Nice Days, Noisy Nights at Martin Creek

Nice Days, Noisy Nights at Martin Creek

The weekend I spent at Martin Creek Lake was cool and windy and sunny–not a cloud in the sky! Absolutely perfect for running around outside and a bit challenging for the budding nature photographer (especially in the woods).

This park has a couple of tent and RV camping loops, about twenty shelters, a small island with primitive camping sites, two regular cabins and two fancy cabins decked out with bathrooms and screened-in porches. There are a couple of boat ramps and a fish-cleaning station. There’s not much of a gift shop (I’m real into fridge magnets but had to make my own out of a bumper sticker) but there’s a nifty wood vending machine, where you swipe your card and a locker pops open and gives you about 8 sticks for $12. (I also saw a donation area with a bunch of rounds waiting to be split up.)

The staff were friendly and helpful (I even ran into a former Tyler park host that I used to work with, and I know he’s good people!) The bathrooms were especially nice and very clean. Actually the whole park was pretty darn clean, except for the island which had trash cans plundered by local raccoons.

The Trails at Martin Creek Lake Park

The main attraction for me at any state park is the trails; at Martin Creek I walked three trails, none more than 1.5 miles long, and they were decent enough to stroll along but not especially exciting (read: challenging.) There was a lot of standing water left over from rain the day before, but other than dodging puddles they were a comfortable walk.

  • Old Henderson Road Loop trail had some very gradual elevation changes. It’s mostly tucked back into the woods but does border the lake a bit for some pretty views.
  • The Island trails are well-worn and connect all the camp sites. There are a few places where they emerge onto the lake shore, and some grassy spots where you get out of the woods for a while and into the sun.
  • Harmony Hill Loop trail was my favorite, mostly because it goes through an old pine plantation where the trees are all lined up in neat rows for a cool geometric effect, to which I wasn’t really able to do justice with my camera. It also leaves the woods for a while to border a field lined with cute little birdhouses and was overall very pleasant.
  • There is, apparently, another trail called the Lake Front Spur that didn’t show up on my map, and I see now that while it also doesn’t show up TPWD website’s map, it does appear on the one you can access through the TPWD app. I’m guessing it’s a new trail, as there was a sign up near the park entrance saying they were working on renovations, and maybe the app maps are more up-to-date (something to keep in mind!)

For me the park overall was walk-able, but others may find it easier or more convenient to hop in the car or on a bike to get from the camping loops to the day use areas and or headquarters.

The Power Plant at Martin Creek Lake State Park

So I’ve covered the facilities, the trails, the park rangers–what else, what else…oh, that’s right. The power plant.

It was the very first thing I noticed when I pulled into my site–very imposing in the way its bulk dominated the view (and so many of the lake photos I took), with its three proud smoke stacks belching out clouds of white steam. When I arrived a train was leaving the plant and I remember thinking it was pretty noisy, but at least it was going somewhere else. But after the train left the noise stayed–the plant itself roars like a freakin’ jet engine. I couldn’t find a place in the park where I couldn’t hear it.

During the day I tuned out the constant sound pretty easily, but at night it was harder. The roar itself was steady enough to turn into background noise, but occasionally it was accompanied by a loud blast of air, or the screech of metal, or what I’m pretty sure was a little late-night jack-hammering. The train also came back regularly throughout the night–every time I managed to doze off the conductor would laugh and give a rousing blast of his horn.

I took gauze out of my first-aid kid and stuffed it in my ears, but this was the kind of sound that requires professional-grade ear protection.

I took a nap when I got back home.

I give the lovely, hilariously loud Martin Creek Lake State Park four stars–with an upgrade to five if you bring your own earplugs.


A Rainy Weekend at Lake Tawakoni

A Rainy Weekend at Lake Tawakoni

I’d been¬† looking forward to camping at Lake Tawakoni for a while (and trying out my brand new hammock tent) so when the weekend forecast called for a whole lotta rain I said “Oh well!” and threw a bunch of towels in the car.

It was the right choice. Friday was cool and beautiful and only a little rainy up until late afternoon. I managed to set up my hammock (and a couple of tarps), explore most of the park (it’s not huge and everywhere is walkable), take a lot of pictures and walk all the trails before the weather finally drove me back under a tarp with tired feet and a paperback.

I slept comfortably (and stayed dry) in my hammock that night, lulled to sleep by the patter of rain (and, at one point, the snuffling of raccoons) and returned home late the next morning.

The lake–all white-capped and boisterous ahead of the storm–was as scenic as the ocean, and the park itself was lovely. There are two camping loops (not counting a small, primitive group area) with well-maintained roads and parking slabs. The bathrooms were stocked and clean and well-lit; the rangers I spoke with were friendly. There was an unfortunate amount of litter scattered around (nothing a few hours of volunteer labor couldn’t take care of) but otherwise the grounds were nicely landscaped.

The Trails at Lake Tawakoni State Park

The trail system, especially, stood out to me. There are two groups of trails: the Spring Point trails on a peninsula jutting out into the lake, and a more land-locked group on the west side of the park. All are wide and well-maintained and marked with color-coded symbols on multiple metal signs–you’d have to try pretty hard to get lost.

The Spring Point trails are flat and airy and have terrific views of the lake; they also pass by the primitive group camping area, which is bordered by a grassy field full of wildflowers and butterflies. There’s also a large nest of Argentine ants on one of the trails–they don’t bite, but it was a little unnerving to glance down and see the ground moving.

The western trails are longer but have fewer picturesque views; they’re still an easy walk, though, as any elevation changes are mild and there aren’t any tree-root staircases like there are at my home park in Tyler. I think I would have really enjoyed the Tawakoni trails on my mountain bike (I’ve only recently starting trail riding.) While walking the Osage Orange and Red Oak paths I got a few strong whiffs of cilantro–I don’t know what was growing out there, but I want it on my tacos!

Due to the choppy water I didn’t take advantage of the park’s self-rental boats (you download an app to pay for them) but I still had a fantastic time on foot. I give Lake Tawakoni State Park five out of five stars.

Walking the A Loop Trail

Walking the A Loop Trail

The A Loop a pleasant, moderately-difficult hiking and biking trail with lots of switchbacks and some nice elevation changes, plus some very pretty views of the Tyler State Park forest.

You can park at the Blackjack camping area then walk back up the road just a little bit to get onto the trailhead.

I’m sorry to say that I tend to forget about A Loop (my favorite trails are the more-challenging C and D Loops at the opposite side of the park) but I enjoyed it so much during my last walk that I’m going to work it into my regular hiking rotation from now on.

All the hiking/biking loops are connected so you could, if you wanted, hike for over 9 miles without interruptions!

A Loop is listed in the official Tyler State Park Trail map as being 2.53 miles long and taking 1.5 hours to complete, although it was closer to 1.25 hours for me (including time to stop and take photos.)

In the photos below I started at the shared EZ Loop/A Loop trailhead and went clockwise.

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Walking the Lakeshore Trail

Walking the Lakeshore Trail

There are so many wonderful trails at Tyler State Park, but in this post I’m walking the popular Lakeshore trail. This path goes all the way around the lake and is easily accessible from from all the day use areas and most of the camping loops (Cedar Point and the cabins are the exceptions.) There are some pretty little beach-like spots along the south and south-east shorelines where you can enter the lake to swim, fish or launch a kayak and there are benches here and there where you can take a breather. Of all the trails in the park this one has the best views and some really nice spots to take photos.

The Lakeshore trail is mostly flat, although there are a few places where it forks and you can choose to take the easier path on higher ground, or get down closer to the lake where you’ll have to navigate tree roots and some washed-out areas.

There are also a couple of places where the trail vanishes completely: through the Lakeview RV and tent camping loop, through the boat ramp parking lot (you’ll have to briefly get on the road to cross a short bridge) and through the whole Northside park store and swimming areas. Just follow the lake and the trail will reappear.

The official Tyler State Park trail map lists Lakeshore as 2.1 miles long and taking 1.5 hours to complete, but I’ve made it in under an hour even when stopping to take 10-15 photos (I am a fast walker, though.)

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