Easter Week at the Lake

We enjoyed a few days at Lake Brownwood State Park just before Easter once again.  Springtime is such a great time to visit this lovely park, and for the first time since we began visiting here is early 2012, the lake was completely full!  This was also our yearly pilgrimage to see our beautiful Texas bluebonnets once again.  A trip to see the bluebonnets in spring holds a special place in my heart, dating back to my childhood days with my family when we would make a trip to another lake in central Texas in the spring, often during this very same week when we had a break from school for Easter.

Here are two views of the same spot at Lake Brownwood in the day use area.  The first photo is from last year at this same time, and the second photo is from last week.

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2015
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2016

 

While we certainly missed all of those beautiful bluebonnets that we saw last year, it was such a treat to finally see this beautiful lake completely full with green grass and trees all around.  The lake actually filled up shortly after our visit last year after significant rains came to much of the state to finally end the drought that began in 2011, but this was our first time back to the lake since the rains came.

There are several campgrounds in the park, and we always enjoy the Council Bluff campground with the full hookups, nice shady sites, great views of the lake and easy access to some nice trails afforded there.  In fact, the overlook in this campground is one of my favorite places in the entire park, especially at sunset.

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Council Bluff overlook, about a minute walk from our campsite
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View from Council Bluff overlook
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Council Bluff overlook
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Council Bluff campground in the morning
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Area behind our campsite in Council Bluff where we saw some wild turkeys
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Sunset view from Council Bluff overlook

 

I captured a few photos of some pretty birds in the campground, including my first photos of our state bird of Texas, the mockingbird, which we do not see very often in our part of the state, unfortunately.  These pretty birds have a beautiful wingspan, too.

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Mockingbird, the state bird of Texas
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Northern Cardinal
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Mockingbird

 

The Willow Point campground, which sits right on the lake, is another beautiful place to camp in the park, offering water and electric sites with easy lake access.  The gorgeous day use area also sits next to this campground, and a nice fishing pier and boat ramp is within an easy walk.  We actually decided to return to the park midweek at some point and camp in Willow Point to take full advantage of the lake access, too.

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Swimming spot at the day use area
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Lovely day use area
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A nice campsite in Willow Point campground
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Lakeside campsites in Willow Point campround
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Willow Point campground
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Patch of bluebonnets near the day use area
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Beautiful bluebonnet

 

Lake Brownwood State Park is one of 29 CCC Legacy Parks in the Texas State Park system, and the most impressive site in the park is the historic lodge, built by the CCC during the Great Depression.  Hubby’s father was part of a CCC group in the hill country in that time, so all of the CCC facilities throughout the state hold a special place in our hearts, for sure.

I always enjoy seeing this beautiful and impressive building on each trip, and each year on Easter Sunday, a sunrise service is held here at a gorgeous overlook that has a great view of the lake as the sun shines its first golden rays over the lake.

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Historic CCC lodge
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Monument at the historic lodge
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Big patio behind the historic lodge
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Beautiful overlook area near the historic lodge
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Sunrise service is held in this beautiful spot every Easter morning.

 

Of course, a visit to this area is not complete without enjoying a meal at a truly iconic restaurant in the town of Brownwood, which is 22 miles south of the park.  Underwood’s Cafeteria is not to be missed when in this area, and you can’t miss it when driving through town with those large signs.  We opted to dine here at lunch on Thursday before the holiday crowds came to the area, which was a good plan.  Underwood’s Cafeteria has been in business for 70 years as of this year and is still going strong with some of the best BBQ anywhere at a fair price.

We had a great, relaxing trip back to this area, and even the dogs had a great time, I think.  We took the car along on this trip instead of the motorcycle, as the weather was a bit cooler than on previous trips, so we took them with us on some nice drives here for the first time.  Easy access to some of our favorite hiking trails from our campsite also allowed us to take them hiking every day, and we especially enjoyed hiking the Texas Oak Trail above the lake at sunset each day.

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Big Red loves to look out the window at our fellow campers.
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Girly Girl enjoying a morning nap in the sunshine in the RV.

 

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Easter Weekend Camping

Our long Easter weekend trip once again proved to be a fabulous break for us, just as it was last year.  This trip was mostly a repeat experience from last year, with the exception of adding one additional night upfront at a new campground to check it out for the first time.

Some time back, I started looking for other places to camp in our area besides our beloved state parks, not because we are dissatisfied with them, but rather to just have some options when we want to go camping and cannot get a reservation at a state park.  We believe that more and more people in our area are purchasing RVs and going camping these days, as it seems to be a bit harder to get reservations than even three years ago when we first started traveling by RV ourselves.  We cannot always plan a quick weekend getaway too far in advance, since we are still limited by Hubby’s work schedule and his business travels, so we are very interested to check out some new places that can still provide us some options to get out-of-town in some last-minute situations.  Corps of Engineer campgrounds are another option, even though we do not have any in our immediate area, and the closest one is about four hours away.  That is still an option for us at times, so we decided to check out one of these campgrounds for a night.

Hords Creek Lake has two COE campgrounds, Lakeside and Flatrock, although Flatrock is shut down for the forseeable future, probably due to lack of demand.  We camped at Hords Creek Lake – Lakeside Campground on the Wednesday night before Easter, and it was a good experience for us, even though it was a bit confusing, too.  I reserved a full-hookup site online at reservation.gov for that night, and I’m glad I did, not because the campground was full, but apparently that is the only way to secure a site there, other than calling a toll-free number when arriving at the gatehouse.  Perhaps this is not the case in later weeks and months when occupancy probably increases, and we noted that the gatehouses were to open for the season a couple of days later, too.  We also wondered if it was even possible to camp overnight here if we didn’t have an advance reservation ahead of time.  We can do that in the state parks by just registering and paying in the drop box if the park office is closed.  And oddly enough, we never saw a single park person the entire time we were there.  We left around noon the following morning and even stopped by the park headquarters to make sure we didn’t owe a daily fee of some kind before we left the park.  The door was open and there were signs that someone was on duty, but after five minutes and asking if anyone was there, no one ever appeared at the desk.  It was just a strange experience for us, as we are accustomed to the state parks being well staffed and having security patrols come by regularly.  It left me with some mixed feelings about camping here in the future, even though the campground is actually quite nice.  We just like to have security around when in a remote place like this.  I am wondering if this is pretty much how all of the COE campgrounds operate, too.

I would recommend the campground as long as you don’t mind pretty much being on your own here.  We will definitely consider returning sometime, since we did have a bit of cell and data signal in case of an emergency, probably from the small town of Coleman which is about seven miles away.  I wouldn’t rely on having park personnel nearby to help in such a situation, based on our experience.  Lakeside is a huge campground, and I doubt it ever completely fills up these days, since the lake is still down 14 feet.  The lake is quite nice, though, and it is a beautiful and peaceful area with many wonderful birds.  There was also nice spacing between sites, more than the state parks, and there are some nice trees, even though it is not as densely covered as Abilene State Park and Lake Brownwood State Park, both of which are in this same general area for the most part.  This campground would definitely be a great place for a family reunion or other large gathering, especially if most everyone has RVs.  As we drove around the campground before we left, we saw many great group facilities, including one that probably had about twenty RV hookups.

For us, this campground would be a place to just getaway for a couple of days, and we would enjoy riding our bicycles here in the future.  We pretty much had the park to ourselves on this particular day, too.  There are no hiking trails, but since the park is so large, we would enjoy just walking the dogs on the roads and walking down by the lake which is easily accessible.  The restrooms were quite nice, and we noticed that the showers only have one water temperature.

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Hords Creek Lake
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Our campsite with nice trees and covered dining area
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An a nearby campsite at the end of the road
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Another view of our campsite
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Nearby campsites with restroom/shower building in the distance
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Nearby campsites
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All hookups are in one spot, including water on the ground
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Nice group area
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Nice group area
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Shelter for groups
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Restroom and shower building
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Restrooms were nice and clean
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Handicap shower with automatic sensor to turn on the water – one temp only
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Beautiful oak trees near our campsite
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The lake is down, but it is still there and quite nice

Given that this park and Lake Brownwood State Park are the same driving distance for us, we will likely opt for the state park, when it is available.  Lake Brownwood State Park is one of the iconic state parks of Texas and is 80 years old.  It has nice facilities and great hiking and biking trails for us, as well as full hookups in Council Bluff Campground.  It is a beautiful place and more prominently located in the hill country than Hords Creek Lake.  Brownwood is a nice town just 20 miles away and has good food and other services available, including dining at Underwoods BBQ, a favorite of ours and many others.  There is also a small grocery store and a convenience store available about 8 or 9 miles from the park entrance.  We adore Lake Brownwood State Park in the springtime and will likely continue to make a yearly visit there, but we know that there is another option available in this general area for camping now, too.

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