To celebrate this year’s excellent fall days, I decided to join the association on Saturday by attending my first 2nd Saturday Hike, a monthly event that the group has been hosting for a year, thanks to their association with the Field Schools of Jacksonville State University. From the AOA website, I printed out my membership form, wrote my $10 check, and emailed founder Keith Hudson about my intentions to join. The next thing I knew, I was meeting a new group sharing a common interest at Lowe’s in Anniston at 8 a.m. Two of us climbed into Keith’s truck, joined three other members at a designated intersection in the Talladega National Forest, and left a return truck there.
For the next four and a half hours, we hiked from Sweetwater Lake to Pine Glen where we ate a sack lunch. Along the way, we enjoyed views of Shoal Creek, which is adjacent to the trail and the fall flora. As we walked, a friend I knew from many years ago, Larry, told us about his world travels. A gentleman named Ben, from Carrollton, Ga., helped us identify some of the unusual things we saw, such as galls, which are round growths on twigs stems and even roots. Tiny worms bite into a plant, set up housekeeping there, and create the plant growths. Also, Ben knew the names of many of the trees. It was fun to talk with someone who was so familiar with the forest.
Keith was our navigator and designated web catcher, which was the person who walked first and tore down the multitude of spider webs that hung from trees. Deer plots planted by the forestry service interrupted our path a time or two, but Keith knew how to keep us on the path.
A man named Mike reminded the group members of other trips they had taken throughout the years. Mitch, also from Carrollton, was the quiet one in our group, as I certainly was not. I ooh-ed and aah-ed over the flowers, fish, mushrooms, and lichens I saw; and I collected some colorful leaves for my art students.
At lunch, we told stories about pets we had had, a conversation that grew out of our casual experiences. I told about my childhood pet, a dog who loved to stand on top of his doghouse, Snoopy-style. Mike told about a doghouse he once built, complete with insulation. Ben related a joke about a couple of ignorant hunters from a certain football team who dragged a deer they had shot by the back feet instead of the antlers. When advised to do otherwise, they failed to turn it around and ended up far away from their destination.
Afterward, we disposed of our trash (in a proper place) and finished by hiking toward the truck. We passed a low-lying lake called High Rock Lake. Go figure. Our hike became more mountainous and a little bit more challenging, but we were rewarded by the views of the tall mountains across from the mountain we were hiking on. We were back at the truck by 1:30 p.m., a 5.6-mile hike that I had handled beautifully, despite my sometimes achy back.
I encourage anyone who can hike to join AOA, and those who like to bike, canoe, and take part in other outdoor activities, should sign up. Their upcoming events include an evening hike and stargazing activity to be on Oct. 25; a bike ride on Nov. 2; another day hike on Nov. 9; and several events in December. Search online by typing in the association’s name to read more about it.
Call Keith at 256-231-7675 or 256-239-8746 or email him at email@example.com.
Email Sherry at firstname.lastname@example.org.