Unlike the previous trip that took far longer than it should due to construction and accident on the Interstate, the trip north from Tuscaloosa to Double Springs was along state highways with no delays. It took just over 2 hours to make the trip. Whereas the previous campgrounds were Corps of Engineering, this was our first stay on a US Forest Service National Forest campground, specifically the Bankhead National Forest. The entrance station was not manned so we had to call a number they had posted to get the camphost to come check us in. They didn’t take long, but we found out the pull-through site we had reserved was having water problems, so we had to pick a back-in site. The reserved area of the campground (which they adhered to religiously for some reason) was empty, so we had 10 sites to choose from. We picked one that was close to being a straight back-in and it was certainly long enough for the largest RVs. I got the RV into the site with no problem and we got set up. The reserved sites were well up from the bluff overlooking the lake but you could still see it through the trees. A short walk down the bluff led to a nice overlook of the lake that was built by the Youth Conservation Corps back in the 70s.
After spending Tuesday in the campground and working on this blog, we spent Wednesday exploring Natural Bridge of Alabama. This is a private park that has obviously seen better times. At one time it looks like it was a very nice park, nowadays it is run down and in need of repairs. The small gift shop is in a quaint old building with a nice fountain and sitting area to the side. The natural bridge is a short walk from the gift store around in a small cove that you can’t see from the gift shop, so you have to pay admission before gaining access. As you come around the corner on the trail you get a stunning view of the natural bridge. It is reported to be the longest natural bridge east of the Rockies and is nearly 150 feet long soaring 60 feet above you. It is a sandstone arch in front of a shallow limestone cave. The trail continues into and around the cave with iron railings that are needed since the limestone is slick with the constant water dripping from the roof. Consequently there are a number of small stalactites extending down from the roof and interesting “stone wave” patterns from the deposits. The trail continues along the bluff to a number of other smaller limestone caves and then returns back along the creek, for a short mile long hike through the woods. The most interesting feature for me was the number of hemlocks in the immediate area. Obviously the limestone cave maintains a cool, moist environment throughout the summer to support this habitat. There are also supposed to be a number of rare ferns growing in the area as well, but it was too early in the spring to see any.
The rest of the week was devoted to playing our new video games in the morning and watching the first two rounds of the NCAA Basketball tournament on TV. Thank goodness we were now in a location that got pretty good reception of CBS and NBC, although now we lost ABC. Not a big loss as it was CBS for the basketball that we were most interested in. Of course we could only watch 25% of the games in the first two rounds as we did not have cable so could only access those games on CBS. Thankfully, some of the best games were on CBS, with some great upsets in the first two rounds.