. . . in more ways than one.

I used the time change to my advantage Sunday and got out early. I arrived at Big Hill Pond State Park at 8 a.m. and not a soul was at the Visitors’ Center. Fortunately, they had a large topographic map of the park in a small kiosk next to the parking area and I decided to peruse it. The map I had printed from the internet was really confusing and I hadn’t been able to figure out where trails began and/or ended.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to look at the map for long because, in addition to the mounds of dead Daddy Long-legs that littered the concrete floor of the kiosk and were just generally creepy, about a dozen yellow jackets were buzzing around my ankles. I did see, after a quick look, that one of the trails started just behind the Visitors’ Center and I decided to hike it first. Besides, I liked the name: The Fox Hollow Trail.

As with most of the park’s trails, it was a one-way trail, but it took me past a footbridge that crossed the lake to provide access, believe it or not, to an access trail. Anyway, I took advantage of the detour to view the lake from the footbridge.

Fall foliage from the footbridge.

Fall foliage from the footbridge.

The trail ended at the boat ramp and dock, and I used the road to make a loop back to the Visitors’ Center. Once I returned, I was able to view the map because the yellow jackets were gone, and I opted for the Rocky Knob Trail, which began in the campground. I was a little over a quarter mile into that trail when I realized that following it was going  to be impossible (in that short distance I had to maneuver around a hornet’s nest, cross several barely crossable streams, climb over multiple blow downs and struggle to determine what was trail and what was hillside because the leaf litter was so deep). Trail Fail. Back to the kiosk.

I then decided to drive the two miles down a dirt road to the trailhead that led to the half-mile boardwalk through Dismal Swamp. And that was well worth it. The swamp was hardly dismal and the walk along the boardwalk quite peaceful.

The not-so-dismal boardwalk.

The not-so-dismal boardwalk.

So, with two trails completed, and wanting to leave the park while I was no longer frustrated with it, I headed to Pickwick Landing State Park to hike its one trail. That was another lovely hike ambling through the woods along the lakeshore.

Pickwick picnic with Rémy before the hike.

Pickwick picnic with Rémy before the hike.

I was finished by 3 p.m., so I decided to see how far southeast I could get before it got dark. I miscalculated the fact that it gets dark in Alabama at 5 p.m., so I had to drive through Birmingham in the dark (and I hate headlights in my eyes), but I made it as far as Pell City before stopping for the night.

So falling back, time-wise, made for a productive day. Now, I will be falling back for the winter and waiting for the warmer temperatures of spring before I start hiking again. And meanwhile, I’ll write up the first ten parks and start planning a possible itinerary for 2014.

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