It had been over 8 eight days since my last shower so I had it in mind to pay for a campsite where there was a showerhouse, or get a cheap motel room. I also wanted to coordinate the bathing with doing laundry, as getting my body clean and then lying for 10 hours in my stinking bedding, or vice versa, would be pointless.
San Angelo State Park turned out to be the best option. I spent the afternoon at a coin-op laundromat in the college neighborhood, then drove into the park, which is only a few miles from downtown.
ABOVE: My campsite. It's $3 to enter plus $8 for a primitive campsite. If you're already paying the camping fee it seems like San Angelo is double-dipping by making you also pay the entrance fee. But hey, they're a state park and they're probably barely scraping by. The park is mostly desert hills centered around an enormous fishing lake (unvisited by me). There are winding trails for hiking and mountain-biking. There was a fire ban in effect due to a lack of rain, so I couldn't barbecue like I'd hoped to.
It was peaceful, warm, dry, and windy. Early in the morning I woke to the sound of rustling outside the van. I quietly rose and peeked out my window. There was a smallish dark shape foraging in the brush, but I couldn't make out any details (more on this later).
The next morning, I decided to do some hiking since I'd paid the $3 "Park Entrance Fee". The map provided by the office was, unfortunately, one of those dumb-headed maps that only shows you the park trails and none of the other intersecting roads or paths. This baffles me. If you are in unfamiliar back-country, without any way of measuring distance, your ONLY hope for taking the correct turn is by counting off trails and roads. It's the very principle which inspires people to count traffic lights when they're giving you directions. I found it, eventually...
The trails were also in need of a good working-over. Signs were either missing or so run-down as to be unreadable.
(BELOW: the Burkett trailhead with a primitive bathroom).
Not far down the trail, I had an encounter with an armadillo. The next 3 pictures tell the story. First I heard it rustling under a cactus. It came lurching into view and toward me.
It walked right onto the trail, seemingly fearless. It paused intermittently to sniff the air and feel about with its little lizard feet.
Then, once it got really close, it changed its mind and turned tail and crossed the trail. I think it just wanted to cross the trail and I was in the way. In that picture below doesn't it look like a total lizard? That's Godzilla's tail right there. In retrospect, having seen how this armadillo moved, I think it was an armadillo lurking around my van in the morning, too.
After hiking for a few hours I returned to camp. There was a dumpster off the road and I had it in mind to toss in my bagged garbage. I guess the smell of my garbage was strong, because as soon as I stepped out of the van with it, I was mobbed by wasps. They were obviously some sort of killer Texas wasp - they looked like a yellow jacket except between each black stripe it was HELL RED! Fucked up, huh? They started landing on the garbage and me.
The truth is that one of my deepest discomforts is to be touched by an insect, any insect. If it is a harmless insect like a moth then I am merely offended for having been touched against my will. When it is something potentially painful like a wasp or spider, I go absolutely apeshit. When these satan-wasps landed on me I ran cursing trailing garbage - beer bottles, empty cans, and so on - down the road.
It took a long time for me to recover from this, in terms of my emotions. I took a long walk to calm down. I hadn't been stung. I returned and picked up the garbage which the bugs had curiously lost interest in. I put it in the dumpster then drove over to the showerhouse intent on taking one last shower before hitting the road.
Now, I sat in the van for probably 10-15 minutes looking at my map. Then I went into the back and gathered together my towel and toiletries - probably another 5 minutes. I went into the showerhouse, undressed, and stepped under the water. I felt something heavy on my calf, running down my ankle, and then move under my foot. It was one of those red fucking wasps! It had been riding my leg THAT ENTIRE TIME! It must have been stunned or something, that's the only explanation as to why it didn't sting me.