Huntsville State Park
It’s amazing to me how often in my life I have become aware of something I really want to see or do and yet I let years pass before I eventually go and do it. This is exactly how it happened that we lived an eight hour drive away from Niagara Falls but never ended up seeing it. How ridiculous is that! My tendency to plan everything down to the last detail often gets in the way of being able to make a quick decision - it’s a useful trait but should be better balanced with a willingness to leap when an opportunity for meaningful experiences arises.
Every few years we’ve driven to Huntsville State Park and enjoyed a half hour walk along the lake. I knew there were two longer trails circling the park, yet I did nothing but talk about walking it. When our son and his girlfriend invited us to come with them for a three hour walk around the park, I finally seized the moment.
We were fortunate enough to visit the park on a day when the temperatures were in the 50s and we could enjoy walking in the stillness that seems unique to the winter months. Walking north from the parking lot, along the eastern side of the lake, we walked on a series of elevated boardwalks while taking in some enjoyable views of Lake Raven. This was the part of the walk I was familiar with and the reason I’ve always looked forward to visiting the park. Walking there in winter, I was surprised by how slippery a thick layer of pine needles on the path can be. Rounding the northern end of the lake on the Chinquapin Trail we came across a marshy area that seemed to have been on the receiving end of a large volume of rushing water. An older stretch of boardwalk lay scattered out on the marsh.
The path on the western side of the lake took us away from the water and over a pleasantly hilly landscape. Yaupons were a consistent feature of the understory of the forest and obscured what would otherwise have offered expansive winter views during a time when the deciduous trees stood bare among the towering pine trees.
Small bridges made predictable appearances throughout the walk, resulting in equally predictable exclamations of excitement from me. You would think I would have learned after all these years in Texas! In other parts of the world, you can expect happy little gurgling streams to flow year round. In Texas, streams will often only come into being after a heavy rain.
Along the way, two of our party decided to make a mad dash at a steep hillside for the sake of enjoying the view at the top. With camera equipment strapped around my neck, I preferred the snaking pathway. At the back of the hill I was encouraged to scramble up a slightly less steep incline in order to see the drop off that extreme bike riders enjoy flying over. The potential for physical pain has always been an effective deterrent to my taking up action sports so I struggle to grasp the ability of some people to simply disregard the possibility of a negative outcome. I shook my head at the thought and faced the unhappy prospect of getting back down.
Toward the southern end of the path is a dam and spillway which offered us an amazing view of the lake! With the sun low in the sky, colors seemed to have shifted and the lake and surrounding forest appeared as contrasts of dark and light, casting an atmospheric twilight spell on the landscape. Soon after, the path turned toward the east and we focused on navigating our way back toward the car.