. We just loved her hair – short, white, really white, and dangerously spiked – awesome! Not many could pass it off but she definitely did and did it excellently! Fort Parker State Park we learned was originally a CCC project (Civilian Conservation Corps) that was created in the early 30’s to the mid 40’s to help with the unemployment. They were hired to create all the lakes and damns that we now have come to depend on. Over the years the role of the CCC has diminished but maybe with our current economic climate they should think about how to utilize it to the best use again. The park is small yet very quaint with quite a lot to offer. It boasts a whopping 31 campsites with most of them either on the lake or with an open view of the lake. There are a few sites nestled in a cul de sac that does not have a view but would be nice for a small party needing several sites together. It has a few camp cabins (these are enclosed structures that usually only house a picnic table to during rainy spells means you have somewhere dry to go. Some bring camp cots to place in them too instead of pitching a tent. Some of the attractions are the small hiking trail that connects the camp area to the fish pond (with plans to expand further around the lake), canoes and row boats for rent, dam, natural spring, a cemetery dating back to the early settlement of the area, and two National Historical Sites, one of which is the Fort Parker itself. Unfortunately we did not get a chance to visit this this time around but have decided to probably make a weekend of it soon.
The park is fairly quiet with only about 6 campers nestled in the area. Some kids ride bikes around the quiet roads. Looking for a little spot of our own we find a picnic table with a fabulous view of the lake at the end of the short drive of the park. The sun is warm but it is very windy today and we quickly had to find ways of holding down our plates on the picnic table. It was okay with the food on it but each time we lifted those chimichangas the wind would pick up and the plate would begin sliding across the table. I wish I had take a picture with my cell phone serving as a paper weight in one.
While eating Shyla decided as per usual to trot on over to the water area and take a dip. She wasn’t quite ready for the surprise she encountered as she stepped off the ledge and into 3 feet of cloudy water. They have had a lot of rain and the banks had burst. The water had climbed up and over the levy. After realizing she was over her head, she quickly turned around but just couldn’t muster the strength to climb up over the levy and back onto dry land. Luckily we were around – Andrew came to her rescue with lightning speed – pulling he to safety. Fortunately there did not seem to be any of the gators around that the sign proposed could be!
With lunch over it was time to do some exploration. There seems to an abundance of bird activity at the park. We watched for several moments hoping to capture a little one peeking out of the bird house but was not granted that treat.
We may not have been able to see the tiny birds but we were definitely rewarded with the larger variety. With Andrew taking shots of the surroundings and Shyla taking strolls in and out of the water, I decided to take a nap on one of the concrete picnic tables. I’m not quite sure it was a table for sure as there were no benches around it..perhaps bring your own chairs. It looked like a great place to lay down and absorb some of the warm sun rays.
I got the feeling I was being watched from a distance. I opened my eyes I saw shadows darting here and there, all over me. I looked up to see hundreds of buzzards circling above me. I wonder if they thought I might have been some form of table kill.
We have been trying to capture a picture of a rapture other than the buzzard pictured above. But it looks like Andrew finally captured either a hawk or a small eagle in the shot below.
Relieved that I was not the next meal for a bunch of buzzards and still a little delirious from my afternoon nap, I began imaging the buzzards using my body as a incubator for their young. In this picture, I am demonstrating how the buzzards would hatch and push their way out…..the jury is out still how the young were placed inside of a living body?
All silliness aside the views from this area were breathtaking. Even the cattails growing in the lake’s edge had a beauty worthy of a moments pause.
I wonder if this is where the elusive alligators are hiding out. I am happy not to see any mind you. We can’t seem to keep Shyla out of the water. You wouldn’t believe it is presently winter.
Man and his best friend!
We took a short walk around the park and found an abandoned home and garage. Think we might try to claim squatters rights and keep the house as a vacation home…..a real fix – er- upper though.
The lake was so quiet and the ranger explained that as it is not a deep lake it is limited to only small boats. At the end of the day we captured a lone boat heading in for the evening.
As the sun began to set the beauty only intensified and I had a really hard time deciding which pictures to include. I finally decided on a few of the best shots.
I was able to capture a silhouette of Andrew as he looked out on the horizon.
All in all it was a very nice day and reluctantly we packed up and headed home leaving the buzzards to find new meal possibilities.