P.O.W. Campground and Tuxachanie Trail – De Soto National Forest

This past weekend my fiancé and brother went camping at the P.O.W. campground. The campground and accompanying lake are located in De Soto National Forest, a gigantic forest of 810 miles-squared (518,000 acres).

Quick Links:

YouTube Video: Hike the Tuxachanie Trail – De Soto National Forest (MS)

P.O.W. Campground

Tuxachanie Trail

P.O.W. Campground + Lake

I just love National Forests. With a few exceptions, you can pretty much camp anywhere as long as you don’t disturb the existing forest. Unlink most National Parks, State Parks, etc etc, there are multiple spots within the forest where you don’t have to reserve campsites, pay money, etc. You just show up and follow the rules. A quick glance at the map told me that De Soto forest was big and close, so I decided to go there next.

Some quick searches really turned up only a little information on this area online, so I called the main phone # for De Soto and they were very helpful (601-528-6160). They gave me two pamphlets, attached below.

Since we were coming from Mobile, we decided to go to P.O.W. campground as that was closest. So named because it really was a Prisoner of War camp during WWII for mostly German soldiers captured in Europe. All that remains of this camp are ammunition bunkers.

The only remains of the P.O.W. camp. Located on south side of lake, by the signage for the camp

As the sun was setting, we arrived at the campground. There were maybe 7 or 8 campsites set up but plenty of room for us. Noticing that most of the campsites were on one side of the lake, we crossed a 10 ft wide land-bridge that was created to make the dam to get to the other side (4wd recommended!). Setting up shop by the lake, we get the fire started slowly while setting up the tent. As it was a Friday in Lent we used the cast iron to, in theory, fry catfish I had bought at Publix but what really happened was something between frying and baking. This and a side of wild rice made for a good meal. As the lantern was turned off, the stars turned on in an amazing show of beauty.

The sun making its appearance early next morning. Coffee was next, and for some vanilla creamer. Some people out there believe camping to be a way for one to test how much comfort the human body can go without. I suppose this depends on the camper. As a side note, I think some people test this thesis in the home as well – no need to go camping! I on the other hand, do not think that the experience of camping has to be a horrible experience of testing the limits of the human body, like P90X. I brought bacon and eggs to give warmth to the human soul and body for everyone. Of course bacon was first, and then eggs second. This was all done in the cast iron.

Cleaning everything up, we embarked on a 3-4 hour hike around the area. Starting at P.O.W. camp, we went south on the Tuxachanie Trail, which follows the Tuxachanie Creek. This creek name is a corruption of Takshochiya, a Choctaw word meaning roughly “fragments of hominy cooking pots” (see Native American Place Names in Mississippi, Keith A. Baca).

Tuxachanie Trail is a 11-12 mile hike. There were very few signs for the trail, but we figured out that the white diamond trailmarker was for the trail.

White diamond for the Tuxachanie Trail. I did not see an alligator in the lake.

From P.O.W. camp, we went south on the trail until we hit Bethel Road. From Bethel Road we went west, until we hit Forest Road (FR) 420-E and went north back to the camp. We went all the way north on this FR until we swampy trails prevented us, then we broke for lunch. We saw an amazing amount of longleaf pine, and apparently a prescribed burn had recently taken place.

The caramel color of Tuxachanie Creek.
northern FR 420-E – Longleaf Pine

We had a lot of fun. We will be back to do the rest of Tuxachanie Trail!

Cypress tree by the Creek
Hoary Azalea, also known as Honeysuckle

First time kayaking on the delta – 5 Rivers Delta to Justin’s Bay shelters

After a few months of living in Alabama, I have finally done something I have wanted to do for a long, long time – get on that dark and murky waters belonging to the Mobile-Tensaw delta.

Last Sunday, Dad and I rented a kayak from WildNatives at 5 Rivers and were on the water around 10:30AM. Michael, who helped us get setup with the kayaks, told us that this was the off-season for rentals. Maybe I am naive. I am the new person here. But that seems a little crazy to me. Wouldn’t you think that this would be the best time to come down? The summer is absolutely grueling down here! Like walking through humid lava! I will absolutely be taking advantage of every cold day here!

Michael suggested we go to Justin’s Bay, up alligator alley, to the Sunset/Sunrise shelters. The trip, according to the shelter website, is 3.2 miles round-trip from 5 Rivers. He said it would take about 2 hours. And he was spot on! We got back about 12:30PM.

The only access (without doing some portage action) is through Alligator Alley. Unfortunately we did not see any alligators. Apparently they are trying to conserve energy during this cold Alabama weather until things heat up. But we sure did see a ton of birds. They were absolutely everywhere!

We had a grand time, and I highly recommend this place to others. Check out my video I made below for a detailed tour of the place!

Before Coffee, There Was Yaopon Tea

Centuries before coffee made landfall in America, Native Americans in the southeast coveted the Yaopon leaf – the only naturally caffeinated plant in America. Early explorers in Alabama documented how much tea they drank. Learn more about this caffeinated southern tea.

about the history of this plant and why no one knows about it today.

Support Me: www.patreon.com/alabamaculture

Notes:

https://plants.usda.gov/factsheet/pdf/fs_ilvo.pdf

https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/10/11/1682/htm#B43-nutrients-10-01682

https://yauponery.weebly.com/black-drink.html

https://www.amazon.com/Webb-Garrisons-Civil-War-Dictionary/dp/1581826753

https://www.ntfpinfo.us/docs/other/Francis1920-UsefulWildPlantsUSandCanada.pdf

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_7?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=yaopon+tea&sprefix=yaopon+%2Caps%2C277&crid=2GJCYZUI8KRT4 

Ghost town of Cahaba, Alabama

I moved back to Alabama two weeks ago and I have been going down my list of places to visit. This week it was the old ghost town of Cahaba, Alabama. This is a really unique place to visit. It was the first state capitol of Alabama from 1820 to 1825 until it was moved to the second state capital of Tuscaloosa – more about this later. As an Auburn fan I don’t understand why it wasn’t moved to Auburn but I guess I am okay with that seeing how Auburn wasn’t incorporated until 1839. War Eagle anyways. Okay let’s go check out Cahawba and learn about the history there.

Let’s go to the beginning. About 4,000 years ago Native Americans lived in Cahawba. It was a flourishing settlement. The name “Cahawba” either was a name for a type of cane that grew in the river or simply “water above”. There is a theory that Hernado do Soto battled Native Americans here during a famous battle at the settlement of Mabila (not Mobile!) but historians have not reach any conclusion on this after doing archaeological digs with nothing.

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Fast forward 280 years from the battle between de Soto and the Natives. Alabama has established the first permanent capital to Cahaba Alabama. This place was now a wilderness since the Natives had left, so they basically were going to be building a city out of nothing. Governor Bibb commissioned the city to be built in 1818. The first capital was almost Tuscaloosa but Bibb really wanted Cahawba to be the first capital. He worked with an influential group of Alabamians named the “Broad River Group” to donate federal land to th e state. During the second state assembly, he announced that this land had been donated to the state and was able to convince the assembly that the first capital should actually be in Cahawba rather than Tuscaloosa. The political move worked.

In 1819 the streets were laid, being modeled after Philadelphia. This was going to be a metropolis. Quickly the most influential Alabamians moved in and started building their city. There were banks, stores, grocers – everything you needed in life. The Encyclopedia Of Alabama reports that there were 1,000 people living in Cahawba in 1821, and only 600 in Montgomery!

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With Governor Bibb’s death in 1820, the desire to keep Cahawab as the state capital has also died and the Tuscaloosa advocates were able to get what they wanted by passing a bill which made Tuscaloosa capital effective Feb 1, 1826. They were able to get this partially by blaming the poor health of the town on mosquitoes, and said the town was a horrible place to live due to constantly flooding. Cahaba had been built at the confluence of the Cahaba and Alabama rivers. In a 1908 book “Memories of Old Cahaba, Anna Fry writes:

“The town was now growing and continued to im-
prove rapidly until 1825, when the largest flood ever
known in the history of this country swept down the
Alabama and Cahaba Rivers and completely inun-
dated Cahaba. According to tradition, the Legislature
was in session when the flood came and the different
representatives had to be rowed in boats and landed in
the second story of the capitol, to reach the legislative
halls. Many of the private residences and public
buildings were injured by the overflow, and when a
portion of the Statehouse fell Cahaba was no longer
deemed safe as the seat of government, and at a meet-
ing of the next Legislature, in January, 1826, the
capital was removed to Tuscaloosa. Cahaba now be-
came almost abandoned.”

One would think the town would be dead after this. But with the Alabama hard-headed spirit, people continued to live here even after this upheaval. Because of the flourishing cotton trade, the town continued to survive the antebellum period. Things seemed like they were getting better and better when the railroad connected the town in 1858 which connected Marion to the town. Only a few years later the Civil War took place and the town of Cahaba had a large Confederate prison which was appropriated from a warehouse that was being built to store cotton. At one point, there were over 3,000 union soldiers in this place. Here we see all that remains of the prison named “Castle Morgan”. Although the conditions were probably very bad at the prison, the mortality rate was low at the prison relative to other places during the Civil War. Cahawba.com reports that the mortality rate at the prison was only 2% when the north’s rate was 12% and the south’s being 15.5%.

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The Civil war unfortunately sealed the fate for Cahawba and the county voted in 1866 to move the county seat to Selma.

There is some really interesting African-American history to be found in the town. Cahawba.com reports that the population in 1870 was 70% of the town was black, up from 64% in 1860. After emancipation, blacks started to own several amounts of property in Cahawba. It is an interesting fact that the chicken business in Cahawba was controlled by blacks. Even though they were continued to be severely restricted in how they could live their daily lives. For example, no blacks were allowed to go out after the market bell rang at night. Two of the places left in Cahaba relevant to African American history are the old slave quarters for the Barker Home and the black cemetery.

One of the three original building left in Cahawba is a beautiful St. Paul’s African Methodist Episcopal Church. This building was actually moved in 1878 to Martin’s Station 15 miles down the road. In 2007, Auburn students that were a part of the Rural Project carefully took apart the old church and moved it back to its birthplace.. Today there are ghost tours of this place and you also apparently rent out the place for special events.

Today, the park is open daily 9am-5pm and the visitors center is open Thu. – Mon., 12pm – 5pm. When you get there, there is a place to park to get inside the visitor center. The entrance costs are a cheap $2.00 (cash) or $3.00 (debit card). If the visitors center is not open when you are there, there is a box where you can pay cash only. A map is provided to guide you throughout the town streets.

 

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The non-profit Cahaba Foundation exist today to take care of the 3 original buildings that are left in the town. Consider donating to them.

Overall this is definitely a very cool place to visit filled with history and recreation. There are a whole bunch of trails and picnic tables so I would rate this as a great place to bring friends and family to. Because the town was built at the confluence of the Cahaba and Alabama rivers, the edge on the town by the river is very beautiful. Go visit!

http://www.civilwaralbum.com/misc16/cahawba1.htm
https://cahawba.com/history-and-legacy/cahawbas-black-community/
http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/h-1543
https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/alabama/spooky-small-town-al/
http://digital.archives.alabama.gov/cdm/compoundobject/collection/legislature/id/426/rec/2
https://archive.org/stream/memoriesofoldcah00frya/memoriesofoldcah00frya_djvu.txt
https://www.loc.gov/resource/hhh.al0114.photos/?sp=1

DIY Project: Misting system in your car for cross-country road trip (when your AC breaks)

WHAT YOU NEED:

Battery Operated Misting Fan ($19.99)

Submersible Water Pump (USB-powered) ($7.99)

1/4 in. O.D. x 0.170 in. I.D. clear vinyl tubings (Home Depot) ($3.73)

1/4 in. Barb Connectors (Home Depot) ($1.67)

Igloo Sport Beverage Cooler with Chain Links ($4.99*)

USB car charger ($8.99)

Water + (ice optional)

TOTAL COST: $47.36 (not including shipping). *Found also at Walmart with this price. 

When I decided to move back to Alabama after living in Denver for four years, I started considering what route I was going to take back to the south. I planned everything out. 1700 miles. My girlfriend agreed to drive back with me as well. Life is good.

And then my the AC in my car broke, 2 weeks before the trip.

I tried simple fixes – replacing fuses, watching youtube videos, etc. Didn’t work. Paying an AC repair shop to fix a 2000 Camry probably worth for a car worth around $500 didn’t make sense. I decided to make a shoddy misting system that would do the job of cooling the car in the high heat / low humidity places we would drive through (evaporative cooling) and then switch to a high power fan-only strategy as we got into the higher humidity areas. One of my roommates said I HAD to post this online. So here we go:

Please note that this differs slightly from my approach as I accidentally bought an aquarium pump that was not USB and I had to purchase an inverter to use it. However I am sure that the USB pump will do just fine. See below for the finer details!

  1. Get required materials (see above)
  2. Begin by taking one of your barbed connectors. Get a knife/dremel and shave down the barbed ends of the connector. Insert the shaved end of the connector into the vinyl tubing.

    Connector after being shaved down.
  3. Go ahead and insert the shaved end of the connector into the water inlet of the misting fan. A note of caution – for whatever orientation you decide to place the fan in your car, you need to be sure that the water inlet is always pointed towards the top. Otherwise it will leak due to gravity. 
  4.  Insert the clear vinyl tubing into the outlet of the pump. Take your pump, and put it inside the cooler.
    5. Because I wanted to screw the lid on my cooler so water doesn’t swish around while driving, I forced the pump through the lid first, then the tubing through the lid, then attached the tubing to the pump.
    6. Hang up the cooler somewhere in your car. You want to put it at the highest elevation possible. Using the hangers already on the half-gallon cooler, I hung it snug on the rear coat hanger of the car. On my Camry, I have to say it fit quite nicely.

7. Take your misting fan with the tubing and place it on a fitting place in your car where it will help keep you cool while driving. I hung it on the passenger side visor. Be sure and hang it in place that doesn’t obstruct any of your mirrors in your car. That would be a bad idea to block any of your mirrors.

8. With the charged battery in the fan, turn it on and stay cool! When it runs out of water, turn on the pump (either switch or plug in USB) and fill the tank up with water and then unplug it, or it will overflow.

Screen Shot 2018-10-17 at 2.20.04 PM

Other notes

  1. Unfortunately, the fan has an absurdly small tank for water. Maybe 10 minutes of misting and then you need to refill it.
  2. This method of cooling (evaporative cooling) will only work in places that are hot and dry. It won’t feel too good in hot and humid places like Alabama.

 

why marmots dislike “crush the mountain at 11am” millennials

Thanks to the Advent of the Internet, what was once only done through the reading of books and multiple conversations with mountaineers can now be quite easily done through a few well-placed clicks on the magical 14ers.com website. And that website is really, really good. Too much detail to go in right now to explain why it is so good. But the site has certainly made 14ers more accessible to the myriad of millennials whom flock to them like crazy. But there isn’t a problem with that.

What is a serious problem is (mostly) a sub-set of millennials who know close to nothing about anything related to hiking 14ers. They know it, but proceed to “be tough” and meet at the trailhead at 11am to “crush the mountain” (For those that do not know, it is advisable to be off the mountain as early as possible to avoid any potential afternoon rainstorms). I used to think the jokes about people hiking in flip-flops was not real but I saw it on Mt Columbia two weekends ago. Folks, there are no participation prizes at the top of the mountain. I am unsure if there are Snapchat filters at the top either but I have never checked. Nor is there a way to lightly toast bread easily at the summit to make the pristine avocado-toast sandwich. You will need to bring a solar charger that has some serious amperage to enjoy the finer delicacies of life at the top.

I have noticed that as I expand into more difficult peaks, I see less and less of the “crush the mountain at 11am” people. However, when I do, I hear them before I see them. This happens, usually in the absence of cell-phone service, because this special sub-set of millennials displays their fear of silence by blasting their Spotify-downloaded techno queue through the sub-alpine air. At least when I pass them going down they are going up (and trust me, they are always going up – remember it is around 11am at this time) and therefore I don’t have to hear it for very long. Maybe the furry marmots along the path will enjoy the music more than me. But I doubt it and hopefully the marmot will unleash an “ear-piercing scream” to this disturbance.

Of course I am exaggerating in my expression of speech and in my magnified observation of only the rash millennials. The number of young people to be observed who have prepared themselves well for the ordeals to be encountered on a 14,000 foot mountain greatly exceeds those that have not. But I see enough of the latter to not be discounted as a rounding-error. I love many things that are so-called “millenial” and I think we are a generation which has a great amount of potential to improve the world. But we won’t do it by being afraid of silence and ignoring things around us. We won’t do it by treating life like VR. We won’t do it by not doing our homework. We will do it by planning, thinking, meditating, silence. In this regard 14ers have quite a lot to offer.

Mountaineering Safety Page

Friday Fasting has gone fast away….where did it go?

Most Catholics in America know that you are not allowed to eat meat on Fridays of Lent. Even so-called bad Catholics know this! To take it a step further (or rather back), every now and then I talk to an “old timer” who recalls the days of Latin Masses, nuns in Catholic school, and fasting every* Friday of the year. [*almost every Friday – not including solemnities 🙂 ]

What the heck? When did that change?

The short answer: the (United States) National Conference of Catholic Bishops on November 18, 1966 amended the rule binding Catholics to fast every Friday (with the exception of Solemnities):

This said, we emphasize that our people are henceforth free from the obligation traditionally binding under pain of sin in what pertains to Friday abstinence, except as noted above for Lent. (Paragraph 26, Pastoral Statement on Penance and Abstinence)

Unfortunately, for the last 52 years since this document was published, the Catholic Church in America has done an incredibly poor job of explaining the rest of the letter. So…..what is in the letter? Why did American bishops decide to alter the rule?

Let’s start at the beginning (of the document). The bishops open by explaining that although there may be a need to change the way penances are done as times change, there will always be a need for penance as we are in need of “conversion and salvation” (2). There is some talk about the seasons of the Church (Lent, Advent, etc) which we won’t get into, but finally we get to paragraphs 18-28, the subject at hand.

It continues to describe how “Catholic peoples from time immemorial have set apart Friday for special penitential observance by which they gladly suffer with Christ”. Catholics are not fasting because it is a mere rule that the Church wants to force us to do for fun. No! It is because we remember Friday as the day Jesus died – a day holy and sacred.

This being in mind, the bishops comment that perhaps giving up meat every Friday (the current rule at the time) is not appropriate anymore. I will let them talk:

Changing circumstances, including economic, dietary, and social elements, have made some of our people feel that the renunciation of the eating of meat is not always and for everyone the most effective means of practicing penance. Meat was once an exceptional form of food; now it is commonplace.

For these and related reasons, the Catholic bishops of the United States, far from downgrading the traditional penitential observance of Friday, and motivated precisely by the desire to give the spirit of penance greater vitality, especially on Fridays, the day that Jesus died,urge our Catholic people henceforth to be guided by the following norms.

Friday itself remains a special day of penitential observance throughout the year, a time when those who seek perfection will be mindful of their personal sins and the sins of mankind which they are called upon to help expiate in union with Christ Crucified.

Friday should be in each week something of what Lent is in the entire year. For this reason we urge all to prepare for that weekly Easter that comes with each Sunday by freely making of every Friday a day of self-denial and mortification in prayerful remembrance of the passion of Jesus Christ

Among the works of voluntary self-denial and personal penance which we especially commend to our people for the future observance of Friday, even though we hereby terminate the traditional law of abstinence binding under pain of sin, as the sole prescribed means of observing Friday, we give first place to abstinence from flesh meat.We do so in the hope that the Catholic community will ordinarily continue to abstain from meat by free choice as formerly we did in obedience to Church law. (19,21-24a)

Did you read what I read? The fuller picture is this: although Catholics are not longer mandated to fast from the fleshy meat on Fridays of the year, we are still required to make the day a day of penance in one way or another. I went to Catholic school my entire life and was never taught this!

We have our answer. With the flexibility that the bishops have given us, it is required that we actively choose a fast on Fridays of the year. Amidst this flexibility, the bishops have given “first place to abstinence from flesh meat” (24). It still isn’t too clear to me of why the bishops decided that the meat fast was too much. Perhaps there wasn’t much of a choice. I recall many Fridays while I served as a Christ in the City missionary (with the poor – all our food was donated) when our choices of what to eat were quite limited and to give up eating meat for the day would be seriously difficult! So we would find other ways of doing a little penance that was more practical. To be explicit, I am of course not saying we all need to leave right now and hide the meat so we don’t see it on Friday because we like the rules. What we instead need to do is find a small way to live out a small little penance on Fridays. Perhaps a rosary, or even visiting the poor, could be your way of entering into the spirit of the bishops’ letter. I hope you attempt to engage with the penitential Friday and be surprised at what you find.

A Google Sheet for 14er peakbaggers

Download Here

I think I am turning into a peakbagger. I have climbed 16 of the 14,000 foot mountains in Colorado, and I am hooked. It is just so much fun! People have all kinds of ways of keeping track of how many 14ers they have climbed – using scrapbooks, apps, websites, etc.

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But I love Google Sheets. It just makes me feel like I have my life together. I included some statistics on how many miles hikes, elevation gained / left to gain.

Feel free to use my excellent Google Sheet template to keep track of your 14ers! To copy it, Click File -> Make a Copy

Mount of the Holy Cross – a forgotten Colorado pilgrimage

The 14,009-foot mountain in the Sawatch Range bears an interesting story that few know in Colorado. The legendary cross made by the snow gives the peak its name. Few doubted the existence of such a peak until it was photographed by the American painter and explorer William Henry Jackson on August 24, 1873.

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William Henry Jackson’s photo of Mt of the Holy Cross (1873, public domain)

Inspired by the cross, Longfellow some years later wrote a poem dedicated to his wife:

In the long, sleepless watches of the night,
   A gentle face — the face of one long dead —
   Looks at me from the wall, where round its head
   The night-lamp casts a halo of pale light.
Here in this room she died; and soul more white
   Never through martyrdom of fire was led
   To its repose; nor can in books be read
   The legend of a life more benedight.
There is a mountain in the distant West
   That, sun-defying, in its deep ravines
   Displays a cross of snow upon its side.
Such is the cross I wear upon my breast
   These eighteen years, through all the changing scenes
   And seasons, changeless since the day she died.

(If you are curious like I was, the word benedight means blessed.)

IMG_3870
The only stained glass window in the Cathedral which depicts a scene of Colorado. 

Mountains that have crosses as part of their natural beauty don’t just show up everywhere in the world – there certainly are no mountains in Alabama with natural snow crosses at 14,000 feet – so pretty soon Christians were rushing to do pilgrimages to this majestic spot. The Episcopalians beat everyone to it – in 1912, Missionary Bishop Benjamin Brewster made the first pilgrimage to the top of the mountain to gather for the Holy Eucharist. But not for long, as a local Protestant dentist Dr. O.W. Randall teamed up with a Catholic priest Fr. John Carrigan to lead pilgrimages up to Notch Mountain and to have worship services at the top. Pretty soon everyone was hearing about these pilgrimages, and the Denver Post began to promote the famed pilgrimage.

 

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Colorized version of a 1900 photo

In 1929, President Herbert Hoover declared the whole area to be a national monument. Due to the amount of traffic that the pilgrimage site was getting, the Forest Service built a nice trail and an accompanying shelter on top of Notch Mountain in 1933. This historic shelter which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places still exists today almost exactly as it was built.

For awhile, the pilgrimage went strong. After the death of the Denver Post owner Frederick Bonfils in 1933, the promotion of the pilgrimage went stagnant and the last pilgrimage (of that era) was held in 1938, due to a lack of a leading voice to lead the pilgrimage and of course the beginning of World War II the next year. Sadly the area lost its national monument status (Trump was not the first President to do this) because of budgetary concerns from the Forest Service (very few people were going to visit).

Today because of the “14er fever” this mountain has been rediscovered and many people come to Mt of the Holy Cross and accompanying Notch Mountain to see the beauty of the area. The pilgrimage was revived by the small town of Red Cliff in 1976. The pilgrimage is annually done by a small group of pilgrims from Mount of the Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Vail.

What can we learn from all this? First, it is amazing how the beauty of God draws people to Him. Beauty can be found in all things, but how majestic it is in the mountains of the West. How interesting it is that this beauty invites others to draw others to show what they have found. May God bless the work of the Bonfils family, the Episcopalians, the Forest Service, Dr. O.W. Randall and Fr. John Carrigan who worked very hard to pass this tradition down the generations.

 

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Alabama’s best kept secret – 200 miles of canoe trails in the delta

There is something unique and special lurking in lower Alabama. And it is not Gulf Shores.

I grew up in West Mobile, going to the beach, exploring downtown Mobile, and going on the occasional family trips throughout the country. We one time drove to the Grand Canyon. We went to Idaho, New York, Philadelphia. We went to weird places, like the Cadillac Ranch in Texas. We did lots of historical things, fun things, and touristy things.

But we never saw the Mobile delta. I think I knew it existed at some point in high school because a southern culture teacher (Phil Proctor) told us so. Maybe he went there searching for the perhaps extinct, but perhaps not Ivory Billed Woodpecker.

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Map of the Bartram Canol Trail through the Mobile delta. 

The Mobile-Tensaw river delta is the landform which exists in lower Alabama from the meeting of mutiple rivers. It is a beautifully unique place to Alabama because of the historical and biological importance held there.

I have been reading a lot about the Mobile delta, and the more I read, the more I want to go explore every inch of this place. A quick few facts about this area:

  1. The Mobile-Tensaw delta contains 260,000 acres of river and wetland areas in southern Alabama
  2. It is the second-largest delta in the contiguous US
  3.  An astounding amount of biodiversity:
    1. 300 types of birds
    2. 22 types of frogs
    3. 18 types of salamanders
    4. 21 types of turtles
    5. 10 types of lizards
    6. 115 types of fish
    7. 36 types of snakes (ugh)
    8. and an alligator
  4. An awesome canoe trail with floating shelters along the delta where you can camp at night! 150 mile trail
  5. Not protected very well against environmental abuse, thousands of acres cleared for logging in the last century, plenty of pollution of course, and serious issues caused by the dams built decades ago.
  6. Hunting allowed in certain times

 

Kayaking the mobile delta – photo credit (Mobile Paddler)

I want to focus on the Bartram Canoe Trail. This is seriously a gem. As mentioned earlier, this is a system of “trails” throughout the river delta connecting shelters and campsites throughout the delta. Some of these shelters are really quite nice – check out the Yancey Branch Shelter:

Seriously these shelters are so southern. These would never be built like this in Colorado. From the official description of the shelter: “This shelter provides ample room for 6 people and has a porch area outside of the main screened area with room for a few chairs.” Doesn’t that just sound like a southern thing? A porch area! Seriously! That is hilarious and awesome. But also is of course very practical because of the predictable swarm of mosquitos that exist in all areas of the south.

Anyway, these awesome shelters are spread throughout certain parts of the delta. The lower part of the trail system was completed in January 2018 of this year – which is very exciting that the Alabama State Lands board considers this an important project to continue developing. I highly encourage people to learn more about this amazing place in their backyard and to navigate the trail system!