Tired and a bit soggy, our canoe team (formerly known as our half-marathon team) stopped off at Dismal Canyon to do some leisurely sightseeing. It’s a “do it yourself” project where you get a map and a prayer that you can find your way out.
First, you sign away your life that you won’t sue if you don’t come out.
After many dead ends, we completed the tour. It was difficult wearing flip flops and still wet from the rapids at Bear Creek. Nevertheless, we climbed our way up boulders and through cubby holes the size of a pencil, but were rewarded with spectacular sights.
The canyon, located somewhere in northern Alabama, was first inhabited by Native Americans over 10,000 years ago. When Europeans arrived, they gave the canyon its name because of an oddity of nature – a little creature known as Dismalites.
These little worms, known only to thrive in a very few select locations on earth are nature’s “glow sticks.” Each night after twilight, the young larvae emit a bright blue-green light to attract food, and a spectacular natural light show illuminates the canyon.
Within the boundaries of this canyon, which was declared a National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service in 1975, we explored and recalled some of the past visitors such as Jesse James, Aaron Burr and the Native Americans who first called this region home centuries ago. I couldn’t remember who Aaron Burr was – thought he played Perry Mason – oh, yeh, that was Raymond Burr!
Along the canyon floor the temperature drops 14 degrees in the blink of the eye, a true respite from the Alabama heat of summer. The path along Dismal Branch is vibrant green with lush moss and ferns.
Waterfalls fill your senses as do geologic formations such as the towering boulders of Witch’s Cavern and Temple Cave. The property is dotted with swimming holes with water so cold you can’t walk through without shivering.
At left, Jill invented a new dance in the Witch’s Cavern which reminded me of Elaine on Seinfeld. We were half dead by this time, but Jill was just getting her second wind.
Below, Marie, made friends with a Cigar Store Indian. She always has liked the strong, silent type. And he appears enchanted with her.
Above and below are our hosts for the weekend who would probably prefer to remain anonymous. They are the true best kept secrets of Alabama. But we send a huge thank you to Billy Ogden (at left) and his wife Pat – second from right who gave us a “bucket list” weekend. Their beautiful lodge on Sulligent Lake is as close to the Garden of Eden that I’ve experience so far.
I’ve been around the world, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt so comfortable than when I’m in Alabama – well, of course, other than Mississippi.
On the way home we discussed what our August adventure will be. (I promised myself in January I would do one thing a month I’ve never done before.) Marie wants to go bungee jumping. Judy thinks we should go sky diving. Jill wants to take us to Wisconsin.
Me? I’m holding out for knitting classes.