Side Trip to Natural Bridge Alabama
We were driving down highway 22 in northern Alabama when we saw a sign that said "Natural Bridge Next Exit". We quickly veered off the exit and decided to take the road to see what an Alabama Natural Bridge was all about. Both David and I had visited the Natural Bridges in Utah. We both wondered what a natural bridge in Alabama would look like.
Natural Bridge is a private, family owned, park located in the middle of nowhere Alabama. The nearest campground was 23 miles away. The nearest highway 11 miles. The cell service was sketchy.
What we discovered blew our minds. We came in on the wake of another thunder. lightning, and rain storm. The woman at the small gift shop that marks the entrance to the trails looked at us like we were crazy. I replied to the look by saying we were from Seattle. She nodded knowingly. As a northwest native I was under the impression that if you didn't hike in the rain you didn't get out much!
We paid our $3.50 each, opened our umbrella, and entered with Taz and Mica on leash. The arch was only 100 yards up the trail. We rounded a corner and there before us was a natural sandstone bridge, 148 feet long and 60 feet high. A waterfall was pouring over the rim of the arched cavern behind the bridge. Just then growling thunder rumbled. It echoed and was amplified under the arch and adjacent cave. We looked at each other and scrambled back to the shop and the safety of cover.
We asked if we could camp in the parking lot and come in the morning when it was safer. They wouldn't let us camp but said we could come back when they opened at 8am and we wouldn't have to pay the fee again.
We left just as the rain really started pouring. We found a dirt road that led to a cell tower a half mile from the park and pulled in under the cover of some trees. Happy to be off the road and close to the park for another look in the morning.
We lucked out in the morning. It was just raining slightly as we entered the park and retraced our steps down the wide gravel path to the arch. There was less water coming down the waterfall than the night before but it was still an impressive sight. We walked around a walkway that hugged the wall at the back of the cave. From there we followed some trails that hugged the wall of the canyon that branched out from the archway. We discovered more sandstone ledges, waterfalls, and another lesser arch. Every cornere revealed more to this hidden oasis where three jade green streams joined together and a myriad of waterfalls spilled off the sandstone surrounding the canyon.
It felt so familiar. It was like I was back in the Green River Gorge in Washington State with its sandstone architecture and spring fed waterfalls. The moss, the rain, the evergreen forest all felt familiar. We wondered under the cover of the umbrella throughout the trails wishing that the sun would come out so we could spend the day.
We finished up just as the rain started pouring again. The kind of rain that causes flash floods and road closures. We gazed at the jade green of a rain filled stream under a bridge as we left. What a worthwhile side trip on our way to somewhere else.
I love the unexpected adventures that we discover when we are willing to divert from our well laid plans and just see where the road will take us!
How to get there: https://goo.gl/maps/MKGW2XSZbwk