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Hiking off to the great October nature show

By By Otha Barham / outdoors editor
Oct. 11, 2002
Regardless of your choice of hobbies, irrespective of your exercise preferences, notwithstanding your chosen entertainment, getting into the woods in the fall is so rewarding that it should be on everyone's "to do" list.
Bowhunters enjoy the fall colors and chilled air by saying they are scouting for deer sign. Other deer hunters give the excuse of working on stands or sprucing up the camp house. Anglers pretend to rush out for the last bass bite of the season. Owners of fire places must cut wood when the weather turns cool. Inducements to visit the outback in autumn abound. And for good reason. Wildlife and flora are reaching maturity when their colors and fruits and winter coats are at their finest. It's a show no one should miss. Now is prime time for hiking the woodlands.
Hiking fanatic and author Johnny Molloy has written a book especially for hikers in this part of the country. Its title is "Long Trails of the Southeast." Molloy enjoys hiking established trails that are created and maintained just for hiking. He has high praise for Mississippis Black Creek Trail near Hattiesburg. The book gives complete information on the 41 mile trail that is maintained by the U.S. Forest Service. A mile by mile description of the terrain and sites encountered by the hiker provides a preview to pique the interest of prospective hikers.
Top trail
Molloy says of this trail, "The Black Creek Trail is not only the apex of hiking in the Magnolia State, it is also one of the finest hiking trails in the Southeastern United States." His fascination with the "tea-colored water and contrasting white sandbars" provides much of his inspiration.
Another nearby trail covered thoroughly in "Long Trails" is the Pinhoti Trail located in the Talladega National Forest. The author calls this "the master path of Alabama." The 104 mile trail is truly in the wilderness, and hikers must carry all their supplies or be willing to make a side trip of over two miles to Heflin to stock up. The pathway is marked with the image of a turkey foot either painted on trees or on small signs.
The book covers additional trails in Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, and includes maps and photographs. The cost is $15.95. Contact Tricia Parks, (205) 322-0439 ext.102 or Menasha Ridge Press, 2000 First Ave. N. Suite 1400, Birmingham, AL 35203.
If hiking is less serious for you than backpacking provisions for several days in the woods, day trips are quite appropriate for viewing natures fall bounty. A small day pack with lunch, water, snacks, map, camera and compass can accompany you on unforgettable outings.
Use any excuse you choose to take an October hike. I like to invite nature to thrill and surprise me, and an autumn hike will almost always do it.
I was hiking high above Gore Pass in Colorado one fall, having determined that the elk there needed locating before the bow season opened. Tiptoeing along beside an aspen thicket, I heard a deep grunt in a wooded draw to the east. I sneaked over and peeked into the draw, expecting to see a bull elk. These oversize deer sometimes make grunting sounds for no apparent reason, seemingly just for the heck of it.
Mistaken identity
What a pleasant surprise when a huge black bear reared up from his work of turning over logs and collecting grubs and other creatures for breakfast. The bruin apparently didn't like my looks and he took off for other places pronto. His swift departure gave me no time to reach my camera. And his retreat was quite noisy, as he broke brittle limbs from blowdowns that were in his way.
One never knows what lies over that next ridge until one arrives there. Driving along the highway and marveling at the beauty of the forest is one thing; walking through the forest and over to the back side of the scenery is quite another.
Already this month I have noticed that the woods are full of mushrooms. More than I have ever seen here. Recent rains have brought them up in batches. There are orange ones with red centers that stand in phlegmatic poses, impersonating embarrassed sunflowers. There are little brown ones scattered about like miniature umbrellas that I envision shedding raindrops from wandering insects that don't like getting wet.
Yesterday my clumsy boot toppled a huge white mushroom, one of those with the dome top that was elongated upward by the Creators hands. It lay there on the pine straw beside an erect one. I hoped a deer would happen along to eat the unearthed one before it ruined.
Tired of packaged entertainment? Want to inject your own imagination into your recreation? Take a hike.