Finally pointed toward Alabama we sit back and take in our surroundings.
“Ooooo. Florida Caverns State Park. Where is that? It looks close. What is it?!” Me.
“I don’t know, but you won’t be finding out today.” Him.
“Florida Caverns State Park. Florida Caverns State Park.” Me, imprinting it in my brain where hopefully I’ll be able to retrieve it next time we’re out for a prolonged wander.
We stop at the Alabama state line to take the picture that will prove our existence in this state. The welcome center is just ahead, we stop there as well. A lovely big haired lady with an accent thick as honey inquires as to what brings us to her fair state.
“Just passing through.” I say.
“Oh, that’s too bayad.”
“Well we were planning to stop in, I’m not sure how to pronounce the name…” I hesitate.
“Dothan?” Um no, I got that one.
“Eufaula?” I give it my best shot.
“Oh yes, You Fall Uh. Well here…” she joins us on the pedestrian side of the counter to escort us from wall to wall, plucking brochures she believes may interest us during our abbreviated stay. We thank her and hit the road again.
Cotton fields line either side of the highway for miles and I simply must photograph them. Up close and personal. I mention this to my driver who doesn’t understand the strength of my conviction. To be fair I say I want to do a lot of things and I mean them 100% in that moment, then let them go if I can immediately attend to them. So I get that he may not believe me.
“More cotton fields.” I needlessly point out.
“We’re in Alabama, I’m sure there are lots of cotton fields.” He offers.
“Yes, I want to take a few pictures, close ups and long shots so if you see a place to stop.. right there! Ugh, you missed it.”
“I’m sure there will be another place.”
“Here’s one, you could turn..where are you going?! You missed it, you totally could have turned right there and I would hardly have to get out of the car!”
“Would you relax, we’ll find you a cotton field.”
We did. I had to practically walk through someone’s yard to get close enough, but I did. Then none of the pictures really turned out. Sigh.
Our next “big” town is Dothan. We pass right through the center of it. It lacks the charm of the smaller villes and burgs we’ve visited, but it feels distinctly Alabama. Or at least it feels not like Florida or Georgia, so it must be Alabama.
An hour or so later we see signs for You Fall Uh. We take the appropriate exit and slide into town.
The main street of Eufaula is unmistakable. At the core of the main intersection is a marble man creating frustrating traffic patterns, he appears to be a confederate soldier. The main street itself is lined with big shade trees providing cover for parking spaces. On either side of the median are about 5 blocks of shops and offices. The buildings are all old, many of them still have the ghost of businesses past fading on their facades. A lawyer is now occupying part of the old peanut factory; the chamber of commerce has taken ownership of an out of use train depot.
The cross street features a few businesses but it’s main function is to play host to the beautiful old southern mansions this town is know for.
Less than a mile walk from the center of town the homes begin to come into view. First a stately white home with no less than 14 columns holding up an impressive ornate roof with a huge widow’s walk, a sweeping front porch and Spanish moss laden oak trees. Many other homes oozing southern charm followed this one. But this one is special. Not only can you tour this home – The Shorter Mansion – it also had a starring role in the movie Sweet Home Alabama. It is the home Reese Witherspoon pretends is hers.
I can imagine this little town at Christmas time, warmly decorated and welcoming. The shops strewn with twinkle lights after dark inviting in shoppers. The homes adorned with wreaths, candles in every window and a ribbon of smoke escaping each chimney. I am becoming nostalgic about a place I have been in exactly one hour.
It’s just that charming.
Time to move on.
As we maneuver our way out of town with my trusty phone map app I cast a wistful glance back at the town I just created a story around. Once it’s gone from view I turn my attention to one of the brochures the big haired lady gave me. It features sites along the Alabama/Georgia border. I’m somewhat distracted and bored as I flip through it until I spot a photo of the Grand Canyon.
That caught my attention.
It’s not of course, but it is a canyon. And I must see it at once. Fortunately it’s kinda sorta on our way.
We wind up a mountain looking for a park entrance to Providence Canyon. There are very few people on the road and darkness will be coming soon.We pass something that could be an entrance, drive a few miles, then turn back.
As we enter, the sign tells us the gate will be closed and locked in precisely 15 minutes. It’s nearly dusk, which is actually the perfect time of day to take photos – known as the golden hour – and I am beside myself, camera in hand and car door open before it comes to a complete stop.
I walk with purpose toward what appears to be a gap in the landscape while Larry finds a place to park. There is a split rail fence along the tree line and can see hints of rust and red beyond it. As I get closer I am left breathless. The sun is shining on the Georgia red clay and other natural minerals creating such a warmth that I can feel it into the core of my being.
The silence is so deep here it is deafening. Not. One. Sound. I stop and stare. I am trying to absorb this beauty the evidence of something greater. I thank the universe for creating such beauty and allowing me to see it and be here. At this very moment it is a gift meant for my eyes only.
I feverishly take photos, first with my “real” camera, then with my phone. I forget about Larry momentarily, then suddenly feel he MUST see this. He has parked the car hastily where he dropped me off and is jogging toward the canyon.
“Wow,” he says clearly as impressed as I am. “Ok, we gotta go.”
And that was that.