Now, doesn't that sound ominous? Well, not really.
Our 34th anniversary was September 11th. Sharing our anniversary with that of the terrorist attacks of the same date has been hard. I want to remember what all that day brought to the world but then again, I feel like we should be able to celebrate a marriage that outlasted many others out there. Sometimes the attack wins out but this year I decided to not let that happen.
The weather was predicted to be a bit hairy on Saturday so I had two different destinations in mind. If it rained, we were heading to Cathedral Caverns outside of Huntsville Alabama. We could tour the cave in the rain with no problem. But our first choice was to head down to northwestern Alabama and hike thru Dismals Canyon. A last minute look at the weather predictions led us to beleive we had a large enough safe window for spending the day outside. Turns out it never really ended up raining at all, but that is a whole nuther story......
It took us about 2 hrs to get there, maybe a bit more. But you gotta knock off a few minutes for our wrong turns. They sure could mark some of the highway's a bit better around here. We drove thru some Alabama countryside we had not seen before. I must say it was not the prettiest scenery around and it made me have doubts about how nice the canyon could possibly be. Even up til the last few miles, it was flat, brown and dry. Not appealing at all. But a few miles from our final destination, it did get a bit hillier and greener. Still not as gorgeous as where we live, but not everywhere can be heaven I guess.
Even turning into the parking lot was not impressive. A small gift shop/registration area was at the far end of the almost empty parking lot. We went in and met the parks registrar and resident funny man!! He was a hoot!! We paid our bucks ($8.00, I think?) and went out thru the back of the store and onto a patio. Right behind was the swimming hole and deck. Also pretty unimpressive. But you go across the swimming deck, down the stairs and the first thing you see is a waterfall that comes from under the deck. There is a very old dam holding back the creek right above you that helps form the waterfall, but there would have still been one naturally if the dam had not been built to form the swimming hole. The stairs continue down quite a ways dropping you immediately into a cool, refreshing, all natural canyon with walls going up several hundred feet on each side. The whole canyon is never that wide at any point and goes straight up on each side just steps from the path. But all along the 3/4 mile trail there are huge house sized boulders with little narrow chasms and rifts. Little slot canyons between the boulders exist and may can be travelled thru if you are skinny enough and not a bit claustrophobic!! So even tho it was less than a mile to get to the far end, we probably did twice that by going into and around every single nook and cranny. There is a nice creek running thru the entire canyon and it was filled with the nicest smooth quartz pebbles, a few just had to come home with me. They were all colors from white to brown, with lots of pinks and salmons that were almost translucent. There was some really nice flora and fauna along the way, some of it nicely identified with a sign. At the end there was a bridge that the registrar had actually built himself many years ago. You cross the creek and head back to see the sights on the other side. There was a really cool place called the Dance Hall. It was a flat mega boulder that had fallen centuries ago and the ancient indians had used it for spiritual and ceremonial dances. It was very well hidden by other boulders so it would have been a very cool place for them to hold these special events. Especially at night by firelight. The registrar tells us that after you leave the dance hall area the trail either heads back across the creek or you can take the unmarked part of the trail on the far side of the creek and then come back across a swinging bridge later on. The reason they don't mark the path is because it is a secret!! You have to really look around for it and when you find it, it is a tiny crack between 2 boulders that you shimmy thru and then follow for a ways, eventually coming out at the swinging bridge. It was so much fun to go back thru a second time to see if you could remember how you went. It was not that easy!! We had to look just as hard the 2nd time. We just loved it!!
We would really like to go back and take a night tour. They guide you down into the canyon by flashlights, then turn them off when you get down there. There are thes bioluminescent buggies that glow like fireflies. They congregate in parts of the canyon and I understand it to be quite magical in nature. The peak months are April thru June so we might just have to go back and try again this next year. After all, I need some more pebbles!!
And now for a few pics. Forgive the blurry ones. That is what happens when you didn't think to bring a tripod and the natural light is a little low. But I still think they are worth a look at.