March-April 2014

In March we got serious about getting the house back on the market.  First, we had to get the house ready.  We had kept the house relatively clean (which is not hard to do with no furniture or other “stuff!”!) however I did clean all the light fixtures, window sills, windows, and dusted everything.  We also contacted Josh Chance, our very friendly neighborhood general contractor (literally) that did all the renovations on the house.  The bathroom off the master bedroom needed to be painted again as they did not properly prime the wallboard and it was already starting to peel again.  Josh sent over a painter that completed the job in an afternoon.  With the weather finally warming up, Kal noticed the ground next to the house was staying very wet and come to find out we had a pin hole leak in the water pipe.  After Kal did most of the digging to get at the pipe, Josh again came to the rescue and we were able to get away a simple fiberglass patch to the copper pipe.  In the mean time, Kal found three real estate agents in Auburn that were listed by Dave Ramsey and we quickly interviewed them.  We had a choice as we felt one would be too aggressive (he dealt mostly with foreclosure properties and houses he would quickly sell), one was too passive (would list just about any house), and one was “just right”.  We decided to list the house with Mr. Ashley Miller with ReMax.  He had a lot of good things to say about the house and believes it should show well and with an improved housing market (in his opinion) we are hopeful that at least we will get some interest.  He shot a video to create a “tour” of the house and created a website exclusively for the house.  If you are interested you can view the listing and video at:


About the only suggestion Ashley had was to blow the leaves off the roof over the porch.  However, when I got up there I noticed a soft spot in the roof that was leaking water.  We called on Josh one more time and his crew patched the rotten wood in the roof, replaced the damaged plywood, and installed new shingles.  Now, finally the house was ready to be shown and we were ready to sell the house!

While waiting for the house to sell, we decided to go on a camping trip to north Alabama with the primary purpose of finishing the National Park locations in the Alabama.  We also figured it would be a good time to catch the spring foliage and flowers.  As it turned out the first part of April is still too early for north Alabama, even though the azalea’s were blooming in Auburn.  The week before we left the pine pollen hit turning all the cars a sickly green color.  This got washed off during the steady rain during us packing up and leaving Auburn.  However, spring was a week later in north Alabama and we were treated to another dose of pine pollen during the week.

We stayed the week of April 6-12, 2014 in Desoto State Park near Ft Payne, Alabama.  It is on the “top” of Lookout Mountain which is a hundred mile flat-topped mountain running south out of Chattanooga, Tennessee along the Alabama-Georgia state line.  The elevation is less than 2000 feet, but the drop off to the valley makes you feel you are in the mountains.  The campground exceeded our expectations for Alabama State Parks with spacious sites and modern restroom facilities.  Except for the long-term RVs in the pull-through area of the campgrounds, we had the place pretty much to ourselves until Thursday night when it began filling up for the weekend.  Even then it was only about half full.  I guess April is too early in the year.  We had heavy rain that first night as the storms in Auburn caught up with us.  While it made a messy walk down the temporary stream that was the path to the bathrooms, it filled up the creeks and rivers to make some great waterfalls.


Monday morning was so foggy in the campgrounds, we decided to drop off the mountain into Ft Payne and see what there was to see.  Ft. Payne is the home of the country-western band Alabama who must have invested some money into the city parks were very nice, including the bronze statues of every band of the band.  It is also home to the Alabama Fan Club museum, but it was closed for the season.  It turned out that everything else in town of a touristy nature was also closed.  We did find out that we were at the beginning of one of the trails that made up the Trail of Tears that forced the Cherokee Indians to migrate to Oklahoma territory.  There were a number of “forts” established in northern Georgia, eastern Tennessee, and western South Carolina to collect the Indians before escorting them west.  Ft. Payne was established for this purpose and was the only fort in Alabama.  It existed for only about a year while the Cherokee were collected and consisted of a single one-room house and well.  The foundations for the house and the well have been excavated and are a small park in downtown Ft. Payne.   We also picked up a National Park brochure that provides details, museum, and state parks along the Trail of Tears.  If I can keep track of it, it will provide a resource of interesting places to visit in this part of the south.  Since there was nothing to do in town, we went to Walmart and headed back to camp where it was still very foggy for the rest of the day.  We took a side trip to Desoto Falls that is the beginning of the West Fork of Little River that runs through the State Park.  There was certainly a lot of water going over the falls which from the sound are very impressive.  Unfortunately the fog severely limited the visibility.  We will have to return another day.


The weather on Tuesday was a distinct improvement, even though it was still a bit cool and the ground was still muddy.  Since hiking probably would not be a good idea, we decided to take the driving tour along Little River Canyon National Preserve which should be running full with the rain Sunday night.  We first stop to take a hike on the Boardwalk in the State Park figuring this would be up out of the mud.  They have done a beautiful job on the boardwalk that leads back into the woods to the Azalea Cascades, especially when the boardwalk extends over the creek to give an excellent view of the cascades.


Little River Canyon was very impressive, if for no other reason then I did not expect to find a 700 foot canyon in Alabama.  The Canyon is actually up on Lookout Mountain making it the highest canyon east of the Mississippi.  The drive from the State Park begins at Little River Falls which at the beginning of the canyon where there is a boardwalk down to the falls.  From photographs mounted on the signs you can compare the falls during different season.  During the dry summer months, the falls are reduced to a small stream, but during the spring it is a roaring 45 foot fall and the rapids are more than I would want to do in a raft.  You can guess what we saw:


The river has carved out an impressive canyon ranging from 400 to over 700 feet in depth over a distance of 11 miles before it ends in Weiss Lake at 650 feet, however, the road along the rim is over 22 miles in length.  There are a number of overlooks including Grace High Falls that only runs in the spring and is the highest waterfall of 133 feet.  We also got out the GPS unit and located three “virtual caches” along the drive, which means there is no physical cache.  Instead you take a picture of yourself at the location to post as your proof of finding it.  While it took us a while to figure out there was not going to be a physical cache, these “earthcache” sites are great since they take you to interesting places and things to see.  On the way back we stopped at the Little River Canyon Center which is a joint venture between NPS, NASA, and Jacksonville State University.  This was an amazing facility with class rooms for “Adventuring” classes taught by Jacksonville State and other public service classes and demonstrations.  Unfortunately, it was too early in the season for these programs, but they had a nice film and gift shop.


Not knowing what the future would hold with the weather, I decided on Wednesday to make for Russell Cave National Monument, which would be the last National Park System site in Alabama to visit.  Russell Cave is a natural limestone cave that has an unbroken archeological record of use by Indians over at least 2000 years.  I will admit there is not much to look at since it is just a large cave opening with dirt and rock for a floor, but the small museum quickly gives you a sense of its importance to the Indians during the Archaic, Woodland, and Mississippian cultures.  While probably never a permanent settlement, it was used mostly during the winter to provide shelter and a living environment.  While there we also took the 2 mile nature hike.  Of course we failed to realize that we are now in the mountains, not along the seashore, and the hike was a switchback up and then down the mountain.  Along the trail we watched some a Tom turkey chasing a couple of hens trying to show off his display since it was spring! We were also treated to the sight of a coyote running down the hill.  We assume it was flushed out by the NPS volunteer that was coming down the trail towards us as she was cleaning off the trail.  Unfortunately, Kal was not fast enough to get a photo of the coyote since she refuses to walk around with the camera stuck to her eye.  Oh well.


Starting on Thursday, we spent the rest of the week in Desoto State Park.  We had two objectives.  First, was to hike the trails to check out the many waterfalls in the park and second, to find the Geocaches in the Park.  We started with a hike of about a mile that took us to Laurel Falls and as it looped back to the campsite we found 3 geocaches along the trail and near the camp store.  We then got in the car to get us close to some of the other caches.  There was a geocache labeled “Gimme Shelter” that was suppose to be off the Desoto Scout Trail that travels along the West fork of the Little River.  Come to find out I had failed to download a couple of the locations to the GPS, so we were not able to find this cache which we guessed was at the Picnic Shelter that was just up from the DST.  Feeling defeated we went on to find the cache at the Lodge, but all we could find was this birdhouse in the middle of the parking lot.  As you can see from the picture it is a strange birdhouse with three rods sticking out of it.  It turns out this is the cache, but you have to figure out how to get into it.


On Friday we decided to concentrate on the remaining geocaches.  We hiked up to the CCC quarry, where the CCC workers were able to find some sandstone outcropping under a layer of limestone that they blasted off.  We found the geocache there.  After hiking back to the campsite, we got the car and went to visit Desoto Falls again and it was much better not being in the fog, even if there was less water running over the falls.  This is a classic fall that plummets 100 feet down into a deep pool at the bottom.  It is also interesting to note that the dam at the head of the falls was the first hydroelectric dam in Alabama supplying power to Ft. Payne and surrounding communities in the 1920s.  On the way back we went to the west entrance to the park at the CCC museum, only to discover I did not have this one downloaded either.  Since, we did not have the exact location for the cache we were not able to find it.  So we turned our attention to a cache along the Family Bike Loop (known as Green Mountain) which turned into a big waste of time since we never found the cache.  This cache demonstrated the problem with trying to find a point with a GPS unit since it gives distances and directions in a direct line.  Even though the cache was within 0.2 mile, the Family Bike Loop goes back and forth numerous time over a distance of 2.5 miles.  While going clockwise around the loop would get you to the cache after less than 0.3 miles, the clockwise direction would be a 2.1 mile hike.  You can guess which one we choose based on the straight line direction ??  The third cache of the day was just across the road from the parking lot and we found it with no problem.  However, it is a mystery cache, which means there is a puzzle that must be solved before you can open the cache.  Here is a picture of the cache that is easily visible hanging on a tree.  However, getting it opened proved to be more than we could handle.  We went back to the campsite, got the computer and went to the lodge to get a WiFi connection to see if we could get a hint and to download the two locations I failed to get downloaded.  Unfortunately, we did not find any hints except that the solution was easy, but not obvious.


On Saturday, we were determined to find the missing caches, all except for Green Mountain which we had already spent a lot of time looking for it.  We began with the mystery cache.  With my mathematical background and love for puzzles I had a number of ideas for combinations that I wanted to try.  Unfortunately, none of them worked.  While you may be surprised, it was Kal that found the solution.  I don’t want to give it out since you need to figure it out for yourself.  It is ingenious and simple once you know it.  We then ran down to the CCC museum and easily found the cache hidden under a rock at the GSP coordinates.  Finding these caches is a lot easier with a GPS unit as we found out when we went after the Gimme Shelter cache that we were unable to find before.  We started again at the picnic shelter believing it to be the location only to find it was still over 700 feet away.  It turned out to be at a really neat shelter built by the CCC overlooking the river along the DST.  Trying to find a cache from the description and/or hints without a GPS is a waste of time.  After lunch we went back to the lodge and attempted to find the last cache which was again along the DST.  Unfortunately, another trail branches off of the DST at the Lodge waterfall, which was marked with lime green blazes instead of the yellow blazes for the DST which we were not expecting and took the wrong trail.  This trail stayed uphill, while the DST plunged steeply downhill to the river and it was not until we had hiked a good 700 feet along the wrong trail that it became obvious the GPS was pointing straight downhill another 200 feet!  Not wanting to backtrack we found a little used trail from one of the cabins that took off straight downhill!  While we carefully made it down neither one of us was interested in trying to back up after we found the cache!  All in all I would say that geocacheing is a lot of fun and gives you a good excuse to see most of the interesting locations in a state park.  It can be a bit confounding at times, but that is part of the challenge.  Whether the cache is hidden under brush:


under a log:


under a rock:


or even hidden in a small hole in the side of a mountain:


Sunday was spent coming back to Auburn in sunny, 70 degree weather after a great trip to northern Alabama.  While we were gone the house was shown to one potential buyer.  It is now the end of April so the house has been on the market for 30 days and it has been shown a grand total of 2 times.  I am afraid the housing market may be better, but not for 4 bedroom homes in our price range.  This is the same experience we had last year.  I guess it is time to lower the price to $160K which will not be enough to afford the RV and truck we really want without taking money out of the IRA.  So be it!