The five-day stay at our favorite Corp of Engineer (COE) campground in Gunter Hill, AL (you can search back to Steve’s review from March 2013 here) was more of a downtime stop – we’re calling it the calm AFTER the storm. It’s not like we don’t have enough downtime, but this was one stop where we didn’t even leave the campground. We took our tour of Montgomery last year while we were here, one of many history-laden stops enroute to the northeast. If you want to see that part of our travels, click here to see what we learned in Montgomery. This time our efforts were concentrated on drying out one of Betsy’s compartments (which took 4 days) and trying out some new stuff that Steve got for Betsy – more on that in an upcoming post.
We were able to take several walks and bike rides around the wooded campground, and since our WiFi was pretty lousy I spent some time cleaning up my digital library – getting back 10G of space! Steve was right, I do take a lot of “duplicate” shots of my feathered friends. But I can’t help myself!
As you may be noticing, our current pace is slower compared to this time last year, and now that the weather is allowing us to proceed north our only obligation is not until June 13th when Betsy’s chassis maintenance and new tires will be done in Gaffney, SC. So, we’ll be hanging out in Northern Alabama, Tennessee and North Carolina a bit longer than anticipated, which will give us plenty of time to check out the Great Smoky Mountains. Gadsden, AL is our home base for a week now, as we check out the city of Birmingham and the Lookout Mountain region of Alabama.
Our friend Ayn of RoadLife, who lived and worked in Birmingham for many years, gave us a short list of things the city has to offer – in fact only two items, to be exact. The city is proud of its two statues, one is the original iron man – in somewhat revealing attire – and the other is a more moderately-dressed replica of a very famous statue. However, both are displayed raising their right arm – one with a spear and the other a torch – to the heavens.
Meet Lady Liberty and Vulcan, the iron man!
At 31 feet tall and weighing 10 tons, Lady Liberty is one of the largest replicas of the Statue of Liberty. She was cast in the same foundry in France as the original. This lady can be seen from I-459 at the Birmingham area Boy Scouts headquarters. The small park area at the base of the statue is open to the public and free of charge during daylight hours. Unfortunately, people aren’t allowed inside this one. The Boy Scouts headquarters and a memorial to all Eagle Scouts who served in North and Central Alabama are nearby.
Vulcan, on the other hand, stands 56 feet tall from toe to spear point and sits on a 124-foot tall pedestal, rising to a total height of 180 feet. This one weighs in at 101,200 pounds. He is the largest cast iron statue in the world, and the largest metal statue ever built in the United States. To promote Birmingham and Alabama at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, it was decided to build a statue of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and forge. Vulcan was created to highlight the area’s growing industrial capabilities, and to personify Birmingham’s pride in its local iron industry. Vulcan was awarded the “Grand Prize” at that fair.
Over 100 years later, Vulcan now stands atop Red Mountain, over the iron ore mine that was instrumental in Birmingham becoming the Iron City.
The highlight of our visit at Vulcan Park and Museum was climbing the 157 stairs to the top of the tower (there’s also an elevator for those so inclined) for a panoramic view of Birmingham. Looking up at the statue, the first thing we saw was his big old iron butt 😉 The statue’s naked behind has been a source of humor for many years, and some folks actually protested its move to Red Mountain because they didn’t want to look up from their homes and see that butt every day! A novelty song, “Moon Over Homewood”, refers to the fact that the statue moons the neighboring suburb of Homewood, Alabama.
Here are some items at the museum that we thought were interesting:
Finally, back at our campground at Noccalula Falls, we visited the Cherokee maiden. Located only about 1000′ from our campsite, she stands at the edge of the Falls. Legend says that the daughter of an Indian chief committed suicide at the beautiful Black Creek ravine to avoid marrying a man forced upon her by her father that she did not love. The statue stands poised and ready to leap at the very spot where she, Noccalula, supposedly jumped to her death over the falls to the rocks below. The Falls and several area attractions have subsequently been named Noccalula Falls.
Noccalula Falls cascades more than 90 feet into the Black Creek ravine, and is the centerpiece of this popular park and recreation area in Gadsden, Alabama. The city campground where we stayed is part of the park complex there, and it’s a nice green area. You can see Steve’s campground review here.
We were not satisfied with only viewing the Falls from the top, especially when we found out there was a “hike at your own risk” path leading behind the cascading waters. Although the hike was fairly strenuous and we were concerned about the mist from the Falls ruining our camera, it was worth it to get another angle on the rapidly-flowing water that has carved a deep ravine into the western end of Lookout Mountain. This mountain stretches from Gadsden, Alabama all the way to Chattanooga, Tennesse – which just happens to be our next destination!
The trail to the foot of the falls was conveniently accessible from our campsite. It had been a while since our last real hike, so we were a bit sore the next day after scrambling up and down the boulders and steep paths. We also took several walks on the Black Creek Trail a 2-mile crushed stone path which was literally right behind our site, making our daily exercise super-convenient. The trail is lush with tall green trees and meanders along the Black Creek gorge.
Each afternoon after our day of activities, we would sit outside reading and watching hikers passing by. And like every afternoon our entertainment is watching these little black squirrels as they went about their daily routines, running around, eating and just having fun.
Check out this guy as he played in our fire pit and got himself all powdered white. We don’t know what he was doing, but he seemed to be having fun and we enjoyed watching him make a mess of himself! Life’s little pleasure.
Lastly, a trip down scenic Lookout Mountain Parkway begins right outside our park at Noccalula Falls. And that’s where we’re taking you next time, so hop in and enjoy the ride!