Friday, October 16, 2015

Ladiga Campground with Team Chimbomba

I have been a little behind in my posting. My family,and my friends who are like family, went on a camping trip on labor day weekend. With summer having come to an end, and school beginning, we all needed a little time away.

The Chief Ladiga campground is a really nice private campground located at the crossing of the Pinhoti and Ladiga Trails and Terrepin Creek. We hiked a couple miles to the top of Oakey Mountain, located just to the south of camp.

The top of the mountain was a rocky area.

About a hundred yards later we arrived at the the shelter.

We spent some time there, then walked back down the hill. We cooked some dinner upon our return.

We didn't take as many pictures after that, as we were busy spending time together. Our group of people is truly an amazing team. I can't wait until we are all back together again.

Autumn Drive in the Forest

Late Summer at Turnipseed

Mike, Devon, and myself went camping at Turnipseed in the late summer.

We are odd people, and I think that's great. It was a fun trip where we all got to talk and get to know each other better.

We ate dinner and went to bed, but almost as soon as we got in our beds, a fellow a few campsites over began playing the guitar. I didn't think much of it at first, but as the night wore on his singing got louder, and worse. He sounded very drunk, and didn't stop yelling until 3am. This is a risk one has to take when sleeping in a developed campground.

The next morning, we packed up and headed to Lake Chinabee. There we payed a small fee, which they made sure we didn't forget.

We walked north from there, following the trail along the creek toward's Devil's Den. 

It is a beautiful place, if often a little crowded. I think that is good though, as it means people are out enjoying nature. It was not crowded when we were there, early in the morning. 

After that, we returned home. It was a lot of fun, and the unpleasant night gave us a story to tell. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Salt Creek Falls

Over the course of the last couple years, my cousin Jonathan and I have become much closer. In many ways he is like a little brother to me. In mid July we went out to explore the forest and test out some new equipment.

While I am still a Jeep guy, and this blog's URL is, my Jeep was proving increasingly more impractical for my style of adventuring. As time went on, my Jeep was used less and less offroad and more and more to drive down the highway from home to school.
Further, as I grow stronger in my faith I began to have a bit of cognitive dissonance for the affection I had for that machine. If I separated my emotions from the vehicle, and looked at it as just a tool, I realized that it was the wrong tool for the job.
So I figured that I needed a vehicle that was reliable, had good cargo capacity, seating more more than two, still reasonably capable off-road, and still fun to tinker with. For reliability, it's hard to beat Toyota. So I looked for a while at Tacomas and 4Runners, but I just couldn't make myself fall for them. Then I saw a 60 series Land Cruiser in my price range. It would have required more work than I was willing to put in it, but I really liked the way the Cruisers were set up. I began researching and realized that the 80 Series Land Cruisers were exactly what I was looking for. After a while of searching I found this clean, well maintained '92 Cruiser. So far I have been liking it much better. These are the go-to truck of people who need reliable transportation to remote locations.

The day after I bought it is when Jonathan and I decided to cruise the land down the national forest from Oxford to Sylacauga, some 70 miles of dirt roads.

We stopped at Salt Creek falls near Talladega for the night.

As it is the dry season, the fall was more of a long trickle, but it was still a very pretty place. The trail down was hazardous, requiring a rope in some places to continue. Jonathan and I both were a little bruised afterwards. I wouldn't recommend this location for children. I would recommend it for adventure and for natural beauty though.

At the trailhead here there is a nice campsite, which Jonathan and I took full advantage of. The site is on private property, and there used to be a pay-box. The structure that the paybox was in was destroyed, but in the rubble I still found the paybox, so I dropped the $5 in there. The site was very clean and well maintained.

We used the roof rack to hang our hammocks, which proved to not be that strong. Something to upgrade in the future.
The sun soon began to set over the gorge below us.

 We lit a fire for cooking and bug protection. The campsite had a nice fire-ring already. I made my usual Hobo Dinners, which Jonathan seemed to enjoy. I have yet to have any complaints about these meals.

The sun soon set, and we retired to shelter.

During the night, two coyotes visited our campsite, but the sound of me attempting to acquire my camera frightened them off. The nocturnal creatures were louder than usual, screech owl's trilling and Whippoorwills singing.

The following morning we rose before the sun and made breakfast.

The Land Cruiser's tailgate made an excellent kitchen. We made cheese grits and then departed the camp as the sun rose to our left. The mountains were shrouded in mist as the morning sun's rays swept across their forested slopes.

About halfway through the day's journey, we diverted off the main road and crawled for a good while through the forest, until we arrived at Horse Creek cemetery.

The tombstones dates were in the late 1800's and early 1900's.

We eventually came to the end of the forest and turned back by pavement towards home. We stopped for some poser pictures at the scenic overlook.

Shoal Creek in Midsummer

This summer has been long, hot, and very fun. My cousins, Becca and Jonathan, stayed with us over the course of the summer. We went on many outdoor adventures, but here I will only chronicle the best.

In June, Jeff, Becca, and Cortney wished to go camping. I recall Pine Glen as being a very nice campground, and so that is where I guided us to. We loaded up the truck and headed into the forest stopping at an overlook on the way.

The Horseblock Mountain Fire Tower loomed over the overlook, reminding us of a time before aircraft and other technology when rangers had to keep a constant vigil in these towers against the ever-present threat of wildfires. 

Pine Glen is a regular on this blog, a pleasant little campground in a bend on Shoal Creek. 

We swam in the creek after pitching our tents in the campground. 

While swimming we were joined by one of the locals. 

He appears to be an Eastern Kingsnake, a fairly well regarded reptile even by the most Herpetophobic of people, as they eat other snakes. They are immune to pit viper venom, and so can eat Copperheads and even Rattlesnakes. 

After swimming, we returned to our warm and dry campsite and began fixing dinner. 

The air was hot, and the mosquitoes were aggressive, but it was still nice to be outside. The smoky, crackling flames helped to drive back the bloodsucking onslaught. 

The next morning the sun caught the treetops in the wee hours of the morning. The days are much longer this time of year, and I arose at first light. 

We packed up and headed out immediately after breakfast. 
It was a good campout, very calm and peaceful. 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Nature's Heart


Nature has a benefit to a person that is very difficult to quantify. I believe that most all people have a need to get close to nature, and to test ourselves against that great teacher. Nature can give wisdom to the wisest man, and most of the wisest men in history believed in returning to nature at times to recuperate. Rest and ease are not nature's tools of education, however. Nature can feel harsh, and unforgiving. Nature feels no obligation to you, and you are entitled to nothing in its eyes. It is challenge that makes you a better person, and nature is always willing to challenge you, if you let it. On this trip, it is solitude which is the greatest challenge. Men are not made to be alone, and for all people to be alone in the wilderness is a test of fortitude and resilience.

           To be alone does have its advantages though; there is no one out here to disappoint, no one to accidentally offend, no one to impress, so forth. In a way, this is my comfort zone, this fearful, lonely wild. I feel the fear, but nature is an adversary which is predictable and basic. I am comfortable in my discomfort here. What I truly fear is back in the confines of civilization. I, like most people, wish desperately to leave the world better than I found it. If I could have my way, every person I meet would feel better about themselves after meeting me. Unfortunately, the world cares little for my wants, and I rarely feel like I have accomplished this goal. So in some ways, to retreat to the forest is taking the easy path, for me. 

I went out to Sweetwater Lake, which is in the Talladega National Forest. The weather was perfect, and it was very peaceful. This lake is bustling with wildlife, including eagles, turtles, snakes, deer, fish, and assorted waterfowl. I recently received a new camera, which is much nicer than the ones I have been using, but my limited skill at photography prevented me from getting pictures of all of these animals. I was able to get a passable picture of these Plover (ornithology enthusiasts should feel free to correct me if these aren't Plover).  

I also saw and photographed this snake which I assume is a Cottonmouth.

          I took those two pictures when I was making my way upriver from my campsite. I paddled some distance up Shoal Creek, which feeds into the lake, until I came upon impassible rapids. (Not pictured) 

      My campsite was on the opposing side of the lake from the boat ramp, in a grove of low trees. Recent floods have removed most of the underbrush making a very clean campsite. 
This goose stayed near my campsite most of the day. 
     I took a walk around the edge of the lake before dinner. I found a few other fire rings for future camps. 

    I cooked dinner as the sun was setting. The mosquitoes were not out in their normal numbers, I assume due to the still cold nights. 
           Being in the canoe I was able to bring more and better food than when backpacking. Night soon fell, and the sounds of night's denizens began to fill the air. 
 The bullfrogs were particuarly loud, but Whippoorwills and owls made their presence known as well. I went to bed early and fell asleep while listening to this chorus. 
            The following morning it had cooled off noticeably. The lake was shrouded in thick mist. 

        I made some bacon on a fire for breakfast, and then packed everything back into the boat. 

         The sun broke over the trees, dispelling the mist and warming my back. 
           It was a very fun trip, though it was not particuarly challenging physically. I feel as though I have succeeded in not wasting my time. I have felt cognitive dissonance of late with the way I had been spending my free time, as I was mostly wasting it. I believe I, like most people, was doing "rest" wrong. Being a college student most of my non-free time is spent being sedentary, whether in class or studying. This being true I believe that while I may feel like sleeping late and playing video games all day is a fun and restful way to spend free time, it is in fact a waste of that time. 
         My mind and body are not made for 24 hour sitting, and the last couple of months I have made a concentrated effort to fill my free time with constructive activity. I have been purposefully doing difficult things, and things that make me uncomfortable, as I am convinced that his is how one grows as a person. This has ranged from hiking after class during the week, which builds both the mind and the body, to planting vegetables in the back yard and other physical household things, to attempting to have conversations with people I don't know well (which I have found to be the most difficult, as I am not very personable or charismatic). 
          This commitment to challenging myself has improved my life greatly. I am much more satisfied with my life now than I was just a few months back, even though much of what I attempt to do is unsuccessful or marginally successful. Perhaps it is actually the lack of success that is the greatest benefit. At any rate I agree with Theodore Roosevelt, who has of late become one of my primary role models in life, that living a life of action and vigor is much more satisfactory than any alternative