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Tips For Your Visit To Goat Island on Lake Martin

Lake Martin is a special place where everyone loves spending time on the lake. And I do mean everyone-both those with two and four legs. You probably think I am talking about dogs-and trust me they love the lake too-but today I’m actually talking about goats. Yes, goats love our lake! There is even one special group of goats that like to spend their Summers on an island at Lake Martin. They get on a pontoon boat and make the trek to their island each Spring, and then go back to their home to spend the Winters with their parents, Ricky and Stacie Baker.

A visit to Lake Martin just isn’t complete without a trip to Goat Island. The island itself is just north of Martin Dam, and is only accessible by boat. The goats love getting visitors though, and this is one thing you absolutely, positively have to add to your day on Lake Martin. Let me be clear though, this is not like a petting zoo. You won’t buy a ticket and be ushered in. These goats are just there chilling and living their best goat life. Think about it…..These are goats, spending their Summer vacation on an island in the middle of a beautiful lake-and you get to go play with them and feed them Cheetos. What could possibly be better than that? Below are a few tips to help you find your way there, and have a great trip to Goat Island.

Location:

Latitude: 32.69082, Longitude: -85.91540

Admission:

FREE. This island is open to the public and anyone is welcome to come visit the goats. However, they do have a bank account set up, and you are welcome to donate anytime if you feel led. This is not a business, and there is one loving family that handles all of their care- including food, medical care, etc.  If you are interested in donating to the care of the goats, you can do so via PayPal: goatislandlakemartin@gmail.com or Venmo: Goat-Island

Things The Goats Love:

-Cheetos (This is their favorite food! Want to make quick friends with the goats? Bring that cheesy, crunchy goodness to them!)

-Chips

-Bread

Things The Goats Do Not Love:

-Corn

-Dog Food

-Meat

-Dogs (There are lots of islands for the dogs to visit on Lake Martin, but because the goats can get a little freaked out by them, please refrain from bringing them here.)

Follow Them On Social Media:

This special crew has their own island-of course they have their own Facebook page as well. The owners update the page with the latest info for visitors, and it is a place where everyone can share their Goat Island selfies and ask questions. Whether you visit or not, just following them on Facebook is sure to put some happiness in your newsfeed. You can follow them here.

Get to Know the Goats of Goat Island

BUG

My name is Bug.  I was born on March 12, 2016.  I was named by Bailey and we have the same birthday.  Her nickname is Bug, so that’s how I got my name. 

LAKEY

My name is Lakey.  I was born on March 2, 2019.  My mom is Rosie and I have a twin brother.  His name is Smalls.  

SMALLS

My name is Smalls.  I was born on March 2, 2019.  My mom is Rosie and I have a twin brother.  His name is Lakey. 

MARLEY

My name is Marley.  I was born on February 5, 2020.  My mom is Sweetie Pie and I have a twin brother.  His name is Moe.  I am just like my mom-I am very loud and like to talk alot. 

SISSY

My name is Sissy.  I was born on February 5, 2020.  My mom is Bug and I am one of the triplets.  My sister is Sassy and my brother is Skoot.

MOE

My name is Moe.  I was born on February 5, 2020.  My mom is Sweetie Pie and I have a twin sister.  Her name is Marley.

SWEETIE PIE

My name is Sweetie Pie.  I was born on March 13, 2016.  I was named by Britney.  I am the LOUDEST one on the Island and I talk ALL the time!

KOWALIGA

My name is Kowaliga.  I was born on March 2, 2019.  My mom is Bug and I have a twin brother.  His name is Brownie.  

ROSIE

My name is Rosie.  I was born on March 18, 2016.  I was named by Blaire.  I am the most gentle one of all my family.  

SCOOT

My name is Skoot.  I was born on February 5, 2020.  My mom is Bug and I am one of the triplets.  My sisters are Sissy and Sassy. 

SASSY

My name is Sassy.  I was born on February 5, 2020.  My mom is Bug and I am one of the triplets.  My sister is Sissy and my brother is Scoot.  

BROWNIE

My name is Brownie.  I was born on March 2, 2019.  My mom is Bug and I have a twin brother.  His name is Kowaliga.  

Lake Martin’s Message in a Bottle

One of the things that I am proudest of in our community is our desire and effort to keep it clean and pristine for our visitors and residents, while also protecting our environment.  I recently saw a picture online of a bird in England tangled up in a used face mask that had been thrown out.  Those kinds of things bother me, and it’s why I personally choose to do my part to not let it happen.  And let’s face it-trash on the roads or on the lake is just not cute.  Nobody wants to see that.  In my mind, I’ve always thought all trash is bad.  Until…….. I heard a story about one special piece of trash-that actually turned out not to be trash.  It was an item disguised as trash, that would bring back memories for a group of siblings and cousins decades later.    

As we were getting ready for our Tourism Gives Back Earth Day Clean-Up that is happening this weekend, I was chatting with some participants and a special story was shared with me.  It was heartwarming and inspiring, and if I wasn’t already motivated to go picking up trash before, I certainly am now.  I want to find my own special piece of trash!

The story goes back to 2018.  Adams Beverages was participating in a clean-up on Lake Martin with Lake Martin Resource Association.  One of the people in the group that day was Lee Pitchford.  As he went to grab one bottle caught in a stump across from Peanut Point, he saw that it was different.  At that moment, he had no idea how different though, or how the story of that bottle would go back almost 40 years.  Upon looking closer, he noticed that there was something inside of it, and he carefully pulled out pieces of paper.  Cue the Police song….. yes… this was indeed….. a Message in a Bottle!  It turns out a group of kids from Roanoke and Wadley placed this message in the bottle on June 15, 1981-and he found it almost a week to the day, 37 years later.  How crazy! 

DeLane Hodges Vansandt was 16 at the time, and said her two brothers, Russ and Rick Hodges, and two cousins, Troy Hodges and Tera Hodges-Ogilvie, decided to create their own message in a bottle.  DeLane told me that they were out camping on the Tallapoosa River near Wadley with her parents, Jerrell and Royann Hodges, and aunt and uncle, Waymon and Linda Hodges. There were messages from all 5 kids, and they all put their age, address, and the date.  All of the messages were then put in a glass RC Cola bottle that they had ripped the paper off of.  She said that she remembers her dad tightening the lid so that it would be securely closed.  

Lee had no idea of any of these happenings though, and didn’t realize quite the treasure that he had found that day.  He was set on finding those people who had their names in the bottle, so he took his mission to Facebook.  And what do you know, he was able to locate all 5 of them! 

Lee returned the bottle to it’s rightful owners, and took the bottle and messages to the home of DeLane’s parents.  DeLane’s mom, Royann, told The Randolph Leader that there was a deeper message behind the story of the bottle.  She said “What we toss out, literally and figuratively, eventually comes back to us.  We’ll treasure this bottle and the memories of a wonderful childhood filled with love and good family time together.”

I’ve read that it takes anywhere from 4,000-1,000,000 years for glass to decompose.  That’s a wide range, but even on the shorter end of that range, a glass bottle will definitely outlast all of us.  The fact that the glass lasted that long is not surprising to me.  However, the fact that it remained perfectly intact with the messages dry inside for almost 40 years is surprising.  DeLane said another interesting fact is that the bottle was found near the lake house of another of her aunt and uncles, Don and Lynn Hodges.  Who knows how long that bottle had been stuck on that stump waiting to make it’s way back to this family? 

As we get ready for the clean up this weekend, I am excited to see what my finds bring me.  Will it be a message from the past?  Will I be able to have the ability to bring back fond memories from decades ago like Lee did?  I’m not sure, and probably won’t hold my breath on that.  However, this charming story that was told to me does give me extra motivation to get out and give back to my community.  It also reminds me to look closely-as things are not always what they seem.  At first, Lee saw trash.  What that ended up being was a cherished memory that he will forever get to be a part of.  I will definitely look closely at whatever I pick up this weekend! 

The Million Dollar Fish in Lake Martin

So the million dollar question is……. What does a million dollar fish look like?  And the next question is obviously-where do I find that fish? 

That million dollar fish looks just like any other bass-he/she may be a largemouth or spotted bass.  We don’t know.  What we do know is that the fish will be wearing a special fashion accessory that sets it apart. And to answer the second question-that fish is in Lake Martin!  I have no idea where on Lake Martin (if I did I would be shopping for the new boat I would be buying with my winnings), but that special fish is swimming around the lake right this second.  There are actually 200 tagged fish released in different locations from up the river beyond Highway 280, to Parker Creek near Kowaliga. 

While we don’t have a lottery here in Alabama, we do have this special game of chance that also includes a little fun time on the lake as a bonus.  In my opinion, that’s much more fun than scratching off a lotto ticket anyway. This little game of chance is called Crank 4 Bank and it is put on by OGS Tournaments.  It’s kind of like a fishing tournament, but……. not really.  If you are looking for fishing tournaments, they do those too-and have some great ones to participate in.  They even do some nighttime tournaments during the summer.  But-that’s not what Crank 4 Bank is about.  See, this is not about catching the biggest fish, or the most fish-it’s just about catching the RIGHT fish.  If you have registered ahead of time, and are lucky enough to catch one of them between April 1-July 4, you could win $1,500.  It gets better though-the fish you catch may be one of the extra special fish.  Those guys could score you a boat, a truck, or a million dollars.  Yes-your fish might be worth $1 million.  Can we say best lake day ever??? 

Another cool thing is that those who choose to participate also get to be a part of the virtual fishing tournament. Again though-this is not like your normal fishing tournament.  Basically, you catch a fish, and regardless of size, you upload the picture.  They will have 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place big fish winners, as well as weekly big fish winners.  They will also have a random drawing every other week and select winners that way as well.  It’s just another way you can win, and is something that anyone can do regardless of your fishing experience.  Think of it as a way to even the playing field for everyone.  I don’t have a fancy bass boat (at least I don’t until I catch that special fish that wins me one), and I’m still learning a lot about bass fishing.  I may catch a fish, but it may not be the biggest.  That’s ok though, because even if it’s not, there are still ways for me to win.  In this game, I could even be fishing off of my dock and have a chance to compete against the pros and win. 

I can’t stress enough though that the key to this is registering ahead of time.  You can get your ticket and get registered by clicking here. If you don’t, and you catch a tagged fish, you get nothing.  No-you can’t go and get registered after you catch your winning fish.  That’s not even an option, and is not going to work for you.  You have to do it ahead of time-at least 2 hours before you catch your winning fish.  You also have to have a current Alabama fishing license.  Make sure you check out the rules and know the process before you go out on your mission to find the prize winning fish.  You can check those out here.  

Another thing I really like is that a portion of the proceeds from the tickets goes to help high school fishing teams. These teams are often underfunded, and I think it is kind of cool to be a part of giving back to something that invests in our future anglers.

I’m not a professional angler by any means, but I do enjoy fishing.  I know I am going to be grabbing my pole and hitting the lake this Summer anyway, and I also know I would be kicking myself if I caught one of these tagged fish, and then got nothing…..zero…..zilch.  I’ve heard the tales of those this has happened to-and I refuse to let that be me.  Can you even imagine that feeling?  Reeling in that fish, and seeing that special tag that means at minimum, you would be $1,500 richer-IF you had registered ahead of time?  Because I don’t want to experience that gut wrenching feeling, and because I think it just puts a little extra excitement in a day out on the water fishing, I am going to get registered.  Why not?  It’s my first summer on the lake, so maybe I will have some beginner’s luck.  Worst care scenario, it encourages me to get out and do a little more fishing.  That’s not too bad either, and a great way to spend a summer day. 

The Real Meaning Behind “Treasured Lake Martin”

Photo credit: @daleeburns

There are so many adjectives people use to describe Lake Martin-beautiful Lake Martin, amazing Lake Martin, breathtaking Lake Martin, fun Lake Martin….. the list goes on and on.  You may have even heard the term “Treasured” Lake Martin thrown around and thought that was just a great descriptive word for our wonderful lake as well.  While we do treasure it dearly, there is a lot more to this term.  We know how special our lake is, but this one phrase-Treasured Lake Martin-is one of many examples of just how special we are. 

You see, treasured is not just a nice descriptive word used to characterize our lake, but is an actual designation bestowed upon Lake Martin.  Not only is it pretty impressive that we have this designation, but what’s also cool is that we are the only lake to have this designation.  Yep-our lake really is that special.  We are Alabama’s only treasured lake.  So, let’s talk about what makes us special and how we earned the right to call ourselves Alabama’s only treasured lake. 

It all goes back over 10 years ago when Governor Bob Riley signed Executive Order #54 and established the Treasured Alabama Lakes designation in a special ceremony at Children’s Harbor on Lake Martin.  The goal was for the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to have a designation for lakes that met high water quality standards and have low nutrient enrichment.  Lake Martin was chosen as the first lake to receive the designation-and to this day, it is still the only lake to receive this very special designation.  Lake Watch of Lake Martin, and more specifically President Dick Bronson, was the catalyst for getting the designation passed.  Dick stated during the dedication ceremony, “We’ve always known that Lake Martin was the cleanest lake in Alabama and this designation is verification of that belief. It’s also a testament to nearly 18 years of water quality monitoring by Lake Watch volunteers who were trained by Alabama Water Watch personnel at Auburn University.”

ADEM Director Lance LeFleur, Governor Bob Riley, Alabama Department of Tourism’s Lee Sentell, and Lake Watch members met on December 6, 2010 to discuss the proposed new designation that would be called “Treasured Alabama Lake.”  This wasn’t a designation that would be handed out easily though-there were strict criteria that had to be met and this special designation would only be for lakes that have high water quality, exceptional recreational significance, state parks and wildlife refuges, and exceptional ecological significance.  Lake Martin checked all of those boxes and excelled in each of those things.  During that meeting, Governor Riley decided that Lake Martin should be designated as a “Treasured Alabama Lake” and he said that he would issue an Executive Order stating that. He did that on December 28, 2010.   

Photo Provided By: Eric Reutebuch- Pictured are: Lee Sentell- Alabama Department of Tourism, Lance LeFleur-Alabama Department of Environmental Management, Dick Bronson-Lake Watch, M. Barnett Lawley-Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Ben Russell-Russell Lands On Lake Martin, and Governor Bob Riley

At that time, Governor Riley said that the water in Lake Martin would never be degraded from where it was on that day.  To this day, groups such as Lake Watch, Lake Martin HOBO, and Lake Martin Resource Association work tirelessly to keep our “Treasured Lake Martin” clean and pristine for generations to come. 

Plug Day-Lake Martin’s Own Special Holiday

I remember my first trip to Alexander City last February.  I was talking to the locals and I kept hearing about the upcoming Plug Day.  Everyone seemed so excited about it.  I personally had never observed this occasion before, but was intrigued to learn more.  I’m not one to play it off and pretend I know what someone is talking about.  I couldn’t anyway-my facial expressions usually give that away.  So, as my new friends looked at my confused face, I just came on out and asked-OK, so what is Plug Day?  Do I get off of work for this day?  Will there be cake in honor of Plug Day? Do we exchange gifts?  Is there a celebration? 

It turns out that this is a really joyous occasion.  There’s a fun explanation to it, and a technical explanation.  I will tell you a little about each so that when someone tells you “Happy Plug Day” you will know what it means and will look a lot less confused than I did that day.

Let’s start with the fun explanation!  Credit for the fun part has to be given to Lake Magazine.  They created this special little holiday to celebrate the start of the rising of the lake water-as Lake Martin transitions to what is called Summer Pool.  Think of when you put a plug in a bathtub, and you see the water level start to rise-that is kind of what starts happening to Lake Martin on Plug Day.  I know you are thinking it-because I certainly was too-and no, there is not an actual plug that makes it happen.  (More on the how in the next paragraph that talks about the technical stuff.)  However, it really does work the same way, and is cool to think of the virtual plug at the bottom of the lake as you see the water continue to rise over the next few weeks.  The water level keeps rising for 50 days.  During those 50 days, we celebrate everything about Lake Martin, and start to look forward to those Summer days out on the lake cruising around, hanging out on an island, swimming, or wakeboarding and skiing.  It’s a time when we think about our memories from past Summer days on the lake, and start planning for the upcoming Summer.  And even though there is not an actual plug that goes in the lake, there is an actual plug that you may see out and about around town during these 50 days to commemorate this special time. 

Now, that I have ruined it for you and let the secret out that it’s not really a giant plug that is allowing the water to rise, let’s talk technical.  This is the part you can impress your friends with.  Alabama Power holds a license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to operate Martin Dam.  The terms of that license are determined by an environmental impact study that is about 400 pages long.  We are certainly not going to get into all of that today, but I will give you the cliffs notes version.  The current license says Alabama Power has to keep Lake Martin’s water at very specific levels-491 mean sea level feet in the Summer and 484 mean sea level feet in the Winter.  The Summer levels and Winter levels are commonly referred to as Summer Pool and Winter Pool.  As with anything, there are some exceptions that sometimes allow for drought, flood control, scheduled drawdowns for maintenance, and emergencies.   Those levels are the norm most years though.  FERC even tells Alabama Power the exact dates at which they must start making the transition between water levels.  This is all controlled at an Alabama Power facility in Birmingham.  March 1st at midnight is when the water level starts it’s rise to Summer Pool levels.  At that time, it is 484 msl feet.  They have to make sure that Lake Martin reaches Summer Pool levels-491 msl feet-by April 19th at midnight. That schedule of water level change is called the rule curve.  If all things were perfect in nature, you could follow the rule curve and know exactly what the water level will be each day.  If we’ve learned anything about nature though, we know that it can be unpredictable.  We can get lots of rain, or no rain-you never know.  Flood control is what affects the rule curve the most in the Spring.  For example, Alabama Power could hold extra water in the Lake Martin reservoir to prevent downstream flooding.  What we do know is that by April 19th, Lake Martin will be at full Summer Pool.  You can always check the current level of the lake here. While the Plug Day excitement does continue for the full 50 days, most of us can’t contain ourselves that long, and if weather allows, we are already enjoying the lake fully by that time. 

Lake Martin Machine Gun: The Thrilling, Hidden Gem You Are Missing Out On

It was a crisp December afternoon as Stephen and I packed our bags and made our way down to our lake house, Pelican Point, eager to set out on our next big adventure. As many already know, winter time at Lake Martin is its own unique season.  With the water level down and boats stored away until the return of warmer days, this is the perfect opportunity to explore some of the more “off-the-beaten-path” attractions that the lake has to offer. And today, that sense of adventure was bringing us to Lake Martin Machine Gun.

Stephen himself is an experienced firearm shooter, growing up hunting from a young age and an owner of several guns himself.  I, on the other hand, had never really actually held a gun before – much less shot one.  The idea of going straight from a beginning shooter to firing a machine gun was quite an intimidating thought I have to admit. However, I rarely turn down the opportunity to try something new, especially something this intriguing. As we continued our trip onward towards Eclectic, I really had no idea what to expect on this expedition.

The Arrival

It wasn’t long before we were pulling up to the gravel driveway of our destination. The location was easily spottable from the road, marked by an oversized sign with “Lake Martin Machine Gun” printed clearly across the front. We had passed this sign several times before, usually on our way to the old Harbor Docks restaurant or on a day trip out towards Stillwater.  Every time we passed by it however, the sign continuously peaked our interest, more and more. 

What is this place?  What do they do here?  Can you really shoot a machine gun?

Finally, our curiosity had gotten the better of us.  We thought, what the heck…we’ll give it a shot. We didn’t know it yet, but as we turned down that gravel driveway, we were about to have one of the most memorable afternoons we had this year.

The driveway wound back through woods, revealing a clearing, parking lot, and a simple building.  There was a sense of excitement in the air as we exited our car.  Gunshots could be heard in the distance and the suspense was rising. This was it. We had arrived! 

As Stephen and I made our way inside, we were instantly greeted with warm welcomes from the Lake Martin Machine Gun owners, David and Jodie McGirt.  David enthusiastically gave us a detailed briefing on what we could expect during our trip that day, and what he referred to as the “Lake Martin Machine Gun Experience”. 

The Lake Martin Machine Gun Experience

The Lake Martin Machine Gun Experience we learned is all about bringing history back to life. Established in 2016, the McGirts were on a mission to set themselves apart from other shooting ranges by creating a fun, safe environment where people can learn and experience history behind these firearms, reconnect with it, and most importantly – have a good time.

David furthered explained the rarity of the guns at LMMG that visitors are able to shoot. Machine guns are highly regulated in the United States, with only a limited amount available to the public. He went on to say many of the firearms in their collection normally would only be available to be viewed from behind a glass case or on a movie screen, but we would have the opportunity to see and handle them first hand.  This immediately got our attention! This was already turning out to be so much more than we could have imagined.  

The Facility

The Lake Martin Machine Gun facility is made up of multiple shooting bays, including one specifically for pistols and rifles. The main range itself has a roof covering overhead to shelter visitors from any form of weather.  It is also temperature controlled with heating and air conditioning – which I’m told is not always available at other shooting ranges.

Jodie also took us to tour a separate building outside, specifically designed for long range shooting.  Here visitors have access to a different set of targets as well as the opportunity to sight in rifles, which especially comes in handy for hunters.  However, to access the Long Range a visitor must sign in and out inside the facility, as well as be a known shooter to the staff. 

As David and Jodie continued the tour around the facility, I immediately began to feel comfortable with my surroundings.  It was growingly apparent that safety is their number one priority. 

Machine Gun History 101

If there is one thing that separates this establishment from any other shooting range, it would be the history portion of the experience.  David really came to life while he was teaching us about the different types of firearms and the evolution of each of them throughout time.

Listening to David speak was like walking through history itself. He gave the perfect blend of technical knowledge along with vibrant storytelling and historical depictions of the firearms and their uses, such as demonstrating the famous “Tommy Gun” that was commonly known to be used by Bonnie and Clyde. Interestingly enough, we learned that the Tommy Gun was what inspired many of the gun laws that we see still implemented today.

In total, David did an overview of approximately 15 different firearms, including a “British Bren”, the breakaway “PDW” used by Secret Service members, and the “Israeli Uzi” that Chuck Norris was famous for. He even showed us an MP44 from World War II, which is so rare that they are hardly available to even be seen in the world today.  The best part? Visitors to Lake Martin Machine Gun have the opportunity to shoot some of these firearms themselves!

The historical aspect of our tour, and knowledge behind the guns we were about to shoot, was definitely a much appreciated addition to our visit. It created a unique twist that added value and awareness of just how cool this experience was that Lake Martin Machine Gun makes available to the public.

Shooting the Machine Guns: Fire Away!

At Lake Martin Machine Gun, the firearms themselves are handled by trained staff members. It seems like common sense, but that was actually quite a relief for me since I had never been to a shooting range before and I didn’t exactly know how all this worked.

The staff does what David referred to as all the “heavy lifting”, as they are all trained and knowledgeable in the handling of each of these firearms and can in turn insure a safe environment. David and one of his staff members loaded in all the ammo, set up the guns, and stood right beside us while we got into position to shoot.  All we had to do was relax and have fun!

The first gun we shot was the MP5SD.  This was incredibly exciting, as this is the type of gun that Navy Seals and Special Forces use.  Very few people in the world actually get to shoot these… and yet here we are!  David set the MP5SD up on a wooden platform that was made up of several different levels, with the purpose of stabilizing the gun and to keep us from having to hold up the firearm up ourselves, as some of them proved to actually be really heavy. It sure did give us a new appreciation for all the veterans who had to carry these during their service!   

Stephen was up first to shoot. As he approached the firearm, David began to walk him through step by step of the process and what to expect next.  Stephen’s first shot was a single bullet, allowing him to get the feel of the gun. Once comfortable, David gave Stephen the go ahead to fire away.

That’s when the fun set it. Bullets flew through the air as Stephen held down the trigger and really let loose! Afterwards he turned around, belly laughing and grinning from ear to ear.  David said, “now that’s what we call the machine gun smile!”

After watching the blast Stephen was having, my excitement and adrenaline were running for sure! 

David readjusted the firearm and propped the gun up on a level that was comfortable for my height.  He continued to instruct me as I placed the gun against my shoulder and got into shooting position.  Knowing I was new to all of this, he showed me where to place my hands on the gun and how to look through the scope, as well as coached me on my stance. His continuous instruction definitely made me feel confident and ready for this moment!  As I prepared to take my first shot, I could feel my heart begin to race.

I put my finger on the trigger, peered through the scope, pulled back… and BAM! I laughed as I realized I had just shot my first bullet. And believe it or not, I actually  hit a target.  I was ecstatic. David switched me into position to actually fire off the machine gun and really “let loose”.

Words cannot describe how thrilling those next few seconds were as I shot through my round. It felt a bit like being in the movies.  Stepping back, I was laughing just as hard – if not harder- than Stephen.  The actual experience was simply exhilarating!

The Ma Deuce

We continued down the line of firearms, shooting several different ones including the famous Tommy Gun and the M60, which is what the troops carried all throughout Vietnam.  And then we got to the grand finale and mother of them all – the Ma Deuce.

This iconic Browning .50 caliber machine gun was designed toward the end of World War I, with the official name of M2HB. ”HB” we learned stands for ”heavy barrel” and” M2” is referring to the model of the gun. 

David joked, “as all things in the military with numbers, we had to give it a nickname.  So this became The Ma Deuce.”  

As much fun as we were having with the other firearms, I felt like it was building up to this moment. This one was hands down my favorite to shoot! This particular machine gun is mounted firmly to the ground with a wide open lane to shoot through to specialty targets, specifically designed to handle this caliber of ammo.  If you come and only shoot one machine gun, I cannot emphasize enough the rush you will feel while shooting this one.  There was no need to get fancy.  It was all about letting loose, having fun, and tearing up some targets.

And as you can see, it made for a pretty cool light show too.

Memberships and Corporate Events

Lake Martin Machine Gun is a membership shooting range. David said there are only two rules to being a member at Lake Martin Machine Gun.  “Be Safe and Be Nice,” he said in our interview.  “If you can do those two things, you’re always going to be welcome here.  It gives a nice, safe environment for people to practice and shoot in addition to the Machine Gun Experience – which is what we are most known for.”

The space is also available to rent for things such as corporate events and private parties.  The owners said it is always a hoot for bachelors and bachelorettes to come cut loose as well as corporate outings, birthday parties, and everything in between. 

Final Thoughts

The takeaway from all this is that Lake Martin Machine Gun is an experience for everyone. Also, shooting machine guns is an absolute BLAST.

The McGirts go above and beyond to create a safe, fun environment for people of every experience level to come in and confidently enjoy themselves, all while learning some neat history and shooting off rare firearms. Sounds awesome, right?

If you are as curious as we were, do not keep putting this one off. Ladies, grab your friends for a Girls Night Out. Fellas, bring your wife for a spicy date.  Go grab Grandpa and bring him to have the time of his life! Simply put, it is a thrilling and unforgettable experience that we cannot recommend enough.

So, what are you waiting for?

Want to see more? Watch the exciting video of our trip to Lake Martin Machine Gun on the Pelican Point Expeditions YouTube channel!

Safety Tips On How To Prevent Spider Bites

Brown Recluse Spider


Black Widow Spider

No, it’s not Halloween. Many people shiver at the thought of spiders. In Alabama, there are five species that are harmful including the black widow, the northern black widow, the brown recluse, the Chilean recluse and the Mediterranean recluse. While most spiders produce venom to subdue their prey, few spiders have venom that presents a threat to humans. The brown recluse spider, the size of a quarter and identified by the violin shape on its back are native throughout the United States, including Lake Martin. They like to hide in dark secluded spaces that are dry and warm. When looking in your home, look for webbing around cardboard boxes, in shoes or drawers of clothes. Outside, they reside in wood piles and brush. Black Widows also reside in our community. Females feature a red hourglass on their abdomen and weave a thick tangled web. Widows dwell in quiet areas such as stumps, water meter boxes, sheds and lawn mowers. To avoid being bitten, reduce clutter in dark spaces, inspect and shake out linens, boots and clothes. When working outside, wear gloves and inspect equipment with a flashlight. Our team treated a gentleman who was bitten by a black widow when he sat on his tractor seat where a black widow was nesting. Spiders are not typically aggressive but if bitten, the toxins from the spider can trigger an inflammatory response and cause the tissue to die. People may have different reactions to the bite. Symptoms usually develop 2-8 hours after a bite. Initially the bite is mildly red but on closer inspection, may reveal fang marks. Within a few hours, it may blister, become more painful and develop a ring surrounding the area or have a “bull’s-eye” appearance. The best practice is to immediately use a marker to draw a circle around the perimeter of the wound to see if the redness or swelling continues to expand.

It is important to indentify the spider and understand its bite must be treated by a medical professional in a timely manner. The skin is your fortress. Waiting for a bite to “heal on its own” may only delay the painful healing process. Taking appropriate action is key. If you are extremely brave, bring the “slightly squashed,” dead spider in a bag with you to the doctor for proper identification.. If you are bitten, call the Russell Medical Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine clinic at 256-215-7450 so that our specialized wound care team can help start the healing process. There are effective treatment plans available to advance the healing process.

The biodiversity of species on Alabama’s Freshwater Coast is what makes our community incredibly rich in beauty. Many spiders are harmless. Because of their broad appetite, spiders prey on mosquitoes, flies and cockroaches thus reducing the numbers of other pests. One of the most exciting ways to learn more about species identification and wildlife in the lLake Martin area is to take an energetic guided tour with Russell Lands On Lake Martin Naturalist Marianne Hudson on the Russell Forest Trails. Marianne was recently awarded the Conservation Communicator of the Year by the Alabama Wildlife Federation. She served as the Assistant Director of the Southeastern Raptor Center and in 2017 joined the Alabama Wildlife & Freshwater Fisheries Division as a Conservation Outreach Specialist. She leads highly educational tours in which she identifies a variety of plant and animal life, including the beautiful Golden Silk Orb Weaver Spider. To learn more about here nature hikes, go here.

Golden Silk Orb Weaver

Being vigilant can help keep your family safe and healthy!

Thank you to Russell Medical Wound Care & Hyperbaric Medicine for sharing this helpful information!

Lake Martin Businesses Are Taking a Pledge to Keep You Safe When You Travel

2020 has been quite the year, to say the least.  We understand if you are not ready to travel yet, and we will be here ready to welcome you when you are.  However, if you are ready to get out and explore, we want to help you find ways to do that in the safest way possible.  Your health and safety is important to us, and we want you to be able to enjoy our great outdoors, attractions, restaurants, lodging, and everything else the Lake Martin area has to offer.  The Alabama Tourism Department has put together information to help you Take It All In Responsibly.  They have worked with local businesses and attractions around the state and asked them to take a pledge to make a commitment to keep YOU safe.

Some of the ones in our area that have signed the pledge are:

Adventure Center at Russell Crossroads

Creekside Lodge

Harold Banks Canoe Trail

Lake Martin Machine Gun

Smith Mountain Fire Tower

Whippoorwill Vineyards

Wind Creek State Park

Their pledge to you:

  • To train staff in proper cleaning and sanitization specific to our industry.
  • To post extensive signage on health policies.
  • To wear face coverings.
  • To facilitate and enforce social distancing and capacity guidelines.
  • To regularly sanitize public areas and frequently touched surfaces.
  • To conduct wellness screenings of employees.
  • To follow CDC guidelines and those of our industry for health safety policies in their establishment.
  • To provide contactless reservations, payments, and communications whenever possible.

The Alabama Tourism Department is also asking you to make a pledge as well when visiting Sweet Home Alabama.

Your pledge to us:

  • To plan ahead but be flexible and patient with staff and other patrons.
  • To refrain from physical contact with staff and other patrons.
  • To wear face coverings in public as required.
  • To maintain a safe social distance from others in both indoor and outdoor spaces.
  • To wash and sanitize hands frequently.
  • To limit the size of travel parties or gatherings to the location-specific maximum.
  • To stay home if you have a cough, fever, or other symptoms.
  • To use a credit or debit card and contactless registration as much as possible.

Choosing a Place to Stay at Lake Martin

Enjoy an awesome view of Lake Martin from the Hank Williams Cabin. Yes-you can actually stay where Hank himself stayed!

What does your ideal trip to Lake Martin look like?  Ask anyone, and the answers you get could be completely different.  For some, travelling with their close family members could equal perfection, while some prefer to bring the whole extended family along for the fun.  Others may choose to leave the family at home, and make it a Girls Trip or Guys Getaway.  Some may take an opportunity to have a romantic weekend with their special someone.  But still there are those that just want to have peaceful, quiet alone time, surrounded by the tranquility of nature.  There is no right or wrong answer to the question, but how you answer that question determines how you will pick out the perfect lodging option for your trip.  It’s important to put some thought into this question to make sure you have the best trip ever when you visit Lake Martin.  No worries though-there are plenty of great options of places to stay in the Lake Martin area-and there is an option for every possible travelling situation that you can think up.

Here are five things to think about before making a decision on where to stay on your next trip to Lake Martin:

  1. Who all is coming along?
  2. How long is your trip?
  3. Will you be eating out or do you prefer to have the amenities of home and be able to prepare your own meals?
  4. Does your dream trip involve waking up to the lake outside your door, or are you ok with driving a few minutes to see water?
  5. Do you prefer a more luxurious or rustic experience, or are you looking for something unique?

The Hank Williams Cabin

If you answered unique on #5, this one is for you.  You can experience a great spot in country music history, and stay at the Hank Williams Cabin. The music legend stayed in the cabin and composed the song “Kaw-liga” in August 1952, reaching #1 on the country music charts in 1953. The cabin was built in 1946 and was restored to it’s original condition in 2001 as a tribute to Hank Williams and his music. It looks just the way it did when Hank himself was there. The cabin is on the property of Children’s Harbor, a non-profit that provides free camps to seriously ill children. Money raised from rentals of the Hank Williams Cabin goes to help keep funding their mission of providing these opportunities for children.

Hank Williams Cabin-Alexander City

Hotels

Hampton Inn-Alexander City, Alabama

 

Creekside Lodge and Conference Center-Dadeville, Alabama

There are a variety of hotels in the area-some even offering free breakfast.  You probably won’t be doing a lot of cooking in your room, but there are plenty of great restaurants in Alexander City and Dadeville, and you could definitely eat out someplace different for every meal.  If you want to explore our culinary diversity, a hotel is a great option for your trip no matter how many people are in your party, or who you are travelling with. Our hotels provide a comfortable stay and are frequently used by solo travelers, those traveling for business, sports teams, fishermen, families, and groups of friends.   You can reach out directly to the properties to set up room blocks if you need more space for more people.  With the exception of Creekside Lodge, most of our hotels are located in town, and are just a few minutes away from the lake.  Really, here a few minutes means just that.  You are never too far from water when you are here.  You will also be just a couple of minutes away from Alexander City’s historic downtown, which is also something you are going to want to add to your list of things to do.

Hampton Inn-Alexander City

Super 8- Alexander City

Quality Inn- Alexander City

Days Inn- Alexander City

Bob White Motel- Alexander City

American Inn Hotel-Alexander City

Creekside Lodge at Lake Martin-Dadeville

Vacation Rentals

Lake Martin VRBO rental

 

Lake Martin Airbnb Rental

Do you prefer to have all of the luxuries of home available to you during your stay, and do you prefer to be able to prepare your meals at home?  If so, a vacation rental in Lake Martin could be a good option for you.  Houses and condos are available in all shapes and sizes, and many have lake access.  While all are unique and offer different amenities, most offer all the things needed to prepare and serve any meal you would at home.  Many also include washers and dryers so you can wash clothes if needed while on your trip.  Some even include fishing equipment, car seats, strollers, games and toys, etc.  These are really great for longer term stays since you will feel like you are at home, but can also be used for a weekend getaway.  Just make sure you check to see if there is a minimum stay involved, as some may require that you stay 2 or more nights.  Since they are all different, each will be able to accommodate a different amount of people.  However, if you are travelling with others, and want to be able to all be together in a communal area, while still maintaining your own privacy, you will like the vacation rental atmosphere that usually offers a traditional living room and dining room, but separate bedrooms and often separate bathrooms.  By using the online booking platforms, you have the ability to communicate directly with the owners.  You can message back and forth and ask questions about the house or condo before you even book.

Airbnb Lake Martin

VRBO Lake Martin

Bed and Breakfasts

Mistletoe Bough Bed and Breakfast-Alexander City, Alabama

 

Paradise Bed and Breakfast on Lake Martin-Dadeville, Alabama

If you enjoy a unique travel experience or a romantic getaway, you may want to check out one of our beautiful Bed and Breakfasts in Lake Martin.  Each of our bed and breakfasts offer a wonderful homemade breakfast to start your day.  Mistletoe Bough Bed and Breakfast is located in downtown Alexander City.  If you are a history buff, you will love this place-this Queen Anne mansion was built in 1895 and is on the National Historic Register.  It has been restored to the feeling of that era, and is a beautiful step back in time.  If you prefer to be on the water, Paradise Inn Bed and Breakfast on Lake Martin is a great option.  They are located right on the lake, and offer complimentary use of a paddle boat, kayaks, floats, and fishing equipment.  You can even bring your own boat and tie up to their private dock.  If you are planning a romantic getaway, you would certainly make your sweetie’s day by choosing one of these.  If you are travelling with more people though, talk to the management from either house about the possibility of renting multiple rooms.

Mistletoe Bough Bed and Breakfast

Paradise Bed and Breakfast on Lake Martin

Camping 

RV and camping spots at Wind Creek State Park

 

Cabins at Wind Creek State Park

With our area being known for the outdoors, we could not talk about places to stay at Lake Martin and not mention camping.  Wind Creek State Park offers some of the best camping in the south.  But let’s be honest, the term camping means different things to different people.  RVing has become a favorite American pastime.  RVers travel the land to find the coolest places to visit and camp, and we are so blessed that we have such wonderful camping in Alexander City.  Wind Creek State Park is home to one of the largest state-operated campgrounds in the United States, having 586 campsites.  157 of those are waterfront and overlook the shores of Lake Martin. All campsites have water and electrical hook ups, and 268 sites have sewer hook ups. This is a great stop to put on your RV bucket list.  If you like camping, but want to really experience the great outdoors by sleeping outside in it, you can do that, as tent camping is also allowed at Wind Creek State Park.  However, there are some that don’t have an RV, and aren’t comfortable sleeping on the ground in a tent.  That’s ok-for those of us who want to enjoy the outdoors, but in a more comfortable way, there are also cabins available for rent.  The cabins overlook the water and are great for a family or friends getaway, as they have two queen beds and a sleeper sofa.  Some of the cabins are also pet friendly, so you can bring the entire family-even the furry members of your crew.  They allow you to have the waterside views and access, with the comforts of central heat and air, a microwave, toaster, refrigerator, and yes, a coffee maker.  You will need that for those early mornings out on the water fishing.  The one thing to know about the cabins before you go though is that you will need to bring your own bed linens, pillows, bath linens, and cooking and eating utensils. 

Wind Creek State Park RV and Camping

Wind Creek State Park Cabin Rentals

The Best Hiking Trails Around Lake Martin

Lake Martin is known for fun on the water, but did you know the area boasts some of the best hiking in Alabama as well? With the cooler weather, and the beautiful color palettes being displayed on the trees, now is a great time to hit the trails. Here are a few of our favorites!

Russell Forest

In this living forest, over 100 miles of trails weave through the lush pines and hardwoods that surround Lake Martin. Five trailheads serve as a starting point for multiple trails that can be used not only for hiking, but also for biking and equestrian recreation. Download the trail map and explore the trails on your own, or take advantage of a guided hike with Russell Lands On Lake Martin’s own naturalist.
Learn more here


Wind Creek State Park

The Alabama Reunion Trail is about 3.8 miles in length, and is rated moderate to difficult. It traverses both hardwood bottoms and pine forest. The trail is actually a loop with its beginning and end in close proximity. Several natural features can be noted, which include an old home site on the northern half, picturesque hardwood bottoms, stands of pine, beds of fern and an abundance of bird and animal life. The Campfire Trail is about 1.8 miles in length and is rated primarily moderate with several steep areas. This trail traverses both mixed hardwood forest and intermittent pine. Midway up the trail, a series of rock outcroppings occurs bordered by an abundance of ferns. Toward the end of the trail, a small stream bisects the path leading south. Stay longer and have a chance to check out these and other trails in the area-camping options, including lakeside cabins, are available at the park.
Learn more here

The James M. Scott Deadening Alpine Trail

This 4.2 mile loop trail is the most challenging of the trails created by the Cherokee Ridge Alpine Trail Association, but it is also the most rewarding. You also have the option to take the crossover route and hike only 3.1 miles. In addition to spectacular views of Lake Martin, the cliffs of the Tallapoosa River, the Needles Eye, and Jasmine Bluff are just a few of the unique rock formations that await the hiker. 
Learn more here

Smith Mountain Fire Tower

The trails at Smith Mountain Fire Tower lead you to a historic, restored fired tower that you can climb and have the best views in the area. Walker Bynum Smith Mountain Tower Trail is a steep 0.4 mile climb to the base of the tower. The total length is 1 mile roundtrip, but it will seem further due to rugged terrain. The Lakeshore Trail is 2.4 miles long, and makes a steep descent before winding gently along undeveloped shores of Lake Martin, returning to the parking lot through mixed hardwood/pine forest. The David M. Forker Island Hop/Boat Dock Trail is approximately 1.4 miles to the boat dock. When Lake Martin is lowered to winter pool levels, it is possible to walk another quarter mile, where you will cross a series of islands that are inaccessible at full pool. The return trail from the boat dock to the parking lot is approximately 1.2 miles. The Little Smith Mountain Loop Trail is 2.6 miles and is known for it’s view and rock formations. However, it is also the most difficult, as it goes along sheer cliffs.
Learn more here

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