LIVE Lee: Exploring Lee County and Beyond - October 2021

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CONTRIBUTORS Ann Cipperly Emery Lay Bradley Robertson Natalie Salvatore


Michelle Key, Publisher Originally from Albertville, Alabama, Michelle Key and her family moved to the Opelika-Auburn area in 2011 after her husband’s retirement from the U.S. Navy. She is a graduate of Troy University, and she joined the Observer in 2014 as an office administrator before assuming ownership of the newspaper in January 2018.

LAYOUT Hannah Lester Michelle Key


Hannah Lester, LIVE Lee Editor Hannah Lester is an Auburn University 2019 journalism graduate who is originally from Birmingham. She started with the Opelika Observer in July and began as the Associate Editor for the LIVE Lee Magazine. She assigns, writes and edits pieces for the magazine, as well as helps to design the pages. She was named editor of LIVE Lee in July 2021.

Rena Smith



Wil Crews, Opelika Observer Sports Editor Wil Crews is an Auburn University 2020 journalism graduate originally from Prattville, Alabama. He works as the Opelika Observer’s sports editor and assists in developing the weekly paper and LIVE Lee Magazine.

223 S. 8th St., Opelika Phone: 334-749-8003

LIVE Lee is a publication created by Key Media, LLC.

Robert Noles, Photographer Robert Noles is an award-winning photojournalist who has been with the Opelika Observer for more than 10 years. Originally from Tallassee, he is a graduate of Alabama Christian College and Auburn University.



Letter from the Editor

love to travel. Taking a weekend to get away, whether with family or friends, is such a fun way to explore our world. When I started school at Auburn University I was blessed to find a friend who enjoyed travel and hiking as much as me. We’ve taken a lot of free weekends over the years to find all of our hiking and camping spots. We started local. One of my first weekends in Auburn, I hiked in Chewacla. Together we’ve hiked Providence Canyon (page 81), backpacked in Mt. Cheaha and explored cities we could get to within driving distance (Charleston, Savannah, Jekyll Island, Simmons Island, Nashville, Birmingham and

even recently made a 13-hour drive to D.C..) This magazine is divided into two sections: Lee County *as* a travel destination and travel *from* Lee County. In this first section, we highlight the ways our county, and the cities of Auburn and Opelika, serve as a travel destination to those who may not live here. For instance, I think we can all agree that a game day in Auburn brings people from all over the south, and a few northerners too. We wrote about an Air BnB just a short drive from Auburn that’s perfect for those game-day weekends. We shared photos that highlight just what it’s like to have a day on the Plains when the players take the field.

The Lee County Flea Market (page 27) is a destination spot for ‘pickers,’ just as the Opelika Songwriter’s Fest (page 34) is a destination for musicians. But there’s so much to see and do just a short drive from our county too. There’s hiking — the Smiths Fire Tower in Tallapoosa County (page 87) and the breathtaking views at Providence Canyon (page 81). There are weekend getaways to Chattanooga (page 50) or Hills and Dales (page 63). I encourage you to read through this magazine and find somewhere new to explore this fall. God has given us so much beauty right in our backyard if we just take the time to discover it.

TABLE OF CONTENTS Letter From The Editor ............. ..............................5 The Splendor of Hills and Dales Estate ..................62 Explore An Auburn Game Day! ............................10 Get Wild ................................................................69 Go Climb A Tree ...................................................20 A Hidden Beauty ...................................................73 Flea Market Is Family Business .............................27 An Island of Goats ................................................78 Songwriter’s Fest...................................................34

The Little Grand Canyon ......................................82

Experience Lee County Year-Round .....................40 Quite A Climb .......................................................87 Discover Chattanooga ..........................................50

Explore Your World ...............................................92

Paradise On Earth ................................................59 Advertiser Index ..................................................97


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Explore An Auburn Game Day!



First Stop — Tailgates!


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Next Stop ...



You never know what outfits you might see on game day!


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The Student Experience!


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Of course ... then there's the game!



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Cap your game day experience off with one of the best Auburn traditions ... rolling the trees!



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Go Climb N A Tree ... Story By Hannah Lester Photos By Robert Noles

eed a getaway? Do you have family coming into town for a game? There’s a farm in Shorter, Alabama, that has a unique Air BnB opportunity — a treehouse surrounded by

alpacas. Jason and Teresa Price decided they wanted a small farm, with maybe a couple of alpacas. “When we were dating and whatnot, she said, ‘One day I’d like to have a little farm with a couple of goats, a couple of chickens and I’d really love to have two alpacas,’” Jason said. Now, they have 11 alpacas, cats, a few hundred chickens, two dogs, ducks, guineafowls and more. The two didn’t own property when they began discussing


Jason Price on his farm in Shorter, Alabama.

the idea — that came later. The piece of property in Shorter already had a large house, more space than the couple needed. So, they decided to claim the top half of the house and turn the bottom half into an Air BnB. But that’s not their only Air BnB — Jason built a treehouse that guests can stay in. Originally, the treehouse was for the couple’s grandchildren. They had bought the boys a zip-line and it was Teresa's idea to build a treehouse, Jason said. “The bad thing is, it’s real high up in the air,” he said. “It’s 30-feet to the floor, from the ground to the floor. And she wasn’t too happy about our grandsons playing up there, playing up that high until they get a little older.” The treehouse has heating, cooling, bunk beds, a porch and stained glass.

“It took us a year and a half to build that treehouse working nothing but weekends, holidays and afternoons,” Jason said. “And that’s while we were running a full-time farm and both have full-time jobs.” The treehouse is built directly into the tree, too. “I wanted to build a treehouse,” Jason said. “Some people will build a treehouse on stilts. They built it up off the house, next to a tree, so it's a treehouse. I’m not putting those people down, but that’s not a treehouse." Bella Luna Farm is the combination of all of these things — the main house, the animals, the veggies the couple grows, the alpacas and the treehouse. “We’re both moon lovers, that’s where we came up with the name Bella Luna,” Jason said.


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Running a full-time farm includes the upkeep of the property and animals. “We gather eggs every day, we sell eggs, we advertise all of our chickens are free-range,” Jason said. “We don’t pin them up, they’re running around. We don’t know how many we have anymore because half of them are in the woods. It’s an easter egg hunt every day.” There are chores to be done every day. All of the animals need to be fed, in addition to the egg collection. Jason said they are also growing trees to sell in the future. “I have a couple of friends in landscaping and I said, ‘Look, I’ve got some mature [trees] on my property and I’ve been growing some young ones from the seeds, what’s the



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possibility of me getting in some kind of a tree business and selling them,’” Jason said. “And they said, ‘you get them up to about 8 feet and we’ll buy every one of them you’ve got.’” Right now, he has 400 in pots. Too, there are vegetables the couple grows based on the seasons, such as rattlesnake beans, tomatoes, corn, okra, eggplant and more. Alpacas need to be sheared, grass needs to be mowed, there’s always something to be done, Jason said. “We work until dark every day; every day,” he said. But there are rewards to the grueling work. “Because we enjoy it; it’s different,” Jason said. “We’re tired and we complain sometimes, but very little about this part, the farm work. When we’re out here and we’re birthing these baby goats, it’s all worth it.” To book a visit on the farm, check Bella Luna Farm out on Facebook: BellaLunaFarmLLC.


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1910 Pepperell Parkway, Opelika 334-749-1471


Flea Market is Family Business Story By Natalie Salvatore Photos By Robert Noles


or 35 years, a family-owned small business has been making its mark on the community in Smiths Station, Alabama. In 1986, Ruth Williams opened the Lee County Flea Market, LLC. Her daughter, Rhonda Jones, and Rhonda’s husband, Barry Jones, took over the business when Williams passed away. During its first year of business, the flea market was located across the street where a Marathon gas station currently stands. “It did so well the first year that she moved it to the

current location,” Rhonda said. “There seemed to be a need in the area, and she was right”. Their business is the largest outdoor flea market in East Central Alabama and provides different items to suit any interests. Assorted vendors sell items that are older, used and even new, all with different bargains. Guests can browse through over 300 tables on display, many of which are underneath a covered shed. The market’s layout results in great visibility and convenience for guests to travel from one display to the


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next. The flea market is open every weekend of the year from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., no matter the weather. The long hours of operation allow customers to truly take advantage of all that the market has to offer based on what fits their own schedules. According to Rhonda and Barry, their days are jam-packed with business and eager customers. Rhonda said that her husband and their son, Ben, hit the ground running bright and early in the mornings to facilitate a seamless day of business ahead. “We are busy from 6 a.m., forward aligning parking, getting the vendors to their spots and ensuring a smooth opening once the customers begin filling up the parking lot around 7 a.m.,” Barry said. The bulk of their day is spent making future reservations and answering any questions customers may have. One of the family members is always in the office to answer phone calls throughout the week, which is one of their priorities. The family works hard all week long instead of just when the flea market is open. Besides their other duties, Rhonda and Barry also grade the parking, clean the property and help fix the tables after customers are constantly moving around from one display to another. Not only does the market provide goods to be sold, but it also serves food. Guests can stop by for breakfast or lunch at the Snack Shack while they browse the tables. With its

different food trailers and concessions stands, food choices range from various meats to boiled peanuts to funnel cakes. The flea market, besides being important to the community, means a great deal to the Jones’ family. With the help of her mother’s vision for the market, Rhonda said they have been able to grow their business throughout the past several years. “Surely the market still provides a place for folks to sell their goods after ‘cleaning out the attic or garage,’ but has evolved into so much more,” Barry said. People don’t just come to buy or sell goods. Rhonda said that keeping a welcoming, family-friendly environment is important to them. Some of the vendors have set up with their flea market for over 20 years — some even since the market’s founding. “For example, we have several regulars who are military retirees [who] set up weekly to supplement their retirement income, but honestly, some just show up to discuss politics or the current weather patterns,” Barry said. “We absolutely love those guys, and they will do anything in the world to help us.” The flea market closed for the very first time in April 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, the business was not closed for long. Reopening just one month later, the business boomed every weekend that followed. The owners are continuing to stress the importance of social distancing, good overall hygiene, as well as encouraging face coverings. “Being an outdoor market, people have been ready to get back outdoors and back to some sort of normalcy,” Rhonda

said. Barry said how wonderful it was for everyone to come back together again with more love, laughter and happiness. “The market truly is a diverse melting pot of all types of people, regardless of race, socioeconomic status or ethnicity,” he said. “We strive to encourage our people to be tolerant and respectful of each other”. For vendors, a table in the field is $10, and dealers can choose any free table they would like. Vendors can conveniently pull up behind their table and immediately start setting up their display. Sellers are encouraged to be at their display or have someone cover it for them at all times. For anticipating busy mornings, if the vendor is not watching their table, the space could be used for someone else. Marking up their tables with price tags or covering the tables first are more recommendations by the owners. As the morning progresses, one of the owners goes around to collect the rental fees. Rhonda and Barry suggest vendors bring staking for their tents if they choose to set them up themselves. A table can be reserved in advance under the covered shed for $15 or $20 per day. To claim their reservations, vendors must arrive by 8 a.m. Using a tarp is crucial as well in reserving your designated display spot. Call 334-291-7780 to reserve a table. After vendors call, the owners will reserve spots with a table number. Setup of tables begins on Friday morning at the earliest.

There is no cost for admission to the flea market or to park there. Located at the intersections of U.S. Highway 280/431 and 201 Lee Road 379, the flea market is approximately 15 miles from the Auburn-Opelika community. Take Exit 62 off Interstate 85 to get there. For more information, email or visit home.html.



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TER’S FEST Story By Emery Lay Photos Contributed By Songwriter’s Festival


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A festival for the people, by the people

he Opelika Songwriters festival was founded in 2019, and with health on the horizon, the festival is looking forward to completing this year what they could not in 2020. This October, The Sound Wall — in partnership with Russell Carter Artist Management (RCAM) — will be hosting singers and songwriters nationwide for its second annual festival. Located in historic downtown Opelika, the festival will run over for three days, Oct. 15-17. The Sound Wall is owned by Rob and Jen Slocumb, partners in life and in music. The husband-and-wife duo started their band, Martha’s Trouble, more than two decades ago. “Rob and I thought about doing a festival of this type for a while,” Jen said. “In January 2019, we decided we would reach out to certain people in the community to see if it was something people would respond well to. We had nothing but positive feedback about it, so we thought the next step was to see if we could get artists to come.” That was when Bailey Jones entered the picture. Jones is best known for running



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written the soundtracks for movies such as Coco, Happy Feet and the Lorax, plan to attend as well. “We do have a lot of songwriters that reach out to us about playing the festival,” Slocumb said. “But we do look at who would be a good fit and who is someone we think our community would enjoy. Of course, we love to support our local songwriters, so if they are working musicians, they are welcome and encouraged to apply to play the festival and we are more than ready to put them in the lineup.” Slocumb also emphasized the importance of the festival’s sponsors. For the 2021 festival, Auburn-Opelika Tourism, Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller, the City of Opelika and Shady Lady are just a few of the biggest sponsors. Slocumb said the Sound Wall is “blown away” by Opelika’s support. “We really rely on our local businesses and individuals to help offset the costs to put on such an event,” Slocumb said. “We continue to accept and welcome any sponsors that are willing to be involved.” In addition, the festival will be accepting volunteers to aid in the weekend of events. Each volunteer will receive one general admission, three-day pass in exchange for working three shifts over the course of the weekend. To apply, complete the form at www. The 2021 Opelika Songwriters Festival will take place across multiple venues within downtown Opelika at various

the Sundilla Concert Series in Auburn every year. In February 2019, Jones was on his way to the Folk Alliance Conference in Montreal. The Slocumbs saw this as the perfect opportunity to connect with booking agents and artists through Jones. Upon his return, Jones presented 40 artists to the Slocumbs, which they then secured for their first festival. “After announcing the festival, we had an artist manager that founded 30A Songwriters Festival approach us and want to partner in presenting the festival,” Jen said. “We had known about his festival and [had been] attending it years before, so we were super excited about the partnership.” Today, RCAM and The Sound Wall partner to present a festival to the people of Opelika every year. The festival had its opening night debut on Memorial Day weekend of 2019, featuring artists such as David Jacobs-Strain and Bob Beach, Shawn Mullins, Jeff Black, Kim Richey and more. This year, Mullins revisits the Opelika Songwriters Festival alongside Black and Richey. Additional artists include, but are not limited to, the husband-and-wife band “The War and Treaty”, the three-man trio “Dark Water”, American folk singer Sarah Lee Guthrie and former member of Sixpence None the Richer, Leigh Nash. Other songwriters such as Dan Navarro, who has


times with alternating artists. The venues that will be utilized include Rock ‘N Roll Pinball, La Cantina, the Heritage House, Eighth & Rail, Resting Pulse Brewing Company, Irish Bred Pub, the John Emerald Distilling Company and, of course, The Sound Wall. Friday evening will kick off the weekend, followed by three sessions (morning, evening and night) on Saturday. A few final performances conclude the festival Sunday morning. Top hotel accommodations are recommended on the festival’s website and include Heritage House Bed & Breakfast, La Quinta Inn & Suites, the Auburn Marriott Opelika Resort & Spa at Grand National and the Collegiate Hotel at Auburn. Booking details can be found at: www. “It’s so important to the community,” Slocumb said. “It provides an intimate concert experience where you can see

songwriters perform up close. You can hear them share the inspiration behind the songs. You can see them collaborate with other artists. “We not only book national artists, but regional and local artists as well, so it gives them an opportunity to be around seasoned writers and players and be encouraged and inspired. We all can use some inspiration.” Complete with 40 artists and eight different venues, the Opelika Songwriters Festival is not something to miss. Collaboration between participating artists is expected and anticipated. The festival offers spaces to revisit favorite artists or to find someone new to enjoy. “I just want to encourage everyone to come,” Slocumb said. “It’s such a special weekend. I will never forget the memories that were made in year one and I can’t wait for this year. You don’t want to miss it!”


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Experince Lee Cou

Story By LIVE Lee Staff Photos By Robert Noles —40—

unty Year-Round

Rocky Top Pumpkin Patch


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Rocky Top Pumpkin Patch



uburn, Opelika and Lee County have tons of events going on all year long. Each season brings new opportunities for connection and community in our area. So, if you expect travelers in the area, or maybe you’re here for the first time yourself, this is what to look out for.


Each fall, there are annual activities, from haunted tours to pumpkin patches that liven up as the weather cools down. One of the first big activities for our area this time of year includes football games. For more on football and what the game-day experience looks like for Auburn, turn to page 10. The Opelika Songwriters Fest: For more on this musical, annual event in Opelika, turn to page 34. The Fall Boogie: The Fall Boogie at the Standard Deluxe is the fall’s second big music event. The Standard Deluxe will host the ninth annual event this year on Oct. 16 at 12 p.m., but if you’re already looking to next year, expect tunes to return in October. This year, the event will feature Maggie Rose, Blue Mountain, Lee Bains III & Gloryfires, Early James and Janet Simpson. This three-day festival includes pre-and-post activities to the main musical event. Find more information here: On The Tracks: On the Tracks is Opelika’s food and wine event. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the


event was canceled last year but will be held on Oct. 22 at 6 p.m. this year. Find more information here: Tour de Fright: Opelika has found ways for children and adults to enjoy the fun of Halloween season with the Tour De Fright bike ride and walking trail. This year, the Tour de Fright will be held on Oct. 29 at the Opelika SportsPlex. More information available here: Trick Or Treat: Of course, there is always trick or treat each year, though it remains to be seen what this will look like due to COVID-19. Right now, Opelika’s trick-or-treating will be Oct. 28, and in Auburn, downtown trick-or-treat will return on Oct. 31 from 6 to 8 p.m. Last year, both Auburn and Opelika held drive-through trick-or-treats.


Opelika's Christmas In A Railroad Town WINTER:

Auburn Arts Association Holiday Art Sale: To get into

the holiday spirit, make plans to attend the annual Holiday Art Sale in Auburn. There are all kinds of fun, homemade pieces to buy for gifts, such as knit items, paintings, jewelry, soap, candles and more. The sale will be held on Nov. 20 at 9 a.m. at the Parks and Recreation Center.

Sno*Pelika Christmas Festival and Tree Lighting:

Opelika’s first Christmas event will actually be held before December. The Sno*Pelika event will include all kinds of activities for children — including artificial snow and a tree lighting in downtown Opelika. The event will be held at Courthouse Square and Railroad Avenue on Nov. 30 at 4:30 p.m.


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Opelika's Snow Much Fun

Jingle Jog 5K: Want to get active and spend some time in the loveliest village on the Plains? The Jingle Jog 5K will take place from 7 to 9 a.m. on Dec. 4, in downtown Auburn. Keep an eye out for both Santa and Aubie. Opelika Christmas Parade: What’s a holiday without a Christmas parade? Last year, parades were altered due to COVID-19, but as of now, Opelika is set for the parade on Dec. 4 at 10 a.m. Auburn Gingerbread Village: The Auburn Gingerbread Village is an ever-growing display in the Auburn Hotel and Dixon Conference Center, set up in early December that lasts through the end of the month. Maybe you’ll find a new building added to the village this year, but either way, come experience the magic of Auburn in gingerbread. Rocky Brook Rocket Reindeer Express: The Rocky Brook Reindeer Express will run for three days in December, Dec. 10 through 12. Train rides are $2 a ride, in cash, and there will also be a Christmas Market in Monkey Park. Expect some live entertainment and performances each night as well. Santa plans to attend, too. Victorian Front Porch Tour: The Victorian Front Porch tour is an Opelika staple — taking place each season since 1993. Sixty Victorian homes are decked out with all kinds of decorations, making for a walking tour (or driving) on North 8th and 9th Street in Opelika. The Front Porch Tour will begin on Dec. 10 and last through Dec. 14. Christmas In A Railroad Town: Christmas In A Railroad Town is the perfect family event. With shopping for adults and all kinds of activities for children, this event will bring out all kinds of holiday cheer. Downtown Opelika will be full of pony rides, face painting, crafts such as making gingerbread homes and reindeer food, story readings, a petting zoo and more. Christmas In A Railroad Town will take place on Dec. 10 from 5 to 8 p.m.



Opelika's Garden In the Park SPRING:

Auburn Floral Trail: The Auburn Floral Trail, part of the Alabama Floral Trail, was open from March 8 to April 16 last year, so you can expect a similar time frame in 2022. The trail was 10.5 miles on the south trail and 3.5 on the north trail, with two other optional trails. Opelika’s Azalea and Dogwood Trail: Opelika finds ways to highlight its floral beauty with the Opelika Azalea and Dogwood Trail, which was held from March 22 through April 5 last year. The trail began at the corner of 8th Street and 2nd Avenue and continued for 5 miles. Bark In The Park: Auburn’s Parks and Recreation event is not only fun for you, but your furry friend. Last year, the event was held on March 20, so expect it again in March of this year. Empty Bowls: Empty Bowls is an annual fundraising event for the Food Bank of East Alabama. Participants pay a flat rate, pick a local, handmade bowl and fill it with soup from local restaurants. The bowls are for participants to keep. Last year, Empty Bowls was held on March 27. Easter On The Square: Easter On The Square will be held Easter Morning, which in 2022 will be April 17. Opelikians are invited to bring their children (second


Opelika’s Azalea Trail

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grade and under) for festivities, including visits from the Easter Bunny and Easter Chicken. Lee County Relay For Life: Lee County’s annual Relay For Life event will be held on April 22 next year from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Lee County Courthouse Square. Registration for teams has already opened and for more information on other relay events through the year, check out the website here: Auburn CityFest: Auburn CityFest is Auburn’s biggest arts and crafts festival of the year. The event normally lasts roughly 6 hours one Saturday in the spring and features numerous vendors selling homemade wares. Last year, CityFest was held on April 25.


Storybook Farm's Derby Day SUMMER:

Derby Day: Lee County’s Storybook Farm Derby Day always coincides with the Kentucky Derby, which will be held on May 7, 2022, this upcoming year. Dress in your best and don’t forget a hat. Garden In The Park: Garden In the Park is Opelika’s take on a handmade arts and crafts fair. However, the event is also a fundraiser for Keep Opelika Beautiful. The event is held on the first Saturday in May, which for 2022, will be May 7. Touch and Truck and Burger Wars: Touch A Truck and Burger Wars normally coincide with one another in

Opelika on the first Saturday in June. Burger Wars is the opportunity for local restaurants to compete, placing their burgers on the judging block. Touch A Truck often falls on the same day or weekend in Opelika and affords families the opportunity to bring their little drivers out to see different vehicles, like race cars, fire trucks, military vehicles and more. Cheers On The Corner: This an annual Auburn tasting event each summer. Although the dates have not been announced for 2022, expect Cheers on the Corner in July.


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Attorney at Law and Certified Public Accountant

Jackie H. Moon, CPA Erin K. Arrington, CPA H. David Ennis, SR., CPA Patti C. Davis, CPA Gri���n T. Clark, CPA 614 2nd Ave, Opelika, AL 36801


Now, To Ge


et Away... Travel Beyond Lee County

Photo By Ryan Maum —49—

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Discover Chattanooga Story By Ann Cipperly


ituated at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains on the banks of the Tennessee River, Chattanooga is surrounded by scenic mountains and ridges. During the autumn months, Lookout and Signal Mountains are ablaze in brilliant fall foliage. With fresh mountain breezes, Chattanooga offers a wide gamut of outdoor attractions everyone in the family will enjoy. In its early years, the city had two different names, Ross’s Landing and Lookout City. In 1838, the official name became “Chattanooga,” which comes from the Creek Indian word for “rock coming to a point” (aka. Lookout Mountain). Chattanooga is nicknamed Scenic City with its numerous outdoor adventures, sites and activities. Take an exhilarating ride on the trolley-like Incline Railway as it scales steep Lookout Mountain to reach Ruby Falls and Rock City with sweeping panoramic views. At the top of the summit, seven states are visible. Tour Rock City Gardens and explore the caves at Ruby Falls to the spectacular waterfall. Ruby Falls is the tallest and deepest underground waterfall open to the public in the country. The waterfall was accidentally discovered in 1928 by Leo Lambert, a chemist and cave enthusiast, while exploring Lookout Mountain. He named the falls after his wife, “Ruby.” Lambert constructed the glass-front elevator that descends 260 feet down into Lookout Mountain. The attraction opened to the public in December 1929. Electric lights were installed in the caves in 1930. As visitors approach the falls, ancient and unique formations are visible along the cavern trail. When Rock City opened to the public in May 1932, not many visitors were touring the site. The owner hired a young painter to travel the country’s highways and offer to paint barns for free in exchange for


Photo By Rod Clement —51—

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Photo By Chattanooga Tourism Co.


Photo By Chattanooga/ Chattanooga Tourism Co. painting “See Rock City” on the roof. The advertising paid off as more tourists visited the mountain-top attraction. After touring Ruby Falls and Rock City Gardens, plan time downtown to visit the Tennessee Aquarium. Explore downtown on the free electric shuttle. The Bluff View Art District is easy to walk. Stop in at the Hunter Museum

of American Art and browse interesting art galleries and shops. Take a break to enjoy a special cup of coffee and freshly baked pastries at the Rembrandt’s Coffee House. Clumpies Ice Cream Co. is a local creamery with several locations and provides a refreshing treat on a warm day after touring attractions.

Photo By Rock City Gardens —53—

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Photo By Ryan Maum DINING Tony’s Pasta Shop and Trattoria Located in the carriage house of the Bluff View Inn’s historic T.C. Thompson house, the restaurant serves classic Italian dishes. Popular items on the menu are ‘create your own pizza’ and ‘pick your pasta and sauce’, which is made from fresh tomatoes and herbs at the gardens. Pasta entrees, subs and desserts are also available. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner. Tony’s is located at 212 High St., Chattanooga. For additional information call 423-321-0235. Easy Bistro & Bar After a busy day of exploring the city, relax with a scrumptious dinner at the Easy Bistro, a chef-owned restaurant serving seasonal dishes, grass-fed beef, seafood and game. Chef Erik Niel is a James Beard semi-finalist. Housed in what was formerly the world’s first Coca-Cola bottling plant, the interior of the restored building is dramatic with soaring windows and dark painted walls with deep white molding for a casual, lively setting. The menu changes often depending on what is available fresh and offers a raw bar, small plates, house-made pasta and enticing entrees. Located at 801 Chestnut St., the bistro is open for dinner. Contact 423-266-1121 for more information. Stir Restaurant If you visit the Chattanooga Choo Choo, you may want to

Photo By Ruby Falls dine at Stir, located in the complex. The restaurant is open for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. Dishes are prepared from scratch. Lunch offers salads, soups, such as crab bisque, and burgers. The items are available at dinner along with hearty entrees, including shrimp and grits, grilled salmon and steaks. Stir is located at 1444 Market St. Call 423-531-7847. Other Restaurant Options: Main Street Meats, 1885 Grill, Boathouse Rotisserie and Raw Bar and The Flying Squirrel. ATTRACTIONS AND SITES Lookout Mountain 3518 S. Broad St. Lookout Mountain offers a variety of attractions, including Incline Railway, Point Park, Rock City and Ruby Falls. 423643-2201 Lookout Mountain Incline Railway 827 E. Brow Road Enjoy breathtaking scenery as the Incline climbs historic Lookout Mountain. 423-821-4224 Ruby Falls 1720 S. Scenic Highway Ruby Falls is a fun and educational visit. Hosts take visitors deep into Lookout Mountain by a glass-front elevator. The pathway with unique formations leads to the magnificent 145foot falls. After the tour, relax on the mountainside deck with


panoramic views. Make reservations before leaving home. 423-821-2544 Rock City Gardens Lookout Mountain Enjoy the woodland paths and gardens, and discover ancient rock formations. Several restaurants are available, including Cliff Terrace, Big Rock Grill and Café 7. Snacks are offered at Fudge Kitchen. 706820-2531 Tennessee Aquarium 1 Broad St. Journey from the mountains to the sea at the Aquarium. The Tennessee Aquarium's exhibits are housed in two structures, the original River Journey building which opened in 1992 and the neighboring Ocean Journey expansion, which opened in 2005. 800-262-0695 Chattanooga Zoo 301 N. Holtzclaw Ave. The attraction is located on a 13acre zoological park. Around 654 animals represent more than 160 different species. 423-697-1322 Hunter Museum of American Art 10 Bluff View Built on a limestone bluff overlooking the Tennessee River and comprised of a 1905 classical revival mansion, the museum showcases 100 years of architecture and houses one of the finest collection of American art in the southeast. 423-267-0968 Chattanooga Choo Choo 1400 Market St. Visit the Glenn Miller Gardens located where 14 tracks and seven platforms served millions of train passengers for over 60 years at the 24-acre Chattanooga Choo Choo complex. The gardens are named after the famous musician who recorded the Chattanooga Choo Choo song in 1941. The complex also contains two hotel buildings, on-site dining and retail shops. Guests can stay overnight in restored authentic

Photo By Chattanooga Tourism Co.

Photo By The Chattanooga Zoo

Photo By Bluff VIew Art District —55—

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sleeper cars. 423-266-5000 Bluff View Art District 411 E. 2nd St. Perched 80 feet above the Tennessee River, the district is within walking distance of downtown. The historic neighborhood houses unique art galleries, restaurants and a bakery. 423-2655033 Creative Discovery Museum 321 Chestnut St. One of the nation’s top children’s museums, the Creative Discovery Museum inspires children’s passion for learning through play. 423-756-2738 Cumberland Caverns 1437 Cumberland Caverns Road • McMinnville The cavern is Tennessee's largest show cave and a U.S. Natural Landmark. The cave displays some of the largest underground rooms and spectacular formations in eastern America. 931-6684396 IMAX 3D Theater 201 Chestnut St. Twin 4K laser projectors and pinpoint surround sound immerse visitors in the onscreen action. 423-266-IMAX Point Park Battlefield

110 Point Park Road, Lookout Mountain The site of the Civil War battle commonly referred to as “The Battle Above the Clouds.” 423-821-7786 ACCOMMODATIONS The Chanticleer Inn Bed and Breakfast Located across from Rock City Gardens, the inn is nestled above the clouds at Lookout Mountain. The stone wall cottage has a European style and offers 20 guest rooms with most having a fireplace and private patio. A two-acre garden offers places to relax around the fire-pit and at the swimming pool. For reservations call 705-820-2002. The Reed House The 241-room historic hotel was built as the Crutchfield House in the 1920s after an agreement with the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad that built a station across the street. The renovated house is decorated in the 1920s style with sparkling chandeliers and checkered floors. The flagship restaurant Bridgeman’s Chophouse serves steaks and seafood in an elegant setting. The Reed House is located at 107 W. Martin Luther King Blvd. Call 423-266-4121 for reservations.

Photo By gnagel/ Chattanooga Tourism Co. —56—-


Food and Entertainment

Fresh Ingredients + Made Daily = YUM! Franky Junes is a mobile hotdog stand featuring both traditional, as well as iconic and fusion-style hotdogs served with a toasted bun, a variety of homemade fixings and a mound of hot and crunchy tatertots (that we’ve been known to top with ooey-gooey cheese, ranch dressing, bacon and chives).

Stop by and see us, we’d love to meet you!

PUBLIC HOUSE FAVORITES SHEPHERD’S PIE - Seasoned ground beef. Peas. Carrots. Guinness gravy. Champ potatoes. Mozzarella. - 12 BANGERS & MASH* - Two Guinness Brats. Champ potatoes. Peppers. Onions. Guinness gravy. 12 GUINNESS STEW - Guinness gravy. Beef tenderloin. Carrots. Potatoes. - 10 CORNED BEEF HASH* - Traditional hash. Potatoes. Corned beef. Peppers. Onions. Fried egg. - 10 SPECKLED HEN MAC & CHEESE - Large Bowl of Old Speckled Hen English Ale infused house-made macaroni & cheese - 10 FISH & CHIPS* - Beer battered fish and fries. Lee County coleslaw. - 12 PORK SCHNITZEL* - Fried pork cutlets. Brandied mushroom cream sauce. Sauerkraut. Champ potatoes - 11 CHICKEN & CHIPS - Classic Ameri-Pub hand battered chicken tenders. Fries. Lee County coleslaw. - 11 SHRIMP & GRITS* - Guinness BBQ basted Gulf shrimp. Pancetta-garlic cream sauce. Creamy Carolina stone ground grits. - 16

833 S. Railroad Avenue, Opelika

“Our Mission is Your Health”



• Drive Thru • Regular Operating Hours • Please Call Ahead on Refills to Avoid Wait

334-364-9993 | 334-364-9997 7667 Alabama Hwy 51, Suite A, Opelika Mon-Fri 8am–6pm | Sat 9am–12pm | Sunday Closed

Paradise On Earth Story By Ann Cipperly Photos Contributed By Alabama Dept. of Conservation & Natural Resources


ur state is called “Alabama the Beautiful” for a reason. During the autumn months, state parks in the northern section of the state showcase a vibrant array of scarlet, yellow and orange foliage. With mountain vistas at Cheaha State Park, peaceful scenery at Lake Guntersville State Park and numerous outdoor activities at Joe Wheeler State Park, Alabama winds a captivating trail for savoring the most colorful months of the year.

Lake Guntersville State Park

The largest lake in the state, Lake Guntersville covers 69,000 acres and stretches 75 miles from Nickajack Dam to Guntersville Dam. Fishing and boating are popular here. Free boat ramps are available along the lake. The lake has been named one of the top waters for fishing from a kayak. Fish at the lake include largemouth bass, crappie, redear sunfish and catfish, among others. Several fishing tournaments are held throughout the year. Visitors to the lake can enjoy the sandy beach. While the


beach is available to registered guests, visitors can pay a small fee to enjoy a day at the beach. No animals or grills are allowed. The resort state park provides 6,000 acres of woodlands for exploring outdoor adventures. Over 36 miles of biking, hiking and horseback trails are carved throughout the woodlands. A grant made possible by ADECA has provided for the Benny Boho Multi-use Trail that is paved and runs from the lodge to the Mabrey Overlook. Two benches are provided on the trail. Renovated in 2009, the 18-hole Eagle’s Nest Golf Course is located on top of Taylor Mountain, offering stunning views and featuring Dwarf Bermuda Tiff greens. Challenges include elevation changes and tree-lined variants. The course also includes a full-service driving range and a practice putting green. After playing a round, stop by the pro shop for snacks and beverages. An outdoor nature center is open to explore, and eagle watching is popular. For an exciting adventure, try the Screaming Eagle Zipline.

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Tucked on the brow of Taylor Mountain, the lodge complex offers gorgeous views. Relax in comfortable areas with fireplaces on cool fall evenings. Accommodations include lodge rooms, lakeside cabins, mountain top chalets and two campgrounds along the water’s edge. The campground includes improved campsites as well as primitive campsites. The Pinecrest Dining Room at the lodge serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. On Friday nights, a seafood buffet including fried shrimp, baked fish, catfish, fried clam strips, shrimp bisque and sides is included. On Sunday mornings, a hearty breakfast is served. Light fare is available in the Hickory Lounge. Order burgers, pulled pork, catfish, chicken fingers, salads or appetizers. Unwind in the lounge with a bluff view of Lake Guntersville. For general information call 256-571-5440 and for lodging contact 256-571-5440.

Joe Wheeler State Park

In the fall, brilliant foliage abounds at the 2,500-acre Joe Wheeler State Park in Rogersville. The Tennessee River divides the park, forming the 69,700-acre Wheeler Lake. The park hosts the Fall Rendezvous of boaters traveling the Great Loop. The Nautical Wheeler provides tours, while fishing boats, pontoon and paddleboats are available for rent. Along with a marina and campgrounds, visitors will enjoy the sandy beach.

Brass, bream and catfish are plentiful in the lake for fishing. Hiking and mountain biking trails throughout the park provide colorful scenery. The 18-hole “General” Golf Course is set among rolling hills inside a game sanctuary with abundant wildlife. Sweeping views of the lake can be savored at the Joe Wheeler Resort Lodge and restaurant. Daniella's restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The lunch menu has a wide assortment. Choose from appetizers, burgers, sandwiches, salads, low carb options and lunch plates, including catfish, chicken, vegetables and others. Dinner specials include two for $22 on Thursdays, Friday night prime rib buffet and Saturday night seafood buffet, as well as Sunday brunch. Along with the lodge, other accommodations include cabins, lakeside cottages and camping. New, two-story cottages with fireplaces are located lakeside with piers. Campgrounds feature a total of 116 campsites, with 110 having full hookups with water, electricity and sewer. When planning a trip, check to be sure the campground, day-use area including the beach, basketball and tennis courts and disc golf course are open. They have been closed due to tornado damage. For further information call 800-544-JOEW and for lodging call 256-247-5461. Attractions Near Joe Wheeler State Park The state park is located between Florence and Huntsville. While staying at the park, plan a trip to the Muscle Shoals


Sound and Fame Studios, Alabama Music Hall of Fame, Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge or the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville.

DeSoto State Park

Cheaha State Park

On the highest point in Alabama, Cheaha State Park provides amazing views at 2,407 feet above sea level at the top of Cheaha Mountain. The Creek native Americans called the site “Chaha,” which means “high place.” The park is surrounded by the Talladega National Forest. Cheaha is known for waterfalls and gorgeous sunsets. The 2,799-acre park offers numerous recreational activities combined with serene scenes. Adventurous trails wind through the park. At the 7-acre Cheaha Lake, families can enjoy the beach, paddle boats, paddleboards, fishing and the playground. Pack a picnic for a day of fun. Cheaha’s historic CCC Bald Rock Lodge is ideal for families and groups with 12 rooms and a full-service catering kitchen. Other accommodations include a hotel, cabins, chalets and camping. Pet-friendly rooms are available at the hotel. Enjoy dining at the Vista Cliffside Restaurant. The dining room and deck are open for first come first serve. The restaurant is open on weekends unless the facility has been reserved for a private event. For general information at Cheaha call 256-488-5111, and for lodging contact 1-800-610-5801.


DeSoto State Park at Little River Canyon National Preserve and DeSoto Falls features numerous waterfalls as well as activities for the outdoor enthusiast. Fishing, hiking, biking, kayaking and exploring nature keeps visitors busy. Named for Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto, the DeSoto Falls cascades 104 feet, and is one of the tallest waterfalls in the state. From the parking lot, a paved pathway goes a few hundred yards and down about 50 steps to the railed overlook. Little River Falls Located 10 miles south of DeSoto State Park, Little River Falls cascades 45 feet. The waterfall is located in the Little River Canyon National Preserve. From the parking lot, a 100-foot boardwalk leads to an overlook. Other falls in this area include Grace’s High Falls, Laurel Falls, Indian Falls, Loose Falls and Azalea Cascade. The historic Mountain Inn Restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Nestled on a canyon-edge overlooking the West Fork of Little River, the restaurant is located in the original sandstone lodge built by the CCC in the middle 1930s. The 3,502-acre DeSoto State Park is located at 7104 DeSoto Parkway NE, Fort Payne. For additional information call 256-845-5380 for general information, 256-845-5380 for lodging and 800-760-4089 for camping.

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THE SPLENDOR OF HILLS & Story By Ann Cipperly Photos Contributed By Hills & Dales Estate —62—-

DALes estate —63—

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elebrating its 180th anniversary this year, Hills & Dales Estate in LaGrange, Georgia, is one of the most widely acclaimed gardens in the southeast, with its roots stretching back to 1832. Surrounding a stately Italianate mansion, the gardens’ storied past includes being nurtured over the decades by four women, one of them, Ida Cason Callaway, whose son founded Callaway Gardens. While the gardens are stunning most of the year, the fall months provide a slower pace to view and study unique plants, as trees gleam in fall foliage. Visitors can stroll the well-trodden paths set among fountains and classical statuary or attend a workshop and tour the mansion to learn the history behind one of America’s famous families. Shortly after land opened for settlers in 1832, Nancy Coleman Ferrell planted a small formal garden near her home, which later became one of the gardens at Hills & Dales. Nancy’s daughter, Sarah Coleman Ferrell, inherited the land in 1841 and began expanding the garden. Between 1841 and 1903, Sarah planted thousands of boxwoods. Situated on rolling hills, the gardens Sarah developed incorporated retaining walls constructed of native stone, and a series of six terraces featured formal boxwood gardens.

Ferrell rooted boxwoods and planted seeds for magnolia trees, while rare plants were ordered. By 1860, the gardens were among the finest in the southeast. Known locally as Ferrell Gardens, the site reflected Sarah’s strong religious beliefs sculpted in the boxwood parterres with the double outlined word “God” in boxwood. Other symbols include “God Is Love”, the grapes of Canaan and a harp. Sarah had an appreciation for her family and life. In 1903, Sarah and her husband, Judge Blount Ferrell, celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary in the gardens with extended family. As the gardens grew, so did the visitors. A young Fuller E. Callaway was one of those visitors who strolled through the boxwoods and gardens. As Fuller became a successful businessman, he continued to visit the gardens. After the Ferrells passed away, Fuller and his wife, Ida Cason Callaway, purchased the property in 1911. Ida nurtured the boxwood paths and expanded the gardens, adding mottos of “St. Callaway” and “Ora Pro Mi”. The Callaways tore down the Ferrells house and donated the materials to the LaGrange community. Fuller commissioned Hentz & Reid of Atlanta to design the mansion, which was

—64— —64—-

built on the site of the former cottage, nestled steps away from the garden. Reminiscent of an Italian villa, the mansion was completed in 1916 with excellent craftsmanship. The estate has been called “A Landmark of the American Renaissance.” Ida selected the name “Hills & Dales” for the four-acre garden because of the “sunny hills and shady dales”. On the 100th anniversary of Ferrell Gardens, April 17, 1932, Ida invited 165 members of the Garden Club of America to a buffet luncheon. Like Sarah, Ida often filled the house with extended family. One of the Callaways’ sons, Cason, founded Callaway Gardens, which was originally named for Ida. He also named the garden’s chapel in honor of his mother. When Alice Hand’s sister, Virginia, married Cason, she became a frequent visitor to the gardens. Alice later married Cason’s brother, Fuller Jr., After Ida’s death in 1936, Alice and Fuller Jr. with their two small children moved into the estate. She accepted the role to oversee Hills & Dales Estate and refined and expanded the garden with loving attention over the next 62 years. She commissioned a curved sofa in the identical shape as the stone bench in the sunken garden where she sat with Fuller. The sofa is still in the living room of the mansion. Alice desired to preserve the estate for the enjoyment of

generations. Following her death in 1998, the house and 35 acres were bequeathed to the Fuller E. Callaway Foundation. A multi-million dollar visitors’ center was built, and the Hills &Dales Estate opened to the public on Alice’s birthday, Oct. 2, 2004. Visitors can tour the gardens and the house furnished with family heirlooms and antiques. While many gardens did not survive the destruction of the Civil War or the vagaries of weather, the continuity of the garden is exceptional. Ninety percent of Ferrell’s garden is intact. Hills & Dales has endured as one of the most splendid gardens in America. Specialty tours of the home are offered, including an art tour, a behind-the-scenes tour and holiday tours. Upcoming workshops include: Doing the Rot Thing (composting workshop), Adult Gingerbread House Workshop and wreath making. Other events include Step into Nature: Guided Tree Walk, 10th Annual Stories in the Garden and the annual lecture with Parker Andes, Biltmore’s director of horticulture. During Veterans Week, Nov. 9 to 13, there will be complimentary admission to home and gardens. Hills & Dales Estate is open year-round. The estate is closed Mondays and on major holidays. Tickets are $20 for adults for the house-and-garden tour, $10 for the garden-only tour and $8 for students. For additional information call 706882-3242. Visit the website at

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Explore Beyond Let’s Lee Go Explore County

There is a lot of dining near Hills & Dales. The Taste of Lemon Restaurant has been located in a historic converted church since 1982. Taste of Lemon is open for lunch Monday through Friday. The restaurant serves southern dishes. Check the menu on the Facebook page. Taste of Lemon is located at 204 Morgan St., LaGrange. For additional information call 706882-5382. The Cart Barn Grill is a casual restaurant open for lunch and dinner. The original owner was head chef at the former In Clover restaurant. The business is now operated by his son. The lunch menu offers burgers, sandwiches and salads. Be sure to try the In Clover’s recipe for green goddess dressing. The Cart Barn Grill is located at 625 Jefferson St. and is open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and dinner Tuesday through Friday from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. EST. For further information, call 706-884-3362.


Because We Care

Everywhere you look, you see AuburnBank employees volunteering and serving to make our community better and to help it grow. That’s because AuburnBank cares. Since 1907, AuburnBank has cared about and invested in this community, which is why we have such a strong presence in local charitable organizations like Habitat for Humanity, United Way and the Food Bank of East Alabama, to name a few. We’re a local bank with deep roots. We care deeply about our community, so just imagine how much we care about our customers. AuburnBank. Your Partner. Your Neighbor. Your Friend. BANK OFFICES:

Equal Housing Lender




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461 Opelika Road, Ste. A, Auburn Serving Lee County for 25 years

A Fresh Take on TexMex South of the Border North of the Tracks in Downtown Opelika

870 N. Railroad Avenue



KageFit, in Opelika, Alabama, is your Premiere Family Fitness Academy! KageFit offers martial arts classes to get you and your family in shape and looking good. KageFit also offers boxing, Muay Thai, and Brazilian Ju-Jitsu to go along with the KageFit fitness program. Now is the time to join us for fitness. You won’t be crowded and fighting for space in our 6000 square foot facility. Enjoy the separation between the kids and adults.

3613 Pepperell Parkway, Opelika 334-363-2727

GET WILD Story By Bradley Robertson


ho needs a day full of fun and laughter? I think we can all raise our hands on that one. There is no better place to turn to than the Wild Animal Safari in Pine Mountain, Georgia. This adventure lies just 40 minutes down the road from Lee County and is guaranteed to bring the joy we all need day-to-day. Now, this joy may also bring wet and slobbery animal grins from a zebra or a camel, but it is a memory you’re sure to never forget. Wild Animal Safari is a 300-acre park where families can meet unique animal species up close and personal from their own vehicle or from a van rented through the park. The park also hosts a walkabout zoo where you can meet beautiful animals by foot including peacocks, an African lion and the resident Bengal tigers.


Have you ever heard of a New Guinea singing dog? It is actually a dingo and is a true wild dog. However, it does not bark but has a unique high-pitched howl that sounds like singing. They are native to New Guinea and eat small rodents and fruit. What about a common genet? It is native to Africa and looks like a cross between a sweet, wide-eyed cat and a leopard. It has a mane down its spine and spends a lot of its time climbing trees. With over 150 species of animals in the zoo, the wonder and fun of seeing amazing creatures in our neighboring Georgia is worth soaking up. The best part of our Robertson family excursion to Wild Animal Safari was the van rental allowing us to drive through the safari park. Rentals are available for smaller families up to seven and larger families up to 15. You can drive your own vehicle, but I do not recommend this unless you are not concerned about a

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possible ding from a close encounter with an Emu. Now comes the true adventure and test of skill, can you and your family successfully feed a bison as he quickly runs towards your van, sticking his tongue inside the window, aiming for a morsel of food resting in your hands? The answer is yes. And you will do it while laughing like hyenas, so hard, that you may pee your pants. It gets better, while the bison is becoming your best friend, he will notify his 12 other wild friends that you are generous. They, too, will meet you and greet you and together a zebra, an ostrich, a giraffe and quite a few elk will be hovering over your van in the hopes of a little something to eat. The best part is, it’s neverending. The fun continues for 3.5 miles, so be sure to purchase plenty of animal feed in the shop before you leave. It is all the fun of Africa but in our own backyard. It is safe and it is worth every penny. We live in such an incredible community, we can enjoy football games on the weekends, visits to lakes and forests or even take a trip to Africa. We are in our own little paradise. What are you and your family planning for this fall? I hope it includes the Wild Animal Safari Park. We all have little bit of wild in us, so we might as well spend it with some amazing creatures that can love us right back in their own, hilarious way. For details and tickets, visit


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Mon-Sat 10:30 a.m to 8 p.m, Sundays 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

At Meals Chiropractic Clinic, we provide an array of services, all designed for your improved health. Our goal is to eliminate your aches and pains as quickly as possible.

1650D S. College St. Auburn, AL 334-821-1660

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907 2nd Ave. Ste. B Opelika

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A HIDDEN BEAUTY Prattville’s Bamboo Forest Story By Wil Crews Photos By Krisan Hood


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ituated near the foothills of downtown Prattville, Alabama, the Bamboo Forest is a 26-acre wilderness park full of unique history, serene atmosphere and stunning

views. Here in this growing “Fountain City”, the park serves as the perfect place for an afternoon stroll, picnic or day-trip for visitors within the state. You may ask, “how did a forest of bamboo wind up in Prattville, Alabama?” Well, the history begins in 1823, shortly after Alabama gained statehood, when a man named Joseph May received the land as part of a grant. In 1835, the now-designated wilderness park was purchased by the city of Prattville’s founder, Daniel Pratt, and the land was passed to various owners over the next century. In 1940, Floyd Smith gained ownership of the land. He was the one who planted the infamous bamboo. It is said that Floyd had a love for exotic plants and acquired the bamboo shoots from a Washington import firm.

From that day forward, a small package of plants has blossomed into a magnificent habitat for wildlife, full of plant life that is unfamiliar to most southerners, but beloved by all those who know of its existence. Today, people come from all over Autauga County — and the state — to see the dramatic heights of the cocooning bamboo. During the Vietnam War, however, the park had a different, more tangible use. At the time, the property belonged to Gen. William Butler, an Air University Commander at Maxwell Air Force Base. Butler allowed Morgan Smith, then head of the USAF Survival Program, to use the property for troop survival training, because the bamboo and arid climate accurately simulated conditions of Southeast Asia — where the war was being fought. Following the death of the Butlers, the vacated property was sold by their heirs. A local women’s service group, The Spinners Club, then raised money through fundraising to earn enough for a down payment on the property. The Bank of Prattville loaned the


remainder of the purchase price — $45,000 — to them. On April 6, 1979, they obtained the land. In September of that year, the city of Prattville purchased the property from the women’s group with the assistance of the Heritage, Conservation and Recreation Service. The park officially opened as the first of its kind inside city limits in October 1980. Since then, the unique park has become one of Prattville’s greatest attractions. The comforting canopies of bamboo — which grow more rapidly than any other plant species at up to 4-feet in 24 hours — make the temperature inside the forest much cooler than the surrounding air. Once inside, this hospitable harbor for nature immediately transports visitors to a seemingly untouched preserve of green-filled beauty. Among the peaceful, rock-beaten half mile walking trail, it is almost too easy to forget that you are in the middle of a bustling city. If visitors do recall that fact, the muted atmosphere

of the bamboo, the croaking of a frog, the critters rustling in the leaves or the stunning array of other plant life will ground the visitor back in the park’s relaxing aura. Along with the four different kinds of bamboo, the park is home to numerous other trees and plants including: American Holly, Red Maple, American Beech, Sweet Bay Magnolia, Netted Chain Fern, Loblolly Pine, Southern Magnolia, Short-leaf Pine, River Cane, Tulip Poplar and Jack-in-the-Pulpit. The Beech Tree there is tied for the largest one in the state of Alabama. Just over 70 miles from Auburn, Alabama, the Bamboo Forest stoically awaits travelers at all times of the year. If you have fall travel plans, make sure to put this wilderness park on your list. It’s pet-friendly, so bring your four-legged friends. The Bamboo Forest is located at 800 Upper Kingston Road, Prattville, Alabama, 36067, and is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day of the week.


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Locally owned and operated, Goree's Furniture Express has been bringing you savings for more than 20 years! 334-742-0607 Explore Lee County 3797 Alabama Highway 169, Opelika —77—

An Island of Goats A

Story and Photos By Bradley Robertson

day trip only an hour from Auburn, Jackson Lake Island is the perfect spot for our family’s favorite getaway. My daughter and I pulled into canopies of towering oak trees covered in beautiful waves of moss, luscious tall grass and silk topped waters. Stubbled, old trees grew out of lake waters, making our view peaceful and quiet. To our pleasant surprise, we saw a sign that read, “Goat Crossing”. We were a bit confused until moments later we began to see miniature goats passing in front of us. We grinned ear to ear and I parked our car to enjoy the fun. Goats galore, we saw babies and mommas, old goats with long horns and black goats with no horns, roaming around, enjoying goat heaven. It was the cutest and happiest experience. We followed them around laughing and petting

them, enjoying the splendor of the day. Baby goats were heard in the distance, calling out “Maaaaaa, Maaaaa…”, the funniest sight to see. The mother would wander back into sight, and the wee one would run up with joy as if it had been missing for ages. Sissy and I laughed and awed for what seemed like hours. Time stood still for us as we were wrapped up in an island of beauty and goats. After taking a gazillion pictures and videos, we stepped away from the goats to visit Spectre, the set of the movie “Big Fish”. The entrance is framed by a man-made structure of old forbidden trees locking limbs at the top to form a canopy. A reminder that Hollywood can make anything look realistic, and the perfect setup for a kodak moment with your kid. We giggled as we walked into this random and whimsical place, the sky full of blue and a road leading to a perfectly



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steepled white church. We walked past the abandoned homes and I pictured myself in the middle of lights, people, music — and Ewan McGregor (the star of Big Fish). Sissy and I hung around for an hour or so. We had to muster up the want to leave this enchanting place. Honestly, we could have stayed here all day. I pictured my boys running around, wild and free — and me sitting on a blanket with my favorite book. It is the perfect place to visit in the fall. A place where you can do absolutely nothing and enjoy everything. It is picnic-perfect and I recommend planning to stay for an hour or so. They have great bathroom ac-commodations and even offer camping and fishing. With every adventure, I realize what a glorious state we live in. From north to south, Alabama brings all variations of natural life.



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THE LITTLE GRAND CANYON Story and Photos By Hannah Lester


elcome to Georgia’s Providence Canyon, or, the Little Grand Canyon. I made more than one trip to this colorful day hike while I was an Auburn student, given it was only a little over an hour from campus. The first trip, in 2017, was just me and my friend Hannah. (We actually do share a first name. It’s a funny

story — we were random suite-mates our first year.) We got up early and made the drive to Georgia. You do need to leave the state for this hike, but it doesn’t feel like it. It’s a pretty easy and quick drive. The dirt and rocks alongside the road start to look a little more red as you near your destination. When you arrive, you’ll find a little gift shop/ranger station and the option to take a hike around the perimeter



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of the canyon. This area is fenced off when you’re near the edges, so don’t worry, but still be careful, especially if you’ve brought children with you. It took us a couple of hours to do this part of the hike — but with good reason. We took it slow, took lots of pictures and stopped a couple of times. First, we stopped for photos with broken down and abandoned cars in the woods. Some, of course, had been spray painted. Others, you could climb inside. Secondly, we stopped midway through, or near the end, rather, for lunch. We’d packed lunch beforehand. There were some nice picnic tables near a view of the canyons. Finally, we stopped to hang our Eno hammocks at the end of the hike. We’d both brought books with us and this was a nice way to relax before the next part of our day. Following our hike around the perimeter, we actually had the option to go inside of the canyons. This is definitely my favorite part of Providence Canyon. Although the canyons are beautiful from up top, they’re even more breathtaking from the inside. They tower over you and all the colors are on full display. We spent another hour and a half inside the canyons before heading out.


Each canyon is labeled — so you can explore each one from the ground. I loved the trip so much, I repeated it with friends a year later in 2018, but we chose to spend all day on the inside of the canyons. Some fun facts about Providence: according to the Georgia State Parks website, the canyon was actually formed by farming, poor farming to be exact. “Massive gullies as deep as 150 feet were caused simply by poor farming practices during the 1800s, yet today they make some of the prettiest photographs within the state,” the website said. “The rare Plumleaf Azalea grows only in this region and blooms during July and August when most azaleas have lost their color. The canyon soil’s pink, orange, red and purple hues make a beautiful natural painting at this quiet park.” There is also backcountry camping available. “Backpackers can stay overnight along the backcountry trail which highlights portions of the canyon and winds through mixed forest,” the site said. “Camping, cottages and efficiency units are available nearby at Florence Marina State Park on 45,000 acre Lake Walter F. George.” For more information on the canyons visit

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Quite A Climb


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Story By Bradley Robertson Photos By Hannah Lester


e are blessed in our neck of the woods with rivers, streams, woods, waterfalls and plenty of wildlife to enjoy. We often forget the luxury of Alabama and all its beauty has to offer. And so much of it is right in our own backyard. Lake Martin has been a local hotspot for decades. It’s known for its calm, fresh waters and enjoyment for families beginning in early spring and lasting well into the fall season. Here’s a cool fact for you, Lake Martin is a man-made lake. It was constructed between 1923 and 1926 and is part of the Tallapoosa River. The lake is a reservoir of Martin Dam which is used to generate hydroelectric power for the Alabama Power Company. There is a lovely spot I recently found — the Smith Mountain Fire Tower. I had seen a few friends post pictures of the adventure but I knew little of its location or value to our community. I took it upon myself, and my two boys, to scope it out

and see what this local adventure was all about. It proved to be a delightful outing, and the view from the top of the old Fire Tower was spectacular. Smith Mountain Fire Tower is located just a few miles off Highway 280 in Jackson’s Gap. It took us all of 20 minutes by car to reach the parking lot of the hike, leaving out of N. College St in Auburn. Upon arrival, there were few other cars and a small parking lot surrounded by woods. There was a large gate directly in front of us that we learned was the old access road for rangers to drive up and down. To the left and right of the larger gate, were two small paths that both lead directly up to the fire tower. We took off by foot, hiking to somewhere we had never been. This has got to be one of my favorite things about adventure; having no clue at all as to where you are going, but the excitement of what you will find around the corner. In less than 15 minutes, we had made it to the fire tower. The trail was well kept and easy to follow with


white paint markings every few yards. The canopy of trees and lake sightings in the distance make for all the feels of outdoor life. Upon arrival, there are steps leading up to a landing with large maps and information about the history and preservation of Smith Mountain and Lake Martin. There is an old chimney in the middle of a rock wall which used to be the office for the rangers and watchmen looking over the lake. Soon enough, my boys spotted the grand Fire Tower and up the mountain we went, dodging boulders to see all that we could see. The tower rises 80 feet above Smith Mountain and has been restored and open to the public since June 2012. With no hesitation and the safety of railing on the tower, we made our way to the top. The view of Lake Martin is panoramic, and you can see Alabama for miles and miles. We stood still, staring at the horizon, taking in the wonder of our view. I love how our perspective can change in an instant just by altering our vantage point. What once was large, now seemed small. Things we could not see before, we now could. We all looked up minutes later and began to follow the maps above our heads that pointed out directions and landmarks of Alabama. One map pointed out Auburn in relation to our standing and another showed us Mt. Cheaha


and Camp Hill. We didn’t leave the top of the tower quickly. I stood still and peeled oranges for us to enjoy and listened to the small talk of my boys. For when you see something spectacular, there is no need to run away from it as if it’s chasing you. You might as well take it all in, for you never know when you’ll see it again. We ate oranges and in true boy fashion they asked if they could throw the oranges off the tower to see where they would land. I declined their offer. They both mentioned that it would make a nice snack for the local critters and although they were right and very convincing, I did not give in. We eventually walked back down the tower. We took a few pictures and had a bit more fun on the mountain before hiking back to the car. Braxton said he got his hiking fix for the summer and Shep asked when we could return with Sissy to go swimming. In a time such as this, with uncertainty everywhere, I physically saw that my point of view can be turned and shaped into something new just by moving in a different direction; an idea I hope I can hold onto in my day-to-day living. But what I experienced most was the simple idea of time to play with my boys. Whether old or young, how often do we find time to play? How often do we make time for fun and adventure?

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organ Bryce spends his free time exploring places around Lee County and outside of it, through Alabama and Georgia. Some of his photo pitstops include Chambers County, LaFayette, Talbotton, Junction City, Harris County, Chattahoochee County, Eufaula, Brooklyn and more. Often, he’s photographing abandoned homes, crumbling businesses and shacks devoid of life. Some of these places have been forgotten to time, others are remembered fondly. Bryce shows that history is sometimes located right off the paved road — you just have to look for it. To see more visit www.


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Traveling is not just seeing the new; it is also leaving behind. Not just opening doors; also closing them behind you, never to return. But the place you have left forever is always there for you to see whenever you shut your eyes. - Jan Myrdal


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