By The Way, Look Out For Bears!
Talladega National Forest, Alabama | Sharon Henry
I didn’t realise this was bear country. If that fact had been known earlier I’d bet my bottom dollar we wouldn’t have come. Statistically the chance of a bear encounter is 1 in 1.2 million, although that number is still too high for Darrin who has an inexplicable phobia of bears. Maybe the by-product of watching too much National Geographic.
Perhaps that’s what our faithful GPS was trying to tell us, she (she’s a she) could not recognise the address of the Talladega National Forest , in Alabama when we punched it in. We ended up at the park shop and followed rough instructions from there leading us along a dusty, bumpy track, deep within the forest onto the isolated Cheaha Creek and Lake Chinnabee.
Long Arm of the Law
Woodland sounds of crickets, birdsong, squirrels and the babbling brook set the tone of a peaceful atmosphere when we stepped out and stretched our legs.
There’s nobody about but overflowing bins indicate it’s not always so. Picnic areas are dotted around, each with standalone BBQ grills and table benches right alongside the stream.
We obey signs instructing us to pay and display a $3 park permit. There’s no one to enforce the rule but we’d rather not take any chances so dutifully fill out a coupon left in a sheltered tray, pop the payment into the envelope provided and slot it into a padlocked bin.
Whilst Darrin scouts the area I read the information boards about the park. That’s when I discovered this is bear country. There are bear warnings and facts nonchalantly stapled right here on the board including: bears can run 60% faster than the world’s fastest sprinter. Bloody hell!
I did consider keeping this nougat to myself but if you’re going to die in the woods you’d want to know all the facts. Darrin’s face and demeanour visibly changes when I tell him. But ever the trooper he nods; he’d suspected this and had already rallied himself up for such an eventuality. But our honey roast ham sandwiches remain safely in the car thus eliminating any risk of attracting a Yogi or Winnie the Pooh.
Mustering all his manly courage Darrin steps out onto the trail as skittish squirrels scurry for cover. We’re following the Chinnabee Bee Silent trail that should lead along Cheaha Creek onto Devil’s Den and waterfalls. As hikes go this is an easy one but it’s refreshing to be in the great outdoors and it’s such a beautiful setting.
The further away from the car we go, noises start to sound sinister. What was once (probably still is) squirrels rustling in the bushes might be something else lurking or the sloshing creek could be an animal fishing for lunch.
Beautiful Park, Shame About The Litter
Walking under a green canopy we come across a wooden walkway designed to traverse a ridge and before long we reach the waterfalls of Devil’s Den. It’s small but pretty with crystal clear water cascading over rocky outcrops, collecting into pools below. It looks super enticing to swim but is icy cold.
Unfortunately one thing spoiling this pristine view is litter. There is so much of it, we noticed discarded bottles, cans and packets on the way here like a trail from inconsiderate Hansel and Gretel copycats.
Piles of rubbish deface rocks next to the falls, even a used baby’s diaper is tucked under a crevice. Surely these litterers can see they’re spoiling the environment and taking the beauty out of the spot.
Was That Eeyore or Pooh?
In the distance on from the opposite side of the valley we hear a mournful guttural sound. I immediately think it’s a donkey. Darrin has other ideas. That’s when we decide to take our leave and scarper back to the car.
During our hasty retreat the beady red eyes of a turtle catches my attention causing a clumsy skip/hop to avoid trampling it. He (I think it’s a he) is tiny and cute and brazen enough not to retreat into his high-domed shell. Bear thoughts momentarily forgotten we zoom in for a closer look of his bright orange markings while he stands his ground allowing plenty of time for photographs.
We make it back to the car unscathed and are able to relax as we devour our aromatic and delicious sandwiches, before making our way safely out of the woods.