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By: Chloe Monte

 

This fall hike was had at Hurricane Creek Park Trail.  This area is known for its summer splashes in Hurricane Creek where families and friends alike gather in the peaceful flowing water to beat the heat.  The area is also known for its amazing trail system that loops through the cascading hills. 

 

The trails are open to both mountain bikers and hikers; however, the trail system tends to be peaceful and low in traffic.  It’s the perfect trail to hike when one wants to feel in touch with nature and to get away from the noise of town.

 

The trail has both North and South loops.  The North loop is 4.3 miles long and the South loop is an extra 1.1 miles.  This is the perfect length to feel like you’ve gotten away, yet it is short enough that it can be done without giving up your entire day. 

 

During my hike this past weekend, I found myself enjoying the trickling sun that danced upon the colorful fall leaves and beautiful birds that cascaded between the branches.  It was truly a pleasure to experience this. 

 

Hiking during the fall is one of the best times to hike in Alabama because the weather is often dry and temperate.   In other words, Alabama is not making it difficult to have an amazingly relaxing day.   Football season often competes with the call of the trail, but the die-hard outdoorsy people know that this often works to their advantage.   And no worries, though, if game day cannot be missed to enjoy the tranquility of the trails, simply go on another day.   It will be win-win!  (Pun intended.)

 

Happy trailblazing! 

 

Article sponsored by Tuscaloosa Tourism.

Find them on the web at: http://visittuscaloosa.com

 

                                                                                                                Sponsored by: 

By Courtney Corbridge

 

When you think of your dogs or your neighbors dogs, you are likely aware of how obedient, affectionate, fun, soft, cute, funny, entertaining, or protective they are. As long as any of us can remember, and certainly much longer than that, dogs have been considered man’s best friend. That’s true right here in Alabama, and it is true pretty much anywhere you go.

 

But this relationship wasn’t always just the recreational one it largely is now. Dogs became man’s best friend when they banded together for survival. Man protected dogs, and dogs helped man find food. Though hunting dogs have mostly become family dogs in our day, here are a few dogs that are still used for hunting today – especially in Alabama.

 

The best way to tackle the expansive list of hunting dogs is to first break them down into types. For our purposes, we’ll just look at the two main types—hounds and gun dogs. Some dog experts break this down further to include curs, terriers, feists etc. But the two most common dog types today are hounds and gun dogs.

 

Hounds are land trackers. They are best for hunting raccoons, jackrabbits, coyotes, and similar animals. Some hounds track using their developed sense of smell, and some track with their acute sight. The more familiar hounds, the scent trackers, will go on long chases as they hunt their prey, and they’ll often chase the target into a tree, where the dog will patrol until the hunter catches up by following the dog’s bellowing barks. A few great hound breeds are American Foxhounds, Basset Hounds, Beagles, Bloodhounds, Coonhounds, and Greyhounds.

 

Gun dogs are better for hunting prey that cannot climb trees. These game dogs are more tactful for hunting deer and birds, and typically the hunters that use them are armed with shotguns—hence the name gun dogs.

 

Retrievers, one variety of gun dogs, locate prey once they have been shot down, and they quickly retrieve it for the hunter.  The Labrador Retriever, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, and Golden Retriever are three of the most loved retrieving gun dogs.

 

Flushing dogs, yet another type of gun dog, are trained to locate hiding prey and then force them into the open. Common flushing dogs are spaniels like the Blue Picardy Spaniel, the American Water Spaniel, and the Welsh Springer Spaniel.

 

Unlike flushing dogs, setters and pointers locate their prey and then freeze on the spot for the hunter to come with a net or gun. Common pointing dogs are Gordon Setters, Irish Setters, and the German Shorthaired Pointer.

 

For a more complete hunting dog list, check out http://www.dogbreedinfo.com/huntingdogs.htm.

 

Article sponsored by First South Farm Credit.

Find them on the web at: http://www.firstsouthfarmcredit.com/home.aspx

 

By Tori Linville

Watching Bama from home? Do it in luxury

 

If your deck or patio has seen more dried up leaves, stray grass and weeds this summer than actual activity, you might be in need of an outdoor living space overhaul. If you’re planning on watching the Alabama Crimson Tide play from the comfort of your own abode, you’ll certainly want to get the most out of your outdoor space.

 

Here are some of outdoor entertainment’s go-to top trends to help fix your outdoor woes so you can enjoy rolling with the Tide in true Crimson style.

 

First things first – start with an ideal outdoor room.

 

The classic outdoor room not only establishes an outdoor area, but also makes for a welcoming environment that guests will enjoy. The experts at bobvila.com have some great tips and tricks that make this seemingly overwhelming task a pretty easy fix.

 

Start with a roof that frames your outdoor area – a pergola with some vine potential or even an awning are some options to check out. After dealing with the roof, go to the ground: lay out an outdoor rug that compliments your color scheme and/or outdoor furniture.

 

Speaking of color schemes and what not, go for bulky(ish) furniture and earth tones that will obviously compliment the surroundings. Furniture pieces that allow for a guest to kick back and relax are almost always preferred over a dainty lawn chair (if those even exist). Easy care fabrics are an obvious choice for weather-wear.

 

Lastly, add some lighting. String lights are a popular craze, but anything you prefer will do. Just make sure to illuminate the area when it’s dark out.  

 

Next up: an unforgettable grill

 

If there’s one trend that will never go out of style, it’s the outdoor stovetop - otherwise known as a grill.

 

High-tech grills with tons of features can be found virtually everywhere. For example, the Saber Smart Edge Grill, with an infrared top and optional ceramic glass lid, is a Consumer Reports favorite. If watching the food slowly cook wasn’t enough, the grill hooks up to WiFi so a phone can keep track of when to cook, when to clean and when to fuel up.

 

If you’re looking for a more straightforward number, other Consumer Reports grills included the Weber Spirit E-220, the Weber Spirit SP-320 and a Kenmore grill.

 

 

Fire pits and outdoor fireplaces: A multipurpose focal point

 

Fire pits have been all the rage for a while now, and with good reason. As a center point for décor arrangements, the fire pit isn’t just for show. It provides warmth, light – and makes for a great s’mores maker.  

 

Outdoor fireplaces are also a popular choice, according to Keith McCormick with Willcutt Block & Supply Co.

 

“We usually see a spike in sales of outdoor fireplaces in the fall and in the spring. We sell a few during the hottest part of summer – but not as much.”

 

McCormick says the options for outdoor fireplaces are virtually unlimited.

 

“There are many different kinds,” he said. “There’s one that’s a masonry outdoor fireplace, and it can be veneered any way you want. We carry others that are for the most part pre-built.”

 

In terms of design, some people have a clear vision of their backyard fireplace oasis, while others are looking for a little more help.

 

“Some people have already done research and they know what they want,” McCormick said. “Others have a general idea and they need a way to make it a reality.”

 

These days, a homeowner can dream very big when it comes to outdoor spaces for entertaining. One suggestion: Call a professional to help with the larger plans. As the backyard or patio area is being transformed, start planning those Halloween parties, football parties and Thanksgiving gatherings with friends and loved ones. That’s the fun part, after all.

 

Photos: Keith McCormick

 

Captions (kind of generic but the photos are stunning, have fun with this one):

 

An outdoor fireplace can create a warm, inviting outdoor space.

 

The right outdoor fireplace (or fire pit) provides a dramatic focal point for outdoor entertaining.

 

 

Article sponsored by Russell Lee Flooring.

Find them on the web at: www.rslee.com

 

 

 

 

 

By Liz Stephens

We did it: We just booked our first-ever trip to Europe! 12 days of fun and frolicking in London and Paris. And of course, this means a lot of walking. As much as I heart my Antelope wedges, something tells me they won’t work so well on the cobblestone streets of the UK and France. No, I need new kicks that will give me enough support to walk much more than I normally do.

Therein lies the problem. No one wears actual “kicks” in Paris. No, the women of Paris float around effortlessly in adorable ballet flats all day long (looking perfectly put together, of course). I’ve tried ballet flats before – they typically don’t offer enough support for all-day walking. But is it even possible to buy cute shoes that are also good for traipsing around, tourist-style all the time?

I’m here to tell you, after exhaustive research and tons of shopping (and returning), yes, you can find cute walking shoes for Europe that won’t leave your feet aching after day one of your vacation.

I found three pairs. Three. Pairs. Of. Shoes. I. Love. I now own a new pair of boots, a pair of Mary Janes and a pair of delicate-but-supportive flats – and that’s all my happy traveling feet will need for this trip.

First, the boots: Autumn in London and Paris can be a tricky time, shoe-wise. Average temps are between 45-60 degrees, and it rains. A lot. My thinking was, I needed a pair of boots that were waterproof and slip-proof.

That’s where these awesome ECCO boots came in. The ECCO Abelone GTX Short Boot is perfect for my needs. It is extremely waterproof, it offers plenty of sole support (and a removable footbed if you need to put in some orthotics), and it’s actually really cool looking (IMO). The GORE-TEX was a concern – would they be simply too hot for fall? I’ve worn them around for several days now and I can honestly say that no, they’re no warmer than any other ankle boot.

See? Nice, right? I like the sleek look of this boot – it will pair really well with my black pants and jeans. ECCO shoes/boots are not cheap, but at long last, I’ve finally learned that you almost always do get what you pay for – spend the $$$ and get good shoes. I’ve earned it.

Score!

Next up: My casual, practical walking shoe – the Naot Sea. I’ve heard friends rave for years about Naot shoes. “They’re the most comfy shoes ever!” “It’s like walking on clouds!”

But wow, the price. Yikes. The high price always held me back, but given how much we’re shelling out for our trip, I figured I should at least order a pair and see what all the fuss is about.

I’ll be honest: The Naot Sea isn’t the greatest looking shoe out of the box. The shoes are definitely much cuter ON. Don’t write off Naot until you try a pair. The Sea shoes feature a 1.5” polyurethane sole (very sturdy for cobblestone walking), along with an anatomic cork and latex footbed that molds to your feet as you wear them.

And you know what? The moment I slipped these shoes on, I knew why everyone was raving. Yep, it really does feel like you are walking on clouds, with some support of course. But the cushioning is definitely there.

See? Not bad looking, but not the shoe you grab in the store and scream over. It’s a much better looking shoe ON. Just remember that. You owe it to yourself to at least try the Naot. If you aren’t thrilled with the thicker sole, you can always go with one of Naot’s other popular Mary Jane styles (the Matai is nice looking, for example).

And now for the “fun” part of my shoe shopping experience: the search for the delicate-but-supportive flats! The challenge here, without a doubt, was to find a great feminine-looking shoe that I could wear out to nice dinners.

IF I win the lottery tomorrow, I can tell you I’ll purchase a pair of Tieks, but the high price point keeps me from pulling the trigger and ordering. For now, I’m really thrilled to say that I found a great pair of stylish, black travel flats by Yosi Samra.  

Adorable, right? And SO comfortable! These are the shoes I think I’ll wear the most around town on a day-to-day basis, though for Europe I may have to limit them to just evenings (possibly with tights). They have a great, durable sole and a bit of padding but very little arch support. The Samra is a slip-on flat that just seems perfect for everything from running errands or a nice dinner out. Also? They are lightweight, and they pack extremely well. They fold right up into the cutest little dust bag for traveling (and they fit in my tote – another plus).

I hope this helps anyone worrying about the agony of aching feet (or in my case, also an aching back) – you can absolutely find cute shoes for fall walking in Europe, you just have to start shopping early and be prepared to return the shoes or boots if they don’t fit right. Allow plenty of time for this process, because I’m told that shoes really are the MOST important thing when it comes to packing right for a European trip.

Bon Voyage!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sponsored by: 

By Tori Linville

 

If your deck or patio has seen more dried up leaves, stray grass and weeds this summer than actual activity, you might be in need of an outdoor living space overhaul. Or maybe you just don’t feel like you’re getting enough out of your outdoor space. Well, we’ve gathered three of outdoor entertainment’s go-to and top trends to help you fix your outdoor woes in order to reach your seasonal escape.

 

First things first – start with an ideal outdoor room.

 

The classic outdoor room not only establishes an outdoor area, but also makes for a welcoming environment that guests will enjoy. The experts at bobvila.com have some great tips and tricks that make this seemingly overwhelming task a pretty easy fix.

 

·      Start with a roof that frames your outdoor area – a pergola with some vine potential or even an awning are some options to check out. After dealing with the roof, go to the ground: lay out an outdoor rug that compliments your color scheme and/or outdoor furniture.

 

·      Speaking of color schemes and what not, go for bulky(ish) furniture and earth tones that will obviously compliment the surroundings. Furniture pieces that allow for a guest to kick back and relax are almost always preferred over a dainty lawn chair (if those even exist). Easy care fabrics are an obvious choice for weather-wear.

 

·      Lastly, add some lighting. String lights here are a popular craze, but anything you prefer will do. Just as long as you have some to illuminate the area when it’s dark out.

 

Check out more info. here on how to get the perfect backyard escape.

 

Next up: an unforgettable grill

 

If there’s one trend that will never go out of style, it’s the outdoor stovetop otherwise known as a grill.

 

High-tech grills with tons of features can be found virtually everywhere. For example, the Saber Smart Edge Grill was Consumer Reports’ favored grill with infrared top and optional ceramic glass lid. If watching the food slowly cook wasn’t enough, the grill hooks up to WiFi so a phone can keep track of when to cook, when to clean and when to fuel up.

 

If you’re looking for a more straightforward number, other Consumer Reports grills included the Weber Spirit E-220, the Weber Spirit SP-320 and a Kenmore grill. See them (and other cooking gadgets) here.

 

 

Lastly, throw in a fire pit for a multipurpose focal point

 

Don’t actually throw one, but you get the point. Fire pits have been all the rage for a while and for good reason. As a center point for décor arrangements, the fire pit isn’t just for show. It’s also warmth, light and even serves as a Smores maker.

 

Also, it’s probably one of the biggest draws for winter outdoor entertainment (if you’re brave enough). That being said, a fire pit practically pays for itself.

 

Consumer Reports likes the Alfresco Fire N Table, Forshaw and Waterstone for a variety of reliable and quality fire pits.

 

Honorable Mention: outdoor movies, anyone?

 

A new, refreshing entertainment piece is the re-emergence of the outdoor screen for at-home enjoyment (in place of drive-thru movies, of course).

 

While a projector would be necessary, a screen could just as easily be made with some bed sheets and nails. If you’re feeling the outdoor movie vibe like we were, all you need is a blank wall (or screen) to get started!

 

Full outdoor entertainment systems are available on sites like Amazon but first, check out this article to see what it takes to blow away your guests with your outdoor film.

Photo Credit: HGTV.com

 

Article sponsored by Bama Exterminating and the Geoffrey Shook Agency of State Farm.

Find Bama Exterminating on the web at: http://bamaexterminating.com

 

 

Find the Shook Agency of State Farm on the web at: http://insurewithshook.com

By Allison Adams

 

Congratulations! You have made it to summer! School is out and hopefully things are slowing down a bit in your routine. 

After such a cold winter and a rainy spring, I’m eager to see if I even mind the scorching heat of southern summer this year. If so, I may just bear it and think of places such as Iceland, where June weather ranges between 47 and 53 degrees. Their official “summer” began on April 23.

Summer is a season, but for our kids, it is an extended holiday. All of our responsibilities we juggled with ease during the school year must now be combined with shuttling to and fro for pool dates, summer camps and other activities. Hopefully, we can also coordinate a bit of wandering for our young explorers.

A recent broadcast of a couple investigated for allowing their children, ages 10 and six, to roam the streets made national news. The story opened my eyes to terms such as “helicopter parents” (a.k.a. busy bodies) and “free-range parents” (the ones at home wondering why they haven’t seen the kids in a while). 

I was surrounded by both of these as a child growing up in Livingston. My best friend’s grandmother had ways of knowing when we’d ventured too far. My mom would send us out the door saying, “Go play, check in for lunch and don’t be later than dark.” It was the way we rolled in a small town. Tuscaloosa neighborhoods are no different.

Many of us remember timeless, "last a decade-like" afternoons roaming the sidewalks, walking or on bikes, lunches at the Dairy Queen where we snacked on a swirly cone, traversing creeks, culverts, pastures, and flag football games we just happened upon. There were no cell phones. Okay, maybe there was a pay phone - but who could keep a quarter in their hand while riding a bike?! We were adventurers! We didn’t carry purses! The end of the day was signaled by the subtle neon blinking of lightening bugs, as we’d say goodbye to our friends and peddle quickly home to see what was for dinner.

Being on the lake, it is hard to focus on work, I admit. The boat dock is usually dripping with kids, dogs and life jackets. This past month, my oldest graduated from college at Alabama. He’s headed to set the world on fire with his music. I just hope he remembers to take some time to savor the little things, to remember the mud pies, the ice cream truck and his little red plastic jeep. 

While he is on the road chasing his dream, I’ll be reminding myself to snuggle with his little sister (who just turned 10) and really immerse myself in her summer, while staying out of her way so she can explore, learn about the world and be completely carefree and creative the way we used to. 

Before too long, the days of summer will lead us into fall.

Icelandic summers include a full 20 hours of daylight each day in June. Here in the south, we’re given fewer hours of daylight – but many more hours of sunlight (Iceland’s summer includes, more often than not, lots of cloud cover).

So embrace the Southern Summertime! We can dream of summers elsewhere, but then we would miss out on all this sunshine, humidity (and sweat), and especially the adventures that are going on in our own back yards.

Blessings for a memorable summer. 

Allison Adams

 

Photo: Allison Adams

 

Article sponsored by Med Center.

Find them on the web: https://www.medcenterurgentcare.com

By Tori Linville

 

If you don’t have the vacation time saved up for a trip to some far-off destination, water parks are quick weekend mini-vacations that offer something for the whole family to enjoy. Whether it’s the lazy river or a stomach-turning slide, water parks are known for having a little something for everyone. We’ve listed a couple of Alabama’s top rated water parks for you to visit and decide for yourself.

 

Alabama Splash Adventure

 

Free unlimited soft drinks for the 2015 season is just one reason to visit Alabama Splash Adventure. This water park sits in between Tuscaloosa and Birmingham in Bessemer and offers a variety of services and freebies for visitors. The more than 15 attractions include a 5-story water ride drop and a 50 foot plunge into a splash pool. Season passes are on sale for $69.95 plus taxes.

 

·      Free parking, sunscreen, inner tubes, WiFi and life jackets

·      Snacks from Fin’s Surfside Grill, Mama Lizetti’s and Chubbies offer American and Italian foods

·      General admission for adults from 18 to 54 is $29.95

·      Seniors are $24.95

·      Children are $19.95, two years and younger are free

 

Visit alabamasplash.com to find out hours and directions for your visit.

 

Spring Valley Beach

 

Spring Valley Beach just opened and the ratings are just right for your next water park experience. In between Huntsville and Birmingham, Spring Valley Beach boasts a collection of mind-blowing slides sure to make any drop worthwhile. The Kid Zone is perfect for family fun and the Spring Valley Beach pool is the largest in the southeast. General admission rounds out at around $25 and season tickets are on sale.

 

·      Concessions offer burgers, hot dogs, etc.

·      Visitors are allowed to bring their own food, non-alcoholic drinks, picnic baskets, grills, etc.

·      Clothing must be family friendly

·      Pavilions are available for rent starting at $25

·      General admission parking is free, but parking by the pool area is $10

 

See springvalleybeach.com for more information on hours and ticket pricing.

 

Point Mallard Park

 

Point Mallard Park offers more than just a water park in Decatur. The year round park has a golf course, ice complex and more for visitors to enjoy. With many different attractions to enjoy within Point Mallard, it’s prime water park season in the summer. The relaxing lazy river, the speed slides and kid area are just a few of the things to visit at Point Mallard. Season passes start at $100.

 

·      Rain checks and refunds are not issued at Point Mallard

·      General admission for adults is only $20

·      Free soft drink and water refills are available for the entire season upon purchase of a $25 season cup.

·      The Hard Duck Café, Point Pizza and Icy Oasis offer food and beverages for visitors

·      No outside food or drinks are permitted

 

To plan your next party or to see water park hours, visit pointmallardpark.com.

 

Waterville USA

 

The combination amusement and water park that makes Waterville USA is hard not to be excited about. The park sits in Gulf Shores and is perfect for a day away from the beach. Water park attractions include a 60 foot drop slide named the Screamin’ Demon and other rides designed for a chillin’ or thrillin’ time. The amusement park features rollercoasters and mini golf to round out the experience at Waterville. Water park season passes start at $150.

 

·      Free parking, tubes and life jackets

·      No cash refunds are given for inclement weather and rain checks are not issued for season pass holders

·      Nascar Go-Carts, House of Bounce and Trampoline Thing can all be found at the amusement park.

·      No outside food or drink (even water) allowed

 

Check out watervilleusa.com for contact information and pricing.

 

 

When scouting for a good place to run, there’s always that checklist that comes to mind. Everyone wants something that appeals to them while their nose is to the grindstone. Check out why these spots are the ideal running trails for some exercise.

 

Birmingham

 

With an organized running community, Birmingham boasts many different routes and trails to explore. Here just two of many to choose from. Visit birminghamtrackclub.com to get involved with other runners in the community.

 

Red Mountain Park

Red Mountain Park provides great trail run material for any runner. Stretching for 12 miles, the trails at Red Mountain Park offer a special variety singular to the park. It has more than 10 interconnecting trails that provide hills, rocky terrain and more. The park is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and has many stops along the trails for rest or short breaks. To get a more detailed look, visit redmountainpark.org.

 

Oak Mountain State Park

Providing yet another range of scenery for runners, Oak Mountain State Park has a collective of more than 50 miles of trails to explore. Though some trails are specific to horseback riding and biking, there’s still room enough for everyone. Open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., the park’s five hiking trails are labeled by color and marked accordingly. To find out more information about the trails and running opportunities within the park, visit alaprk.com/oak-mountain-state-park-hiking-trails.

 

Tuscaloosa

 

Sokol Park

While the University and downtown Tuscaloosa offer scenic routes all their own, a change of venue can be found in Sokol Park. Designed with runners in mind, Sokol Park has many well kept trails that are perfect for setting your own pace. The park’s main trail is around 4 miles, with trail loops that can provide an extension to a run. Tuscaloosa business Wagner’s Run Walk hosts a group run Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. with free water and merchandise.

 

UA Arboretum and Veteran’s Affairs Hospital Areas

This rarely mentioned area offers three scenic and different options for runners. The VA itself has paved a trail around its grounds for an estimated 2 miles of track. Arrows serve as guides and hills are short and sweet. Neighboring the VA is the UA Arboretum, home to the UA Cross Country Course and a dirt road that can also serve as a running track. The cross country course has a marked loop as well as a grass fairway with yellow arrows as guides. The dirt road serves as rocky mile-long stretch that runs from one end of the arboretum to the other.

Information taken from wagnersrunwalk.com.

 

30A/Destin

 

Rosemary Beach

The appeal here is obvious – who wouldn’t want the beach by their side for a run? The sand is another bonus, lowering the impact the run has on a runner’s joints. Opposite from the ocean are architectural feats connected by pedestrian boardwalks, such as shops and residences. With the ocean wind as motivation, Rosemary Beach offers a breathtaking 107 acre view.

 

Deer Lake State Park

Offering a quieter backdrop for a runner’s escape, South Walton’s “best kept secret” provides all of the scenery with less than half of the noise.  The beach in Deer Lake State Park is undisturbed and gives an alternate to the sandy paths throughout the area. The half-mile Blue Trail borders Deer Lake and is perfect for a short run with plenty of wildlife to see. To see what else Deer Lake State Park has to offer, visit floridastateparks.org/park/Deer-Lake.

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