Sunday, June 19, 2011

DeSoto Falls - Mentone, Alabama - June 18, 2011

After lunch we headed north toward DeSoto State Park and DeSoto Falls. The clouds were growing darker and the winds were beginning to pick up. By the time we reached the heart of the park the rain was falling pretty hard and the winds were very strong. We decided to drive on through the park and make a quick stop at DeSoto Falls.We sat in the car for a few minutes in hopes that the rain would stop, but it only died down long enough for us to take a few pictures of the falls.
 On the edge of the little town of Mentone, Alabama the West Fork of the Little River takes a 100-foot plunge off a Lookout Mountain cliff and is known as DeSoto Falls - named for the Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto. The upper falls - pictured above - can be seen by following a path just a few yards down from the parking lot.
The main waterfall - part of which can be seen in the above picture - is accessed by a series of stone steps leading down to an overlook. Since it was raining we decided not to take the boys down to the lower overlook. The rocks were just too slippery. We will definitely have to visit DeSoto Falls again on a dry day!
We had to stop by this interesting sculpture for a quick photo.

After we left DeSoto Falls we drove west through a small town called Geraldine, Alabama and found another rock school!! The town of Geraldine is very proud of this school, too. Just about every sign, business, or municipal building boasted "Home of the Bulldogs." The town's new water tower pictured a giant bulldog head, and a historic marker in the town even read, "Home of the Bulldogs."

We could not find much information about the history of this school except that it was built in 1921 on land that was donated by William A. Johnson - who also started the town post office in 1882.

Small southern towns have so much charm! Where else could you find a shop called Nae Nae's?

...and where else would you find authentic bottle trees (not the fancy-pants ones you can buy on the Internet)?
 As you can probably tell, we shot these pictures "Private I style," then quickly drove off before anyone noticed!!

A quick bottle tree history: Glass bottle trees originated in the Kongo around the 9th century when the superstitious Central African people thought that an imp (genii) could be captured in a bottle. They believed that evil spirits were attracted to the sparkling colors (especially cobalt blue or haint blue) so they would place the empty bottles outside their homes. The spirits would get trapped inside the bottles and would be destroyed the next day in the sunlight. Often the leaves were stripped off a tree at the corner of the house and decorated with bottles. The practice of hanging bottles in trees in America - particularly cedar or crepe myrtle - started with slaves in the southern states and quickly spread north into Appalachia.

Read this description of bottle trees from the book Livvie, by Eudora Welty:
"She knew that there could be a spell put in trees, and she was familiar from the time she was born with the way bottle trees kept evil spirits from coming into the house - luring them inside the colored bottles, where they cannot get out again."

After leaving Geraldine we drove north west to Grove Oak, Alabama to find High Falls Park. 
The park closes at 6:00 and we arrived at 5:30. We were quickly informed by the park attendant that the "park closes at 6:00 straight up and down" and that we would be "locked inside till 10:00 the next morning if we weren't out by then." We took a brisk walk half-way down to see the falls from the fence line. 
 Here are a few pictures I snapped from over the fence:

According to the park's Website, the falls are 35 feet tall and can reach 300 feet wide when Town Creek is at peak flow.

We would have liked to have gone down closer to the falls and cross the foot bridge, but we did not really want to camp out until 10:00 the next morning.

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