“The road goes ever ever on” – J. R. R. Tolkein.
The Duggar Mountain Wilderness area of the Talladega National Forest
Mike and I traveled the back roads of Talladega National Forest yesterday with the windows down. The weather was cool with a very strong, constant wind as the road wound through The Duggar Mountain Wilderness portion of the forest’s 392,567 acres, crossing the boundaries of three Alabama counties — Cherokee, Calhoun, and Cleburne. Visibility was clear up close, but hazy in the distance, perhaps because of the wind kicking things up.
It was pleasant to feel the coolness on our faces and watch the interplay of light and shadow along the way, as well as the fall colors. There was the frequent drama of shards of sunlight breaking through the leafy canopy and spotlighting a hickory in bright yellow, or a sweet gum or black gum in bright red, or orange. The most showy foliage is actually a type of wild sumac which likes to take center stage at this season of the year, blazing like tongues of flame among its fellow flora.
Spotting an old cemetery on a hill to our left, we stopped to explore. We saw no cemetery name, but there was evidence that the place was maintained by family members, and some stones showed a few interments of more recent history. But most of them dated back to the 1800s. The majority of them were children, a time when infant mortality struck in almost every household, so much so that sometimes infants were not given names until they were several months old.
Old cemetery deep in the back woods
As we exited the truck for the walk up the hill, we had to pause and listen. Because of the roaring of the diesel engine along the way, we had gotten our “video” portion of the trip without the audio. Now we heard it. The sound of the wind and nothing else as it whipped the treetops and made the pines bend and sway in long, elongated loops. Fallen leaves skirled up about our feet and much of those still clinging were wrenched from tall hardwoods. At one point I stood in sunlight as a rainbow of colored leaves came whirling down around me like a small tornado. I lifted my face to it as I would in a summer shower, and gloried in it.
And always, the all-pervading sound of the wind serenaded our every step, like a rushing stream where there was no stream – only the airborne torrent as it rushed through the trees and over the ground. I felt at peace and had to sing a snatch of song from The Hobbit – the winds were roaring in the pines . . .
. . . on the heights – Mike corrected me. Okay, but we are somewhat on the heights (the southern edge of the Appalachians), and I hear the roaring in the pines. I’m making up my own stuff as I go along. Shrug. Next line please. Actually we just looked it up and we were both wrong — the song goes — the pines were roaring on the height . . . sheesh. It now takes two of us to get it wrong.
As we continued on our way, we topped a high ridge and stopped to look behind us at the hills and forests through which our path had wound.
Then we set our faces forward to our destination — the Talladega National Forest campground and Coleman Lake. Come join us at our next posting entitled “Join Us for A Walk on the Wild Side – Talladega National Forest.” See you there.