Star Date: 01312018. The Smith Space Pod leaves the farm orbit with its crew.
Garrett mans the cargo bay of the ship.
Peter and Dax take turns copiloting. Your eyes are not deceiving you, Peter is getting fatter. He spends his day at work stealing horse nuggets. He claims it has therapeutic properties for his arthritis. Whatever, dude. Today is Debauchery Day anyway.
We stop at Walter's in the middle of nowhere Macon County because they make Southern food from scratch. I buy the dogs two bacon sausage biscuits and forget to snag a bite. Dax has never had bacon before and he can't believe his taste buds!
Ensign Dax flips on the autopilot switch and sleeps most of the 150 miles to our destination.
7 counties away in a remote corner of Perry County is a gem of a wildlife sanctuary set in 600 acres of old growth forest in a swamp environment. Reptilian wildlife teems in the 4 oxbow lakes where bald cypress and tupelo trees grow in the lakes.
Welcome to Alabama's version of the Okefenokee Swamp! Why I've waited for 6 years to come on a cold enough day that the alligators and cottonmouth snakes are dormant.
Gator bait, my crew is not!
7 miles of trails, all explored.
As it's underfunded and dependent on volunteer labor, many trails are hard to follow with so many downed limbs and missing markers.
We four explorers ended up on someone else's property a couple of times. Thankfully, Ensign Dax, like Cole, can sniff out even the faintest trail.
I suppose he's a keeper.
Bridges and boardwalks dot the trails.
The 100' tall birding tower beckons to me, but I'm not about to leave the trio tethered to the base unattended.
I can't brag that Dax earned his stripes the first couple of hours. It was not a running day, it was a hiking day and he did not get the memo.
Eventually, he settles down.
We discover the last long trail around Secret Lake. Pictures don't do it justice. The trees are draped in Spanish Moss, you can only imagine the alligators my old brochure boasts about. Walking through waist high palmettos, not knowing what's around the corner...
We also find the grove of century old loblolly pines recently saved from logging. Apparently it took a literal act of congress to stop the chainsaws.
What an exhilarating day!
Are you ready for the architectural wonders? I'll start with the covered suspension bridge.
I didn't realize it would swing. With no sides and a nice long drop to the creek. We regroup and try again.
Auburn University Architecture School's Rural Studio built it.
The dogs have lunch at the pavilion. Crew chief realizes she neglected to pack herself a lunch.
The pavilion is about 13 years old and needs repairs before part of the roof collapses. All the more reason the Park needs to be discovered by more people. Which is hypocritical to say because I enjoyed every minute of being the only human in the entire park all day long.
I've saved the best for last: the bathrooms designed by Rural Studio architecture students. I make the dogs hopscotch from one to another because I can't decide which one is my favorite.
3 very different metal and wood structures with 3 very different vanishing points designed to make you forget what you went in there for in the first place.
The last is officially the winner, but the first has the most aesthetic exterior. This is what we need at the farm along the trails in the woods.
On our way home, I screech to a halt at Whole Foods in Montgomery and we have a major picnic in our shuttle.
Feeding frenzy of beef brisket, caramelized carrots and oatmeal cookies.
300 miles later, we dock back to the mother ship.
Another destination checked off the Bucket List.
Where to next time, copilot?