When we moved to this area of the state which is slightly cooler, more mountainous (by Alabama standards), more picturesque, has more recreational areas and fewer (as in
practically hopefully nil) gator-inhabited waters (thank you men of the past who invented and/or built dams), we were excited at the prospect of finally being able to do an activity we enjoyed (except for that one time we got “lost”) in New England: hiking.
Enter Coldwater Mountain. Please note that the term “mountain”, although frequently used in the state of Alabama, would be more accurately classified as “foothill”, but that doesn’t sound as good, does it: “I’m going to the foothill to hike.” 😦 There is a town not far from us called “Piedmont” which means foothill. Anyways….
Our landlord was the one who told us about the Coldwater trails, asking if we’d gone biking there. I told him, “No, I haven’t biked in years and would probably have a heart attack or die in some manner if I mountain biked.” It’s only a few miles away from us and, unlike the state or national parks, is free to enjoy. Since I haven’t been on my bike in years and the last experience was much too memorable, I told my daughter I’d rather hike than bike, at least for now. Also, my Southern Man was home and he doesn’t even have a bike, so hiking was the obvious choice. Armed with 3 water bottles, pretzels, dehydrated pear slices, cameras, binoculars, our sneakers, and a sense of adventure, we drove to the trailhead, parked in the shade and walked over to the sign that had the trail map.
We talked to a biker dude who gave us a few pointers about the trails and we set out on what was supposed to be a 2 or 3 mile hike, going counter-clockwise, the opposite direction of bikers. We came to a fork in the path and, due to a fallen tree blocking one path, had to go down the other, where we came to another fork. After some discussion, we decided to go to the right. Let me rephrase that: our daughter chose, I agreed, “Sure, why not?” and my Southern Man, just like Adam with Eve, went along with it, but with a bit of trepidation. Do you see where this is going? Let’s just go down this path, shall we?
1.) This is a Forever Wild project and the irony of the word “Forever” was mentioned several hours later and was paired with “walking”.
2.) There was NO TURNING BACK, otherwise, we’d get run over by a bicyclist and/or might have even further to go than if we stayed the course, something we had to explain to our daughter on several occasions.
3.) We do not yet own hiking boots or other proper hiking apparel… I repeat, YET.
4.) The “Gilligan’s Island” theme song was running through my head and I was trying to change the lyrics starting with “3 hour tour” to “3-mile hike”.
5.) Tying in with #1 & #3, I told my daughter I was surprised that my thighs rubbing together hadn’t started a forest fire.
6.) Gnats sound disturbingly like mosquitoes and can drive one insane after several miles.
7.) Coldwater Mountain does not contain much cold water aside from a tiny puddle and one little, scary-looking pool waaay down in a dark, shadowy gully.
8.) One can not judge the distance a biker has traveled by how energetic and/or happy they are…or aren’t.
9.) Asking a winded, bleeding, walking biker how much more there is of a trail, two hours into your 3-mile hike only to have him pant out, “You’ve got a long ways.” is unwise and demoralizing.
10.) Praying silently in one’s head as one hikes is much easier than speaking out loud.
11.) Wild blueberries, muscadines, and hickory nuts are located at lower elevations.
12.) So are mosquitoes.
13.) God hears prayers and answers them, whether it’s about mosquitoes being kept away, gnats being sent away, hurting feet not hurting anymore, blisters not appearing, distance left being shorter than we fear, picking the
right correct fork in the path, sending someone along who knows the trails and is actually helpful, and not having a heart attack.
14.) Wearing a bright red flapping bandanna over your Red Sox cap may look absolutely ridiculous, but you don’t care you tell your spouse, because it keeps the gnats from buzzing in your ears, thus avoiding driving you insane (see #6).
15.) Trails in free parks apparently aren’t as well-marked as trails in state and federal parks, an opinion we formulated that was also voiced by several bikers we managed to speak to before they careened on their merry ways.
16.) One CAN experience biker-envy.
I think I covered most of the high points. Oh, here’s another high point:
When we finally got back to the trailhead, approximately five hours later (!), we were grateful, exhausted, and very hungry. We looked at the map, once more. Check it out:
See the green trails? That’s where we wanted to go. See that loooooooong blue trail? Yep, that’s where we went. We hiked between ten and twelve miles, not the 2-3 we were “prepared” for! Needless to say, I told my Southern Man I did not feel like cooking dinner that night. So, we stopped at a Winn Dixie to grab a couple gallons of water and ice cream, both of which are absolute necessities after an impromptu 10-12-mile hike, went home, changed clothes, went to Arby’s for some cheap sandwiches, came home and ate, then showered.
Here’s a picture I took at the beginning of our adventure:
Oddly enough, no one agreed to an “after” photo.
Incidentally, that chafing of which I mentioned earlier? I learned a few things from that, too:
1.) Never wear that pair of shorts to hike in ever again.
2.) “Triple-Action Gold Bond Medicated Powder” is mislabeled. It is “Quadruple-Action” as the first action is to make one wince and scream.
3.) Chafed inner thighs apparently can progress to calloused inner thighs.
One final lesson:
Not being used to hiking, then hiking 10-12 miles with improper preparation and conditioning, results in 2 forty-something year-olds hobbling around for three days with verrry sore calf muscles. We will be better prepared for our next excursion on Mt. Cheaha this fall.
That is all.