Monte Sano Mountain

Hello there! Although it’s been months since I’ve written on my blog, it has been in my thoughts pretty much every week. Each time I go on an adventure or on a special hike, I think: How would I describe this beautiful trail? I need to tell folks how to get here! Oh! I have to tell folks about this unusual tree over here. What about the best place to see a sunrise in this park? Surely hikers want to know how to get here! Sadly, all these thoughts don’t ever make it to paper or the computer. The time it takes to keep a blog fresh is unreal. I’ve learn that in order for blogs to really be successful, posts need to be put up on a regular basis to keep the content fresh and keep up with readers expectations. That’s a lot of work! At some point last year, it all go a bit too overwhelming. I was no longer enjoying my blog because I was spending too much time sitting at the computer at night after spending most days sitting on the computer at work. I felt like it was taking adventure time away instead of enriching it. I was not enjoying the hikes as much since I felt that I needed to document every single one of them and needed to be busying myself taking pictures and posting on social media instead enjoying the quiet solitude of my time outside. So I just stopped.

I’ve had several months to ponder what I was going to do with my blog. I still love the idea so much that I’ve decided to keep it up a little while longer. What I have decided to do is to remove the pressure of writing so much and letting go of some of the extra time consuming stuff like the nature calendar. Although it would be a great resource, there is not enough time in the day for me to do all this event research and post online thirty events a week. I've decided that I’m going to write when I feel I have something interesting to say or have great pictures to share. Essentially, I’m going to work things differently this upcoming year and simply see how it goes. For those of you who have read my blog in the past, I hope you come back and give me your comments. I am very interested to in what you have to say! :-)

Monte Sano State Park entrance off of Nolan Dr.

Monte Sano State Park entrance off of Nolan Dr.

So what is giving me the energy to reboot my blog this fine December? My last trip to Huntsville, Alabama, where I hiked in the Monte Sano Mountain every day. I started hiking Monte Sano last year and it was the first experience I had ever had hiking on my own in the mountain. The first hike was very small, but was important in my life. I had never given myself the permission to hike alone. As a women, that is something we think about very often. We feel that it is dangerous and sometimes foolish for us to hike without a partner. After much reading, however, I quickly learned that this is not the case. The statistics are just not there. Granted, you could injure yourself in the woods by yourself, but that is also true no matter if you are male or female. If you take a few simple precautionary steps like researching your location, bringing a map of the area, wearing and bringing the appropriate gear for the climate, telling someone of your travel plans and maneuvering the trails carefully, there are no reasons why you can’t go at it alone. I dare you to try it.

South Plateau Loop Trail

South Plateau Loop Trail

Hiking Monte Sano is great for so many reasons. First, it is really close to my mother in law’s house, so I can quickly get there in the morning after I wake up when I visit her. A short 10 minute car ride (and after a Starbucks run!), I can find myself alone in the woods. Monte Sano has also a fascinating history. Monte Sano, which means “Mountain of Health” or “Healthful Mountain” depending on what you read, opened in 1938. Much of the work on trails, cabins, bridges and other structures were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a group of young men who were given jobs in conservation and the development of natural resources on lands owned by federal, state and also local governments during the Great Depression. 

There is a lot to do at Monte Sano. In addition to the trails, there are also campgrounds, cabins to rent, playgrounds for children, picnic areas, a lodge that can be rented for events and a CCC museum. Also very close to the area is Burritt on the Mountain, an historic park where you can learn all about rural farm life between the 1800s and 1900s. There are a few hiking trails in the area as well. Monte Sano is adjacent to the Land Trust Monte Sano Nature Preserve. The Land Trust of North Alabama has acquired several acreages of land around the Huntsville area over the past several years to protect green spaces to encourage locals to recreate in nature and conserve native ecologies. Because of the proximity of these lands owned by various entities, finding one good map to guide yourself is nearly impossible. Unless your one of the "let's just wing this" types of people (which I am not!), I would recommend doing a bit of research ahead of time to make sure you know where you are on the mountain. Additionally, there are several trails on the mountain (including some social trails), which can make navigating quite a challenge at times. I recommend going online to visit a few trail maps and bringing copies with you. I have put some links at the bottom to help.

Black Friday sunrise from the scenic overlook at Monte Sano State Park

Black Friday sunrise from the scenic overlook at Monte Sano State Park

I will elaborate more on the trails I’ve tried in the next post, but in the meantime I want to share with you the location of the best place to see a sunrise in the Huntsville area. The best place to see a sunrise in Huntsville is on Monte Sano, in the scenic overlook area right by the CCC Museum. The scenic overlook is very easy to find. Enter the park off the main entrance on Nolan Dr and veer left after passing the visitor center. This road will dead end in the scenic overlook. Park your car and enjoy! Be mindful that you may need to park in one of the other trailhead parking lots and walk about a mile to the scenic overlook if the gates to the overlook are closed. The park opens at 8 a.m., but the gates could be open earlier. Just make sure you have enough time to park and make the walk up in time to see the sunrise.