Editor's note: This post is part of the Eighth Day Escape adventure series and contest by Parks Explorer. Throughout this year, Parks Explorer will share trip ideas, staff stories, activity suggestions, and much more from each Alabama State Park. These monthly posts will be personal accounts of traveling Park Naturalist Emily Vanderford, where she details her park adventures and experiences in the unique natural areas across the state. While reading about park adventures is not nearly as meaningful as experiencing them first-hand, Parks Explorer wants you to know just how many opportunities there are for you to enjoy Alabama the beautiful.

The Eighth Day Escape Contest began January 8, 2016 and will conclude January 8, 2017. Monthly winners will be randomly selected each month and the grand prize winner will be drawn January 8, 2017. Click here for contest entry forms and more information. Be sure to enjoy previous monthly adventures also: JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMay (Part I),May (Part II)JuneJuly, August (Part I)


In addition to adventuring at Lake Lurleen State Park last month, I had the opportunity to spend time at Chewacla State Park while I was attending a training course hosted in Auburn. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes dread week-long training courses that pull me away from my normal routine. I’m pleased to say that was definitely not the case last month. I’ve always loved Chewacla for its showcase of CCC handiwork, gorgeous views of oak-hickory forests, and overall welcoming feel, but I’ve never really gotten to spend more than a few hours at the park. Staying five days in one of the incredible CCC-built cabins was really a treat.

 The Civilian Conservation Corps was a work program created by Roosevelt's New Deal in response to the Great Depression. The U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Park Service administered this program, and its public work projects included lakes and dams, trails, roads and bridges, cabins, pavilions and shelters, as well as water and sewer systems. Native stone and timber were utilized in many of these early construction projects, and can still be observed in several Alabama State Parks including Chewacla.

Whether by foot or mountain bike, the trail system at Chewacla is a great way to see some the CCC craftsmanship, water features, and other great views in the park. There are first-class mountain biking trails for both beginner and advanced riders, made possible by the hard work and resources provided through the park’s partnership with Central Alabama Mountain Peddlers (CAMP). While I was in the park, I borrowed a mountain bike from a friend so I could try out a couple of trails. I definitely fall into the beginner category, but I had a great time and can see how mountain biking is a favorite hobby of many. If you are interested, there are a variety of weekly rides at the park hosted by CAMP, some perfect for learning the ropes and getting familiar with the sport. There is even a trail “classroom” at the park with beginner features to help beginners gain experience before hitting some of the more advanced trails. For more information, or to learn how to get started, check out CAMP’s website or Facebook page.

Chewacla State Park - Hiking Discoveries

In addition to trying my hand at mountain biking, I also visited the park’s nature center with Park Naturalist Amanda White. The nature center is located in the park’s original pump house which was built by the CCC. The center now features several live reptiles, amphibians and fish used for education. The park is the perfect place for field trips, or just for visiting during your next stay at the park (just be sure to make an appointment ahead of time).

I have to admit I felt a little bit like a college student the week I stayed at the park. I spent most of my days in class on campus and looked forward to escaping to the park after class. If you know someone going to Auburn, please make sure they know about Chewacla, or better yet, surprise them with an annual pass! I can vouch that it made for the perfect place to enjoy the outdoors after being stuck in a classroom all day. It even made studying a little more enjoyable!

Like Lake Lurleen State Park, Chewacla also fills up during home football weekends! As a matter of fact, it fills so quickly that call dates for reserving cabins and campsites (for Auburn home weekends) are posted on the website so everyone has a fair chance at booking their accommodations. Last I checked though, there were campsites available for a few of the 2016 home games. It is such a fun atmosphere for football fans, and it is really conveniently located off of I-85 and near campus. There are plenty of local restaurants worth enjoying, too. While I was in town, I enjoyed a delicious meal with some friends and family at Good Ol’ Boys, a great little steakhouse just a few miles from the park. If you go there on your next trip, just be sure to leave your mark on their map! 

Like all of Alabama's incredible parks, Chewacla is a great destination for making memories. After eight months of preparing these Eighth Day Escape adventures, I am even more resolved that our parks have something for everyone, and are absolutely worth your visit.

Suggestions for your next trip to Chewacla State Park:

 


ENTER TO WIN THIS MONTH'S LAKE LURLEEN AND CHEWACLA PRIZE PACK:

Have you visited an Alabama State Park in the last 60 days? Submit a photo from your trip along with a contest entry form and you could win (be sure to save a copy of this form before completing it). This month's prize pack includes a weekend of FREE CAMPING at Lake Lurleen State Park plus TWO Chewacla State Park vouchers for "Buy One, Get One Night Free" to be used by you and a friend on any overnight accomodation at the park (must be used on same visit). Winner will also receive Sweet Home Alabama gifts and more.


EIGHTH DAY ESCAPE CONTEST WINNERS:

JANUARY WINNER (entries received 1/8 - 2/7): Cathy Struntz
FEBRUARY WINNER (entries received 2/8 - 3/7): Chelsea Gathers
MARCH WINNER (entries received 3/8 - 4/7): Cathy Goss
APRIL WINNER (entries received 4/8 - 5/7): Lamar Johnson
MAY WINNER (entries received 5/8 - 6/7): Malia Ragan
JUNE WINNER (entries received 6/8 - 7/7): no valid entries 
JULY WINNER (entries received 7/8 - 8/7): Nikki Nelson
AUGUST WINNER (entries received 8/8 - 9/7): 
SEPTEMBER WINNER (entries received 9/8 - 10/7): 
OCTOBER WINNER (entries received 10/8 - 11/7): 
NOVEMBER WINNER (entries received 11/8 - 12/7): 
DECEMBER WINNER (entries received 12/8/16 - 1/7/17):

GRAND PRIZE WINNER (all entries received 1/8/16 - 1/7/17): 

Go Explore!

Friday, September 2, 2016