July 10 - 27 - 2014 ~Columbus, MS - Bay Springs Lake, MS - Grand Harbor Marina, TN - Joe Wheeler State Park, AL - Guntersville Marina, AL

      Before we continue east, I want to tell you what I neglected to say about our visit to Columbus, MS, which was actually a highpoint for me.  We visited the Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, Tennessee William’s, first home that is 135 years old.  Did you know that he is said to have been the most important American playwright ever?  Since my freshman year in college, I’ve been a fan of his works. I was a drama major and my first year in college, our drama department performed The Glass Menagerie.  Not a very good photo but this gingerbread Victorian house was his first home and the exterior hues are authentic paint colors used at that time.  He has produced some marvelous works and I was ecstatic at the opportunity of feeling more “connected” with him.

    Long long ago, when we were all just a glimmer in our daddy’s eye, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was launched as part of the Continental Army.  In 1802, Congress established West Point, NY, as our country’s first school of engineering.  West Point was run by the Corps of Engineers and was our only source of engineers for military and civil purposes.

     I had no idea the scope of the Corps until touring a visitors center along the waterway and this I learned.  The Army engineers blazed migratory trails for those westward bound.  They cleared waterways and harbors for commerce.  Now Congress has authorized them to work in the fields of flood control, hydropower production, shore protection and restoration, water supply, disaster assistance, fish and wildlife management and recreation.

     The 234 mile Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway the largest building project in the history of the US Army Corps of Engineers and is a system that forms a chain of 10 lakes, 10 locks and a series of dams from Demopolis, AL, our starting point in the south, to the Tennessee River, in the north, where it twists and winds through beautiful countryside steeped in early American history.   It’s length is more than 5 times longer than the Panama Canal.  Although “talk” about building this waterway began in the late 1700’s and continued through 22 presidencies, it wasn't completed till the end of 1984, with a total number of man-hours of labor being greater than 25 million.

     An average 8 barge tow can move as much freight as 120 rail cars, 480 tractor-trailer trucks and can move a ton of freight twice as far as a train and 6 times as far as a tractor-trailer truck on the same amount of fuel.

     Bay Springs Lake, one of the 10, has many anchorages and coves from which to choose.  We anchored near the visitor center so we could take a short ride there in the dink to learn more about the waterway and its construction.

Bay Springs Visitor Center, MS

     The Tenn-Tom was many slow miles of absolutely nothing but water and trees and minimal to no phone or internet service. Anchoring out, swimming, kayaking, exploring by dink—-all of that was fun but it doesn’t take long to yearn for civilization.  We merged with Pickwick Lake and the Tennessee River, docking at beautiful Grand Harbor Marina. 

Grand Harbor Marina
Counce, TN

     It is dandy to be in civilization again!  Last night's view up river was so calming-----

and this morning is another reason to be thankful for still being healthy and on this side of the green grass.

     This is our anchorage at Buck Island, TN River, SM 249, near Active Captain’s designated Little Bear Anchorage.  We cruised up there a bit and it looked like there might be more than little bears present so we anchored in the open with nice swimming and a cooling breeze. Quiet and wonderfully peaceful. 🏊

     I graduated from college in Alabama and I had no idea that the northern part of the state was so magnificent with stone cliffs punctuated with grand and verdant rolling hills.

     So many cruising friends have told us about Joe Wheeler State Park so we made plans to spend some time there.  WOW!!!  We had NO idea that Alabama (or any state for that matter) had state supported parks of this richness and rustic splendor.  There is a lovely campground, pavilions with huge fire places, beach, tennis and basket ball courts, hiking trails, marina, an an impressive and  bucolic lodge with 74 guest rooms, sitting areas, transient slips, and an excellent restaurant. 
        Joe Wheeler State Park lodge, restaurant, and transient slips
One of 3 huge chandeliers in the restaurant

      I saw several huge “walk-in” size stone fireplaces.  The transient slips are right in front of the lodge, restaurant, and a pool actually large enough for a swim workout. 

     Bill said, "Let's take a little stroll to look around."  You'd think after all these years I'd have learned that "a little stroll" is at a fast pace and akin to a race walking marathon.  But I took his proposal at face value as I stepped out the door wearing my flippity flops.  I was inappropriately attired from the ankle down. This photo really doesn't capture the sharp gasping inhalations caused by this area of the trail that went straight UP without trees, sticks or twigs to hang on to.  Wish I’d taken the picture from the bottom but after making it to the top, there was no way I’d retrace my steps for a photo.  We had planned to go paddle boarding with a group but we were toast after this "stroll".

     About half way to the top, I saw a piece of a limb that looked somewhat like a weird animal so under the guise of pausing to admire and photograph, I was really sucking in the atmosphere.

Justification for a rest during one of the famous
Bill Bender Walking Tours

     Currently, we’re in covered slip in Guntersville, AL, where we’ll stay for a month with a long list of “intentions” for getting bright work done, deep cleaning of lockers and hatches, and hopefully, some draperies completed.  Friends from SC, Bob and Jenny, keep their boat here are up for the weekend so we’re enjoying spending time with them and getting a tour of the area which always includes sampling restaurants.  

     Lunch was at cute, unique, and eclectic Cafe 336, one of Bob and Jenny's favorites.  The food is outstanding.  Everything is fresh, original, and yummy.  We look forward to returning for lunch before our time here is up.

     Lake Guntersville State Park had a Shrimp Fest so the 4 of us went up there yesterday.  The road is as steep and curvy as NC's mountain roads which really was surprising. This is Alabama, for heaven's sake!  From the water's edge, we could see the lodge at the top of the mountain.
It looked interesting from the beach so we drove up there to have a closer look.
Guntersville Lake from the lodge's observation deck.

     Following our "romp" around the lodge on the mountain top, we had worked up an appetite so it surely must be time to eat---again.  We went to another of their top picks which happens to be #1 on Trip Advisor, out of their 50 restaurants.  We were able to get a table outside--the evening was balmy and their tiny white lights, plants, landscaping accents, and subtle wind chimes added to the pleasure.  The food quality and atmosphere could be a rival for fine dining restaurants in major cities and this is just a tiny Alabama town on the lake.  They were extremely busy but that didn't slow food preparation nor service.  Bo, the owner, came to our table quite a few times to make sure that all was well...and it was!

The Rock House Eatery
Guntersville, AL

     We've had a great time with Jenny and Bob this weekend.  It isn't often that we have the opportunity to spend time with them--it's been well over a year--but we pick right up where we left off!  Bob's still working so really dread when it's time to hug them goodbye.
     We’ll leave here the end of August so no more blogging till then unless something truly momentous occurs.  I do want to close with something a dear childhood friend shared with me recently from A New Zealand Prayer Book.  It rings so true because it seems everyone (I include myself) is so very busy and the major complaint is that none of us seems to get everything done that we’d hoped to accomplish "today".  This really spoke to me so I’d like to share it with you.

"It is night after a long day. What has been done has been done; what has not been done has not been done; let it be."

     As each day is done and we reflect upon those waking hours, it feels appropriate to express gratitude to our heavenly Father for our health and the abilities that He has prescribed for us, allowing us the moment or opportunity to take pleasure in accomplishing our to-do list, despite the possibility that it lacked completion. It’s really tough to give credence to the fact that we are decelerating as we grow more sage and venerable, but when I look around me and sadly see those my age and younger who have obvious limitations in their functionality, I feel as if I should fall to my knees in reverence and thank my God who made me and bestowed upon me excellent health. Despite my 73 years when body parts begin to grow weary of functioning and wear out, I feel even younger than my children’s ages and am so filled with gratitude that, regardless of whether I checked everything off my to-do list today, I delight in what I did achieve and that I was able to do those things totally fit, adept, and pain-free. This is one of our Father’s gifts to us so give thanks and remember that “what has been done has been done and what has not been soon has not been done; let it be.”

Bill and Laura Bender
Kindred Spirit III
Guntersville, AL


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