Talladega National Forest

Cindy and I just got back from camping at the Coleman Lake recreation Area in Alabama. It was a wonderful time for finding all kinds of little treasures.

I found the painted rock on the water hookup at my campsite. It was very appropiate. It was so peaceful there! There had been a horse endurance event in the area, and someone left a quarter horse on a picnic table. I photographed it, then left it to amuse the next person who happened along.

The first day out, I had no energy and was able to walk around our loop. Once. Period! But I got a good night’s rest that night. That, combined with the gorgeous weather, energized me, and I was able to get out and enjoy nature’s splendor! It was a lot more fun going than coming, though. It was for Mikky, too. Cindy ended up carrying him! Did I mention that she is a very good friend who loves my dog, too? ūüėč

As soon as I got home I ordered hiking poles, which I expect to enable me to go longer and farther next time out.

Oak leaf hydrangea almost hiding Cindy, Cindy’s rig. Cindy’s dog Missy, and Cindy and the dogs at the lake.

There were so many flowers that my phone camera simply couldn’t capture, especially the tiny ones. I also couldn’t capture the wild blueberries’ immature fruit. But I was thrilled to get the photos I did.

Immature elderberries and blackberries. I’m not sure what the white flowers are. They resemble bergamot, but they are not pink. On edit, Alabama does have white bergamot.

Cindy saw a couple of snakes. One water snake swimming. And Missy, her dog, STEPPED on a snake. Cindy didn’t recognize the markings, but the snake did not bite Missy. It was a little over a foot long, and Cindy said she guessed the snake was sick or had just eaten.

The composition of this photo is awful, but I love it anyway. Oak leaf hydrangeas are so photogenic!

Look at the difference in this photo after Judie cropped it for me! https://dorrieanne.wordpress.com/. Thanks, Judie!

Cindy likes to go to the same places over and over. I am going to try to coax her into expanding her camping range, especially since I LOVE to camp by large expanses of water. We have the problem of erratic schedules, though, and it seems that every time we make reservations, we have to cancel them. That gets expensive.

False Solomon’s Seal. I rarely see it, and I find regular Solomon’s Seal even more infrequently.
Swamp milkweed was everywhere! I discretely gathered several of the unopened flower buds to steam and enjoy the delicious, delicate broccoli taste with dinner.
Poison ivy and Virginia Creeper growing parallel up a tree. I’m not sure what the other plant is. Maybe a buckeye?
I wasn’t the only one worn out by our walk! In case you wondered, one side of the pillow is Mikkey’s. At night, the other side is mine. ūüôā
My little van

Last Day Camping & More Info on the Pinhoti Trail

 

New shoots on last year's dead flowerhead.

New shoots on last year’s dead flowerhead.

Although I am no longer physically able to do long-distance hiking, I did want to share this update on the Pinhoti Trail for anyone who might be interested in thru-hiking it.

On my previous post about the trail, reader Diane Kepley commented, and I told her I would add her information to a future post:

Georgia Pinhoti trail is open all the way through to the Benton MacKaye trail with new sections being upgraded and improved. Mapping needs an upgrade to be sure but help is out there. Contact me at Diane@mulberrygap.com and if I can’t help you, can point you to others on the Georgia Pinhoti Trail board who can. Many sections are multi use and not as hiker friendly as the Alabama Pinhoti. It’s a great trail system and trail angels are out and about especially if they know thru hikers are coming through!

…and thanks for helping us spread the word. It‚Äôs encouraging to know where there is shelter and help along the way! Happy trails to you!

I’m sure that this post will pop up in search engines for people searching for info on the Pinhoti, and I hope they will take advantage of Diane’s generous offer to provide more detailed information.

trail hazardI had planned to post a whole bunch of spring buds and shoots photos today, but after going through them, they look kind of boring.¬† So I’ll just post photos taken on the short two-mile trail around Coleman Lake.

beaver job

 

 

 

 

trail steps

Even in death, the remains of this little bird displayed exquisite grace and beauty.

Even in death, the remains of this little bird displayed exquisite grace and beauty.

 

 

footbridge by dam

my kind of trail

cool exposed root

 

blowdowns

There were a startling number of large blowdowns on the trail. Also, many of the pines have been infested with the pine borer. Some areas had been burnt — I’m guessing to help control their spread.

 

 

 

Plant covered roots span the water below.

 

 

Camping at Coleman Lake

Our campsite at Coleman Lake.

Our campsite at Coleman Lake

Coleman Lake is a small campground¬†in Alabama’s Talladega National Forest.¬† It’s down a long, winding two-lane road off Hwy. 78, and it feels like you are driving to the end of the world to get there.¬†¬†There’s no cell reception,¬†so being without phone and internet makes it feel even more remote.

This is one of the birds that was throwing giant beakfuls of leaves into the air. Here he is taking a break.

Sites are very large and private in both loops¬† — a little more private in Loop B, but we chose Loop A to be closer to the little lake.¬† It’s a lovely place to soak up nature, listen to the birds chatter, chip and sing while you enjoy a leisurely cup of¬†coffee in the morning, explore plant life along the trails,¬†and absorb the¬†pervading peacefulness of escape from civilization. ¬†A stress-free zone.

The low-key entertainment included watching black birds with iridescent teal heads vigorously pecking through leaf litter and throwing huge beakfuls of leaves high in the air.  Over and over and over.  I tried to get a photo of the action, but none of them turned out.

The most excitement was when Sheba was attacked by a goose.¬† Well, warned of an attack, anyway!¬† While Ron was walking her by the lake,¬† she¬†kept lunging on the leash and excitedly trying to get to a lone¬†goose near the water’s edge.¬† All of the sudden the goose marched out of the water, got right in Sheba’s face and hissed at her.¬† We were so stunned, we weren’t sure what to do, so simply walked off, dragging Sheba behind us.¬† That must have been the right answer because the goose headed back to the water.

Another bird

Another bird

The campground was almost full when we arrived Sunday afternoon, and never did empty out after the weekend.  Thursday was the only day there were more empty sites than full, and new campers began arriving early Friday morning for the weekend.  Most of the campers were fairly local.

The nice thing about such a small, remote campground is that it attracts mostly hardcore nature lovers, who are generally quiet, considerate campers.  We loved it there!

There were almost no bugs out yet, although we did see a few mosquitos Thursday.  But I did pick up a tick on the back of my knee while out on the trail.

Looking toward the swimming beach.  The grass is starting to green up nicely.

Looking toward the swimming beach. The grass is starting to green up nicely.

I very rarely get to explore by myself when we are out.¬†¬†But Wednesday and Thursday Ron offered to keep the dogs so I could roam to my heart’s content.¬†¬†I¬†felt euphoric¬†as I wandered along the sun-warmed trail¬†and¬†cut through the woods to get a better look at emerging shoots and fiddleheads and whatever other wonders spring had in store for me.

I didn’t find any mushrooms this trip except for several old polypores.¬† I kept hoping that I might stumble onto my first morel ever.¬† But either the mushrooms were waiting a little longer to fruit — or they were really good at hiding.

Down by the little dam

Down by the little dam

I do so enjoy reading other camping and RVing blogs where people get out and explore all the restaurants and attractions in an area.  I envy their travels and all the sights and experiences they cram into their trips.

My kind of camping is different.¬† It’s total immersion into the natural features of the campground and surrounding area.¬† Seeing the world from a worm’s-eye view instead of a bird’s eye view, I guess.

Hmmmmm..... I think I spot dinner!

Hmmmmm….. I think I spot dinner!

In any case, I do so appreciate the readers who enjoy my low-key pursuits.  Thanks so much for visiting and re-visiting!

Tomorrow I’ll post more of the spring wonders that I found in the woods.¬† At least wonders, as I perceive them.¬† ūüôā

Got it!

Got it!

This was a long zoom shot.

This was a long zoom shot.

Luna moth

Huge luna moth

This beautiful moth looked like she was dressed up in her bridal finery to me.

This beautiful moth looked like she was dressed up in her bridal finery to me.

Ron and Sheba on the trail headed toward the bridge.

Ron and Sheba on the trail headed toward the bridge.

 

 

Coleman Lake, the Pinhoti & the Beach

There are several trails in the  area including hiking and horse trails.

There are several trails in the area including hiking and horse trails.

We plan to leave for Coleman Lake tomorrow.¬† Since there is no cell service there, I thought I’d post a preview, and will¬†update the blog¬†when we are back in civilization again.

The main activities in the area are birding, camping, hiking and horseback riding.¬† There’s a primitive horse camp not far from the Coleman Lake campground.¬†¬†I’m not sure about the fishing.¬†¬†But when we were there a few years back, one¬†family went frog gigging and harvested¬†17 big frogs that night.

Coleman Lake swimming beach

Coleman Lake swimming beach

For me, the main attraction is mushroom hunting.¬† There’s a tremendous variety of habitats from dry hardwood hills to primeval-looking swamps covered in fern.¬† I’m sure I won’t be able to identify most of the ones I find, but I sure will have fun trying!

For long distance hikers, the close proximity of the 335 mile Pinhoti Trail should be of interest.  It ties in with the Benton McKaye and Appalachian Trails and is part of the Eastern Continental and the Great Eastern Trails.

Gulf State Park right on the Gulf.

Gulf State Park right on the Gulf.

After that, we’re planning to head for the beach the latter part of April.¬† I changed my mind about the Mississippi beaches when I read that the water is brown and muddy like it is at Galveston.¬† So now the plan is to go to Gulf State Park in Alabama.

It has excellent reviews.¬† The water won’t be as clear as it was at Ft. Pickens, but it should still be nice there.¬† And I’m pretty sure our dogs will be allowed to walk on the beach with us.

So it looks like I will finally, finally, break free of the winter-weary cabin fever blues and go camping!

Making Plans Again

Our last trip to Coleman Lake was when we had the Aliner.

Our last trip to Coleman Lake was when we had the Aliner.


We gotta get out of this place

if it’s the last thing we ever do
We gotta get out of this place
Cause girl, there’s a better life for me and you.

The cold wave is supposed to hit tomorrow.¬† So we’ll be hibernating for a few days.

Since we need to stay close to home for doctors appointments, we figure as soon as it warms up we’ll head across the Alabama line to the small Coleman Lake campground in¬†Talladega National Forest for a few days just to get OUT!

The Talladega National Forest is where I found the motherlode of chanterelles the summer we were there.

The Talladega National Forest is where I found the motherlode of chanterelles the summer we were there.

There’s not a lot to do there, but¬†walking through the woods, lighting campfires and¬†just being¬†away from home will be enough to tide us over until we can go someplace more exciting.

Later, we are tentatively planning to go to Buccaneer State Park on the Gulf in Mississippi.  Unlike Florida State Parks, dogs are allowed on the beach there, so it will be fun for our furkids, too.

In closing, I’ll post a few pictures from the Buccaneer State Park website.¬† They are what’s keeping me going right now.¬† I am desperate for a beach fix!¬† ūüôā

A tent at Buccaneer State Park

A tent at Buccaneer State Park

This might be a little too much direct sun, so we'll probably choose a wooded campsite.

This might be a little too much direct sun, so we’ll probably choose a wooded campsite.

Another photo from the Buccaneer State Park website

Another photo from the Buccaneer State Park website

Chanterelles!

golden and smooth chanterelles

First day's find -- two smooth chanterelles and one golden chanterelle

The camping trip to Talladega National Forest rated a 12 out of 10 to me because we found… to my extreme delight….. wild chanterelle mushrooms!!!

On our first day’s hike, I only found three — two smooth chanterelles and one golden chanterelle.¬† But I was ecstatic.¬† I have searched for them for years, but before this had only found the small orange cinnabar chanterelles.

The second day, lightning stuck twice for me.¬† I found FIVE chanterelles…¬† 4 smooth and one golden.

chanterelles 2nd day hiking

Chanterelles found our second day of hiking

On our third day’s hike, we found enough to make a wonderful side dish with dinner.¬† Again… beyond my wildest expectations!

Finally, the day before we left for home, we went hiking one more time.  This time we were staggered by what we found.   We found chanterelle heaven!

chanterelles - third day of hiking

We found enough for a real side dish our third hiking day

We discovered three huge patches of them.  They were on a very steep, rocky bank and I was afraid we would lose our balance and go crashing to the bottom.  So we gingerly descended the slope, using our hiking poles to keep us from falling.

Then we sat on the ground with our feet wedged against rocks to keep us from sliding… and we picked and picked mushrooms!

We ended up with around 4 pounds!

chanterelle heaven

Hiking day 4 -- Chanterelle heaven!

Talladega National Forest

our Aliner campsite

Our campsite

We just got back from a week at Coleman Lake Campground in the Talladega National Forest in the Alabama hills.

The sites are spaced pretty far apart in a heavily wooded setting, so we felt like we had our own little hideaway in the woods.¬† A short trail led to the lake’s fishing, swimming, and trail areas.

The plant diversity is astounding.  I took

primeval looking forest

Primeval looking forest carpeted with bracken fern

hundreds of photos of plants suited to many different environments… from low,¬† almost primeval looking fern swamps to steep, hilly hardwood and pine forests.

A small swimming beach was usually host to children and young people early in the day.  Later, when the people left, Canada geese brought their families out for leisurely paddling around the lake.

A few people rowed out on the lake to fish while we were there.   And one couple went

hilly trail

Trail through the hills

frog gigging and came back with seventeen bullfrogs.  Ron chatted with them as they were skinning and cleaning the frog legs.

Can’t say that’s my cup of tea, but it is nice that there is an area where those who enjoy such things can pursue their interests.

Past the swimming beach on the lakeside trail, we took a side trail and stumbled upon a beautiful little hidden grotto complete with small waterfall.  Screened by rock walls and a profusion of tall flowering shrubs and trees, we felt as though we had stumbled upon a secret hideaway.

hidden grotto with small waterfall

Hidden grotto with small waterfall

Coleman Lake swimming beach

Coleman Lake swimming beach

For the first time ever, we had camping equipment stolen this trip.¬† Saturday night (with the campground full of weekend campers) our Weber Baby Q gas grill disappeared.¬† We went into town Sunday to replace it, but couldn’t afford another Baby Q, and I didn’t like the cheap, flimsy model that Walmart had available.¬† So we returned to the campground without one.

Then Sunday evening the camp host stopped by our site carrying our grill!

“Bet you’re glad to see this!” they announced.

They had found it abandoned against a tree in the overflow parking area.  Another camper told them ours had been stolen, so they knew who it belonged to.

I had been pretty sick the first few days we were out, and the frequent rain was starting to wear on my nerves.  But I bounced back and felt a lot better so I could enjoy hiking.

And…. we found a huge amount of chanterelles!¬† And they wouldn’t have sprouted without all that rain.

I’ll save the chanterelle pictures for the next post.

pipsissewa

Sweet little pipsissewa (medicinal) was blooming all over the forest.

tiny islands

Little micro islands are forming on a submerged log in the lake

unknown showy white flowers

These strikingly beautiful shrubs with large, showy flowerheads were all over in the lower areas. I later identified them as Alabama's state wildflower, the oak leaf hydrangea. They are gorgeous!

common milkweed

Common milkweed were in full bloom. We only found one unopened flowerhead with the mild, broccoli flavored buds.

water arum

Water arum - wild calla

white bell flowers

Another small tree that I was not familiar with. The flowers are like small white bells. I later identified it as a sourwood tree.

Planning another camping trip

We elected not to go camping this weekend when everyone else is out celebrating Memorial Day.¬†¬† Instead we are planning to leave the middle of next week for a few days in Alabama’s Talladega National Forest.

Just as well… it is thunder storming here today with drenching rain.

Sunny, my dog, is so funny.  Most animals hide from loud thunder and lightning.  Not Sunny.  He runs to the window and barks ferociously to scare the fearsome intruder away.  Some guard dog, huh?

I just saw a series of photos of¬† a momma squirrel rescuing her baby from a dog.¬†¬†¬† It’s so good that I have to share it with you:¬† Don’t Mess with Mommas!

%d bloggers like this: