Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Atlanta State Park

Atlanta Texas that is.

This piney woods state park is located in the northeast corner of Texas with the borders of Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana all nearby. In fact the town of Texarkana, just up the road a little bit, straddles the border and when you drive north up State Line Avenue (US71) through the heart of town, the addresses on the right side of the road are in Arkansas and the left side in Texas.

The state park itself, which is actually closer to Queen City than it is Atlanta, sits on the shores of Wright Patman Lake. This fairly good sized lake was formed by damming the Sulfur river, and before politicians got busy patting each others backs instead of doing something useful for their constituents, it used to be called Sulfur Lake. (Apparently Patman was once an elected official from the area. Like we care!!  Hey, I was also paid to do a job and did it well, but I hardly think that's worth having a place named after me!!!)

After this particular trip was delayed by a bad starter on the van and the arrival of Tropical Storm Bill, I rolled into the park on a Friday afternoon instead of the planned previous Monday arrival.

On the way up to the campground I stopped for some last minute groceries to hold me over for several days. Buying fruit like this; already cleaned, cut and packaged; is a bit expensive, but when you're a party of one it actually makes sense, and it sure is convenient!

Only problem is, those top-heavy containers, even with the safety seal still on, will leak all over the place if they tip over. So while I'm still in the parking lot at the grocery store I break it down into serving sized batches using less leak-prone containers. (Ask me how I know to do this. Go ahead ask!!)

Expecting the worst I had made an online reservation to ensure I would be able to snag a camp site and was braced for a weekend of run-amucking in a crowded campground,

only that's not what happened. Instead, here I am in the Knights Bluff camping area off a little loop with 8 campsites around it. In case you haven't figured it out, that's me in the red circle. And yes, I was the only occupied site on the loop all weekend!

There are full hookups in the park but they are little more than wide spots along the park road so I would avoid them if possible. Convenient if you just have to have a pull-through, but otherwise unremarkable. There are also back-in water/electric sites arranged more traditionally in rays off the road which is what I'm in here.

There are no primitive sites in this park, drive-up or walk-in, but given that it was mid June and slow moving Tropical Storm Bill had left an abundance of water behind, much of it thickening the air until walking wasn't much different than swimming, I gladly hooked up to shore-power and turned on the hated air conditioner in the afternoon when I got back from hiking/wading. 

This is are area of dense mixed hardwoods and pines. (For those out there that think of Texas as only desert and tumbleweeds, logging is still a major economic factor in East Texas.)

And if the nurseries under the 90' pines are anything to go on, the forest here won't be fading away anytime soon. Under the protection of the mature trees, the ground is carpeted with tens of thousands of little wannabe trees just waiting for one of the old guys to die off and fall down, opening the understory up to growth-spurt inducing sunlight.

I had originally intended to mix some kayaking in with the hiking, but with all the water Topical Storm Bill had dumped both here and upstream, the lake was a little too exuberant for my taste, so the kayak stayed in the back of the van.

Not that the hiking wasn't also a bit of a challenge. About half of the park's trail system was in the lake and some of the rest was pretty dang close to being submerged as well. But nothing some water shoes and rolled up pant's legs couldn't handle, right? Wrong!!

All that water has displaced many of the forest critters and as I stood watching this little calf-deep pond in the middle of the trail, I could see the heads of several snakes criss-crossing that little bit of open water. I'm not particularly bothered by snakes, but chances were, some of those guys out there were venomous, so instead of wading I did a little bush-wacking and log-walking to work my way around the deeper spots.

Some of my hiking was on trail, some of it was bushwacking. The two short out-and-back spurs near the center were me getting turned back because the lake had come up the trail for a visit. The longer spur just right of center was me following a trail to the end of a ridge but deciding it didn't make much sense, weary-leg-wise, to climb down the ridge only to have the lake, which I could already see down there, force me to backtrack and climb right back up again.

Oddly enough, though the mile long, well blazed Hickory Hollow Nature trail is one of the higher trails in the park, as you can see from this photo, it doesn't appear to see much foot traffic.

In fact this is a photo of one of the two bridge-crossings along this trail. Yep, there really is a bridge just a few steps ahead there. I didn't need a machete to get through, but it would have helped!

I spent the good part of a couple days out on the trails of this park without meeting anyone else. (That seems to happen to me more than I would expect. Is everyone else just missing out or am I nuts for being out there??) In fact my only encounter was this elephant-seal looking dude hanging out in one of the trees.

With two separate boat launches, some decent trails (Once they've dried out a little) and nice $14 water/electric sites (Plus $3 if you don't have a park pass.) this is not a bad park to spend a little quiet time in.

I stayed here a couple days waiting for Tropical Storm Bill to finish screwing around out there in front of me, then crossed the Red River on a road that had been underwater the day before. When I looked over at the bridge carrying the southbound side of US71 over the river I could see where the bridge pilings used to hit the ground, then I could see another 20' or so of piling exposed below that by water scouring out the ground from beneath the bridge! No photo because I wasn't going to hang around out there to see just how safe the bridge was!! I also didn't look back to see if my side of the bridge was falling down behind me either, I just focused on the dry ground (Though in this case that's a relative term.) ahead of me and drove! In fact when I came back through the area a week and a half later the road had been closed again. . . Maybe I did knock the bridge down!

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