By Bradley Robertson
• Jackson Lake
Island, Millbrook – Town of Spectre
• Bamboo Forest – Wilderness Park,
Each new adventure brings the thrill of seeing an unknown place. The excitement with each trip leads to more eagerness for the next and the next, a rippling effect. We are officially hooked on this bucket list journey. Alabama is the beautiful and we are only at the surface of this great journey.
I’m a person who loves spontaneity, and the fun of striking out on a Saturday morning with no time-crunched agenda was music to my soul. With the boys wanting to stay home and farm, Sissy and I hit this one up together. It was the perfect day for the two of us. We struck out around noon and returned home by 6 p.m.
I have been a fan of the movie Big Fish since it came out when I was in college. I haven’t watched a lot of Tim Burton films, but the imagination, love story and tall tales of this movie have always drawn my attention.
While researching for our bucket list months ago, I found out you could visit the movie set in Millbrook. I was quick to add this to our list, and the destination was beyond our expectations.
Located just an hour from Auburn, Jackson Lake Island is a park frequented by visitors who want to enjoy family time, cool off from the summer heat or visit Spectre. There was a $6 entrance fee into this gated, secluded hideaway. We saw a few campers set up as well as kayakers and fisherman. The island is pristine and well kept. It is obvious that it’s a secret spot not yet overtaken by tourists like ourselves.
We pulled into canopies of towering oak trees covered in beautiful waves of moss. Luscious tall grass and silk topped still waters was our backdrop. Sissy was surprised to see stubbled, old large trees growing out of the lake waters. With not many people around, this made for a peaceful and quiet outing.
To our pleasant surprise we saw a sign that read “Goat Crossing.” We were a bit confused until moments later we began to see miniature goats passing in front of us. We both grinned from ear to ear.
I quickly parked our car to partake in the fun.
We saw babies and mommas, old goats with long horns and black goats with no horns, roaming and eating and enjoying goat heaven with no alarm or worry to the few people stopping to pet them. It was the cutest and happiest experience. We followed them around laughing and petting them, enjoying the splendor of the setting.
Baby goats were heard in the distance, calling out “Maaaaaa, Maaaaa… .” It was the funniest sight to see and hear. Soon the mother would wander back into sight, and the wee one running up with joy as if it had been missing for ages. Sissy and I laughed and awed for what seemed like hours. Time stood still for us, she and I wrapped in each other, wrapped up in an island of beauty and goats.
After taking a gazillion pictures and videos, we stepped away from the goats to visit Spectre. The entrance is framed by a man-made structure of old forbidden trees locking limbs at the top to form a canopy. A reminder that Hollywood can make anything look realistic, and the perfect setup for a kodak moment with your kid.
We giggled as we walked into this random and whimsical place, the sky full of blue and a road leading to a perfectly steepled white church. Sissy full of interest and questions, me full of joy and content, experiencing something new with my girl.
We walked past the abandoned homes and I pictured myself in the middle of lights, people, music and Ewen McGregor. I laughed at myself out loud. How odd it was a movie brought us to this place.
In these moments, I realize creating fun and memories is not about extravagant or fanfare, it’s about being still and seeing your life before you. Watching my little girl smile and feeling the sun on my skin.
Petting a floppy eared goat and feeling like a child again.
Sissy and I hung around for an hour or so. We had to muster up the want to leave this enchanting place.
Honestly, we could have stayed here all day. I pictured my boys running around, wild and free and me sitting on a blanket with my favorite book. I plan to return in the fall. This is the place to go to do absolutely nothing and enjoy everything.
The next stop for the day was in Prattville, only 20 minutes from Jackson Lake. Our destination was a bamboo forest as known as Wilderness Park. I had never driven in or through Prattville and was very pleased to see great shopping as well as lovely old homes. It’s a quick access off the interstate, making our trip home easy.
I saw pictures of the bamboo forest on “This is Alabama of Instagram.” I was eager to add it to the list, knowing you don’t often find bamboo in Alabama.
The park was quick to find, nestled in a neighborhood in the historic district. It has a small, shaded parking lot and a detailed sign giving the history of the park as well as how it is used today.
Sissy had never seen bamboo. “Is it real,” she asked. “It feels like plastic.” I assured her it was the real deal. She was amazed, as was I just by seeing it tall and lovely, towering above our heads.
We walked along a groomed path, tall bamboo shoots in all directions, its tiny leaves hovering high above for shade. Bamboo ranged in colors from sage green to bright lime green, deep yellows and light greys. Some were found to be thin and others were quite thick like tree trunks. We heard frogs deep throat calls from the marshes along the path.
We soon found a small entrance into a larger section of forest. We snuck in to find a quiet scene of bamboo three stories tall surrounded by a running creek. It created for us a hideaway, tiny patches of sunlight peeking through green leaves, high above our heads.
I found that bamboo shoots straight up for some distance, then eventually falls to one side, so what you see appears to be branches hovering above. They mix and match and turn into each other, so you cannot tell one bamboo from another, creating a perfect natural canopy.
We took our time wandering around and taking in the view. Sissy and I held hands, speaking of how cool and different nature can be from one place to the next, all of it good and breathtaking in its own way.
Wilderness Park is unique, unlike anything else in Alabama. It makes a great pit-stop for families, a place to see something lovely and remarkable.
With every adventure, I realize what a glorious state we live in. We are large enough to be our own country and the land differences from north to south bring all variations of natural life. We are checking items off our list and steady adding new ones too.
In the begining, I thought I was creating the “Summer Bucket List,” but now I realize this Alabama adventure will last for months and months to come and I’m glad for that. Thankful for a state that has enough to offer our family that we can travel for years together.
“They say when you meet the love of your life, time stops, and it’s true…
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.