My wife and I always meet my Dad and other family at Talladega, AL for the Nascar race twice a year. This time, I thought it would be a good way to get a camping/hiking trip in one the side. After doing some research on the Pinhoti Trail, I decided we should check out one of the side trails in the Talladega National Forest – the Chinnabee Silent Trail. We needed a place where we could pack out early in the morning, and it didn’t hurt that the trail was blazed by a deaf Boy Scout Troop back in 1977.
This was my first camping trip with my wife, and we learned quite a few things. The most important being:
- Ants WILL eat through a zip lock back to reach the M&M’s in your trail mix.
- The phrase “I’ve got two water bottles” does not mean “I’ve got two bottles of water.”
- Even if the road’s on the map, “The dirt don’t lie…” – Thanks to Bearpaw at The Lightweight Backpacker for the catchy phrase.
We drove from Albany, GA up to Cheaha State Park on a Saturday morning. The drive wasn’t that bad except for the single wide trailer being moved down a two lane road, followed by a bunch of idiots who don’t know when to pass. We decided to eat lunch at the cafe in the State Park before heading on to the trail. It turned out to be a good decision – the food (buffet) was excellent even if it was a little pricey – $8.95 for a buffet? The view is what sells the place. Here’s a shot of the overlook from the Cheaha State Park Cafe, followed by a picture of the cafe itself:
We rode around for a while looking for Turnipseed Campground. If you’ve been there before, it’s really easy to find, but we were looking off of FS 600 where our other map said it was supposed to be. Luckily there were several cars parked at the junction of the Chinnabee Trail and FS 600, so we parked and started hiking. The plan was to leave our packs at the car, hike towards the Pinhoti up the ridge, and pick up our packs on the way back to Cheaha Shelter. In all, it worked out pretty well for a day hike.
The trail was very nice – covered with pine straw for the most part until it became more of a “rock scramble” near the top. It’s almost flat with a few minor ups and downs until it gets to the ridge. We almost made it to the top of the ridge (where the Chinnabee connects with the Pinhoti) and ran out of time. I went on ahead for a few minutes, but lost the trail (and all blazes) after crossing a spring. A guy we met on the way down said that I was 300 yards from the top when I stopped.
We headed back to the car, grabbed our packs and set out for the Cheaha Shelter – a half mile from where we parked. We passed the falls on the way to the shelter, but didn’t have time to check them out. There was a small troop of Scouts from Sylacauga camping there, and a group of drunks camping closer to the falls. I’ve decided to add drunks to my list of wildlife – they can usually be found at campsites and trails within a half mile of easy access to a road. The shelter is situated on the ridge a good bit above Cheaha Creek.
The temperature was supposed to drop on Saturday, but it bottomed out in the mid-70s. It was a bit stuffy in the tent with the two of us. The wind was blowing about 10-15 mph all night long, but the tent didn’t seem to have any problems – other than keeping us awake with the noise. Much to our surprise, a wolf spider decided to join us for the night. After escorting our unwelcome guest out of the tent, we were finally able to get some sleep.
The next morning we ate breakfast, packed up camp, and headed back to the car. We stopped along the way to check out the falls. I wish I had spent more time photographing the falls, as these are some of the best photos I’ve ever taken:
As for the bit about the maps, here’s my post to the forum at The Lightweight Backpacker:
"I just returned from a weekend trip to the Cheaha Mountain area of Alabama. My wife and I had decided to check out the Chinnabee Silent Trail and camp for a night before meeting my folks in Talladega for the Nascar race. The trails and campsites were great (trip report to be posted later) but we had some serious problems Sunday morning after we packed up. The plan was to drive down AL-281 as marked on our US Atlas, to Clairmont Springs and then across to AL-77 into Talladega. We were driving south on 281 - it's a well kept paved 2-lane road - better then most of the roads we had driven in on. This road just dead-ends at Porter's Gap trailhead!!! All that was left was an unmarked gravel road - not something I'm going to try in a car (with my wife) with no cell-phone coverage. We had to drive back through Cheaha State Park and around to Talladega, adding an hour to 1.5 hours to our 30 minute drive. I'm still miffed about it! I looked up the area on all the maps I normally use online, and none of them are correct. On all the maps linked below, Skyway Mountainway is actually the road that was marked as AL-281. Google: Google Map of AL-281 Yahoo and Mapquest were difficult to link. You may have to click a link from the Url to get the map. Yahoo: Yahoo Map of AL-281 Mapquest: Mapquest Map of AL-281"
I’ll end this trip report with a scan of my atlas, and a photo of the road to nowhere.