Talladega National Forest + The Cheaha Wilderness Backpacking Trip
Hey friends! It’s been a few weeks since I dropped a new blog post but ya know… life happens. I recently had an engagement shoot, two anniversary shoots, and an intimate wedding! They were all super fun and I can't wait to share them with you but for this post I am going to talk about the backpacking trip Dylan, the dogs, and myself just endured.
Even though a lot did go wrong for us I do recommend this trail to people looking to do a little multi day backpacking trip plus the dog are allowed so that's bonus, one big regret is not taking more photos during this trip but sometimes I am enjoying the moment too much to pull my camera out so this is all I have! If you have any more questions about the trail or specifically what we packed, where we parked, etc please feel free to ask! I wanted to share my experience more so than talk about the trail itself.
So originally I wanted to do this trip when it was a bit cooler out but we never put our thoughts into actions so yes, we went backpacking in the southeast during the summer time, it wasn't the brightest idea we’ve had but Dylan and I were having our last hooray before he buckles down for flight school and I start my new full time job! (I’ll explain more about this towards the end of this post)
So I found this little trail on the outbound and you can read more about the details HERE. We left around Friday afternoon and stopped for dinner at our dearly beloved Whole Foods (the closest one to us is three and half hours!). We arrived to the trail head at 8:30pm so the sun had already set and we were either going to sleep in the car and get a early head start or hike a few miles in the dark to the first camp site. Can you guess which one we did??? We hiked in the dark lol. The first few miles we were bushwhacking our way through the trail with a stick in hand to fend off the spider webs and headlamps illuminating our paths. This was mistake number one of the trip because my poor baby Goose was covered in ticks and I didn't realize it until we got to camp setup and then finally laid down in the tent. And for the record I just want to say both Atlas and Goose had seresto flea and tick collars on, the one of Goose was just on its last leg because the entire trip Atlas had a new one on and had maybe 2 ticks on him the whole trip. I still feel like such a bad dog mom for letting that happen but, after getting all the ticks off of Goose we finally feel asleep around 1am after hiking 3+ miles.
We woke up pretty early on Saturday and our plan was to hike 10 miles that day so that on Sunday we only had about 4 miles left. The trail itself was actually pretty easy, there was one steep part that kicked our butts, once that little section was out of the way the rest was pretty mild. But, here is where mistake number 2 comes into play. After this trip I can not stress enough how important good quality gear is!!! I have two multi day sized bags bought off Craigslist that I used for traveling backpacking (is that a thing? lol) ie taking buses, scooters, taxis, etc and maybe walking no more than 2 miles to get to where I need to be. So when Dylan and I were both in excruciating pain from these packs we were starting to think we had bit off more than we could chew. My shoulders were actually bruised just from wearing the pack the first night and I don't think Dylan’s pack could have felt any worse than they did on his shoulders.
The trail has a lot of great overlooks of some beautiful rolling hills, I would have never guessed the Alabama back country could be this beautiful (would make a great place for an elopement *hint hint*) The whole day we had the waterfall to look forward to which was great motivation but also not our stopping point for the day.
Now let's talk about mistake number 3, this was by far the scariest one. We have Atlas trained well enough that he’ll always comes back, he stays on the trail, and he doesn't get too far ahead. So now that we have Goose it was time to put his training to the test and for the most part he sticks with Atlas so I wasn't too worried about anything going wrong until they both ran up ahead and when I called them back and Goose took off running the opposite direction of the way we were heading. No big deal at first because he wanders off pretty far when we take him places in around our town and always comes back. So, after calling him and waiting for about 10 minutes Dylan dropped his pack and started heading the direction Goose went with Atlas following. Dylan and Atlas were gone for about 15 minutes while I was waiting with our stuff. Atlas came running back towards me without Dylan and without Goose. So at this point I am thinking “ok Goose is for sure gone” because Atlas just gave up. Keep in mind we rescued Goose and his story is that he was found in the woods in Alabama because he was a rejected hunting dog. Meanwhile I’m trying to remain calm but also thinking “this is it, he’s come full circle and he must belong out here” (I know, dramatic). Atlas and I were waiting for Dylan for another 15 minutes when all of a sudden Dylan came sprinting back down the trail. I was asking if everything was ok and Dylan responded with “I can't find him” that is when I started to panic and repeatedly ask “what are we going to do?” and after another 5 or so minutes right as my eyes were beginning to fill with tears the little shit came sprinting back down the trail towards us covered in mud with the BIGGEST grin on his face.
I know a lot of people will say this could have been avoided if you kept him on a leash but even though all this happened I still believe that my dogs should be allowed to simply be dogs and run free so, no that won't be the last time Goose is off leash. I put a lot of trust and faith into my dogs and the reason they listen (for the most part lol) and do come back is because they also trust me, all I want in this life is to be able to give my dogs at least one fraction of the amount of joy they give to me and letting them be dogs is a HUGE part of that.
Moving on from that ordeal we gathered our belongings and journeyed onwards to the waterfall. Nothing else eventful happened before we reached the falls thank goodness because almost losing Goose was enough for the day. Once we reached the falls we dropped our packs, changed, and scrambled our way down the rocks to the refreshingly cold water. At this point our bodies were beat from having to lug around terrible gear so, we decided this is where camp was going to be for the night and when we came to the decision that we literally could not hike another mile with these packs.
The dogs passed out as soon as they finished their dinner and so did we. I woke up the next morning feeling like I had just been hit by a train, my entire body was just destroyed by bugs, sore, and for lack of a better term done. The part of the trail that we were on was only half a mile from the main road which was only 3 miles from the trail head we started at, Dylan had this “bright idea” that Sunday morning after we packed up camp he was going to jog to the car then drive it pack to pick us up. I laughed at the idea but he was dead serious and sure enough the next morning he ran about 2 miles before someone stopped to ask if he wanted a ride the rest of the way.
We loaded up the car feeling defeated but also like we made the right choice. I could go into way more detail about this whole trip and what went wrong but I also want to say that even with everything that went wrong I truly did have a good weekend. Being able to spend time off the grid in a beautiful quiet place with my most loved beings will never get old and will always be something I am thankful for.
Now, this leads me to my new job! No, photography isn't the only thing I do to make money but it is how I found this new awesome gig I am stoked about. I took photos for Neva and Chris when I first moved here (you can find their blog post here) and I remember asking Neva about her job and what she did, she was so enthusiastic when talking about what she did that you could tell it was something she really enjoyed. So a few months later when her company was looking for someone to join the team I jumped on the opportunity. This new jobs really does open up so many doors for me because 1. I can work from anywhere that has internet and 2. It gives me a feeling of stability which isn't always the case when taking photos is your only source of income. I feel as if a majority of people are ashamed to say that they aren't able to make a living taking photos full time but I’m here to say it is totally ok! Some people I really admire still have another real full time job and are continuing to work on their side hustle.
Alright, I am done for now there is so many things I could go on about but this has been long enough. Thanks for reading!