A few weeks ago, my cabin fever reached an all-time high. Dana and I had been devout homebodies since March, and I just couldn't take it anymore. Out of shape and fresh out of ideas, I declared that I was going to find us a trail or two to explore that weekend. We were going hiking! But, where? Hmm... I'm not really a hiking guy. I dunno.
I called some of my buds to get their advice, based on their years of experience hiking around the Land Trust properties. In classic Taylor fashion, I asked for their advice, but then I proceeded directly back to my original plans. Two short (and supposedly easy) trails at Chapman Mountain Nature Preserve had caught my eye on one of those hiking aficionado websites.
Coming into existence in 1987, The Land Trust of North Alabama has acquired more than 70 (SEVENTY!!) miles of free public trails in our vicinity. Eight of the Land Trust preserves are available to us here in Madison County, every day, from dawn until dusk. After some seventeen years of acquisitions, trail forging, and construction, Chapman Mountain Nature Preserve was opened in 2018, to the delight of hikers, mountain bikers, horseback riders, and disc golfers across the Tennessee Valley.
We found the preserve just east of town, off Highway 72 on a gorgeous, 472-acre plot. I missed my turn on the way in, simply because I wasn't listening to my wife. Taking Highway 72, heading east, you make a U-turn at the red light at Moore's Mill Road. Stay in the right lane as you climb the hill. There will be a sign instructing you to turn right onto a paved drive that quickly turns into gravel and steeply descends to a large parking lot. We got out of the car and I hooked up my wheel attachment just as we noticed there was a socially-distant birthday party in progress at the Terry Education Pavilion. I asked a woman who was dressed like she knew what she was doing if she could point us in the direction of the Chasco and Driskell Trail Loop.
This well-meaning stranger told me that she indeed felt like those trails were going to be the most appropriate for me. I almost wanted to immediately change course and do another trail, just to make some sort of statement about people who make assumptions, but look, I'm out of shape and she was right.
There were finally some hints of fall in the air, and Dana and I were grateful it was such a nice day for some outdoor exertion. We embarked first on the shorter Chasco Trail. Just a half-mile long, it proved to be quite manageable for me and my souped-up chair. We remarked right off the bat that we were glad we hadn't been there shortly after rainfall because the trail surely would have been soft and muddy. However, we had timed things right, and the wooded paths were nice and firm.
My only obstacles were tree roots and occasional loose rocks. Abundant white snakeroot, in full bloom throughout the preserve, nearly swallowed up the trail in some sections, the little white clusters of flowers were just everywhere. I was quite pleased with the ease with which I was able to negotiate spots that needed some wheelies or just generally more finesse in my maneuvering.
The first half-mile conquered, we crossed the small, attractive bridge to start the Driskell Trail, which, in one mile's time, circles the idyllic, sun-dappled Chapman Pines Disc Golf Course to take you back to the trailhead parking.
Quite manageable, the Driskell Trail is a bit more challenging in slope, and the pathway was, in parts, not much wider than my chair's width. This created occasional places along the way where I had to strategize for just a moment about speed, which I quite enjoyed. We learned along the way that this loop was popular among horseback riders, encountering a half dozen or so of them in the process. Watch where you step!
It took us just a couple of minutes shy of an hour to travel the Chasco and Driskell Trail Loop. I'm eager to come back and try the other trails at Chapman Mountain Nature Preserve soon. Click here for a map.
Be on the lookout for more outdoorsy sorts of posts from me. We've just purchased a canoe, and have upgraded most of our camping equipment, so I'm eager to go explore more of what Huntsville-Madison County has to offer.
GEAR UPDATE: My ability to traverse off-road terrain has greatly improved as of late, thanks to a couple of investments I've made to my wheelchair.
Grass and gravel are no friends of mine. The small front caster wheels on my chair invariably dig deep into the grass and loose terrain, forcing me to work especially hard to make my way. However, I have purchased a wheel attachment that clamps onto the footplate of my chair and lifts those casters in the air for the duration of the ride.
That buy was a game-changer, but it still took a lot of work to go off-road, because my larger wheels only have 1" wide tires that are best for hard, smooth surfaces like tennis courts. Time to bring out the big guns. So, I went and bought a second pair of wheels, these outfitted with mountain bike tires. Ohh, yeah! The combination of the front wheel attachment and the bike tires was immediately transformative. I glide over rough terrain now.
Feel free to email me for specifics on my new equipment.