Summer is just around the corner at Lake Martin, but while the nights are still cool, take some time to indulge in one of the lake’s ‘other’ seasons – camping. From hammocks in the open air to pitching tents on the islands or pulling an RV into the perfect spot at Wind Creek State Park, the options – and the fun – are endless at the lake.
RV campers can choose from 586 sites at WCSP, including 39 recently renovated spots to accommodate extra long trailers. All sites include water and power and are located in shady groves with water views and within walking distance of other recreation and amenities at the park: putt putt golf, zipline tours, the marina, hiking and horse riding trails. Premium sites also have sewer, waterfront access and television service.
More than simply living in a tiny house neighborhood, the RV lifestyle is a laid back, slow-paced adventure that easily accommodates cross-country travel and a comfortable bed in a roomy, sturdy shelter. Meet your neighbors, cook out or hang out in the air-conditioned cab playing cards for a relaxing weekend or longer.
Visit alapark.com/parks/wind-creek-state-park for available dates, sites and rates.
If you prefer a more primitive camping adventure, Lake Martin’s natural and undeveloped project lands are available at no cost on a first-come, first-served basis. Some designated campsites exist along the Tallapoosa River section of the Alabama Scenic River Trail, but any suitable open patch of project ground or piece of island could do quite nicely. Please do not camp on private islands and shorelines.
One of the most popular of the public areas is Cheeseburger Island just north of Goat Island, above Martin Dam. The site includes several tent-pitching options, a swimming beach and even a DIY countertop for card games and meals, as well as spectacular views of the lake. If you set your sights on Cheeseburger, arrive early. It’s among the first to be claimed.
Other areas also could be comfortable and accommodating, as well. Visit apcshorelines.com/recreation/parks for more information.
What to Pack
Once you decide your camping style and where you’d like to take your outdoor respite at Lake Martin, it’s time to prepare. Gear and food are the essentials, and your camping style – RVing, boat camping, island camping or farther off the- -grid – will determine how much additional luggage you could bring along. The more rugged your excursion, the less gear you can carry, so planning ahead is recommended.
The essentials usually include sleeping accommodations, whether you plan to nap under the stars in a hammock, on the ground in a sleeping bag – with or without a tent, on the boat or just need to bring linens for the RV. An air mattress or foam mat makes ground-sleeping worlds more comfortable, too.
If you’re going out to an island or undeveloped shoreline, you’ll need to pack plenty of drinking water. Don’t scrimp: In the fresh air and sunshine, you’ll drink more water than usual.
Plan your meals with your cooking method in mind and be sure to add some healthy snacks. If you’re bringing a cooler, allow space for plenty of ice that will last for your whole trip.
If you’re cooking over an open fire, bring the cookware that you’ll need for the meals you have planned, as well as utensils. A potholder doesn’t take up too much room, but it’s awfully handy when it’s time to take the meal off the fire.
Bring matches to start the fire, and if you have room, some fire starters, kindling and dry wood make easy work of campfire making, especially if it has rained recently.
If you’re going off the grid, bring appropriate supplies for the latrine. Be mindful of the environment and anyone who might use the campsite after you.
Add your first aid kit and a flashlight to the list of necessities. You might not use them on every trip, but having them sure beats breaking camp in the dark if the weather turns bad or not having that butterfly bandage that could make the difference between staying for a good time or going home early.
It’s also a good idea to pack some rain gear. A plastic poncho takes up almost no room at all, but you’ll be glad you have it if you have to make a bathroom run in the rain in the middle of the night.
With the essentials covered, you can consider the luxuries, such as folding chairs, books, cards, portable speakers, a ball and glove for catch, swimming gear, hiking stick if there are trails nearby and binoculars for bird watching.
When You Arrive
It’s tempting to start your chill as soon as you arrive at the campsite, but don’t do it. Make the effort to set up the tent and campfire supplies right away. Time has a way of getting away from you, and you don’t want to have to set up camp in the dark if you can avoid it.
Choose a flat area for the tent site and clear rocks, sticks and other debris before you lay out the tent. Stake it down, even if the weather is calm and there’s no wind in the forecast. This is Alabama, where the weather changes every five minutes.
Move sleeping bags, extra clothes and anything else you’ll want access to, except food, into the tent, even if you don’t lay it all out right away. Once the tent is ready, keep the door zipped closed to prevent bugs from getting into your sleeping quarters.
Set up your latrine well away from the lake and your main camping area.
Gather some dry kindling and wood for your fire early, too, but stow the cooler and groceries in the car if you aren’t in the campsite all the time. Raccoons and other wildlife like people food, too.
Then, relax and have a great time. Explore. Read. Watch the birds. Linger over the sunset, and fall asleep to the music of the lake. Keep your cellphone at the ready to capture the trip in photos.
When You Leave
Adhere to the Scouting motto, ‘leave no trace,’ when it’s time to pack up and go home. Put out the fire; pack your trash and take it with you. Disassemble the latrine; no one who visits the site after you should be able to tell where it was. Check to make sure you take out everything you brought in.
But leave behind all the flowers and the interesting rocks. Don’t let the kids bring the lizard they played with all weekend home as a pet. It’s a wild animal and won’t survive well in captivity. Take these things with you only in pictures.
Smile all the way home as you file away some great memories of immersing yourself in one of the lake’s ‘other’ seasons.