Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Bucks Pocket State Park by John Dersham

Bucks Pocket State Park is a narrow gorge cut into Sand Mountain on the western edge of DeKalb County. South Sauty Creek has gradually carved out this beautiful heavily forested area with high bluffs and scenic views. Bucks Pocket is and upstream tributary of Lake Guntersville.
Nobody today seems quite sure of how Bucks Pocket got its name. Folklore legend ranges from renegade Cherokee Indians living nearby trapped a buck deer on a high rock ledge. The deer decided to take leap off the ledge into the deep rock pocket below, thus creating the name Bucks Pocket. A second version of the name is said to come from a farmer named Buck who once owned the land now in the park. He would build fences and ran cattle across the canyon. People would come by and ask his wife where Mr. Buck was and she would tell them he was in his pocket. Other folklore claims the park was once a battleground for buck deer that roamed the area by the hundreds. Another story tells of unsuccessful candidates for public office would go lick their wounds at this location after an unsuccessful run for office. No body knows for sure how Bucks Pocket got its name but in makes for an interesting conversation.
Bucks Pocket State Park is a beautifully secluded wonder of nature considered a natural pocket of the Appalachian Mountain chain. It is a 2,000 acre nature lover’s paradise. The parks picnic area offers a canyon rim vista into the pocket below. Bucks Pocket State Park offers fishing, camping, hiking and a picnic area with a playground. The campground hosts 36 sites. If you have not yet invested in an RV the campground can rent one to you. The campground is complete with tables, grills, shelters, laundry, bathrooms, showers and a playground.
One of the really great hikes at Bucks Pocket is the Point Rock Trail. The trail runs from the park office along Little Sauty Creek up the canyon to Point Rock. Another hiking trail is the Primitive Trail which begins in the Privative Campground and follows South Sauty Creek until it flows in Lake Guntersville. This trail is and easy walk along an old road. This trail is good for a larger group or horseback riders.
Fishing is available in the park. There is a boat launch and fishing area at Morgan’s Cove on Lake Guntersville, just downstream from Bucks Pocket.
For those of us living on the eastern side of DeKalb County, Bucks Pocket provides a nice little vacation without spending much on gas or drive times to get there. Take your tent or RV, your fishing rod, hiking shoes, a picnic lunch and your camera and go have a great day or two in a quiet place that seems a million miles away, but is close to home. For more information call 1-800-ALA-PARK or visit

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Piece of Paradise by John Dersham

DeKalb County Alabama is a piece of paradise in the Northeast corner of Alabama. Here you will find beautiful and famous Lookout Mountain and Sand Mountain. Between the two mountains is Wills Valley. DeKalb County is a county full of scenic wonders and peaceful serene views. On Lookout Mountain you will find The Lookout Mountain Scenic Parkway and along its way you will find Little River Canyon National Preserve the second deepest canyon east of the Mississippi River. When you travel north on the parkway you will see DeSoto Falls (104 feet) and DeSoto State Park. The scenic parkway winds through the woodlands with trees overhanging the road; here you will see log cabins (some for rent) and fabulous fall color. Soon you will come to the quaint mountain village of Mentone. Here you will find the oldest hotel in the state of Alabama. It is called the Mentone Springs Hotel built in 1884 and is now a beautiful B&B with a fabulous restaurant called Caldwell’s named after the hotel founder.
Once you have left Mentone you can come back down Lookout Mountain to the small scenic village of Valley Head. Valley Head has a backdrop of Lookout Mountain. Head south in Wills Valley and you come to Fort Payne. Fort Payne is a beautiful small town that is home to the singing group Alabama. Fort Payne has a historic past. In the late 1880’s business men from Boston came here thinking they would mine Coal and Iron Ore from Lookout Mountain. They came here in high numbers with a lot of wealth. They built an Opera House (still here) and beautiful New England style homes and downtown buildings, many of which are still standing. The Fort Payne Boom Days were short lived however as the Iron and Coal company failed to find much Iron or Coal. In Fort Payne you will find the Depot Museum which is housed in the beautifully restored Fort Payne train depot. Before you leave Fort Payne and you can visit the group Alabama Museum and gift shop.
If you are in the area on any Saturday, 52 weeks a year, you can visit Trade Days in Collinsville. This is one of the largest weekly flea markets you will find anywhere.
Now let’s go up to Sand Mountain. Sand Mountain is a beautiful rural mountain with wonderful small towns and is well know for Agriculture. On Sand Mountain you will find the towns of Rainsville, Fyffe, Henagar, Sylvania (home to DeKalb County Fishing Lake) and Ider. Each of these towns is fun to mill around and shop in. When you go to the western part of Sand Mountain you can visit High Falls Park and Buck’s Pocket State Park. High Falls is one of the most impressive water falls you will see anywhere.
A trip to DeKalb County is a great way to spend a week or of a few days. You will love the relaxing environment and our wonderfully naturally friendly people. Come see us and enjoy!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Summertime Tourism by John Dersham

We are currently at the peak of our annual travel season here in DeKalb County. This year we have suffered some of the consequences of our nation’s economic downturn, but not nearly as much as the national numbers for tourism. There are several reasons for this. DeKalb County is a drive to destination with an audience of 11 million people within 200 miles. This makes us an easy two or three day vacation. We are blessed with an interstate system that is easily accessible from most every direction. Over half of our tourist visitors are from Alabama and many of them are from Birmingham and south Alabama where we are viewed as a beautiful quiet mountainous departure from the flatter terrain to the south and from the bigger noisier cities. The same is true from some of our other large markets, which are, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida. In a time of a suffering economy, high job losses and more expensive costs of living our fairly close drive to destination fits the bill.
Alabama is a young upcoming state in the area of tourism. We are just getting a good foothold in nationwide and international tourism. Places like Orlando and Florida in general have the opposite problem of being mature travel destinations. This makes it very difficult to achieve growth, especially in a down economy. Orlando tourism is down 40% right now while DeKalb County and the State of Alabama are lest then minus 10% year to date.
Much of our success in tourism is because of you our Tourist Association members who are making your living in the tourism industry. You have done a great job at developing businesses to be consistent with the type of leisure tourism we attract. Tourism entities in DeKalb County have done a great job at developing businesses that fit comfortably into our environment and culture. This is why our tourists come here so often. We have a very high tourist return rate.
Everyday at the tourist association we hear how beautiful, well laid out and relaxing our area is. We often hear people say they are coming here for the same reason they used to go to Gatlinburg, but now, Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area is so overdeveloped that it is no longer a comfortable relaxing vacation. Our goal at the Tourist Association is to develop growth in tourism without destroying the very elements that made us a great destination to begin with.
If you have ideas and thoughts about the above subject or any others and you are willing to share we would love to hear from you. Please email us your thoughts, ideas, concerns, success stories and other comments. Email

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Happy 4th of July by John Dersham

Here are some ideas about things to do this weekend in our area:
DeSoto State Park and DeSoto Falls- Picnics, swimming pool, hiking, water falls, park store and playground. More information call 256-845-0051.
Little River Canyon National Preserve - Picnics, Swimming holes, hiking, water falls. Scenic overlooks on the Canyon Rim scenic drive. More information call 256-845-9605
Bucks Pocket State Park - Camping, picnics, hiking, boating and fishing. More info call 256-659-2000.
High Falls Park - Picnics, swimming holes, water falls, playground, hiking trails and walking bridge over Town Creek near the falls. More information call 256-623-2281.
Sequoyah Caverns - Fantastic cave. Known for reflecting pools and beautiful formations, camping, store.
Tigers for Tomorrow. Take a trip to Untamed Mountain, exotic animal park. Here you will be up close and personal with over 40 big cats, wolves and bears in the carnivore compound. Children can interact with barn yard animals at the personal contact yard. Call for hours of operation. 256-524-4150
Alabama Fan Club and Museum. Gift shop and museum. Museum houses awards, achievements and memorabilia of country music’s historic super group, Alabama. More information call 256-845-1646.
Collinsville Trade Day - Saturday morning only. Experience historic Collinsville’s weekly Trade Day. Considered one of the south’s largest outdoor markets. Purchase boiled peanuts, fresh fruit and vegetables, farm animals, pets, antiques, tools, knives, coins, household collectables, toys and much more. Located south of Collinsville on H-11. Come early.
Shady Grove Dude Ranch. Guided hourly horse trail rides. Bunk in the “Roundup” or one of the rustic cabins. More info call 256-634-4344.
True Adventure Sports. Your enthusiastic guides to outdoor activities on Lookout Mountain and Fort Payne, including rock climbing, rappelling, camping, canoeing, kayaking. Call for schedules and costs 256-997-9577.
Golf at Saddle Rock Golf Course. Part of Cloudmont this golf course is open seven days a week. Pretty scenery and some fun challenges for the armature or professional. More information call 256-634-4344.

Current events this holiday weekend:
Thursday July 2
Independence Day Celebration in Fort Payne. Enjoy Fireworks, free hot dogs, soft drinks and American flags. Music by Eclipse. Festivities are at the Fort Payne High School football stadium. More information call 256-845-1524.
Saturday July 4
25th annual Sand Mountain Potato Festival in Henagar. Come see agricultural products, including potatoes. Celebrate our heritage with live music, arts and crafts, entertainment, games and fireworks. Events begins at 10:00am and culminates with a beautiful fireworks display. More information call 256-657-6282.
Saturday July 4
Independence Day Celebration at Sequoyah Caverns. Fireworks and bluegrass music will fill your soul with joy! Come out for a good time at Sequoyah Caverns & Ellis Homestead. 800-843-5098
Saturday July 4
Rock Climbing Adventure with True Adventure Sports. Nestled in the NE corner of Alabama are some of the best and unique sandstone cliffs in the country. Come experience first-hand what rock climbing is all about with guides who are fun, safe and energetic. This trip includes all the gear plus basic instruction. No prior climbing experience is needed. Meet at True Adventure Sports. $34 per person. 10 p.m. to 2 p.m. 256-997-9577
Saturday July 4
Low Country Boil at The Mentone Springs Hotel. We pride ourselves with an array of fresh shrimp, sausage, corn, and potatoes. This is our most popular dining experience at the hotel. Call ahead for reservations, seating is limited. 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. 256-634-4040
Saturday July 4 & Sunday July 5
Invitational Art Show at the Mentone Springs Hotel. Several local and invited artist will be displaying their arts at our chapel. The chapel is located one block from the Hotel. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. 256-634-4040
Saturday July 4 & Sunday July 5
Overnight Camping Skills Class with True Adventure Sports. Most needed camping skills are brought to you as well as advanced skills such as how to find dry fuels, how to build a fire without smoke, how to start a fire without matches or flint, lean to construction, and safety barriers. Contact True Adventure Sports to see what gear you need to bring. $15 per person 5 p.m. to 9 a.m. 256-997-9577
Sunday July 5
Rappelling Adventure with True Adventure. Come experience the thrill of rappelling down the sheer sandstone gems of NE Alabama. No previous experience necessary. Each trip includes all the gear plus basic instruction. $37 per person 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 256-997-9577