By The Way, Look Out For Bears!

Pausing for a picture on the wooden walkway bridge, in Talladega Forest, Alabama.

Pausing for a picture on the wooden walkway bridge, in Talladega Forest, Alabama.

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.

Driving through Talladega Forest, which our GPS navigator didn't like too much.

Driving through Talladega Forest, which our GPS navigator didn’t like too much.

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.

The stunning early morning scenery in Talladega Forest with long clouds trapped in the valleys.

The stunning early morning scenery in Talladega Forest with long clouds trapped in the valleys.

The signage police have been busy around the car park area.

The signage police have been busy around the car park area.

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.

Bear-raising Moment

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!

The Bear Facts warning notice at the start of the hike.

The Bear Facts warning notice at the start of the hike.

Setting off on the hike - a nervous Saint leading the way!

Setting off on the hike – a nervous Saint leading the way!

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.

Don't want to get lost here.

Don’t want to get lost here.

Beautiful river views near the start of the hike.

Beautiful river views near the start of the hike.

The hiking trail treats us to some great views of the valley below.

The Chinnabee ‘Silent Trail’ that we were on was built during 1973 – 1976 by Boy Scout Troop 29 of the School for The Deaf, in Talladega, Alabama. It was done under a cooperative agreement with the US Forest Services and is dedicated to public use and enjoyment.

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.

This beautiful bridge looked a bit rickety, but was actually quite sturdy.

This beautiful bridge looked a bit rickety, but was actually quite sturdy.

We could hear the sounds of the falls from a long way out, but this was our first glimpse through the trees as the path descended again.

We could hear the sounds of the falls from a long way out, but this was our first glimpse through the trees as the path descended again.

This was an awesome location and well worth the hike to see the Falls.

This was an awesome location and well worth the hike to see the Falls.

Trying to look unworried!

I wonder if bears can smell fear?

Talladega National Forest waterfalls running all through the valley.

Talladega National Forest waterfalls running through the valley.

The litter was a big surprise for us. You would think if you went all that way to enjoy the outdoors you would appreciate keeping it clean.

The litter was a big surprise for us. You would think if you went all that way to enjoy the outdoors you would appreciate keeping it clean.

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.

The Talladega National Forest is located in the U.S. state of Alabama and covers 392,567 acres (613.39 sq mi, or 1,588.66 km2) at the southern edge of the Appalachian Mountains.

The Talladega National Forest is located in the U.S. state of Alabama and covers 392,567 acres (613.39 sq mi, or 1,588.66 km2) at the southern edge of the Appalachian Mountains.

Almost stepped on this little fella! Hard not to miss; red eyes and bright orange markings of an Eastern Box Turtle.

Almost stepped on this little fella! Hard not to miss; red eyes and bright orange markings of an Eastern Box Turtle.

Darrin has something to take his mind off the bears for a bit.

Darrin has something to take his mind off the bears for a bit.

The bins at the parking area really need to be emptied.

The bins at the parking area really need to be emptied.

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.

One of the flowers in Talladega, alongside the trail.

One of the flowers in Talladega, alongside the trail.

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