Friday, July 29, 2011

Southern Reflections--camping, part 3

Mt. Cheaha, in Delta, Alabama, is where everyone camps when they go to the Talledega Speedway and why we are careful not to camp there at those times.  Those are some interesting folks!  Mt. Cheaha is the highest point in Alabama.  They have rustic cabins and chalets and a lodge with a pool with a great view and a really good restaurant.  I grew to love this state park because my crotchety, old Grandpa Jordan was a foreman for the CCC that built the park during the Great Depression.  I love the stone cabins and stone lookout tower as well as the stone walls and pavilions at picturesque points. Here's a picture of a (less-crotchety) Grandpa and sweet Grandma Jordan and Uncle Jimmy in front of the lookout tower at the top of Mt. Cheaha.  Grandma had 11 more children!

Blue Springs State Park is in Clio, Alabama which is fairly close to Ozark where we once lived.  We went one year for my son's birthday.  They have very nice campsites and an opportunity to swim in a spring-fed swimming hole.  Now that's an experience everyone should have at least once in their lifetime!  They also have fishing and paddle boating.  We have always loved deciding at the last minute to go camping, and Blue Springs is a perfect choice during a hot summer!

We have only spent day trips at Noccolula Falls in Gadsden, Alabama.  This is not a state park, however, they have very nice camping facilities basically right in Gadsden which is on a beautiful river.  The communities along the Coosa River are beautiful and make a lovely scenic drive.  Legend has it that the Indian maiden shown threw herself off the falls in despair over her lost love.  There is a very educational park for children with petting zoo and an adventurous hike.

We were drawn to Kolomoki State Park in Blakely, Georgia again and again.  It was not a long drive from our home in Dothan, Alabama and the kids loved to visit the museum to see inside a real-live Indian burial mound.  They have camping, miniature golf, boating, and fishing there as well.  We haven't camped there but we are going to have to make the trip this year--the kids are growing up fast!

Here is a third spot that we have gone to many times since moving to North Alabama for a day trip but have not had the chance to camp out!!!  There is so much to see in this area and it is not far from where we now live.  It is near Fort Payne Alabama--for all you Alabama fans!  It is a big park with cabins, a lodge, camping facilities and beautiful vistas.  It was also built by the CCC in the 1930's so there's a lot of history.  We especially liked the walking trail that led us to the magnificent view shown on my scrapbook layout above (bottom left photo).

As you can probably tell, I am very partial to the State Parks throughout the south that were built by the CCC and Monte Sano is one of them!  The lodge that housed the workers eventually became a place of entertainment.  Then it burnt down and when I married my husband 23 yrs. ago, only a shell was left.  Now it has been rebuilt in the original style and is beautiful and many wedding receptions take place here.  The road my kids are walking on was a very scenic drive that finally had to be closed because the road kept washing away.  It still open to biking and walking and is gorgeous!  There is a large playground and ancient pavilions so well-built and unique that they are still used and a sight to behold.  There are beautiful views of Huntsville, Alabama and I like to camp here year-round.  You can go to a planetarium on Saturday nights--it's literally walking distance from the beautiful campground.  They have made many improvements there lately and it is the perfect place to go on a hot summer weekend when you're really wanting it to be at least 10 degrees cooler!  See my post,  Some Favorite Campy Things, camping part 2 for lots more about Monte Sano Mountain State Park in Huntsville, Alabama.

Amicola Falls State Park near Dahlonega, Georgia is extremely picturesque.  The camping is very limited and I personally wouldn't want to camp there, but it's a must see when you check out the town of Dahlonega which is where my Grandma Jordan's Dad, Dahlonega Dyal was originally from.  Also pictured is the front of a candy store.  There are several of these.  This is the best little town I have ever visited!  I would love to spend time here. It reminded me a lot of how Gatlinburg was when my husband and I honeymooned in the Smokies over two decades ago.  Now Gatlinburg is too commercial so Dahlonega is a nice alternative.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Dahlonega is a short drive north from Atlanta.

It's really a shame in a way that certain camp sites have been such favorites for us such as Cheaha  and  Monte Sano because there are so many other places we should try, but they are favorite day trips for us nevertheless.  This trip to Guntersville Lake State Park in Guntersville, Alabama was an easy One Tank Trip to celebrate Summer Solstice. In the good 'ole Homeschool Tradition, every family trip became a "learning experience."  We learned about the longest day of the year and had a picnic and swam, toured the park, and sat on the lake and watched the sun go down.  There was a lot of people there who seemed to understand the significance of that particular day and is a favorite memory of mine.  (That's my husband diving off the pier).  Guntersville is also a CCC  State Park with a beautiful lodge, restaurant, cabins and camping facilities.  I didn't really like the camping layout and is probably why we haven't stayed there, but the park has been making many improvements and since the tornadoes came through in April 2011, the campsites have been closed due to damage.  Hopefully they'll make it better than ever.  The campsites are right on the lake, literally.  So they have a great view.  Guntersville is a wonderful town to visit.  We love to go and walk at the lake front park.  The downtown is very picturesque as well.

Cathedral Caverns off Highway431 north of Guntersville, Alabama.  1995 Disney film, Tom and Huck, was filmed here.  It was also filmed in Mooresville, Alabama, off I-65 (near Huntsville).  Mooresville along the Tennessee River, is a quaint town to visit.  It has changed little from 1800s times.  Be sure to wear comfortable shoes (long hike!) and bring a jacket.

St. Andrews State Park in Panama City, is very convenient if you want to be near the more touristy attractions found on the "Miracle Strip."  There's a Walmart right there too in case you forgot something!  Our favorite thing to do at this campsite is snorkeling.  You can rent the equipment or bring your own and take a boat ride to a good snorkeling beach.  The only drawback is having your children stand in line for the boat with women showing all kinds of body parts!  Beware!!!  The newer bathroom and campsites are further from the beachfront campsites and have laundry facilities and air conditioning.  I would prefer to stay in the newer sites, even though I don't have a view of the ocean.

Grayton Beach State Park, (Santa Rosa Beach) in Florida is a more secluded spot--not near a lot of tourism.  We have camped here at least twice and enjoyed it enormously both times.  There's great swimming and playing on pristine beaches.  My favorite memory is sitting on the beach at sunset and watching the sun go down behind the ocean and all of the sudden noticing that there were a lot of other people on the beach with us to see the show.  When the last drop of liquid gold melted into the sea everyone cheered and clapped.

We camped at Cumberland Mountain State Park, Crossville, Tennessee for Labor Day weekend in 2005.  This was one of our most memorable camp outs, (remember Cheesy)?  We especially loved the picturesque bridge and lovely wooded lake.  We had been camping since the kids were very young, but this was the first time I saw lots of families camping and using tents.  Before that, the noisy RVers had pretty much dominated the campgrounds.  There was a real "family" feel.  We went sight-seeing to all the local sights, but my kids and husband mostly stayed in the "hu-normous" pool as did many of the other campers.

I don't know what road we were on, but we were headed for Joe Wheeler State Park in northwest, Alabama.  There is a huge dam and a pretty picnic park on the side of the dam (that has some history), and you pass this store as you come to the park and dam.  I couldn't resist taking a snapshot!

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