This is a longer post because I couldn’t refrain myself from taking all-the-photos! Write-up at the end!
Texas Nightshade, Solanum triquetrum — I saw the vegetation of this first, and the vine was really stumping me. It looked like a mix of clematis and mikania and I couldn’t figure it out. Then I saw the flowers and fruit and knew it was a nightshade. Very interesting plant!
The morning of our second day at the state park we got up intending to hike the Woodland Trail, located on the far south side of the state park across Park Road 4. The night before we’d driven into the town of Kingsland to track down a pan to cook on. I’d taken out our skillet pan from the camping bin because we were planning on taking the large electric griddle, only the griddle never made it into the truck. Dinner the previous night had been something we could use our sauce pan for, if I’m recalling correctly, but the next couple of days would require more than that. So, off to town we went and Chris emerged from the grocery store with a cheap baking pan that he intended to double as a skillet. Yeah, don’t buy one of those. It went into the trash when we left. I mean, it worked for the time being and we didn’t want to spent $20 on a new skillet when we already had one at home, sitting unused.
The night before on our drive we’d noted what we thought was the trail head on the other side of the road, so we had thought we could park along the side of the road at that trail head. That morning when I was investigating I noticed there wasn’t an indication on the map of a parking area over there. We popped into the park office just to make sure, and of course, no parking at that trail head. That meant walking further via another trail to get to that trail, and while I figured Forest could handle it we were also planning on being at camp for lunch. It wasn’t going to work out time wise. Instead we opted for the Pecan Flats Trail which we still had to connect to via another trail but it was a bit shorter and still on the other side of the road.
And it was fantastic! All it made me want is to see the rest of the trails on that side of the park!
We connected using part of the Lake Trail which had some of the rocks we hiked over at the beginning, and then flattened out into a bottomland type area adjacent to Hylton Branch. Over in this area in the woods were primitive camping sites and there was at least one or two tents set up over here. A decent looking privy was located at the far eastern end of the wooded area and it was curiosity of Forest, he had to poke his head in to see what it looked like!
As we emerged from the woods it was apparent there was an entire landscape we hadn’t seen from the woods and it looked amazing. I knew we would be stopping to inspect all of the plants and walk slowly looking for wildlife. A few people had climbed the first hill to get a look at the view and we climbed up as well. There was so much packed into every square inch and much of it I wasn’t familiar with. Again, iNaturalist to the rescue!
On first appearance the area almost looks like a moonscape, due to a wildfire last summer, but it was full of vegetation and low growing wildflowers. And there was a surprising amount of water around, too, in the form of springs and little creeks that developed from those springs. When you see the rocky outcrops from a distance you don’t expect to be finding wetlands all around. Really, we (I) could have crept along at a slower pace but at some point Forest gets annoyed and I become the slow person because I’m taking photo after photo.
I bet this place looked even better a few weeks after we visited with the wildflowers. I’m sure it will take quite a while for the tree and shrub layers to recover from such a harsh fire, but the wildflowers were probably happy to have a burn and with our wet winter it should have been great conditions for a spectacular spring bloom season.
If you are heading out to Inks Lake, make a point to get to the south side of the park. It is a unique area and full of wonderful niche plants tucked away into the rocks. You might want to bring a hat and sunscreen now that the tree layer is even more sparse than it was!