Thursday, November 27, 2014

I thought the world was on a truck bound for hell, until this man told me how to hike to paradise |

Great piece by John Archibald on appreciating what we've accomplished together in preserving our natural places.


I thought the world was on a truck bound for hell, until this man told me how to hike to paradise | Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got 'til ...

You get out and live it.

Is Alabama home to America's Amazon? Journey into one of the planet's treasures, a cradle of biodiversity |

In a piece published on Ben Raines reminds us of the riches of Alabama's nature gifts. His documentary, America's Amazon is now available for sale on line.

"Is Alabama home to America's Amazon? Journey into one of the planet's treasures, a cradle of biodiversity | This river network and its surrounding forests represent the true cradle of American biodiversity. Because of the Mobile River basin, Alabama is home to more species of freshwater fish, mussels, snails, turtles and crawfish than any other state. And the competition isn't even close."

Friday, November 21, 2014

Appreciating the Homewood Forest Preserve

On a flank of Shades Mountain near Homewood High School, there is a great wooded walk to be had at the Homewood Forest Preserve. It's a convenient place to catch some fall colors.
I included a hike at the Forest Preserve (along with an amble on the Shades Creek Greenway) in Five-Star Trails: Birmingham. One option for exploring the Preserve would be a work day scheduled for this Sunday (though the weather forecast makes it questionable that this will proceed). A schedule of future work days is below. Of course, you can go any time.
Especially now, since the trail just got better thanks to an Eagle Scout Project by Cade Fowler of Troop 95 in Homewood.
Fowler has installed signs for tree identification throughout the mountainside trail system. And its a thoroughly modern system of markings.
Bring your smart phone. The tree identification signs include a QR code, which allows you to pull up extensive information on the tree in question.  The sturdy and simplified signage system should avoid problems typically found in these sign systems, which often fade and fall down.
A walk through the guided course reminds us what a magnificent variety of tree species we have, even in this small plot of ground. I enjoyed this walk this week, making a quick escape from work and into the changing leaves. Thanks to Fowler, I may finally complete my education in tree ID.
This Sunday, the Homewood Environmental Commission has scheduled a work day for routine maintenance and invasive plant control on the Preserve. After the work, there will be a guided tour. (Don't expect it to proceed if it's pouring rain).
Volunteers are supposed meet in the eastern side parking lot of the Homewood High School.
Bring gloves, loppers and/or some sort of digging tool to help cut and remove invasive plants.
Dress appropriately.
Email Hans Paul for more info or call 807-7357
Work Days are from 2 to 4 pm on Sunday afternoons.

Planned dates of work days:

November 23, 2014

December 7, 2014

December 14, 2014

March 8, 2015

March 15, 2015

March 22, 2015

Monday, November 17, 2014

Five-Star Trails: Birmingham coming to Church Street Coffee & Books

Please come out to Crestline Village Wednesday night at 7 p.m. I'll be at Church Street Coffee & Books to sign Five-Star Trails: Birmingham and talk about the experience of writing it. I've been thinking about that as I've listened to the rain these last few days.

It's been so dry I've was worried I was going to be accused of faking all that visits to waterfalls since most had probably had ceased to exist. Now, they are back.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Red Mountain Park Hike This Sunday In Search of the Longleaf

Come out to Red Mountain Park at 2 p.m. Sunday for a Free Guided Nature Hike This Sunday!

(If it is pouring rain, we might have to cancel, but we go if it is just a drizzle).

This hike is going to be guided by Scot Duncan, a Birmingham-Southern professor and author of Southern Wonder: Alabama's Surprising Biodiversity. He is also a principal author of the TrekBirmingham website, which offers geological, biological, and cultural information about various outdoor destinations in the Birmingham area.

Duncan is going be guiding us on a quest to find the remnant populations of longleaf pine on the Red Mountain ridges. The story of the longleaf, Alabama's state tree, is a fascinating one, well told and illustrated in Longleaf, Far as the Eye Can See: A New Vision of North American's Richest Forest.

I'll be there to introduce Duncan, sell and sign books, and recommend hikes on which you can find longleaf.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Red Mountain Park's New Adventure Tower

TheThe zipIt doesn't get much cooler than the new 80 foot climbing town 
The new 80-foot-tall, Hugh Kaul Adventure Tower at Red Mountain Park is a sight to behold. And it's a blast to climb and take the zip down, airborne at 30 mph. Now open to the public. More information.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Sip and Sign at Neighborhood Hops and Vine

Join me on Thursday, Nov. 13th at Neighborhood Hops and Vines in Crestline Park. From 5:30-7 p.m., I'll be signing copies of my book Five-Star Trails: Birmingham and the fine folks in the shop will be offering selected samplings from their eclectic and excellent selection of wine and beers. What's not to like about that?

Pass the word. Besiege the place. Next door to Saw's Juke Joint.

Home Page: Neighborhood Hops & Vine is a retail beer and wine shop located in the heart of Crestline Park. We offer a wide selection of estate and small production wines, craft beer & draft beer to go.

E.O. Wilson on the Boy Scout Handbook A Manual for Life

E .O. Wilson is one of the world's foremost biological scientists. He grew up in Alabama and visits the state often. In this past Sunday's New York Times Book Review he penned a tribute to the lasting influence the Boy Scouts of America and its Handbook for Boys had on him.

It may have taken its knocks from the right and the left of late, but I agree with Wilson. It's a force for good. Having spent the past year hiking trails in Central Alabama, I can tell you those trails wouldn't be nearly as appealing without the bridges, kiosks, steps, and platforms built by Scouts. And that's only the self-evident traces that the Scouts leave.


"A Manual for Life - I’m well aware that to many, the Boy Scouts seem unsophisticated and outdated. But I ask doubters at least to consider this: If asked to decide who would be both successful in life and exceptionally useful to society, the graduating senior of an elite New England prep school or an Eagle Scout in Kansas, I’d vote for the Eagle Scout."

The New Yorker returns to look again at Alabama's criminal Justice System

This piece centers on judicial override, the practice of allowing judges rather than juries to have the final say over which defendants get the death penalty.

In Alabama, Judges Play God: Currently, Florida and Delaware are the only other states with override, but their judges use the provision very sparingly, and when they do it’s almost always to convert death sentences to life. Nobody in Delaware is on death row because of override, and it has been fifteen years since a Florida judge has exercised override to impose the death penalty. In thirty-one of the past thirty-two years, Alabama’s judges have condemned someone to death through override at least once.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Want to go hiking? New book highlights the best places in Central Alabama |

Five Star Trails: Birmingham featured on blog: Joe's Outdoor Office.

Want to go hiking? New book highlights the best places in Central Alabama |

Joe is one the state's best outdoor photographers and writers and when I worked at The Birmingham News we collaborated on many great outdoor expeditions. Explore other posts by Joe at

Tuxedo Junctions and other famous places -

Read this Wayne Flynt piece on the contributions of Alabamians to the jazz and the blues music Tuxedo Junctions and other famous places - ...