Our stay in the Birmingham Alabama area was one of the longest assignments we’ve had to date. With 6 months in 2017 and 5 more at the end of 2017/ beginning of 2018 we had ample time to get to know this delightful area.
Usually when we’re in a new place I search for activities and excursions to help us really get a feel for our destination. With Alabama however, the state parks were so intoxicatingly beautiful and full of activity that we hardly left the campgrounds while still feeling we got a rich and lasting picture of all this wonderful state had to offer.
We split most of our time pretty equally between two parks near Birmingham- Oak Mountain State Park and Tannehill Historical State Park. Unlike our stay in North Carolina we didn’t move around because of necessity in following area regulations, but because we enjoyed both parks so much we couldn’t choose just one!
Tannehill is an absolutely beautiful park full of wildlife and bursting with history. The wooded trails and historical buildings were equally enchanting, giving us more to explore than we could have ever had time for. Spring gave us plenty of puddles to splash in, water snakes sunning on the rocks, and an adorable family of minks playing by the shore. It also brought a flood that threatened to push us from our campsite and the only tornado warning we’ve had since living on the road, but those memories are easily replaced by canoe rides in the creek and games of hide and seek in the abandoned stone furnaces.
Summer saw us splashing in the creek and cooling of in the natural spring, giggling as the fresh water bubbled around their toes. And who can forget hippo rock, so aptly named by the ever observant three year old Ocean. The air was muggy and so thick with gnats that you couldn’t speak without first swiping the air to make a clear pocket of space near your mouth, but we relished every moment of that golden Alabama sun.
Fall brought on of the most dazzling displays of foliage that perfectly complimented the rich red soil. We took long bike rides in the (barely) cool November air, and completed our second annual acorn harvest which, sadly, was pirated by some of the most fearless and aggressive squirrels I’ve encountered (along with our first black walnut harvest we brought down from our recently acquired Indiana property, which I shall never forgive them for). We celebrated a quiet thanksgiving on the bank of the creek followed by a crisp fall hike. The holiday crowds brought us new friends, including a delightful and creative artisan who imparted me with whittling knowledge passed down through the generations and a new pocket knife which I now treasure (in addition to the courage to pick up the craft again after injuring myself that past summer).
Winter brought us a surprise snow storm- something we thought we had left up north! But the joy of those around us delighting in a sight not often seen was contagious, and we enjoyed this winter scene through new eyes. I can still hear the blanket of silence that fell over the woods that a week before was alive with chattering squirrels and croaking toads. I can see the perfect archway framing our favorite trail, made as the trees bent under a burden they weren’t accustomed to carrying.
Throughout the year the park was teeming with activities and learning opportunities. Trade days were some of our favorite spent at Tannehill, a bustling flea market that brought us antique book treasures and fresh peach juices dribbling down our chins. The historic grist mill captivated our attention on many afternoons, though sadly we seemed to always miss the opportunity to acquire some of the corn still milled there. The park was also home to a blacksmith practicing traditional methods, which we were lucky enough to observe as he forged a fire poker we then purchased and brought home along with that unique memory. And I know the kids won’t forget the cute little train that gave us a short ride through the park and a glimpse of a napping family of deer. The candlelight tour in December was delightful, and with period costumes and displays it certainly gave the kids a good historical view of the park we had been enjoying. The musical demonstration was a family favorite, and I really appreciated the dramatic history of a local slave presented by one of her descendants. It’s hard to believe that even with our extended stay we still didn’t get a chance to explore everything this park had to offer, including homeschooling demonstration days and the dulcimer music festival.
Tannehill was a beautiful park with so many learning opportunities and wonderful new friends. I’m not sure how we ever pulled ourselves away to explore Oak Mountain, but I am oh so glad that we did.