Chasing parks in the Alabama hills

Oh, the places I go, while chasing down national parks of the Southeast. I’m glad that I committed to visit them all, independent of whether they “sounded interesting.”

The last couple of days, Beth, my hiking friend, and I wandered through the hills of northern Alabama. We stayed at Desoto State Park and visited three national park units.

First Russell Cave national monument, a cave that protected Indians from the elements for over 9,000 years. There’s not much to do here. We looked inside the cave as far as we could go. Then we took a steep 1.5-mile loop trail.

We hunted down several artifacts from the Trail of Tears in and around Fort Payne including a cabin site, cemetery, and the house of Andrew Ross, a Cherokee leader. Fort Payne is also the home of the country music group, Alabama.

In contrast, Little River Canyon National Preserve was a hot bed of activity. The Little River flows on top of a mountain, and then plunges at the head of the canyon. The drive starts, or ends, at Little River Falls, which drops 45 feet.

It’s a small unit without an independent visitor center. The non-profit, which acts as an information center, was open from 10 am to 4 pm. We started the Canyon Rim Drive before 8 am and didn’t finish until after 4 pm, stopping at every overlook and walking every trail.

Beaver Pond Trail took us on a flat loop, where we found, we think, the remains of a snake-bird encounter. Lots of jewelweed, winter green and aster lined the trail. It was the only flat trail on the drive.

Mushroom Rock is a group of huge boulders with a pattern like a rhinoceros. You could get lost in its maze.

Several trails, such as the steep Lower Two-mile Trail, took us down to the river.

At the bottom of one river section, we met two couples with small children. The parents had packed the children down the canyon and were ready to go back up with their precious load. Good for them!

They weren’t waiting until the kids grew up. Then it’s too late to get them interested in the outdoors.

On the first section of the drive, we saw some signs of private property. A few houses were discreetly camouflaged by trees.  But people live off the Little Canyon Road. Bow hunting and trapping are still allowed.

After the Eberhart trailhead, the road is rougher, less traveled, and steeper. Lots of back roads and driveways emanate here along with more private houses. The drive ends at the canyon mouth park, with a gentle trail up the canyon and a picnic area.This is the first place where we meet a couple of rangers.

Little River was designated an Alabama Wild and Scenic River in 1969, giving it a lot of protection. It became part of the National Park System in 1992.

Goodbye to the Alabama hills. I’m moving south.


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