If you’re looking for adventure, treasure, beauty and a little bit of history, Bankhead National Forest is an excellent destination for both the hiker and geocacher. And you can get all of it, free.
First, a little bit of history so you’ll know about your surroundings while blazing:
Bankhead Forest is one of the largest and most remote forests in Alabama, first dubbed simply “Alabama National Forest” in 1918. Bankhead is also the home of Alabama’s only nationally designated Wild and Scenic River. Among the historical areas found in Bankhead are several depression era Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Camp sites. The CCC enrollees built many of the forest’s roads and picnic areas. Pine Torch Church, nestled deep in the heart of the Bankhead, still holds services each Sunday morning in a log building dating back to the 1850’s. http://blank005.tripod.com/camping/campsite/bankhead.html.
Interesting, but compared to the real thing, the description is about about as flat as the screen you’re reading it on.
To walk through Bankhead feels like you’re traveling through time. All the plants, the trees, everything is big and green, impossibly bright and perfectly isolated. It feels ancient and preserved, as if a pterodactyl might just cast its shadow over the sky or a T-Rex might bare its fangs around the next hill.
Be prepared to hop across slippery rocks a dozen times over, push your body through overgrown brush as you hike along a river between deep rock canyons. You’ll peer up and see small unmarked falls or even see one’s birth as a flash rainstorm passes through.
Outdoor Alabama named it as one of the best hiking destinations in Alabama. It is simply gorgeous. You’ll not only know its history, it’ll reverberate through you like an echo in one of its many rock canyons.
It’ll take you only about an hour and a half from Birmingham to venture into this other world, and, if you’re the sort who likes to make his own route, it is a very hot spot for geocaching www.geocaching.com. Be warned, however, this isn’t the type of caching that’s concerned with the number of smiley faces, but rather, the quality.
If you’re a geocacher who thinks the reward is in the challenge, plug its coordinates into your GPS. Make sure to mark your park. Carry a compass, a knife, a water bottle, and a flashlight. Be generous with bug spray, and waterproof boots will prove useful as well. This is no walk in the park, but a thrilling and difficult bushwhacking adventure.
And though nothing can compare to the thrill of a find and earning that smiley face for your stats, any DNFs (Did Not Finds) aren’t going to bother you a bit in this wilderness setting.