Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Arrowhead Art

I came across some nice arrowhead art yesterday and collected it on a Squidoo lens.


Monday, December 1, 2008

Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park

Tannehill State Historical Park covers 1500 acres, dipping into the edges of three Alabama counties - Jefferson, Tuscaloosa, and Bibb. Most of the park has been left in its natural state. On even short hikes it is possible to see whitetail deer and raptors. Ducks, squirrels, and small birds are always nearby. All of the wildlife that is native to this part of Alabama are within the boundaries of the park, but most of it will sense you before you see it. On this trip we spotted a small deer drinking from a creek as soon as we entered the park. A few minutes after we parked the car, we saw a red-tailed hawk.

There is a nice restaurant in the park, but it was closed on this visit. A candy and ice cream store and a small old fashioned grocery store are also in the park.

Tannehill is very popular with campers. We visited on the Sunday after Thanksgiving and there were very few campers. The campgrounds can be very crowded, especially during the summer and most holidays.

For the kids there is a miniature railroad that runs from near the park entrance to the Trade Days area.

Many people like to visit the park during Trade Days, which is a giant flea market at the far east end of the park. Trade Days are March until November, third weekend of the month. I personally don't like Trade Days or any other of the times where the park is crowded. The less people, the better for me. But if you enjoy history and nature more than crowds, most of that part of Tannehill is never crowded once you get past the parking lot. Walk about a mile or two downstream, and it is very possible to leave everybody else behind.

Just past the furnaces is a rock bluff that overlooks the creek. The views are beautiful.

There are hiking trails of varying lengths in the park. All of them offer great scenery. Most of them follow or link up with pretty creeks.

The main attraction at Tannehill is the remains of furnaces that supplied the Confederacy during the Civil War. Much of them have been reconstructed. At peak production Tannehill was producing twenty tons of iron a day that was made into everything from pots to cannonballs. On March 31, 1865, during the last days of the war, production came to a sudden halt when three companies of the Eighth Iowa Cavalry attacked. When the fighting stopped the furnaces were in ruins and the supporting structures were burned to the ground.

The furnace site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Civil War Discovery Trail. The furnaces have also been designated an international landmark by the American Society for Metals.

Near the Trade Days area, on Mill Creek, is a working grist mill. The original mill that was located here was built in 1867. This area is very popular with photographers because of its beauty.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Fort Morgan in Gulf Shores Alabama

At the end of our recent trip to the Alabama coast, on our way home, we decided to visit Fort Morgan. The fort is at the western end of Highway 180, 22 miles west of Highway 59. It is actually a part of the city of Gulf Shores, but most people consider it a separate entity because of the distance from Gulf Shores city center. Fort Morgan can also be reached from Dauphin Island by ferry across the Mobile Bay.

Fort Morgan National Historic Landmark is a 500 acre site located at the end of a long narrow peninsula with the Gulf of Mexico to the south and Mobile Bay to the north.

Visiting Fort Morgan is a nice day trip for visitors to the Alabama beaches. There is a small entrance fee to the fort grounds. The entrance to the fort is just past the Fort Morgan ferry dock.

Construction was completed on the Fort in 1834, and it was first garrisoned in March of that same year. It was named for Revolutionary War hero Daniel Morgan.

Fort Morgan was used during four wars — the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II. The fort is most famous for its role in the Battle of Mobile Bay during the Civil War. If you've ever wondered where the saying "Damn the Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead" originated, it was at Fort Morgan during Civil War's Battle of Mobile Bay.

Upon entering the bay, the USS Tecumseh was sunk when it hit a minefield, taking ninety-four men down with it. Taking enemy fire from both the Confederate fleet and Fort Morgan, Admiral David Farragut chose to keep moving into the bay through the minefield. The rest of the Union fleet followed the lead ships into the bay and defeated the vastly outnumbered Confederate fleet led by the giant ironclad CSS Tennessee.

There is a small museum on the grounds where many relics from the fort's past are displayed along with period photos. It only takes about a half hour to visit the museum and it is well worth the visit.

For those who would enjoy more frivolous activities with their history lesson, picnicking, fishing, crabbing, and swimming is allowed. In fact, fishing is very good at Fort Morgan and the entrance fee screens out most of the competition. The beach area is rarely crowded.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Odds That Your Car Will Hit A Deer in Alabama

State Farm Insurance estimates that a driver has a one in 196 of hitting a deer in Alabama within the next twelve months. Deer hits are up 19.5% from just five years ago. The average claim for colliding with a deer is $2950.

That doesn't surprise me. We do a lot of hiking in Alabama, much of it within walking distance from our home. We see deer all the time. A couple decades ago, a deer sighting would be news. Now it's not news unless somebody hits one with a car. Luckily we haven't hit one yet. Every year that we don't increases the odds though.

Check out my article on the wildlife of north central Alabama for information of the Alabama deer population:

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Orange Beach, Alabama from the new Phoenix West Condos

These photos are from the 27th Floor of the new Phoenix West condos at Orange Beach. Condos of this height are a new addition to the Alabama beaches. Before the new high rises, photos like these would have had to be taken from the air.

Romar Lakes Condos and wetlands.

The Wharf mixed-use development (retail, dining,condos, atractions) on the Intercoastal Canal (opened 2006). The Wharf has been very slow getting established. Businesses are having trouble keeping their doors open, and condos are worth less today than they were at pre-construction prices.

The centerpiece attraction, the Ferris Wheel, said to be the Southeast's biggest, can be seen at center. The toll bridge over the Intercoastal Canal is at left.

Wetlands and south end of Lake Shelby.

The beach, Romar Lakes at left, Terry Cove Cotton Bayou, and Wolf Bay in the distance.

The beach, Phoenix West II under construction, and Lake Shelby at far right.

More information on Orange Beach here:


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Lagoon Pass - Gulf Shores Alabama

We spent Friday through Tuesday on the Alabama Coast. The purpose of the visit was to help my parents move from one condo to another. We were able to spend a little time on the beach and a little less fishing, but the trip was a nice change of pace. We lived on the Alabama Coast for eleven years, in five different homes, before we moved back to McCalla last year. It was a nice place to live, but running from hurricanes gets tiresome. Hurricane Ivan put 18 inches of water in our home and Katrina came up to our doorstep.

We lived at Lagoon Pass for a couple years. We traded our condo on the beach for the beach home. Living on Little Lagoon with the Gulf just across the street was nice for awhile. I could decide to go fishing on the spur-of-the-moment and be wading in the Gulf 10 minutes later. But the house was almost imposible to get warm enough in the winter or cool enough in the summer. There was also constant upkeep; beach homes take a beating from the wind, salt air and heat. The there was Hurricane Danny that blew half our roofing off and put two days of rain in our living room and kitchen. It can never be said that living on the beach is dull.

We always saw great blue herons, brown pelicans, and other birds from our back deck. The occasional sea turtle would swim in, and once we watched a pair of river otters play.

Lagoon Pass has changed a lot since we lived there. The seawall has been extended into the Gulf and sand has been addred on both sides. The cement wall where I sat waiting on a redfish to take my bait has been removed, and tons of sand has been added to the beach.

Mullet netting fishermen travel through the pass in small boats to fish the coast. Mullet will not take bait that most fish like. The vast majority are netted from boats such as this one. Fisherman also use cast nets from banks, docks, and seawalls. The seawall at Little Lagoon Pass is very productive during certain times of the year.

Redfish, bluefish, flounder, Spanish mackerel, whiting, speckled trout, white trout and pompaano are some of the species that can be caught here.

Fisherman with oil rig in background. Hundreds of oil rigs dot the Alabama Coast.

Here's a treasure hunter with an underwater metal detector.

This fisherman has caught a big flounder. It is a little early for the flounder to be hitting really good here. As the night's grow colder, they will move from Little Lagoon through the Pass and into the Gulf. During the month of November, thousands will be caught in the Pass.

For more information on Lagoon pass, see my Squidoo Lens:


Friday, September 26, 2008

Sprague Lake at Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Sprague Lake is on Bear Lake Road, about a mile before Bear Lake. On this particular day, we were on our way to the Bear Lake area, but since this was early on a Fall Sunday the parking lot was full. Bear Lake is a very popular area for tourists because there are several trailheads there, including the most popular one in Rocky Mountain National Park - The Bear Lake Trailhead.

We had never stopped at Sprague Lake on any of our previous park visits, so we decided to check it out.

Sprague Lake, at an elevation of 8,200 feet, is a very pretty place. At 13 acres, the lake is fairly large considering the elevation. It is crystal clear and shallow. Trout can be spotted easily.

The walk around the lake is a little less than a mile.

Sprague Lague was named for Abner Sprague, who owned and operated a lodge here from 1910 to 1940. Sprague created the lake by damming up a small stream. Signs around the lake describe a little of what the lake looked like when it was a private resort. Sprague was proud that his guests left refreshed and rested, unlike those tourists who buzz around from place to place in a hurry, truly enjoying little of what they see, and then arriving home more exhausted than when they left.

We didn't see a lot of wildlife at the lake, except chipmunks and ducks.

After walking around the lake, we took a path to the right. It soon became apparent that we were walking on an animal trail, probably beaten down by deer and elk. We found a very peaceful place by a stream and sat down. The only sounds were heard was the water. A squirrel decided to check us out. He ran up and down the stream, stopping numerous times just in front of us. I'd focus my camera, then he'd be gone - every time.

For information on Estes Park, the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park visit:

Estes Park

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Old Fall River Road - Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Old Fall River Road is only open from around July 4th to around the end of October. It is a eleven mile, one way dirt road with a speed limit of 15 miles an hour. It runs from Endovaley to the Alpine Visitor Center at Fall River Pass. Many park visitors miss this road because they come when the road is closed, or they drive right past it staying on the paved road leading to Bear Lake or Trail Ridge Road. The scenery along the road is among the most spectacular in the park, so it shouldn't be missed if possible.

Chasm Falls is a good place to stop and spend awhile. There are hiking trails up the first part of the falls and there are places where you can easily step from rock to rock in the water.

Like the rest of Rocky Mountain National Park, elk is often spotted here. This bull is still in velvet.

Chipmunks can always been scurrying in and out of the rocks.

Old Fall River Road reaches an elevation of 11.796 feet. Near the end of the road, just before reaching the Alpine Visitor Center, there are several very pretty lakes. The snow pack never entirely melts.