We arrived at McKinney Falls State Park in Austin on December 31. It sure felt good to get here. We have been daydreaming of Park Hosting at McKinney Falls for over 5 years.
Now it is a reality. Woo Hoo!
We are happy to be volunteering. The Texas state parks are in dire straits given the current economy. Anything we can do to help out is greatly appreciated.
We spend every morning, Monday thru Friday, cleaning up the facilities, picking up litter and patrolling campsites to make sure the fire pits are clean and all is in order for the next visitors.
It has been a common occurrence for us to be pleasantly surprised at how responsible campers are in cleaning up after themselves and preserving this beautiful park.
Thanks to all who use them.
The park is also in the midst of a project to update the six group shelters. They are doing significant repairs to the woodwork that has been in place since the 1970s. Each is getting a new coat of paint on the interior.
I am building and repairing window screens as fast as I can.
There are also ongoing maintenance issues to be addressed. I have been able to utilize my Handy-Man skills with minor plumbing repairs and discussions on some vehicle maintenance.
Volunteer Park Hosts come from varied backgrounds. Each brings a skill that is useful to the park. One of the great things is that each day the permanent employees make sure they voice their appreciation for our help. Their gratitude is appreciated by us Hosts in return.
We've gotten to visit with many of our friends. Many more to come.
We re-visited our grueling exercise walk route with our friend Alan one day. A few days later I got to help him do a repair on his pin-ball machine. That was fun. I've never seen the insides of one.
Alan later reported that the repair was a success! Yay!
There have been some incredible weather events since we got here.
On January 25 we had an incredible rain storm. We got over 5 1/2 inches of rain. The falls in the park were flooding.
This set off another of those crazy encounters we seem to fall into.
"It was a dark and stormy night..."
It had been storming all night. We knew the falls would be flooding so we went over to take a look prior to going to work the next morning.
Thi is what the "nomal" flow looks like.
Here is a shot of the same tree in the flood.
While we walked toward the falls I thought I heard a dog "Woof!" over near the Visitor Center which overlooks the falls. The falls were roaring so it was difficult to discern exactly what the noise was, but I was certain something was not right.
I heard it a second time but it did not sound quite like a dog woofing, so I started walking toward the Center.
As I approached I realized it was a woman sobbing loudly and in great distress.
I started running and yelling "I'm coming. Help is on the way!"
When I rounded the corner I was shocked to see....
A woman standing behind the trash can and man crouched in a corner - both were completely naked!!!
What the heck???
The woman was sobbing hysterically. The man did not say anything or acknowledge me.
Understand that it was quite chilly, this being the end of January following a major rain event.
I immediately took off my jacket and handed it to the woman. I told them I was going to get help and to stay there. I called to Robin to come and give them her coat, too.
Robin and I took off to get help.
There was a meeting scheduled for that morning in the Visitor's Center and the Rangers were arriving to set things up. I told them what had happened, where the victims were and that we were going to rush to our camper to get blankets and spare clothes.
We returned a few minutes later and found the EMS on site offering aid. The couple were still partially clad so I gave them the clothes we had gathered at our camper.
Fortunately, they were fine. No injuries, no hypothermia. EMS declared them "OK". One of the Rangers took them home.
What with all the commotion, I did not get a chance to talk to them but they did relate their story to the Rangers.
They were camping along the creek, outside the park, when the storm hit. They woke up to find themselves floating down the flooding creek inside their tent. Apparently they had slept in their birthday suits. (We learned that indeed it was her birthday!) They were not able to get dressed before being swept away.
This happened just as dawn was breaking so they could see where they were being swept. They recognized the Visitor Center and somehow scrambled out of the tent and worked their way to shore.
Needless to say, they were scared to death (have you read that phrase in any of my earlier posts???)
They were miraculously unscathed.
After the Ranger took them home they returned the clothing we had provided. All ended well.
A few days later some park employees found remnants of a tent and a duffle-bag full of their belongings. All of the staff agree it was nothing short of a miracle that they survived, much less suffered no injuries.
I hope they bought a lottery ticket that night!!!
This is what they floated though - INSIDE THEIR TENT!!!
Hey - Isn't Texas in a drought????...
A week later we had another major storm. We got another almost 2 inches of rain. Yay!!
This was one of the most incredible lightning storms we have ever experienced. I am not knowledgeable about lightning but it sure seemed that this storm was much lower in altitude than others. Lightning was flashing all over the place with amazing frequency.
We were laying there listening when there was an blinding flash accompanied simultaneously with a horrendous thunder. We nearly jumped out of bed.
I started to shout "I'm sorry..."
Our power went out.
We lay there wondering if we had been struck.
We looked at the lights at the nearby bathroom building. They were on. Power 50 feet away but we are dark. Did we get hit?
We did not smell anything burning. We did not smell any of the ozone odor associated with lightning strikes.
I got up and flipped the circuit breakers inside the camper that serve our 120v system. No luck.
Our 12v system, which runs on batteries when there is no 120v, worked fine.
We were still not sure we had not been struck.
We waited until the storm abated and then I checked the breakers on the outside power pedestal where our power cord is plugged in.
They were in the "ON" position. "Rats! That does not look good."
I flipped them off. Then on.
The power came back on to our camper. Yay! Everything looked good.
I had unplugged the computers and TV earlier. I wish I had gone ahead and unplugged the camper itself.
Note to self - "Self - Unplug the shore power when a storm starts or is imminent!"
Anyway, long story short - All was fine.
The next day we did discover that a couple of the pedestals (the things campers plug into to get power) were dead. Breakers seemed OK so there must be problems deeper in the system.
We escaped what could have been a huge bit of damage. But wait.....
Someone reported that they had pinpointed where the lightning had struck.
About 150 feet away was a 10 foot trench where the lightning had blown away all the soil along the roots of a tree.
The lightning had so much force that it exploded some boulders that were approximately a foot in diameter.
Fortunately, we did not encounter any naked people!!!!
That's it for excitement since our arrival.
Dutch Oven Cooking...
The "Lone Star Dutch Oven Society" had a demonstration/gathering in the park on Saturday, Jan 21.
After tasting Dutch Oven cooking in Georgia, Robin was hooked. She had gotten a new "black pot" but had not used it yet. We were excited to learn that the society, aka LSDOS, had scheduled a demonstration/gathering. We took our pot over (no comments on my pot, thank you!) and joined in.
They taught Robin a bunch of techniques.
She cooked her first meatloaf in her Dutch Over. It was great!
There was a lot of food:
Meatloaf (the best thing there!)
Desert was a cobbler "dump" pie. I was so busy pushing and shoving to get to the front of the line I did not get a pic!
Needless to say, none of us left hungry.
Robin is chomping at the bit to do some more DO cooking. I'm sure there are some camp fires and charcoal in our future - as long as it doesn't rain!!
Our days are busy even though we are not moving about. So goes our life while we are "Chasin' Our Dreams!"