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Archive for Alabama

Cheaha State Park

After a week of intense work training/development in Pensacola, FL, I found that my mind was a bit mushy and needed a day of woodland zen. I hopped in my wagon and drove north, a get-away with absolutely no blueprint. It wasn’t until I was on the interstate that I started talking to Siri, asking for hiking and camping suggestions, then distances and difficulty. The Alabama high point – of course! I made a camping reservation and committed to the Cheaha State Park. With one day to kill, I drove 260 miles north to the Cheaha State Park  in the Talladega National Forest, the home of Alabama’s highest point (2,407 feet). I had two simple goals for my northeastern Alabama excursion – camp overnight and complete a big hike on Saturday before driving 7 hours back home.

I arrived at the ranger station at 11:30 PM, and I was very surprised to see that the office was still staffed. A weary ranger checked me in and delivered his monologue of park/camping info. He had no doubt spoken these words a thousand times on this busy day, the first day of Memorial Day weekend. I thanked him and drove out to my campsite, only to find that it was already taken. Campfire still crackling, I pointed my car beams at the pirate’s tent and spoke aloud, “Uh. Hey. This is my campsite.” A male voice from behind the nylon wall replied, “Hey man, the ranger told us to take this one since ours got stolen.” I shook my head, and a female voice added, “Yea, we had to find an empty one. Maybe you can find one too?” Angered at the prospect of sleeping under the stars in my car, I drove around a little more until I found an empty campsite, and I stole that one. Once my tent was set up, I took out my iPhone and identified a few of the stunningly crisp constellations overhead with Sky Guide, an app I had recently purchased. I quickly identified Ursa Major, Lupus, and Draco, and I said out loud to myself, “Bears, wolves, and dragons? What a frightening sky for a camper!” To avoid certain nightmares, I shut down the iPhone  and hit the sack.

In the morning, I briefly studied the park maps and decided to connect a few trails. The result would be an eleven mile stretch from the park’s high point to Lake Chinnabee via the Pinhoti, Nubbin Creek, and Chinnabee Silent trails. Upon completion, I would be marooned on the west side of the park, and my only option would be to hitch a ride back to the park center. In the end it all worked out. Finding a ride back to my car was easy. Another park visitor stopped to ask me for directions. I helped out as best I could and bummed a ride in return.

Cheaha Wilderness Trailhead

Cheaha Wilderness Trailhead

Cheaha Wilderness Trailhead

Cheaha Wilderness Trailhead

Cheaha Wilderness Trailhead

Cheaha Wilderness Trailhead

Pinhote Trail

Pinhote Trail

McDill Point

McDill Point

Crossing

Crossing

Crossing at small falls

Crossing at small falls

Camper Shelter on the Chinnabee Silent Trail

Camper Shelter on the Chinnabee Silent Trail

Flowers

Flowers

Chinnabee Silent Trail

Chinnabee Silent Trail

Crossing

Crossing

Crossing at another set of falls

Crossing at another set of falls

 

Popular cliff diving spot - Chinnabee

Popular cliff diving spot – Chinnabee

Lake Chinnabee

Lake Chinnabee

Cheaha State Park Restaurant

Cheaha State Park Restaurant

Cheaha State Park Restaurant

Cheaha State Park Restaurant

Bunker Observation Tower, Alabama High Point (2,407 ft.)

Bunker Observation Tower, Alabama High Point (2,407 ft.)

Bunker Observation Tower, Alabama High Point (2,407 ft.)

Bunker Observation Tower, Alabama High Point (2,407 ft.)

Bunker Observation Tower, statue

Bunker Observation Tower, statue

The Birmingham Vulcan

Birmingham, AL is home to the largest cast iron statue in the world – Vulcan. Vulcan (Roman God of the Forge) was created in Birmingham to represent the city as a powerhouse in iron and steel manufacturing. He was first seen at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis where he won first prize at the Palace of Minds and Metallurgy. It was then returned to Birmingham. Final resting place – very uncertain. For eighteen months, the statue sat disassembled on Red Mountain. In 1906 he was finally pieced together for a temporary exhibit at the state fair. This temporary exhibit, with some pieces incorrectly assembled, remained on the display for 30 years. Following his state fair exhibit, the statue was moved to the top of a hundred foot tower on Red Mountain. In 1971, the park was “modernized” adding a visitor center, observation tower, and a marble facade that covered the existing tower. Vulcan deteriorated over time, and the site was closed in 1999. The statue was disassembled, fortified, and in 2003 finally restored to its original sandstone tower.

Vulcan atop his sandstone tower

Vulcan atop his sandstone tower

Vulcan

Vulcan Tower Base

Tower Base

Vulcan's view of Birmingham

Vulcan’s view of Birmingham