Every once in a while, you need to shake up your routine, be spontaneous, and go do something you’ve put off for years. Over Thanksgiving, we did just that. I’ve been dreaming about getting away to somewhere with more elevation than where I reside (which is pretty much anywhere in the world).
Years ago a friend told me about Cheaha Mountain State Park in Delta, AL. Seeing as how this wasn’t too far away for a 4-day weekend, I bit the bullet and made a last-minute reservation (literally the same morning that we rolled out). I was so thankful that we were able to get a spot and I honestly think it was the last one.
Things have been a little stressful lately, and that’s to be expected normally, but they’ve peaked a little in the past couple of months, so I was ready to evacuate like there was a Cat 5 on my doorstep. I threw everything in the car after making the reservation call and we headed out.
I ended up taking a longer route on the way there, but we ended up seeing some beautiful scenery. We enjoyed watching the land turn to rolling hills, observing the natural vegetation gradually change, and hoping the weather would turn cool.
Once we hit Montgomery, AL, the hills really started rolling and I had to use my accelerator like I never have before. As we took Highway 9 out of town and toward Cheaha, I was in awe of the landscape. We hit Highway 49 and that was probably the most fun road I’ve ever driven in my life. The twists and turns, the rises and falls of the pavement, and the occasional glimpses of the “mountain” in the distance. We wove through farmland and yelled “COW!” more times than I can count.
The road narrowed and the clay walls closed in, trees towering overhead, leaves blowing down around us. It was AUTUMN! Every time we caught another glimpse of the mountain we got even more excited.
Finally, we reached Highway 281 and it turned into some severe elevation with sharp turns and steep drop offs just past the edge of the asphalt. I prayed and muttered under my breath as people who were much more familiar with the area whipped around the corners at 35 mph as I hugged the safer side of my lane doing about 20 mph. There was a lot of “Oh my gosh! Look at that view!” as we drove up the mountain.
Pulling into the park was exactly where the lady on the phone earlier that day had told me it was. The road led directly to it and we continued to push the accelerator as we drove in by the office. We checked in and just surveyed the entire surroundings. There is a “valley” on both sides. It’s literally a mountain chain that curves around, but wow, just wow. It was so beautiful.
We got to our campsite and were very pleased to see that the upper “improved” campground was exactly as we expected. We set up our tent, sleeping bags, and air mattresses (yes, I’m a wimp), then got back in the car and drove around the park to see what we would do the next day. It was about 4:30 at this point and the sun was beginning to set. We drove down the winding road and looked for the things that were available. There is a lookout tower that was built by the CCC and is atop the highest point at the park, which also happens to be the highest point in the entire state of Alabama.
There are some beautiful places to stay in, including a “motel” right at the entrance next to the restaurant (more on that later), but there are also little cabins and chalets. They sit perched on the hillside and overlook the valley, each with a clear view. We saw chimneys (what mountain chalet doesn’t have a fireplace?) and porches with rocking chairs. Bean said he wanted to stay in one of those. I informed him, “We are staying where we can afford. This stuff? This is honeymoon stuff!” Honestly, they were very romantic. Had there been snow, it would have been the stuff of dreams.
The next day we hiked to Cheaha Falls. We went north on 281 out of the park and descended the mountain, found a parking spot, and took off. Don’t let that “1 Mile” sign fool you. That mile was worse than the Terrain Race 5K I was a part of last year. But the view was incredible! The water level wasn’t as high as it could have been (apparently, the rain hasn’t been what they normally have), but it was absolutely gorgeous! We stayed at the falls for about half an hour (recovery time for me) before heading back out. Up and down and around the hills and over a creek or two. 100% worth it.
We went on a couple more hikes, including one that is a wheelchair accessible boardwalk that leads all the way out to a precipice with a grand view of the entire “valley”.
As for food, the campsite had a fire pit and a picnic table. We cooked hot dogs and made bacon and eggs one morning (over the propane Coleman stove I brought along). However, there is a restaurant that is perched on the side of a steep drop and has YUGE glass windows that allow for a panoramic view as you dine. There is also a porch area with bistro tables that would be phenomenal for a coffee and some time to sit and think. The buffet was reasonable and kids under a certain age eat for $5.99. We had a dinner and a breakfast there and can attest that we definitely filled up.
Overall, I rate this trip a 10 out of 10. I highly recommend visiting Delta, AL.
Here’s to a great road trip, my friends. Peace and love.