Thursday, January 19, 2012

More Pictures From My Vacation in Alabama Last Summer

I realize it is the following January. I am behind, though, after all, I do strive to be as non-topical as possible. As far as that goes, I went to a wedding last night where they had great food. Especially the hors-d'oeuvres. I imagine wealthy people as eating the equivalent of a good wedding spread every day. I would. Anyway it was a good time. Large Irish Catholic family (the bride was one of twelve children), an open bar which, for the first time in some years, numerous other people at an event were hitting as much as or even more than I was. Thus despite not knowing anybody (the bride was an old friend of my wife's), I was in my comfort zone. In recent years I have actually begun to prefer going to parties where no one knows me; such is the shame I feel upon encountering any old acquaintance worth seeing in my current state of development. The day was beautiful, around 14 degrees, with a light snowfall of around 2 to 3 inches, the temperature dropping to 6 degrees by the time we left the reception in the evening. Winter weddings in a cold climate are great (I had one myself). People are really eager to go to a party, but they usually don't realize it until they get there. I had myself forgotten all about it until the night before, but I enjoyed myself when I got there. Hopefully I still have a few parties left to go to in what remains of life to me, though certainly the vast majority of social activity for me is now behind me.

But to return to Alabama in July: Above, you can see we got in some night swimming in the pool. My children are great at swimming and diving, or at least leaping into water. I never took any pleasure in these--I was a real dud of a kid, it's no wonder my parents weren't motivated to stay together and devote themselves to promoting my wordly success--and while I can by some means struggle from one wall of a pool to the other without having to touch the bottom, I cannot really swim, and certainly not with any kind of force. So this is another physical skill that I am pleased with in the children.

Here is part of the Talladega National Forest. I believe that is the waterfall that we hiked to. This one was only a 1/2 mile along the trail. There was supposed to be a second, bigger and even more spectacular waterfall around 3-3 1/2 miles in, but we did not get there, for reasons which will be relayed in due time.

I am a poor botanist, though I am getting better than I used to be. These plants I am going to go out on a limb and identify as some kind of fern. Because the internet and modern life in general are starting to have some effect in convincing me that the only people with any solid claim to being intelligent are those with high competence in science and mathematics I try occasionally to read books vaguely connected with those subjects. One book about biology that I spent about two and half months slogging through recently in the pursuit of greater awareness had an anecdote about lab geneticists who map the genomes of plants and engineer genetically modified food and so on being unable to properly identify weeds that were the subject of years of their researches when looking for examples in the wild. I'm not really in a position to accept this as some kind of belief even if it is true, but I thought the idea was amusing and sad at the same time.

Here we are about 2 or 3 hours into the same hike, shortly before we gave up and turned around. I don't know how far we got or how close we got to our waterfall because while there was an identifiable trail there were no signs indicating whether we were on the right trail or any distances as there are in most National Parks and Forests that I have been to. I was really ailing at the time of this picture. It was well over 90 degrees, I was carrying my 2 year old boy who has the density of a computer hard drive, and unfortunately my cardio-respiratory fitness is not all it could be at this point. About five minutes after this picture however a very intense lightning storm swept through and while I did have some concern about members of our party being struck by lightning or hit by falling trees, the temperature dropped about 20 degrees and I found my energy for hiking much revived. It was the kind of outing that is fun to look back on now as having done.

This is the porch of our 1940s CCC cabin, with my then 2 month old (now 8 month old!) daughter. It is curious how these state parks in the supposedly poor southern states can stay open year round and maintain these really nice facilities such as cabins and restaurants while in New Hampshire and Vermont our parks are only open and staffed from Memorial Day to Labor Day and have very little comparable in the way of facilities, and yet our legislature in New Hampshire at least considers it practically the height of extravagance to (barely) fund this. This last summer I went to 2 parks that were not staffed at all, at which the bathhouses and toilets were locked up and the parking lots cracked and sprouting mini meadows (Clough State Park in Dunbarton, which is really starting to look skanky, and Forest Lake State Park up near Lancaster near the White Mountains, which for the moment at least is still redeemed by its beautiful setting). I believe I have read that New Hampshire is the only state in the country that expects its state parks to pay for themselves. I think it's an embarassment that a huge part of the eleectorate can't bear to even fund our state parks. What do people think is going to happen?

This is Pulpit Rock, a large promontory/lookout also right in the Cheaha State Park. A lot of people say this is the most beautiful place in Alabama. It's a prime spot.

Pulpit Rock overlooks a very long and easily mortal drop, so we kept child #4 safely away from it.

These weren't so bad. I think I am also going to do a couple of sets from when we went back to Tennessee after leaving here, which we did within a half hour of this last picture, and then I'll be all caught up, since I haven't gone anywhere else since.

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