BY KATHY PICKENS
The Greenville Standard
Our recent vacation featured five covered bridges, two waterfalls, and one major city. For those of you who love a good physical challenge and the glory of God’s creation, the waterfall segment is for you.
Our Gadsden destination was about three and a half hours away. We paid the small entry fee at Noccalula Falls Park to enjoy the falls, the bridge and other attractions.
The idea was to ride the train, survey the park, and formulate a plan. However, with the train temporarily broken down, we missed the crucial fact that there was an easy hiking path to the falls.
We hiked down to the falls the hard way via the Black Creek Connector and Gorge Trail. What this path lacked in distance, it made up for in steepness and scenery.
Although experienced hikers would probably call it “moderate,” it challenged me such that I was grateful for the cool gorge and even cooler falls spray.
With heavy rainfall swelling Black Creek, the sounds, sights, and feel at the base of the 90-foot drop drowned out everything else in that peaceful way only nature can.
Above us, watching over the falls stood the Princess Noccalula. This nine-foot bronze female figure depicts the legendary fatal leap made by the princess to avoid an unwanted arranged marriage.
The Women’s Club of Gadsden first led the city to purchase the falls and adjoining acreage and later raised funds necessary to commission and place the princess.
The bronze material was obtained from pennies collected by school children, and a local high school student modeled for the statue.
The 1969 dedication was attended by several thousand including Creek and Cherokee representatives and leaders.
The hike out seemed easier than the hike in, and we left with that glorious feeling of having accomplished something rare and witnessed something majestic.
The next day, we drove up to the Green Mountain Nature Preserve in Huntsville. We took the easy mile-long Alum Hollow Trail to Alum Falls.
It was musical and lovely, if more modest at only 20 feet. Nearby was Alum Cave which is actually an immense concave overhang towering 80 feet.
Archaeological evidence indicates this rock shelter was used by Native Americans. It made us feel very small in a big world.
Instead of doubling back, we continued on the 1.2- mile Ranger Trail. It was rated “difficult” due to steepness and rocky terrain and was named for an unfortunate old truck that sits rusting among the rocks.
It was blazed with faded red flagging tape that was a welcome sight the few times we lost the trail.
With all of the initial downhill travel, we knew there would be a reckoning, and it came in the form of an extremely steep last climb out back onto the main trail and back to roads less interesting and more traveled.
Our great state is dotted with beautiful natural spaces to explore. Many are made even more accessible by boardwalks or gravel paths. So get out there and blaze your own trail.