By Bradley Robertson
● Kymulga Bridge and Grist Mill/Childersburg
● Blue Water Park/Pelham
● Oak Mountain State Park, Peavine Falls/Pelham
Our first adventure was everything I thought it would be; fun, slightly chaotic, beautiful, tiresome and worth all the effort. I love that this is a true adventure. We have no idea what to expect, so life is up for grabs. Anything and everything. A journey of just being together.
This course was an easy one to map out. I knew we were going to Oak Mountain, but I also added a couple others spots to check off our list. I’m very familiar with Birmingham so this was a safe and easy beginner trip.
Our journey included one night of camping, four meals plus snacks and 30 hours round trip.
Kymulga Bridge and Grist Mill
This old, historical landmark is located in Childersburg, just off Highway 280. It is a quaint pit-stop, perfect for a picnic.
The bridge was built in 1860 and the grist mill in 1864. They are the only pair of structures of its kind in Alabama still in their original location. The bridge was used as an access road for native american trade by settlers coming into the area.
The Talladega Creek and towering trees made the perfect backdrop for exploring and eating lunch. A long, running waterfall fell just beyond the grist mill, with plenty of space to roam and play.
The bridge seemed massive and we all enjoyed the walk through. The craftsmanship is a true work of art, something connecting us back to our roots.
The kids were eager to visit the grist mill, still held up by its original wood pillars and beams of steel. It was a sight to see, filled with ancient equipment used to grind grain, many years ago.
We walked three sets of stairs to the top of the mill to get a peek out the window. It was pretty neat, the kids’ favorite part of this stop.
Star Facts: Great for picnics, space to roam and explore, plenty of shade, clean bathroom facilities, cool history, perfect pit-stop.
Blue Water Park
I found a picture of this place on an Instagram page, This is Alabama and I knew I had to see it; it was totally worth it. Located only a few miles from Oak Mountain, in the middle of a busy, modern town, is a gorgeous, clear blue lake surrounded by rocks and trees.
Blue Water Park is a spring-fed lake that’s used as a scuba diving facility. You may also paddle board or kayak, but they do not allow swimming.
We were in awe of the beauty of the water and the kids enjoyed watching the scuba divers. It was pretty cool to watch, and we all agreed that we needed to add scuba diving to our bucket list.
Star Facts: Unique and beautiful sight to see, it is a 20 minute stop, minutes from Oak Mountain. It has nice facility, clean bathrooms and great staffing.
Oak Mountain State Park
This was our first camping adventure together and we loved it! The farmer was out of town, so I was stoked about getting out with the kids solo.
My children are 12 (Braxton), 11 (Sissy) and six (Shep) years old. They are at the perfect ages to take camping. Here is why: they are light packers, they can help, they like to work, they like to be outside, they are super active, they are happiest when they are busy and breathing in fresh air.
I know this sweet spot of life won’t last forever. I want to enjoy this goodness while I can. In a few summers, this may not exist. I’m training myself to create what I want today. Living fully now and tomorrow.
We pulled into Oak Mountain State Park just in time to set up our campsite. We got a shady spot just above one of the bath houses. It was a winner and the staff and accommodations were excellent.
The kids pitched the tent, I organized our “kitchen” supplies and then we suited up for a swim in the lake.
The lake was one of my favorite parts of the trip. I grew up in lakes and oceans and it felt so good on my skin. The water was beautiful and clean. The view of the mountains around us was lovely.
The campground has its own lake, separate from the public lake for non-campers. I highly recommend this. It was not crowded and there was a nice dock that the kids enjoyed more than the beach. Lake was a short walk from any camping spot. We swam for more than an hour and then headed back to camp to cook supper.
Braxton started our campfire. He loves cooking over a fire and enjoys handling the cast-iron. It’s heavy to travel with but cast-iron cook’s food well. On the menu: Sloppy Joe’s and roasted potatoes. These are super easy and my kids love them.
Supper was fantastic and the kids wanted their dessert immediately. I was hoping to wait till that perfect twilight hour, but with smores, kids can’t wait for mom’s perfect moment.
As the sun set, the boys rode bikes while Sissy and I took a walk. Soon after dark, one of our neighboring tents began to sing and play acoustic praise music. It was the sweetest thing. Sissy and I stood near for a long time listening and chatting together. I thought to myself, “how cool is it to show up here and yet still feel right at home.” It was lovely. The boys showed up and the kind campers invited us to join them.
They took requests and soon we were all singing “Go Tell it on the Mountain.”
This was an awakening moment for me. This time spent with them is precious. This age and this span we have as parents is more valuable than we often stop and see. I want to stop and see. I want to be in the span with them, not hovering above. Time is now and I want to hold onto it.
The singers and musicians were gracious, and they prayed over us when we departed back to our tent. It was just so fitting for me. Being caught in the wilderness and being held by the Lord. Surely this journey has been blessed with purpose.
We packed into our tent to rest up for hiking the next morning.
Braxton cooked us a lovely breakfast of sausage and biscuits and we were off!
We did a light trail first that was connected to our campsite. It had a nice wide path, beautiful canopy trees and reminded me of a pleasant walk in the park. It was about 45 minutes in and out, just enough time to enjoy ourselves and then return to pack up camp.
One goal of this trip was to visit Peavine Falls. There are many hiking options to get there, we chose the driving route and I’m glad we did.
The drive was beautiful and scenic and lasted about 20 minutes. We parked and followed the signs.
The hike down to the falls was about 20 minutes. The first half was a well paved path, the second half was rocky and mountainous. I kept telling Shep to slow down, in fear he was going to tumble on the rocks. Shep does not have a “slow down” gear.
We finally made it! The kids took all of 10 seconds to take off their shoes, and Sissy came prepared in her swimsuit. I loved it and enjoyed sitting still, soaking in the beautiful creation.
It was as if we sat smack dab in the middle of a canyon. Towering trees all around us, flowing water, magnificent rocks and luscious green everything. My explorers got to work and we stayed more than an hour.
I was amazed at how many people simply saw the falls, and as quick as they saw it, they left. It was not crowded, just a handful of folks walking about. We soaked it all in. Enjoyed our time to see something different and play too.
Sissy was in the falls being curious, Shep got into builder mode as he often does and Braxton ventured off to be on his own. Funny how even in the strangest of places, they thrive in their own unique skills and wants. It was lovely and I didn’t want to leave.
We hiked back up, 25 minutes, which was more serious and tiresome than going down. We drove back down the mountain and stopped back by the public beach to let the kids swim and eat before we left for home. It was much more crowded in the public area than the campgrounds. It was still clean, and the kids had fun, the most important part.
Star Facts: Highly recommend camping here, clean, beautiful setting, drive and then hike to Peavine Falls, an exceptional place.
How are you adventuring with your kids this summer? I’d enjoy hearing your feedback too! Give us a shout on our Facebook and Instagram: George’s Farmers Market.
Bradley Robertson is a local mother, wife and creative. She’s an Auburn University graduate, loves good food and getting outside with her family. Bradley enjoys feature writing, as well as southern culture and lifestyle writing.