The Big Tree Bankhead national forest

The Hikers!

Distance - Approximately 12 miles round trip: Time - Approximately 6 hours

On Saturday April 17, 1999 11 friends and 2 dogs embarked (no pun intended) upon one of the most enjoyable hikes in Northern Alabama. This would be known as the hike to "The BIG Tree", further referred to as "TBT". TBT is located deep in the heart of Bankhead Forest. This area is also known as the Sipsey Wilderness. Our of fun and adventure began at approximately 11:30 A.M. We divided ourselves amongst 2 SUV's and 1 truck and drove about 20 miles from Shane's house to the start of the trail. The weather was rather pleasant, with the temperatures hovering in the lower 60's and the sky was partly cloudy.

Here we are!! Immediately upon our arrival at the park, we found that the refreshing smell of forest air was abundant and was rather soothing to our city born lungs. There was also a mixture of horse dropping odors, seeing as how we had passed approximately 20 vacant horse trailers on the way to the park entrance. We began our hike single file. We were like fresh troops on our first mission, eager to accomplish our goal... to reach the one and only big tree. The 2 dogs, Pete and Salem, were 'de-leashed' and ran free on up the trail ahead of us. They enjoyed a nice swim in the creek that ran along the trail we were on. As they splashed about and had a great fun, we were strolling along, taking in the wonderful sights and sounds.

Hiking

As we continued forth on our trek through this springtime wonderland, we encountered many natural wonders. As to be expected, some folks walk faster than others, and thus we actually had 2 groups hiking this trail. This turned out to be a good thing because it gave us a chance to concentrate on our surroundings. One of the most interesting sites on the trip (which I don't have a picture of) was this humongous stone in the middle of this creek/river. This particular stone had a shape which was very similar to that of the Apollo 13 Space Craft. I jokingly mentioned something about going to work and getting some NASA decals to put on it. That would have been funny.

Above, you will see more of the creek/lake that the dogs were playing in. Obviously they weren't at this point because of the white water, but still, you get the idea. This picture was taken at a campsite where a group of Boy Scouts were staying. That's something else we noted on our journey, there were numerous Boy Scout Troops camping out there. We stopped and talked to some of them both going in and coming out of the forest. This is one of the many "Tree on Tree" scenerios we encountered. Apparently there must have been a big storm that caused many of the trees to topple, and land on one another. It was quite an interesting site to behold. It also made the trails difficult to pass in some spots due to all the debris from fallen tree limbs. We were all on the lookout for wood fallout. There were also a lot of sheer cliffs which Corey noted would be great for repelling.

We also saw cascading waterfalls and some really pretty wild flowers growing alongside the trail. One of the strangest things about the hike was, we didn't see any wildlife. None of any kind. No birds. No snakes. No bears. No squirrels. No foxes. No beavers. No nothing. It was really strange. At this point though, we were starting to wonder if there even was a big tree. We had been hiking for nearly 2 hours and everyone that passed us on the trail said, it's up ahead. So we trudged on. And finally after nearly 3 hours of walking, we came to the spot where the tree was. The skies opened up and a bright light shone down from above and the Hallelujah chorus was sung. (Ok, that's a little dramatic... but we were happy to finally arrive at our destination)

We all sat down, exhausted from our 3 hour ordeal and ate lunch. I know my stomach was very happy to have something to eat and drink. While we were eating, there were 3 archeologists or something like down there, inspecting and touching all over TBT. All 3 of them had brought cameras along with them on the trip, and they had also brought 3 tri-pods. Naturally, we were curious as to why they would lug 3 of those things around the forest... still wondering about that to this day. Three cameras are understandable, but 3 tri-pods just doesn't click. After about a 15 minute break those guys left and we walked the final 75 feet down to the tree. As you can see, it is rather large circumferencially speaking. Here we are, wrapped around the thing.

After this event, Corey, Charlotte, Shane, and myself decided to head on out. The rest of the group stayed behind to explore the area and take more pictures. By this time it was about 3:30 and the 4 of us were ready to get back to the trail. We made good time on the way out with just us 4. We made it back to our vehicles in about 2.5 hours. Soon after, the rest of the group came out and we went our separate ways. One group went to the Steakhouse in Moulton. The steakhouse was packed out, so they went to O'Charley's in Decatur for dinner. The rest of us went home, got cleaned up, and went to Applebee's in Decatur

The End.

Credits:

Photos by Shane McNeill Horrible Writing by Kyle Root

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