Monday, November 14, 2022

I Spent a Week There One Afternoon!

 I'm not opposed to hiking the same trail over again - and again - and again. After all, the light is rarely the same from hike to hike and I always seems to find something new to see along the way.

In fact, to illustrate my point, when doing my laps around the property just this morning, (Nov 9) laps I have done literally thousands of times over the past 20 years, I came across something in the middle of one of the trails that I have never seen before, anywhere! (I'll probably get around to posting about it sometime, but it won't be for the squeamish!)

Besides, a bad day out in the open on a trail is way better than a good day on the couch, 

But I have been in a bit of a rut lately where I'm feeling a little burned out on my usual camping and hiking haunts.

So I went poking around in the wrinkles of my maps and found this new-to-me place.

Martin Creek Lake State Park over in the East Texas Piney Woods

At 286 acres not an especially large State Park, but it does have some trails, so I figured what the hell, let's give it a shot.

All I've got to lose is a couple mortgage payments worth of fuel, which we can spare since we put mortgages behind us long ago, and a week's worth of time.

Having never been there I hadn't had a chance to compile my usual list of best-OK-bad campsites, so when it came time to reserve my site I sat down with the campground map and rolled the dice, hoping I didn't come up craps!

People seem to find lakeside sites attractive, but to me they are often exposed, busy, and noisy (Boy wasn't that the truth in this case! - something I'll get to in a moment) inside-loop sites back up to other inside loop sites and also tend to be a little closer to the neighbors on either side than outside sites, if there's a choice I give 50 amp sites (the green ones in this case) a wide berth because the 50's attract larger rigs which tend to have multiple air-conditioners, outdoor entertainment systems droning and flickering on well into the evening, hugely annoying fairy lights blazing brightly all night long, roaring water-heaters trying to keep up with long showers or loads of laundry, and yappy lap-dogs, and those sites close to bath-houses and dump stations - well, need I say more through the din of idling engines and overly tired kids screaming around the feet of parents desperately trying to avoid getting tangled in the dump-hose and splashing used bathwater and shit all over themselves, or the constant slamming of the bath house door?

So based on the fact that it is an outside-loop site away from the lake shore and 50 amp-ers, a long ways from the dump station, just about as far from the bath-house as I could get, seemed to have just a little extra gap between it and the adjacent sites, - and it was available - I blindly picked site 44.

 Which turned out to be a damn good toss of the dice.

As advertised, it is set a little apart from the sites on either side, in fact separated from one by a steep gully and both by untamed brush and woods, backed up to thick woods behind that shielded the site from the lake, and with a nice light and sound damping woods buffer in the center of the loop between me and the 50 amp-ers on the far side.

My own little private corner for the week, albeit one with little solar potential!

Yep, still loving my 200 AH's of BattleBorn lithium ion batteries.

Being September in Texas it wasn't exactly cool, (That doesn't happen until well into October and then for only a few tantalizing days at a time.) which makes my compressor-fridge, my largest battery consumer by far, work hard at sucking electrons, but I arrived on a Sunday afternoon with a full charge from about 6 hours of driving the nice open, sunny roads, never plugged in, and my batteries still had enough charge left to carry me for one and a half to two more days as I rolled back out onto the sun-drenched roadways the following Friday.

In addition to campsites, including primitives over on the island, which is reachable by a foot-bridge,

this park also has screened in shelters with bare concrete floors for camping without the flapping fabric and snarl of tent poles,

"cottages" with adjacent water-points, a couple of iron beds, and even air-conditioning,

and if that's still a little too much like roughing it for you, there's  a couple of ADA accessible, two bedroom, kitchen and bath with running water, cabins.

But I'm only interested in the camping.

So once I got set up, which consists of parking, popping the canopy up, and unfolding the camp-chair, I used the remainder of the afternoon to go on my ritual first-time-here campground-stroll intending to compile my best-OK-bad list of campsites for future reference, (If I take a horizontal photo of a campsite number post it's a best, if I don't take a photo it's an OK, if I take a vertical photo it's a bad) but I ended up putting the camera away because in the context of this campground I was already in the best site and (other than the caveat coming up in a moment) there were no particularly bad sites. For instance, site 73 here is an inside loop site, but as you can see there is a solid buffer of trees and brush between it and site 80, another inside loop site on the opposite side.

So what's this "issue" I've hinted at a couple times?

Yeah - well - I suppose the line between hum and roar is subjective.

For the most part the trees around my site did a pretty good job of knocking the noise down to a persistent but acceptable level,

but there were a few times after the sun went down that it sounded like a convoy of heavy trucks, with maybe a tank or two thrown in for good measure, was easing up the loop-road towards me.

with their lights on!

I don't know why power plant managers feel the need to burn up a fair portion of their output, a portion that we as consumers have to pay for, (Even if you live completely off-grid, the cost of electricity is embedded in the goods you buy) but every power plant I've ever seen at night is lit up this way.

And you see that bright light in the center of the photo? (Well that was a dumb question! How could you not?) It seems to be a big-ass spotlight aimed across the lake directly at the State Park, Unless it's purely for the annoyance factor I have no idea what it's purpose is, but when I turned away from taking this photo from the lake-shore

 I could actually see the spotlight casting a shadow of my shoulders and hatted head on the tree behind me.

Now what in the blue-balled hell is the sense in that?! (No, not that kind of blue-balls. With all the stuff that's been going on in the world the past few years I'm just assuming hell has frozen over so it must be damned cold there!)

A question I'm sure the unenlightened who chose a lakeside campsite and are now trying to sleep with the undampened noise and that light shining in the bedroom window all night would like an answer to.

But it, the power plant, is a complex and busy place that, every time my hiking took me to a particular vantage-point on the island, 

provided an hour or so of voyeuristic entertainment.

But I was kinda surprised at the somewhat primitive coal-handling processes.

I guess I was expecting something more like a grain-bin type operation.

Dump the coal into a pit under the tracks, use augers, legs, and conveyors to move the coal to a storage area and more augers and conveyors to move it from there to the boilers.

Instead there are dozens of bulldozers, water-trucks and these heavy tractors, each pulling two earth scrapers, making endless loops following each other up, around, and down the pile as they constantly reshape and shift the stash of coal.

But enough of the industrial revolution. What about the hiking?

Well, as I stated before, though it has three different loop trails this park isn't all that big.

The longest loop is 1.5 miles and the shortest is 1.1 miles. AND, with the exception of a couple very short ups or downs, the terrain is as close as you can get to flat.

If I linked all three loops together into one hike and added in crossing the large day-use parking lot (I counted 87 vehicle&boat-trailer parking slots and at least that many car slots, thankfully mostly empty during the week I was there)

to get to and from the bridge to the Island Trail, it was just over 5 miles of putting foot to ground.

I'm close enough to 70 now that I can reach out and push the gate to that septuagenarian decade open so it's ready for my entry, and it's likely that at some point in my future, which is charging at me with the speed of a toddler towards an untended cookie jar, 1 to 2 mile loops will be my physical limit, but for now I'm still going strong,

so what I did was link the three loops together,

make a stop back at The Van for a civilized snack, 

then turn right around and do the trails all over again in the other direction.

Unlike the 3+ MPH pace when doing my workout laps on the property, my average hiking speed tends to hover slightly below the 1.5 MPH mark, so combined with a Spanish lesson or two, some reading, some sitting around staring into space while my mind free-flowed, (or just lay there in a puddle of healthy mindlessness.)

the 10 miles gently filled out the day right up to dinner time very nicely.

So that was my routine there at Martin Creek Lake State Park for five consecutive days. Tracing the same three loops, the only three loops, around and around, first in one direction then the other. And to add some almost unbearable drama, I would also change up the order that I hiked the loops. 

I'm not saying I was eager to leave Friday after one last familiar trail-circuit before the weekenders started packing the place like a desperate chipmunks cheeks, (There were, of course a few people in various campsites and some others fishing near the boat-launches, but I ran into absolutely nobody out on the trails all week.) but I was ready to leave.

I'm not ready however to strike this place completely off my list. It wasn't that horrible. And it could have its uses in the future. But I probably won't be coming back in what you might consider the immediate future.


  1. You had me hooked on those lovely, well-spaced campsites when, oh no, a coal power plant with bright lights and noise.

    I camped across the street from a factory in the small town of Antigo, Wisconsin. Did some great hiking and spent a night talking to the camp host but what I'll always remember is the factory across the street.

  2. After reading the paragraph that begins, "People seem to find lakefront sites...
    I'm amazed you even GO to these places.

    How long have you had the Battle Born batteries?

    1. What many people not from here don't realize is that because of its unique history as an independent republic before joining the US there is very little public land in Texas. No BLM land at all, two swampy and over-used National Forests on the east side of the state, two National parks, both some 10 or 12 hours drive from me, some COE sites, and the State Parks. So I have to work with what I have unless I leave the state, which takes a lot of driving no matter what direction I head.

      I got the BattleBorns a little over two years ago. Since I can't post links in here look for a post from October 19 2020 titled Making the LiFePO4 Plunge. If you want to get into more technical crap the two posts following that one are about charging and monitoring the batteries.

  3. Yes, I love it ! ah what do i love? that you express it all, and again, always have a good time. Finding the treasures, while the plant is blaring away.

    1. After clawing my way out of a dark period in my life I decided I would be a lot happier as a glass-half-full kinda person so over time I've trained myself to find the positive. Yes, I can be pretty cynical about fellow humans, but I try to be cynically positive.

      Yeah! that's it! I'm positively cynical!

  4. OMG! Somebody find a rolled up newspaper, he's gonna start singing "These are a few of my fav things!"

    (Mom always used a (lightly) rolled up newspaper on the dawgs. She said it didn't hurt 'em but the sound scared 'em.)

    1. Oh dude! You do NOT want me to sing¡ I don't want me to sing.

      !¡There will be no singing¡!

    2. Aww, maaaaaAAAAAAANNNNN! said with the childrens' intonation from Dav Pilkey's *Captain Underpants.*