Dick and Gayl's Cruising Adventures

Heading West in Alabama

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Saturday, October 22  Shellmound Recreation Area, TN to Goosepond Colony Marina, AL (near Scottsboro)
49.6 miles
After a seemingly endless stream of sunny warm days, we finally struck a day with grey overcast skies and temperatures that couldn't climb out of the 60s.  We actually had to wear socks to keep warm.
We saw a bald eagle soaring overhead in the early afternoon.  With fall colors muted by drought and a lack of cool evenings, and no sun to highlight what little fall color there was, the eagle was clearly the best sight of the day's cruising.
We tied up at Goosepond at about 3 p.m., split up to do various errands and boatwork chores, then gathered to go to dinner at the marina's waterfront restaurant, where we had enjoyed an outstanding meal on our way upriver.
We were sorry none of us brought a camera to dinner, because the sight of a row of tall-trunked slash pines and a gazebo silhouetted against the red post-sunset sky and dark water was breath-taking.  Substitute palm trees for pines and it would be a classic tropical paradise postcard. 
Our clothes still fit, but, between the great culinary talents of our friends afloat and the South's calorie-unconscious approach to cuisine, we realize our waistlines may be in dangerous straits.  Still, it's hard to resist shrimp and grits.
Sunday, October 23, 2005  Goosepond Colony to Guntersville Lake anchorage
32.4 miles
We awoke to heavy fog like Alabama cotton packed tight all around us.  We weren't going anywhere for a long time. 
Dick retreated to the engine room, and I headed out for a nature walk.  I collected fall leaves and enjoyed the birds.  Two burbling Carolina wrens were chasing each other through a pile of brush.  A great blue heron stood statue-still on a pine bough just ten feet away from me. The low morning sun gave its yellow eye an eerie glow.  Once again, I was looking at a picture perfect scene, and I didn't have my camera. I didn't see any rare birds, but I enjoyed the sights and sounds of old friends -- raucous blue jays, flitting chickadees, and a stiff-winged kingfisher flying low over the water and returning to his perch over and over.
We left at noon. We planned to go to Ditto Landing Marina, near Huntsville, where we intended to rent a car and visit the Space Center.  When we called the marina, they told us that the dam let four feet of water out of the lake last night, leaving them only four feet of water at their docks.  Since our keel is six inches deeper than their water, we had to change our plans.

A hint of Fall on the Tennessee River

We decided to cruise to an anchorage on Guntersville Lake just above the dam.  On the way to the anchorage, we searched out an inscription on a rock cliff face marking a cave where Andrew Jackson stored supplies for his war efforts.  The cave is under water now, thanks to the dam, but the carved inscription, placed by the Daughters of the American Revolution, is still there.  It cryptically reads "Gen. Andrew Jackson 1813-1914, Ala. D.A.R."   The first date refers to when Jackson used the cave during the Creek Indian War, and the second date refers to when the D.A.R. commissioned the inscription.  Will future generations see the inscription and think Andrew Jackson lived to be 101 years old?
The bad thing about a cryptic inscription is that it doesn't tell much, and can even be misleading.  The good thing is that it creates a little mystery just nagging to be solved.  I consulted the Internet, and found another sordid chapter in our nation's history that I didn't remember from history classes long ago.
The Creek Indian War was part of the War of 1812.  Around the time of the war, the Creek tribe divided into Traditionalists, who wanted to fight White encroachment on their lands, and "friendly" Creeks, many who were of mixed heritage after years of intermarriage with Europeans.   During the War of 1812, Spain and England supported the Traditionalists in fighting against Andrew Jackson, who led the "friendly" Creeks and other allied tribes in battle. 
The Creek War ended in 1814.  The Creeks were forced to sign the Treaty of Fort Jackson, ceding 40,000 square miles of their land to the United States.  The friendly Creeks, Chocktaws, Chickasaws, and Cherokees who lined up as allies and fought with General Jackson were rewarded for their loyalty by being forced to give up their land, too.
Andrew Jackson adopted a little Creek orphan boy, Lyncoya, after the war.  Lyncoya died at age 16 in 1928, the year Andrew Jackson was elected President.  Thus, Lyncoya was spared from witnessing his adoptive father's support of Indian Removal as a national policy.  Under the Indian Removal Act President Jackson signed in 1830, Native Americans were forced from 100 million acres of their land, and the government claimed it for White settlement.  Jackson's policies of denying the legal rights of Native Americans were the roots of the "Trail of Tears," which took place shortly after he left office.
Monday, October 24, 2005  Guntersville Lake anchorage to Joe Wheeler State Park
71.9 miles
We woke to the sound of two horn blasts at 4:27 a.m.  Alarmed, I sent Dick out to investigate, while I kept the bed warm for him.  Dick checked the depth sounder and GPS to be sure we had not drifted, went out in the 41 degree temperature and looked around to be sure a towboat was not bearing down upon us, and called out to be sure everyone was okay on Geminellie and Main Course. (They were rafted up to us.)
He couldn't find a problem, so we chalked it up to an angler angry that we were in his favorite fishing hole or some boat greeting us in a case of mistaken identity.
In the morning we learned the solution to the mystery of the horn.  The talented cat on Main Course had walked on the rocker switch for the horn, jumped when she was startled by the sound, and landed on the horn switch again, before she hopped off the dashboard. 
We had a sunny clear day for cruising, but the temperature was in the 40s, and the wind blew at 20-25 mph.  As the day wore on, the temperature struggled up into the 50s, but the cold winds persisted, and whitecaps were thick on the river.  We wore our warm jackets, winter hats, and gloves.  Later, as the sun got lower, we wrapped ourselves in blankets.
We arrived at the docks at Joe Wheeler State Park at 5:30.  It was so cold that none of the cruisers were stirring -- quite a contrast to our last stop here just two weeks ago, when about 20 of us had a pizza party on the poolside patio. 
Our dinner at the Park lodge was as bad as the service, but it was our first bad meal since our three boats teamed up, so we agreed we were actually doing quite well.  It's pretty hard to find a restaurant in the middle of nowhere that can come up to the high standards we are setting cooking for each other.
Alabama's symbols:
Alabama's state flag is a crimson X on a white field, patterned after the Confederate battle flag.  Over and over again in our travels in the South, we are reminded of the lasting legacy of the Battle Between the States, and this flag, adopted 30 years after the war was over, is yet another example.
The state seal shows the shape of the state, with all its rivers outlined and labeled, inside a circle with the words "State of Alabama."
The state song also honors its rivers, with verses that praise the Tennessee (which it describes as deep blue, a hue we haven't seen it show yet), the broad Alabama, the 'Bigbee, and other waters.  The song goes on to praise cotton (and "sturdy farmers"), coal and iron mines (and "strong-armed miners"), marble quarries,  magnolias and jasmine.  This song, adopted in 1931, covers all the bases.
The state bird is the Yellowhammer, known to people outside Alabama as the Yellow-shafted Flicker, a flashy woodpecker.  The state game bird is the Wild Turkey.  The flower is the camellia, and the wildflower is the oak-leaf hydrangea.  The state has a freshwater fish -- the largemouth bass; nut -- the pecan; and spirit -- Conecuh Ridge Alabama Fine Whiskey (wonder who sponsored the legislation to get that symbol into the state record?).
Alabama's official quilt is the Pine Burr Quilt, adopted in 1997.  In recognizing the quilt, the state documented the importance of the Freedom Quilting Bee, a Black women's cooperative that grew out of the Civil Rights Movement.  Located in Gee's Bend, Alabama, the Freedom Quilting Bee quilters have gained national recognition, and their signature style quilts can be found in art, history and textile museum collections across the country.
Alabama also has an official Bible. Known as the Alabama State Bible, it has been in use for state occaisions since 1853.  When Jefferson Davis took the oath of office as President of the Confederate States of America in 1861, he put his hand upon this Bible.