LAKE SOMERVILLE

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I haven’t been camping in months.  I’ve been itching to get to a state park, build a campfire and sleep in a tent, but I only had the time to travel about 2 hours away.

I looked at the TPWD web site and found Lake Somerville State Park.  Never heard of it.  Hmm…a camp site by a lake?  Not a bad idea…

My car had been acting funny for the past week or so, but I packed up my stuff and hit the road.  At least for a few minutes before I had to turn around because I forgot something.  I left the car in park and ran in to the house to retrieve the forgotten item when I heard a loud noise coming from my car outside.  I ran out, turned off the engine and reassessed.  Maybe my camping trip wouldn’t happen after all.

After a call to a mechanic, we determined it was most likely a problem with the air conditioner.  That meant if I didn’t use the AC, everything would be fine…in theory.  I hesitated for about 5 minutes before I started the car, turned off the AC, rolled down the windows and hit the road for real.

The high temperature that day was 93 in Austin, but with the windows down and the radio up, it was a fairly comfortable drive.

In just under two hours, I arrived at Lake Somerville State Park and reserved a camp site for the evening.

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If you go to this park, get site 44.  The neighboring sites are pretty good too, but site 44 has direct access to the lake, a lovely breeze coming off the water and plenty of shade.  It was really very pleasant.

I pulled in to the site and got to work on the important things first.

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Like I said, direct access to the lake.  Why waste time putting up a tent when you can get your feet wet at a little private beach complete with wildflowers?

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I walked along the sand for a little while, watching the birds and enjoying the breeze.  It was such a beautiful day and the weather put me in a relaxed mood.

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I was so relaxed that instead of trying to fit in a medium-length hike in before dinner like I normally would, I took my time setting up, building a fire and making dinner.

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Since the view from my campsite was opposite the sunset, I figured I’d better venture out for a better one.

I drove around the park a bit and pulled over when I saw a deer hassling a turtle as it crossed the street.  I snapped a photo with my phone before getting out and making sure the turtle crossed safely.

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I finally settled on a short, one-mile loop trail on the west side of the park, appropriately named Sunset Trail.  It was heavily wooded and the trail was narrow except for a picturesque little bridge near the start of the trail.

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You definitely want to wear long pants and closed toed shoes to hike this trail.  The grass was tall, but either side of the trail was littered with wildflowers.

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When I finally reached a spot in the path that opened up to the lake, the sun had already dipped below the horizon.

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I finished out the trail in the dark (with my flashlight, of course), and went back to my camp site.

When I arrived at the park that afternoon, the ranger mentioned that there would be a meteor shower that night.  I got out my camera and tripod, hoping to capture some shooting stars, but I couldn’t find my locking shutter attachment.  (That’s basically a shutter release on a cable that will lock, holding the shutter open for long amounts of time.)  It’s almost impossible to photograph star motion without one.

I looked around at what I had to hold down the shutter button, without using my finger.  I had a roll of electrical tape in my camera bag, so I grabbed that and a small rock.  I set my camera on the bulb setting and pressed the shutter button down with the rock, then taped the rock to the camera.  It held for about 10 minutes before the tape unstuck itself.

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No shooting stars, but some motion, none the less.

I tried a couple different spots around my site with a couple different settings, but I wasn’t getting much that I liked.  So, as I’m known to do, I turned the camera on myself and opened the shutter for about 15 minutes.

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It didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped, but again, I was in a relaxed mood and just enjoying the experience of sitting by the fire, looking at the stars.

I turned in for the night after that and woke to birds circling over head and clouds moving in.

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I leisurely ate some breakfast while watching fishermen across the lake and got dressed.  The campers at the next site over warned me about a large snake that had slithered in to the bushes near by.  I wasn’t worried.

An interesting thing about Lake Somerville is that it has two parks – Birch Creek (where I was) and Nails Creek – and there are trails connecting the two.  The trails are long and there’s no way hike all of them on foot in one day.  Horseback riding is allowed and there are even camp sites with horse pens near the main trail.

I didn’t bring a horse, so I opted to use my feet and start the Lake Somerville Trailway from the parking lot at the ranger’s station.

This trail was dramatically different from the little sunset trail I walked the night before.  This trail was big and wide.  You could drive a truck through it.  It was so manicured, in fact, that during the first mile of my hike, I caught myself thinking, “this isn’t really a trail.  This is a road.  Why am I hiking this?”

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About a mile and a half in, I pulled out my map to plan my route.  I looked down at the paper and kept walking.  Between the bottom of the map and my feet I spotted a snake laying almost right underneath my feet.  I jumped back immediately and recognized it as a copperhead, and a pretty sizable one.

The snake slithered away in to the grass and I kept walking.

Not more than 30 seconds later, my heart still in my throat, I turned a corner and about 30 yards away were three large javelinas.  They spotted me, snorted, squealed and ran in to the brush.

So much for my thoughts about the trail not being wild enough.

To calm my nerves, I took a few photos of flowers along the path.

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At about the two and a half mile mark, I turned around and headed back the way I came.  It was almost lunch time and my stomach was growling.

I made myself a sandwich, packed up and headed home, open car windows and all.

Here are a few links to help you plan your trip:
TPWD web site  (including a park map)
Lake Somerville State Park  (info on camp sites, maps, etc.)
Birch Creek Map  (where I was)
Nails Creek Map  (the other side of the lake)
Trail Map  (about 20 miles of park trails)
Copperhead Snakes  (info on the poisonous snake)
Javalinas  (info on the dangerous wild hogs)

One comment on “LAKE SOMERVILLE
  1. jp thomas says:

    Great story Ashley ,
    I,am glad there lakes do close that still have water , happy the snake did mot get a bit on you .
    Thank you for bring us a wonderful 24intx .
    JP

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