BURNET — When I was first stationed at Fort Hood, the flora and fauna threw me off. Part of that was the fact that I got here on a cold day in February and everything was dormant and brown. It was so different from where I grew up in the Ozarks and my then previous duty station of Fort Meade, Maryland. But over the past several years, I have come to see the beauty of the Texas countryside, and Inks Lake State Park in Burnet really shows that beauty off well.

The park is about an hour ride southwest of the Great Place. You can either drive west to Lampasas and then head south, or drive south to Florence and then cut west. I chose the latter for the scenic views on a smaller road. It was a peaceful drive with minimal traffic.

As soon I turned into the park entrance, I knew I was in for something special. The ride along the park road took me over a scenic ridge that showed off the rich colors of the boulders and cliffs in the area. The wild live oaks, cacti and flowers made me want to pull over after the drive and just breathe in the peaceful, country air and enjoy the view of the valley and lake below. Apparently, I am not the only person who thought that was a good idea, as I saw a parking space at the top of the hill with a scenic overlook. I pulled in and took a break. The view and the calm of that setting was worth the trip alone.

Inks Lake, like many of the other more popular state parks in the area, requires a reservation. These are easy to get last minute online if you are planning on going on a weekday. If you want to make a reservation for the weekend, however, you will need to plan a couple weeks ahead. For more information, visit https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/inks-lake.

This park is a major attraction for campers. There are 200 campsites, and there’s something for everyone. There are primitive campsites that you have to hike into, if you really want to get away from everything. And there are primitive campsites for tents closer to all the action too. There were also numerous RV campsites as well. If you want to stay overnight and need air conditioning, but don’t own an RV, the park has nice cabins available as well. You will really have to plan ahead to snag one though. Most of the campsites are under trees for shade and close to a restroom facility. None of the camp sites are more than 100 yards from the shore.

I saw folks fishing from the shore and from boats, canoes and kayaks everywhere I went. A boat ramp is available for boat owners. Canoes, kayaks and paddle boats are also available for rent at the park’s general store. Firewood, snacks, drinks and bait are available there as well.

The most popular spot on the lake is called Devil’s Waterhole. It’s a short walk from the parking area in the northern-most portion of the park. Young people were swimming across from the hiking trail and climbing up on a small bluff and jumping into the water. Most were jumping from a point not much higher than a high dive at the pool. There are numerous swimming areas, but there isn’t really a sandy beach. You just wade in from the large rocks along the edge of the lake. Make sure you take a friend and look out for one another while swimming, as there are no life guards at any of the swimming areas at the lake.

There are a few shorter hiking trails at the park, but unlike Colorado Bend or Mother Neff State Parks, Inks Lake is centered on camping near the water. The trails are peaceful, shaded and easy for hikers of any age or skill level.

I had saved the hiking for the end of my visit, but already had a good visit, enjoying the nature and what the park had to offer. My day was made and I was content. But a special someone left small, painted rocks along the trail with simple thoughts written on them like ‘Joy’ and ‘Be Kind.’ I really appreciated that. Totally made my week.

Be kind, y’all!