Flexibility is the name of the game in the fulltime travel lifestyle, so when the equestrian campground we were staying at hosted a horse-riding event this past weekend we needed to find a new home for a few days. Luckily our favorite Alabama Wildlife employee had just told us about the Eagle Awareness Weekend at Lake Guntersville- perfect timing! It was a two hour trip from our current location, but from the excitement in her voice as she described the event I had a feeling it would be worth the extra car time (which at this point, who’s counting anyway)… and I was right! What started as ‘why not, since we have to pack up anyway’ turned into one of my favorite experiences we’ve had on the road.
The park itself was phenomenal. I would have been happy to have driven two hours to spend the weekend there, even without the eagle event. Mountains, water, abundant wildlife… even a few donkeys and emus (which we never uncovered as to why they’re kept fenced in with the water treatment facility, but their mystery kept us giggling whenever we drove by). The eagle programs ensured we were very busy all weekend, which means there was a lot we left unexplored including miles of beautiful hiking trails and the park’s historic connection to the trail of tears. We did, however, make time to check out the cave trail. If you’re at all fearful of giant cave crickets jumping on your head while you explore the cave then maybe skip that one…. ask my kids how we know. I, however, thought it was worth the risk just to hear the sweet mixture of screams and giggles as they scrambled to leave the cave as fast as they could.
The campground was large with roomy sites, and barely populated at the time of our stay. And while we saw plenty of eagles when out with the group, our closest experience (well, other than the education eagle of course) was right outside our trailer door. I stepped out to see what the kids were doing and there he was, hunting for coots. I grabbed the camera and we all ran out on the dock and spent the next hour observing him. A magical experience made all the more sweeter knowing we were the only ones taking in his show.
Eagle Awareness Program
We learned SO much in those two days. The schedule is jam packed from morning until night with speakers, field trips, and group eagle watches. I think the kids found the contrast to our normally free range days a bit much, so we did skip out on a few things to bring it more to their pace. Even though we didn’t make every scheduled event we still felt warmly welcomed in the group of naturalists and bird lovers, and no one said a word when we left, and came back (left, and came back…) as the programs inevitably got too long for Ocean.
But more than facts and bird sightings, the passion of the naturalists is what truly left an impact on me this weekend. As they knelt down to show my son the insect exoskeletons trapped in the carnivorous plant, the excitement on their faces matched with his. They pointed out eagle sightings as if it were the first time, not the thousandth. They teared up about the plight of the injured birds in their care. It would be impossible to sit in a room with these outstanding individuals and not come away with a greater respect and care for the world around you. And though my children are still young and I often wonder what, if any, of our adventures they will remember, I have a feeling that the impact left by being around such compassionate human beings is something that won’t fade with time.
*If you’re in the area, I highly recommend you check out this event! There are four more weekends this year, and it is an annual event
** If you feel inclined, we would love for you to join us in giving a donation to support the amazing Alabama Wildlife Center. Aside from saving countless injured birds, they have single handedly provided the science education for my children this past year. Pretty good deal if you ask me! Even a small gift would be helpful to support the care and housing of the birds they take under wing.