Alabama Bucket List: Chewacla

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Bradley Robertson

By BRADLEY ROBERTSON

In the beginning, Chewacla was not on our bucket list. I hought, “everyone local knows about Chewacla. Why include it?” I shortly realized my own little Shep had never been to Chewacla, and he’s six years old. I also began to think of all the other local kids who had not yet had the opportunity to enjoy Chewacla. So this one is for Shep, and all the other kids and moms who need a convenient and adventuresome day out.

My mother took us to Chewacla pretty regularly growing up.

She’d pack a picnic, maybe a few towels and extra clothes and off we went. It was easy and simple and not a big fuss to get going. This is what I love about Chewacla today. It’s a grand adventure for kids with minimal effort and work from mom.

Located in Auburn, Chewacla is a short drive for anyone. It’s the coolest bit of outdoor space in our own backyard.

Whether you have just a couple hours of fun or spend an entire day, Chewacla will not disappoint.

We began our Chewacla adventure just after lunch on a Thursday. I packed a simple bag with beach towels and a few snacks and drinks for the trip back home. It was the perfect day to go because there was no one there. I’m betting the weekends are much busier, so plan to take your family on a weekday.

Another great bonus to Chewacla is easy access in and out.

From the front entrance to the top of the hill to visit the waterfall is fewer than five minutes. We quickly paid our entrance of $8.

The short drive up is a beautiful canopy of tall, luscious trees.

We rolled our windows down and the kids were giddy with their heads out the window and hair in the wind.

We arrived to an open green space atop a small mountain.

The kids jumped out, no time to waste when on the hunt for something new.

The trail to the waterfall is easy to find and an easy stroll downhill. You can hear the gushing falls among the shade trees. My children are fast and there is no walking involved except by me. They scurried down the hill in less than two minutes, dodging large roots and swinging on tree limbs. I have always admired the way they own every space they come into. No holding back, taking it all in and living in the moment.

When we arrived at the bottom, but stopped in our tracks at the beauty all around us. We found a tropical oasis on the outskirts of our little town. Towering trees, rocks and beautiful rushing falls into pools and pools of freshwater.

My kids’ shoes were off in seconds and in true Sissy fashion, I quickly spotted her in her bathing suit wading into the water.

It’s a sight to see and a playground fit for anyone. Sissy and Shep jumped and skipped from rock to rock in search of the perfect space to explore and play. I followed behind, to enjoy their delight and make sure they don’t turn into daredevils, which usually ends up happening a time or two.

We parked it here at the falls for well over an hour, and they still didn’t want to leave. Sissy actually climbed into the falls and my heart was a nervous wreck. I watched as she maneuvered her little body on the rocks pouring over every edge with water. She loved it. She is an adventurous girl, learning to be in her skin and embracing the wonder inside her.

Our next stop after the falls was the playground. I’m pretty sure my kids will never outgrow a playground. They are like little monkeys. They have to see and touch every little piece and find out all its fun for themselves. It always makes me laugh. This is a vintage park, by the way, a special straight from the 70s. Maybe that’s why they like it so much. There are picnic tables everywhere and an excellent view of the swimming lake, which is in walking distance.

After a good 20 minutes at the playground, I coaxed them towards the lake for a swim.

We walked over a wooden bridge and arrived lakeside within seconds. The lake was empty and still, but that didn’t last long. Sissy dove right in and quickly swam her way to the diving platform.

They have a high-dive here that I’m guessing also dates back to the 60s or 70s. Sissy shimmied up, took a good long look and then jumped off.

It’s very clean at Chewacla and the lake felt so good after our journey to the waterfall. Shep is forever cautious around water, but he eventually wiggled in, life jacket on. And low and behold, this kid amazed me and jumped off the high-dive. I could not believe it. One and done for him. He will do practically anything his sister tells him to.

Another bonus to Chewacla, especially for adults and older children, are the bike paths. The park has worked hard the last few years to develop and grow this unique style of fun.

Wooden paths, ramps and cycling through the forest are great for outdoor activities. My older kids have been often with their cousins and absolutely love it.

What makes Chewacla so great is it is fit for any age group of children, babies to teenagers. All the fun and activities are accessible by car, with short, easy walks. All of the property is clean and well kept with plenty of picnic space. Campsites are well kept and Chewcla also has a small selection of cabins.

Shep loved his first trip and the kids have already asked when we are going back. Next time, I’m planning to pack up food to grill out with the Farmer and Braxton. Chewacla is our own secret garden, away from the busy everyday life of parenting. Take time this summer to make a trip or two, your kids will thank you for it.

Publisher’s Note: This column was previously published in the Observer in 2019.

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