And the good weather at DeSoto State Park near Fort Payne, AL continued! Next on our agenda was to visit the much publicized DeSoto Falls, named for famed explorer, Hernando DeSoto, which are located about seven miles north of DeSoto State Park, heading towards Mentone, AL.
Very popular spot, understandably so because it was so pretty! Large trees were perilously balancing on the edge of the fall – not sure if these had toppled there recently during the storms or if they had been there for awhile.
As I was walking around, snapping a few photos, I noticed a couple near by – turned out to be our next door neighbors at the campground. Living just an hour away, Beth and Charley frequently stay at DeSoto State Park. After introducing ourselves and chatting with them for a bit, Rob and I decided to head towards the concrete stairway leading to an overlook on the cliff just downriver of the lower falls. At the bottom of the stairway was a walkway across the rocks with a handrail.
WOW! This waterfall was much more magnificent than the upper fall. Cascading water was plunging 104 feet over a cliff into the gorge, forming a pool of aqua colored water below. Swallows were flitting everywhere near the canyon walls. Totally awesome!
It was interesting to read that in the mid 1920’s, Arthur Abernathy Miller decided to build a dam above DeSoto Falls. It was first built to a height of 10 feet but later it was raised another 10 feet in order to increase the size of the lake. A square concrete base still marks the spot where electrical power was generated for the Towns of Fort Payne, Mentone, Valley Head, Collinsville, Alabama and Menlo, Georgia.
After hanging out there for awhile, we headed back to the campground. That night we went to the Lodge for their seafood buffet. Fried shrimp, grilled tilapia, fried catfish, boiled shrimp, fried oysters, seafood gumbo, green beans, baked potato, salad bar, tea coffee and dessert were included for $16.95 plus tax. Food was good but not great – and I think at this point we are going into fried food overload, enough already! After dinner we spent a quiet evening back aboard the coach.
Over the next few days, we hiked several of the 25 miles of trails in the park. Some easy, some not so much! Whether easy or difficult, we were rewarded with numerous waterfalls, neat rock formations, blooming wildflowers and wild azaleas. Just as a note, although the trails were color coded and fairly well marked, we sometimes found it difficult, even with the map, figuring out where the trail started and which path to follow when there was a fork in the trail.
Speaking of wildflowers, Saturday, May 3rd, was DeSoto’s Annual Wildflower Walk Day. For this event, several rangers conduct informative hikes (Azalea Cascade Hike, Rhododendron Trail Hike and Little River Hike) each three times a day. We had thought about going but then heard that they typically have 50 people per tour so we decided to pass. Enjoy the photos from our hikes at the end of this post.
A short driving distance from DeSoto State Park in Mentone is Howard’s Chapel. Built by Colonel Milford Howard as a memorial to his first wife, this one room stone church is built around a huge boulder which serves as the pulpit of the church and is also where Howard’s ashes are interred.
A quotation, penned to Howard in a letter from his wife hangs over the pulpit. It states “God has all ways been as good to me as I would let him be.” Although Colonel Howard died in California, his ashes were brought back so they could be placed inside the giant rock of his memorial chapel. Services are held every Sunday.
When we arrived at the chapel, there were several elderly women walking back to their cars. As soon as they saw us, they exclaimed “oh, goody some young-uns are here”. Rob and I both looked around to see who they were talking about, not realizing they were referring to us. I guess when you are in your eighties, people our age still qualify as young-uns! Apparently they had had some sort of luncheon, telling us we should have come earlier for some chili and other fixins, then they started offering us leftovers – pies, brownies, banana pudding, soda, etc. We chatted with them for a bit – very nice ladies!
When we returned to our coach, we spent some time conversing with our next door neighbors, Charley and Beth. Of course, the conversation turned to the recent tornado scare – they explained that they have so many tornadoes each year the area has become known as the “tornado alley of the south”. It was also during that conversation that a bug was planted for our next destination.
That night we prepared for our departure the next day, stay tuned!