Note: the following post describes events prior to the posts regarding our tornado experience.
Time to move again! On Monday, the 28th, we were leaving for our next destination, DeSoto State Park in Fort Payne, AL, a drive of about 176 miles. Of course once again we would be crossing back over to the Central Time Zone so we would gain an hour.
Rob was a little nervous about the road in our loop (#5) at FD Roosevelt SP – the pavement was narrow and curvy with deep gullies on either side and in one spot had some trees right on the edge, but it turned out to be navigable with some careful maneuvering. By 10:30 am we were on our way. To avoid having to drive through the entire campground on the way out, at the end of loop #5 we took a left, drove into the dump station area where we hitched up the toad and exited the “back way” taking a left turn directly on to SR-354 then after a short distance, a right onto SR-27N.
The weather forecast for that day wasn’t that great (we all know what happened that night!) so it was pretty overcast and a little drizzly as we pulled onto US-27N. Our drive was uneventful, driving through rolling hills with pretty mountain views and through some small towns. In Cedar Bluff, we turned onto AL-35 and then after approximately 20 miles, we turned onto DeSoto Parkway NE, following the signs for DeSoto State Park.
After driving along a somewhat twisty, turny road complete with rock outcroppings, we arrived at the registration office a little after 1 pm. As you already know, the weather forecast for that day called for severe weather. As we talked to the park ranger I was hoping to be reassured that they don’t usually get tornadoes in the area – instead I was told that the lodge there had lost their roof and many windows in a tornado a year ago and in 2011 just around this time of year (almost to the day) they had a major tragedy and several people were killed. Gulp!
DeSoto State Park has 3501 acres with lodging facilities that include mountain chalets, log and rustic cabins, motel rooms and an improved campground with 94 tent and RV sites. There is also primitive camping sites for tents as well as two back country campsites with shelters.
Other amenities include a restaurant, meeting rooms, pavilions, picnic area with playground, olympic size swimming pool, a nature center, a Civilian Conservation Corps museum and more than 25 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails.
Our plan was to stay 6 nights, the first three at a discount due to an April promotion, but then the ranger told us that they had a special loyalty program – stay 6 nights and get the 7th free (which later we took advantage of). On top of that we got an additional 15% senior discount except for Fri and Sat which were at the full rate.
In the improved campground section, you can’t reserve a specific site but you can reserve either a “back-in” or a “pull-thru” or a “buddy” site for $28.50 per nite Mon-Thurs plus tax ($31.50 on Fri & Sat). They also offer a 15% senior discount so our weekday rate was $24.23 plus tax but still $31.50 on Fri and Sat. And due to the April promo our first three nites (Mon-Wed, the last three days in April) were only $20.60/nite including the senior discount. Overall, our rate averaged out to $24.75/nite for the seven night stay – a great rate for full hookups and a beautiful spot!
Once checked in, you can drive around to select the site you want. All sites have full hookups (water, sewer, 30/50 amp electric & cable) and average 16 feet by 60 feet deep, have a picnic table, and fire ring with a grill.
Next we proceeded from the check-in/store up the hill to the campground. The campground is gated, requiring a code to enter but on this particular day with the threat of severe weather the ranger said that they had left the gate open so the electronics wouldn’t get blown out again by the lightning. Oh, great!
The campground is arranged with an Upper Loop and a Lower Loop with the pull thru sections connecting the two. The area is hilly but in most cases the sites are level enough. However, the ranger had warned us that the first two pull thrus (#36, #37) near the bath house were quite nice but most people found the slope to be a bit extreme and it would be hard to level the coach. Well, despite the warning, we had to see if it was true. Yes, indeed it was – site #36 great privacy but we would have had wheels off the ground to get level.
So we parked the coach there, unhitched, then drove around in the van looking at all of the other sites. What a lovely campground! Not many other campers here either, so it was hard to make a decision, kind of like being in a Chinese restaurant – way too many yummy choices!
We finally decided on pull thru site #44. Our site was quite long and wide and fairly level with a few shrubs and trees to provide some privacy between sites. For a return visit I think we would select a nice back-in down in the Lower Loop which would be even more private.
Normally I would say that after settling in we had a quiet evening, but as you already know from our previous post about the severe storms and tornadoes that hit this area, it was anything but quiet!
‘Nuf said about that experience – we certainly don’t want to relive it!
Stay tuned to read about what we did during our stay (post-tornado)!