Being lucky enough to live within a few miles of Bankhead National Forest, I've spent a good amount of time exploring the woods out there. I was a military brat when I was a kid and we lived all over the country and a few places overseas. When my dad retired from the service, we moved back to Addison, AL where both my parents grew up. We spent a lot of time outdoors growing up. We hiked, camped, and bounced around in the back of my dad's Jeep almost every weekend. I may not have been a huge fan of spending almost every weekend outdoors, but looking back I feel like that's what has given me my love of the outdoors that I have now.
Most of my time in Bankhead and the Sipsey Wilderness Area is spent hiking and backpacking. There's many miles of trails to hike in the Sipsey Wilderness Area and lots of sites to see. I have hiked and camped at several other amazing places that Alabama has to offer. Monte Sano, Walls of Jericho, Mount Cheaha, Red Mountain Park, Little River Canyon, and one of our favorites to camp at; Cherokee Rock Village to name a few of the other beautiful places to enjoy in Alabama. It's always so hard for me to go somewhere other than Bankhead to enjoy the outdoors. The waterfalls, bluff lines, rich history, and it practically being my "backyard".
Another way I like to get my 100 Alabama Miles is on my bicycle. I grew up riding BMX until my 30's. I have now moved to a mountain bike and have logged several miles on the gravel roads and old logging roads that can be found throughout Bankhead. I have also made the trek over to the Chief Ladiga trail and ridden a few miles from Piedmont to the state line and back (I'm wanting to bike the whole trail soon). A newer trail I just recently went to and rode some is the Duck River trail in Cullman County. One other trail that I've pedaled on several times is the Richard Martin Trail in Athens. This is a gravel trail that was formerly a railroad track and is great for riding. On the Richard Martin Trail you can also walk or ride horseback, so be mindful of that when flying down the trail on your bike.
I love being outdoors and enjoying the peace and quiet. I spend a good bit of time hiking alone and discovering new areas. As much as I enjoy finding a new waterfall or some historic feature in Bankhead, I love to take my family, friends, and people that have never experienced the Bankhead area. I tell people about the history of the area (my family has been in the area for generations) and show them the many wonders that Bankhead has to offer. I just want as many people as possible to enjoy the forest. It’s also important to remember to please be respectful and pack out your trash. If everyone just carries out their trash, we can keep it beautiful.
Get outdoors and enjoy everything that our state has to offer. Put away your phone (taking pictures is always acceptable), breathe in the fresh air, enjoy seeing the wildlife, try to see how many plants and animals you can identify, and be safe. Make sure someone knows where you'll be and a timeline for your return. Wear proper footwear and clothing, carry some water and a few snacks, tick spray helps, a map and compass (know how to use them, phone service is non-existent in Bankhead), and a 1st aid kit. Most of all, enjoy your time out exploring and #getoutdoors.