October, 2016 – Oxford, Alabama

Since the entire trip from Gadsden to Oxford was along US Highway 431, the trip was easy and quick.  It was another short trip of only about 1.5 hour in length.  The only interesting part of the trip was the last 10 miles as we wound up Alabama 281, the Talladega Scenic Highway as it climbed Cheaha Mountain to Cheaha State Park at the summit.  The state park is located in the center of Talladega National Forest on the highest point in Alabama at 2,407 feet.  I know this may not seem very high, but it is the closest Alabama has to mountains and there were some great views of the surrounding forests.  In particular, the last 3 miles were steep and windy although the highway was in excellent condition.  The truck gave us no problem pulling the RV up the grade, but I am not sure it could have done much beyond the 35 mph allowed by the curves anyway.  We pulled into the campground check-in office located at the top of the mountain near the lodge and was immediately confused with their map.  It turns out there are two campgrounds in the state park, the upper and lower campgrounds.  The upper campground is more heavily used as it sits on the top of the mountain.  However, not realizing this I had reserved a site in the lower campground which is about 4 miles down the mountain at Lake Cheaha.  This meant we had to either turn the RV around or make the 1 mile loop through the lodge and upper campgrounds, which is what we decided to do.  Once we got turned around we were disappointed with how far down the mountain we had to go to our campsite.  Other than being disappointed that we were not on the very top of the mountain, we found our campsite to be excellent.  It was a pull-through site, as all of them are in the lower campground, with full hookups and 50 amp electrical service.  We stepped out of the RV looking straight into the woods with a nice view of the hillside on the other side of the lake.  As you would expect the site was huge with plenty of room and no neighbors all week.  Even during the weekend the campground was less than half full and nobody choose to stay near us, so we just about had the place to ourselves.  The only drawback to the site was there was a streetlight right outside the bedroom window so we had to sleep with the shades drawn.  In addition, while TV reception was alright, meaning we could get all the major stations (especially PBS which broadcasts from the mountain top), phone reception was nearly non-existent which meant no internet access.  So we settled in for a nice quiet week in the Alabama woods.  It would have been better if the temperatures were not once again in the mid to upper 80s all week and no rain in sight.

campsite

As I said, we did not really do anything all week but relax in the campgrounds.  On Wednesday we did get out to find a hiking trail that I saw some information about at the office.  It was suppose to be a 2-mile easy trail around Lake Chinnabee, called the Lake Shore Trail in the Talladega National Forest.  Since it was only a couple of miles further down the mountain from our campgrounds it did not take long to find Lake Chinnabee.  The trail, however, was a bit harder to find as there are no signs for it and you just have to trust you will run into it as we walked nearly a third of a mile around the shores of the lake set up for picnics and fishing.  The trail itself was well marked, but had received minimal maintenance which meant is was quite rough in places, especially below the dam.  We did get a lot of nice views of the lake and surrounding hillsides and enjoyed watching the turtles drop into the lake off of their logs as we approached.  I should note that most of Alabama was now in an exceptional drought with no rain since August and the lake was stagnant with dry creeks entering the lake and no water from the dam.  This made crossing the creeks relatively easy, but it also meant the trail below the dam was not heavily traveled and largely overgrown.  We stumbled our way over the rocks trying to follow the trail for about a quarter of a mile below the dam assuming there would be an accessible way to cross the creek, before we finally gave up (as had everyone that had preceded us for at least the past month) and crossed the creek to trail on the other side.  We also cut off the trail once we got opposite the truck making our way down the steep embankment to the inflowing (dry) stream to cross to the truck.  We then had a nice lunch in the picnic area before we continued on down the mountain in search of a grocery store.  After a half hour of a windy and narrow (although paved) county road we made it to the main highway on the west side of the mountain.  This still left us with another 15 minute drive back to Oxford to the closest Walmart.  We figured out that this was not going to be the way we would leave the campgrounds.  It would certainly be better to pull the RV back up to the top of the mountain and leaving the way we came.

The information for the campground also lists laundry facilities, which we had checked out when we arrived on Monday.  It turned out their facilities consisted of a single washer and dryer that had the appearance of not being used in a long time.  We decided not to try our luck and since Oxford was a 45 minute drive we decided to just wait until next week to do the laundry.  We did travel to Oxford on Saturday evening to watch the Auburn vs Old MIss football game at the local Applebees.  We had a nice dinner while watching the game and even though we won the game, it was a contest until the final quarter so we had to stay for the entire game.  This meant it was nearly 11:00 before we drove back up to the top of the mountain in the dark.  Thankfully the road is well marked and we did not encounter any deer running across the road.  Except for this little excursion we spent the week simply relaxing in the campground.

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