The real Iron Man, Lady Liberty and a Cherokee Maiden…

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!

Gunter Hill, Alabama
Down time at Gunter Hill Campground

wpid24873-2014-05-05-AL-1290952.jpgAs 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.

Birmingham, Alabama
Yellow wildflowers dot the beautiful green hillsides

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.

Boy Scouts of America
Eagle Scouts Memorial

Eagle Scouts Memorial

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.

Birmingham Alabama
Panoramic view of Birmingham, Alabama
Top of Vulcan
Just another tourist …

Here are some items at the museum that we thought were interesting:

Steve loved this “sculpture” of the many iron items cast right here in Birmingham

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.

Noccalula Falls
Noccalula Falls

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!

Black Creek Gorge
Black Creek Gorge
Noccalula Falls
Behind the cascading Noccalula Falls
Under Noccalula Falls
Although it was 80 degrees and humid outside, the cavern under the Falls was cool and beautiful – we didn’t want to leave

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.

Noccalula Falls Campground
Walking up the hill from the trail to site #A19 in the campground

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.

Black Squirrel

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!





  1. There was a time in my life where I wasn’t sure the southeastern states you are now visiting were of much interest to me, but you have definitely proved me wrong. I am seeing there is lots of beauty and much to see and do. Love that little black squirrel! Wonder why he is so interested in rolling around in the ashes?

    I just bought a new bike and have decided that while we are stationary I am going to try to get my legs and lungs back in shape for when we head out west. There are lots of hills around here that are kicking my behind. Perhaps I will have buns of iron before we leave here (hehe)! 😉

    • LuAnn,you got that right, there are some beauty to explore in this part of the country. That squirrel thought there was some food in the ashes and we just had a laugh watching him.
      Buns of iron! and yes you might just get it while riding around the capital. I know there are so many biking trails and you have the best opportunity to enjoy during your four month stay.

      • I am excited about all the biking trails. They will definitely be part of the exercise regiment while we are here.

  2. So glad you are enjoying the South! It does have its beauty and interest as your post certainly shows! Feels like home…thanks!

  3. Thanks for the tour of Birmingham a place I’ve never been. I would take that behind the falls hike in a minute. Loved your pictures. You’d better get on up to the Great Smokey Mountains. You won’t have nearly enough time no matter how long you are there and you’ll never want to leave.

  4. I don’t believe I have ever seen a black squirrel, cute! By the time you leave the South you may have a drawl! I hope you are enjoying your slower pace.

  5. We stayed at a campground right by Noccalula Falls. What a beautiful area.

    Vulcan Park looks so nice. I think I would really enjoy the Museum.

  6. I had to laugh when I read Steve’s comment about the birds! Haha!! I get the same thing from John about the rocks and cactus. There are never enough photos of the saguaro, for sure:)

    Hey, the guy has great buns, why not show it off:)

    What a dramatic statue of Noccalula and such a tragic story. Loved the look behind the falls:)

    So glad you two are kicking back and relaxing some.

  7. OMG, you guys know how to have a good time wherever you go! That big iron butt is hilarious — and so is the little black squirrel rolling in the ash! Looks like you had a gorgeous place to enjoy your “calm after the storm.” And I’m very happy to hear that you’re making space for more photos in your photo library — I know it’s difficult to pare them down — I took 150 photos of hummingbirds today…

      • Oh yay!!! I’m glad you’re double-backing up your gorgeous photos. I’m still trying to figure out a good place for on-line storage, too. We would be seriously bummed to lose our photos.

  8. Everything is a goodie to me, Mona.

    It’s only right that the God of Fire and Forge is the largest of some sort in the world, eh. 100,000+ pounds!!! I wouldn’t want to be the one standing near it if it happened to collapsed. 😀

    Americans with that butt protest. I’m shaking my head. To me, it’s ridiculously, a pity. Imagine how they’d react if these people go to Italy esp. Rome. Oooh boy! That’s a lot of complaining.

    The Iron display is AMAZING! I love it! Mainly because my work relates to it. 😉

    Noccalula, funny name 😀 but so magnificent. Really great captures of it!

    I would definitely love to Alabama to see what you’ve seen. I’ve been to Alabama before but only because we had to evacuate Mississippi due of hurricane threats.

    • Rommel, lets just hope there is no earthquake in Birmingham. Well remember this statue is in the deep south :). I think you would be fascinated by those iron casts, Steve spent a lot of time touching those too.

  9. One does need down time from traveling, funnily enough. It can be grueling day after day – always on the go. You deleted 10G of photos? Oh my!

  10. Glad you are well prepared for weather changes, but I hope you continue to have nice weather for awhile. “Moon over Homewood” is pretty funny. Glad to hear you’re taking it slower, we are also taking it a bit slower this year.

  11. Great Pics MonaLiza~as usual…You are such a talented photographer. Gunter Hill looks fantastic – It’s good to slow down and enjoy the journey – we do it quite often. Vulcan’s buns always brought a smile to my face hehehe…..and Lady Liberty a smile to my heart. I’m glad Betsy is dried off after her sideways thunder shower. and you are ready for Chattanooga.

    Be sure to roam around the Chattanooga Choo-Choo. Its a hotel complex with museum, train ride, and stuff to see. Take a dinner cruise on the Southern Belle and see Ruby Falls. Be sure to use your low gears and not your brakes coming down from Ruby Falls – lots of folks blow out their brake systems. Do not take your RV up there!!

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