Hike #12 (25) – Nubbin Creek Trail

   
Hike 12, the not naked but still afraid edition.  This is it, finally, the real deal.  I’ve been able to get away for a three day backpack trip into the wild instead of a state park campground.  I must confess, it gets seriously dark in the misty wood.  I was waiting for Bigfoot to stumble through my camp both nights.

 I’ve been looking forward to this since I decided to take up hiking.  The Nubbin Creek Trail in the Talladega National Forest would be my first trip into the wild.  This trail was recently recommended by a hiking peer and was also included in my “Hiking Alabama” book.

  
The Nubbin Creek Trailhead was a little out of the way but not terribly difficult to locate due to signage.  I have decided you can hike as far as you wish in the Talledega National Forest.  They have trails of varying distances that all connect and circle back on each other.  The main backbone is the Pinhoti Trail.  The Pinhoti Trail connects Flag Mountain Alabama to the Appalachian Trail, so with a little doing, you could technically walk all the way to Maine.  The Nubbin Creek Trail is listed as 4 miles or 8 miles out and back.  The hike listed in the book “Hiking Alabama” is the first two miles.  That is the part I attempted this weekend.

  
From the trailhead, you enter a pine forest to the right side of the parking area (facing from the road).  If you don’t immediately see trail signs, you have gone the wrong way.  I was surprised to see bear warning signs at the trailhead.  We don’t have many bears in Alabama, but we do have a few.

  
The first half mile or so is fairly flat and gentle.  You work your way into the forest and around the side of the first mountain ridge.  From this point the challenge began.  The next mile is a steady, unrelenting climb up and over the next mountain ridge.  I expect this would not be terribly difficult if simply hiking, but my pack did really wear me down.  Maybe I didn’t have fresh legs from my morning at Cheaha State Park?  Once over the ridge, you walk through an interesting tunnel of Mountain Laurels.  As I approached the downside valley, I reached a spectacular waterfall.  The waterfall and associated creek were swollen from recent rains.  The water really made the falls lovely, but the creek was hopelessly impassable if wearing a heavy pack.  Since there was a relatively flat spot here, I decided to make this my home for the weekend.

  
I was able to cross the stream once my pack was dropped and campsite established.  The trial continues up the next equal size if not larger ridge offering some nice views of the surrounding mountains.  As I said earlier, you can continue on this trail to the Pinhoti and other trails to walk as far as you would like.  I could not imagine a better place than my waterfall and stayed.

  
It was a very cold weekend with temperatures dropping to freezing during both nights.  I was both thankful and comfortable with the equipment that I carried.  I was able to stay completely warm and comfortable the entire weekend.

  
My gear choice of the hike was my MSR mini works water filter system.  Not being able to carry enough water for an entire weekend made the use of the stream necessary on this trip.  I’ve not built the level of trust I need with this filter although it was easy to use.  I decided to save my drinking water from home for drinking and both filter and boil the stream water for cooking and hot drinks.  I covered the end of my filter intake with a coffee filter to preserve the ceramic element inside.  This was a tip I picked up in my studies.  I put the filtered water into a separate container so as to not confuse it with my water from home.  The water was perfectly normal once boiled with zero difference from my home water.  I’ll let you know in 9-15 days if it worked.

  
My side trip today was actually back in my hometown of Opelika.  I was caught by a Facebook friend during my first visit to the O Town Ice Cream Parlor.  They were making fresh waffle cones inside that you could smell from the sidewalk.  Both the ice cream and cone were delicious.  I would give them a try if downtown Opelika instead of the strip mall chains.

Help us meet our March for Babies goal at http://www.marchforbabies.org/youdaman10.

   

 

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Hike #9, 10 and 11 (27, H, I) – Pulpit Rock, Rock Garden and Bald Rock Trails


I decided to include these three hikes together because they are all located in Cheaha State Park and are relatively short hikes of varying difficulty.  Cheaha State Park is between Anniston and Lineville, Alabama and is the highest mountain in Alabama at 2,407 feet.  Like most Alabama state parks, it was a beautiful natural setting with access improved by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).  All three hikes offer spectacular albeit different views.



The Pulpit Rock Trail is on the South side of the Mountain with easy access starting between cabins 1-4.  The trail is .7 miles and listed as moderate mainly due to elevation and rocky hiking conditions.  The footpath here is easy to follow.  Once you get to the edge of the mountain, you are there.  A large rock outcropping sticks out from the mountain literally like a pulpit.  You can get a great view from either the left or the right, but I would not attempt to get onto the pulpit rock itself.  Rock climbers practice on the cliff face.  Others should be very careful to stay back at a safe distance.  A small stream creates a large waterfall off of the left side of pulpit rock.  It is difficult to see from the top but a view is available to those sturdy enough for the hike (see Rock Garden Below).  On the right side of pulpit rock is a very special place.  There is a flat rock on the edge of the mountain that makes a great picnic spot if heights are not too much an issue.  It is special, even dear to me because I proposed to my beautiful bride on this spot on October 31st, 1992.  This is where our journey together began.  Pulpit Rock is also the best view in my opinion.  While slightly lower than Bald Rock, the view is mile upon mile of wilderness.


The Rock Garden Trail is not for the faint of heart nor the out of shape.  This trail technically starts at the Cheaha Lake Recreation Area and heads up 1,143 feet in only .8 miles.  Instead of starting at the bottom, I worked my way down from Pulpit Rock to the base of the waterfall.  The footing here was precarious and the slope very steep.  It literally took holding to the trees to not slide down the mountain all the way to the lake.  The waterfall is beautiful at the base, but only the stout should attempt to reach this view.


 The Bald Rock Trail is an interesting trail to me.  It is not only the iconic view from the top of Cheaha Mountain, the entire trail is handicap accessible.  You can walk the 1 mile trail either on a boardwalk or on a flat trail beside the boardwalk.  Either way is an easy hike suitable for everyone.  The view from the end is beautiful.  The rock overlooks a large part of Talladega National Forest and some distant towns.


 Gear selection of the week is a solar charger.  I was very impressed with these devices over the weekend.  They kept both my telephone and head lamp fully charged all weekend.  If you are an internet junkie like myself, these are a must have item.  I attach them to the back of my pack to charge as I hike.  Once at my site, I simple placed them on a rock in the sun.  The chargers did all the rest.


As for a side trip, when in the Anniston/Jacksonville area, you must seek out Cooter Brown’s Rib Shack.  While I wasn’t able to make it this trip, the ribs here can compete with anyone in the country.  It is truly a shack.  In fact, they won’t be upset if you carve your name in the table.  This restaurant is located just off the Jacksonville State University campus.  I understand my nephew’s football number is on the wall in the ladies bathroom.  Apparently someone thinks he is hot.  I was not able to independently confirm this, but my wife and mother swear to it.


Our annual March for Babies Campaign has raised $10,694 towards our $15,000 goal.  The week was a little slower than the previous few.  Still we strive to meet the goal.  Please donate if you are able at http://www.marchforbabies.org/youdaman10.  Every dollar counts and get’s us one step closer.  Lucy and I thank you for your support in any form that may take, financial or otherwise.

 

 

 

 

 

Hike #8(22) – Overlook Loop

 This hike was a short, but steep add on to the Wood Duck Trail.  It is a one mile loop trail to the top of a peak overlooking the reservoir below.  The trail utilizes more than a few switchbacks to ease you to the top.  If you don’t see any red blazes in front of you, more than likely it is time to turn around to continue up.

 While this trail did make the top 50 in the “Hiking Alabama” book, I found it uninteresting at best. You work your way to the top of a steep hill, see my Smith Mountain post, to allow a view of the countryside.  I found that the forest blocked most of the view.  In fact, I’m sure you can’t see anything in the Spring or Summer.  There was an empty bottle of Amaretto along the trail.  I’m  not sure who climbs mountains while drinking Amaretto, but they are stronger than me.

 I did feel this steep trail would be good practice for my upcoming trips to Cheaha State Park, the highest point in Alabama.  I’m hoping to get there for some overnight trips in the next few weeks.

 I won’t update our March for Babies total today, but please donate to our cause if you can.  Donations accepted at http://www.marchforbabies.org/youdaman10

Thank you!!

Hike #7(21) – Wood Duck Trail

 My seventh hike took place near Tallassee Alabama on the Wood Duck Trail.  This trail is a 5 mile out and back trail along Coon Creek, a feeder stream to the Tallapoosa River and Yates Reservoir.  The land is owned by the state as part of the Forever Wild program.

 The footpath itself wasn’t always easy to see.  It was not much more than a deer trail covered in leaves.  On the other hand, the trail was heavily blazed making it quite easy to follow.  I could see 4-6 blazes most of the time clearly pointing the way.  The first quarter of the trail is along some wetlands and was a little soggy.  I found myself walking on the leaves to the side of the trail to get better footing.  The trail is mostly flat at this point.  Afterwards, the trail turns to the opposite side of the creek and has several steep inclines before reaching the turn around point.  The scenery is beautiful but also quite challenging.

 I did see quite a few animals or their signs.  I heard an owl across the creek as soon as I started out.  I saw beaver cuttings, critter dens, deer rubs and yes two wood ducks.

 I found myself thinking about hiking safety quite a bit on this trail.  This marshy area would be just perfect in the Spring for our three common venomous reptiles-rattlesnakes, water moccasins and copperheads.  Hunting is allowed here and I found three trail cameras.  I purposely stayed in state parks until hunting season ended before venturing out.  I also noticed several of our more common poisonous plants.  These would have been easy to grab if you were touching trees along the trail.  Let’s be careful out there!

 I did wander off trail a few times to explore.  I found several burls in trees.  I’ve been told these burls are tree cancer or birth defects.  I’m not sure but they make great humidors and jewelry boxes.  I won’t discuss their location since I understand burl brings top dollar on the market.

 My gear choice for today is my footwear.  I felt this appropriate since I accidentally stepped in a soft spot sinking to the top of my boots. Lucy convinced me that my Timberlands were really pretend hiking boots made to look rather than perform.  I replaced them with a pair of Vasque St. Elias GTX boots.  They were heavenly today and kept my feet totally dry even with my misstep.  Under those I wore Wigwam wool socks with Injinin liners.  My feet felt much better today with this pampering.

 Our March for Babies campaign continues to progress.  We are taking donations and sponsorships, selling chocolate and T Shirts.  All of this together has us at $9,522 towards our $15,000 goal.  We still have a couple of schools working on projects to help.  Trinity will once again have their annual Chic-fil-a biscuit sale!  Please help us if you can at http://www.marchforbabies.org/youdaman10  we only have 5 or 6 weeks left!

Hike #6(n/a) – Lake Wilmore Trail

  So, why am I involved with the March of Dimes.  I mean, after all, I really don’t have the time.  Really, do any of us. Today I’m going to share what I’ve shared with very few.   Our second daughter, Olivia Grace, was born too early due to preeclampsia.  In fact, she was born way too early at 27 1/2 weeks and 1lb 15oz.  After putting up a hard fight, she passed 3 weeks later.

That day was the most difficult day of my life.  I had come home to work and care for our five year old while Lucy was at the Ronald McDonald house caring for Olivia.  We were trying to keep Megan’s life as normal as possible.  We had already missed Christmas since Olivia was born on Christmas morning 2007.  I had come home Sunday feeling that something wasn’t right.  Lucy called the next morning to tell me that something was wrong.  I left immediately.

When I got to UAB, they had Lucy outside the NICU while the physicians were working with Olivia.  They sent a nurse to bring us inside.  The physician was working feverishly on Olivia.  We watched and prayed as they worked.  I knew deep inside that too much time had passed.  Ultimately, they carefully wrapped Olivia and handed her to me.  I rocked Olivia as she took her last breaths, kissed her on the forehead, and shortly after had her Baptism.  Then it was over or had it just begun.

I’m certain I lost a part of myself that day just as though they had cut off my arm.  A parent should never have to bury a child or explain to a daughter why her sister isn’t coming home.  I didn’t know what to do or where to turn.  People, all with good intentions, looked at me with pity.  I was very uncomfortable being a victim.  I was lost.  I threw myself into work and parenthood, anything that kept my mind busy.  In the process, I lost some of myself.  Most of my humor was gone for a long time.  I survived with my faith, family and friends.  I survived because my wife and child needed me.  I survived because of you, and I thank you for being there.

So that is why I walk, paint my toe nails purple and now hike.  That is why I make the time.  This happens every day across the country.  I had to be part of a solution, even if that solution doesn’t come in my lifetime.  It has to start somewhere, why not me.  It is important for people to know that there is life after tragedy even if you can’t see it today.


So, solemnly, back to this week’s hike.  I’ve always enjoyed being outside.  I’ve found that hiking recharges my batteries and gives me time to work through my thoughts.  I have to confess that I’ve been saving this week’s hike in my back pocket.  I am leaving town this weekend to watch Megan participate in the All State Orchestra (violin).  The Lake Wilmore Trail is across the street from my house.  I will be able to squeeze it in before I leave if I get an early start.  This 1.8 mile trail is great for walks in the woods, mountain biking and trail running.  What it lacks in scenery, it makes up for in convenience.  Today is about building endurance.  I started from my house and walked the trail twice to get in some miles.


The trail was covered with our newly arriving Robins.  They were in the hundreds if not thousands along the trail.  They were eating, bathing in the creek and otherwise doing what Robins do.  Spring is on the way.

Next up in my gear study is my Hilleberg Jannu tent.  I needed something small but tough to backpack.  I also love my comfort.  After deeply studying everything available and all online reviews, I picked the Jannu.  There are stronger tents that weight more and lighter tents that lack strength but very few that offer a great compromise of both.  This tent is almost as strong as they come and only weights about 6 pounds.  It is ridiculously easy to set up.  The Jannu is overkill for Alabama weather but should work for me anywhere that this new hobby might carry me. The tent was very comfortable with two people and will be a palace when I’m by myself.
 A As for our 2016 March for Babies campaign, our team continues to climb.  We are now at $3,867.50 towards our $15,000 goal.  I hope you will consider a donation to the cause!  We will have corporate sponsorships, chocolate sales, T -shirt sales and Trinity’s Chic-fil-a sales to add to our totals soon.  Let the games begin!

Hike #5(16) – Fort Toulouse

  My fifth hike at Fort Toulouse is filled with history, six thousand years worth.  The fort is on a piece of land at the junction of the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers  which merge to become the Alabama River.  Native Americans lived in this fertile area for thousands of years.  The area was explored by Hernando DeSoto.  The French built Fort Toulouse here on the Eastern side of the Louisiana colony at the invitation of the Creek Nation.  After the French and Indian War, this fort was given to the British but the local Creeks prevented them from occupying the site.  It was explored by William Bartram, botanist of the queen.  This site was occupied by Andrew Jackson after the Battle of Horseshoe Bend.  Later it served as a launching point for Andrew Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans.  Even more interesting, it is all still here.  You can see Native American mounds, the original fort site, Andrew Jackson’s earthen works not to mention two beautiful rivers becoming one.

  The hike is listed as a 2.0 mile multi loop.  The trail starts on the South side of the parking lot.  Unfortunately, a bridge was out of service about a quarter of a mile into the hike.  With no way around a steep, muddy ditch, I backtracked to the parking lot and started the trail backwards.  Fixing this bridge seems like a good Eagle Scout project for a certain nephew I have.  

  The trail proceeds from the parking lot to the reconstructed earth works built by Andrew Jackson.  You can explore the area at your own pace.  A few people were working about in period clothing. The trail proceeds from the fort, over a Mississippian era Indian mound to a nice point overlooking the Tallapoosa River.  The trail then loops back to the fort.  I walked the loop three times since I’m trying to build up my endurance.  All together I got in about 3.5 miles on this hike.  The history is deep but the trail needed enough work to warrant a downgrade at this time.

  
  One cautionary picture.  Always watch your footing.  These trees looked sturdy from one angle but were actually completely undermined.

  I attempted a side trip to the Must Stop Cafe, listed as a good place in “Hiking Alabama”.  They were closed on Saturday.  I worked my way downtown looking for a local dining option and did I ever find one.  They were holding a street festival in downtown Wetumpka.  I had a nice selection of Alligator on a stick, fried catfish and fried Oreos.  Hopefully I didn’t completely erase the benefits of the hike. 

   

 I have had a lot of questions about my gear.  In response, I thought I would start including my equipment in my blog.  My equipment continues to evolve as I learn better ways of doing things.  My first stop on this journey will be my pack.  I carry all my needs in my Osprey Xenith 75 pack.  It is the extra large version that comes in at 83 liters.  This would put it firmly in the small side of large.  It will hold more than I’m currently willing to carry.  The pack seems solidly built with plenty of zipper access points.  It is also very comfortable with padded shoulder and hip belt.  Only time will prove its durability but so far so good.  It holds a three liter water bladder.  Another interesting feature is that the top of the pack will detach to become a Fannie pack.  

  Our March for Babies campaign continues to progress.  We are currently at $3,313 towards our $15,000 goal.  Donations are the key to our campaign.  We also will have a T-shirt sell, sell about 4,500 chocolate bars, get a few corporate donations and a multi week Chic-fil-a biscuit sell.  Hopefully we will make our goal, but we need you!  You can donate at http://www.marchforbabies.org/youdaman10.  We need you.