We started this past holiday vacation off right by standing around in our front yard for an hour arguing for (me) and against (brandon) the virtue of pecan trees and their placement. Brandon will tell you this conversation was more about his debating their beauty as a front yard tree but don’t listen to him. When it comes down to it, its about virtue and this tree has it in spades. I personally think an orchard of old pecan trees is one of the most beautiful things.
So we concluded with no decision on the orchard trees and I uprooted the dog from the couch for an exploratory hike.
Unfortunately it was no more conclusive than the orchard summit.
We chose to hike the old rail bed in Fultondale.
I had heard once that the old rail was going to be turned into a “rails to trails” kind of place. Exciting! This never happened. The “trail” is most often used by four wheelers and surprisingly large off road vehicles for such a narrow trail.
I couldn’t relax on the old rails. We passed right by houses. Houses of people who didn’t seem the type to welcome strangers into their back yards. Vicious sounding dogs barked. Whiskey tripped over the old rails large rocks. It looked painful for his paws. We wouldn’t be running or bikejoring here, that’s for sure. Trash lined the trail thickly any time a new trail/road crossed it. I was spooked. It wasn’t a relaxing trail. I remembered the stories of the hobos that rode the rail when I was young and would jump off between Fultondale and Tarrant and sleep in certain places and abandoned houses nearby. When exploring the old houses, stories of these men haunted our approach. We were always cautious, wondering if we’d stumble upon a dirty sleeping figure, or worse, an awake one. Would they be kind or not? An abandoned house in the middle of the woods wasn’t the place to sort out that kind of question.
So about a mile in (or probably less- fear makes a mile longer) I yanked the dog around (literally, he wanted to keep going forward, smelling new things).
“No!” I told him. “We have to go home. You know, where normal people are, and no scary places. Unless you count the potential back acre I’m going to have clear … that’s scary.”
But I digress.
So we turned around and tucked tail and left.
If you’re curious about getting to this place and being braver than I, then go to the Fultondale dog park. Take 65 to Walker Chapel Rd exit, and turn towards the business area on Walkers Chapel. Right before the Jacks Hamburgers on your L you’ll see a road (Stouts Rd), turn L onto Stouts. Follow this road as it meanders towards the dog park which you’ll see on your L as well. Don’t be confused when Stouts veers up towards 31 and you come to a stop sign. Just hang to the L and stay on Stouts. Directly past the dogpark is Leora Avenue. This is where you turn to park and find the old rail bed. You can see a map going to the dog park on their face book page (which is more of a placeholder than a ‘page’).
When you turn down Leora you’ll see a pull off directly beside the stream and dog park on your L. You can park anywhere there. I like to turn around and point my car headed out for quick exit (parnoid? me? never). When I was doing this before and unloading my truck, a local gave me the evil eye. He slowed down to a pace that Barny Rubble could have kept up with before finally going out of sight. He never quit looking back at us though. This is not the way to start your trip into an unmarked trail by yourself. Maybe he was just admiring my pretty dog? But a lone girl out in the woods needs to be aware of her surroundings (and people in them) at all time. Don’t be afraid to get a tag number, car make/color, etc if someone worries you. (Me paranoid? No… Just a criminal justice major putting one of her BS degrees to good use.)
When you get out of your car stay on the side of the road where you parked but walk away from Stouts. Keep walking till you see where a trail starts on your left while Leora curves to the right. You should be able to recognize it from the picture I posted above. There will be no trail sign. It does kind of look like a driveway. It’s not 🙂 It follows along the side of the creek and back end of the dog park till you end up in back yard territory. Have fun.
If you go out this way, or have been out this way, and have anything new or interesting to add please drop me a line. As for us, we’ll skip it. I consulted my brother (also a known wanderer of unmarked trails) who surprise surprise had also been on this trail for a run and also found it suitably creepy and didn’t return. I suggested we both go out together and see if we could get farther along than I did on this particular trip. Especially if it goes as far as its supposed to and links up with other municipalities who may have converted the rails to trails properly.
An article on the proposed Rails to Trails that hasn’t happened. I have no idea if there is any thing in the works for it to happen either. Any Fultondalians who read this be sure to give me a heads up!
A mention of a new path in Gardendale to be created. Apparently it’s on a “natural” trail which means you could go walk it now if you knew where it was even though it’s not official yet. I’ll be finding out where this is ASAP and hiking it. This article also talks about the greenway.
Freshwater Trust mentions the greenway and rails to trails that Fultondale was to create, implying they still are. I’d love to know if this is actually still going to happen though.
In my googledigging I found mention that Brookside, Alabama has completed their one mile of the greenway/rails to trails stuff. Unfortunately their website and I did not get along well. I wanted more detail and maps. As in, how exactly do you get to the trail. I’m assuming that if I follow the directions to the “campground” I’ll also find the trail? And why doesn’t the greenway have it’s own little tab? Apparently there is camping there as well. I’ll be trying to find the place and check it out. It needs a better website presence than it’s got so I’ll be sure to post lots of pics, directions, maps. Fun!