We are Huntsville, and we love Huntsville, but sometimes you need to jump in the car and go on a day trip! With many of us being limited on our domestic and foreign travel, it’s important to get out of your local bubble and go exploring. I did just that when I took a trip to the Clarkson Covered Bridge (sometimes called Legg Bridge) in Cullman County.
The Clarkson Covered Bridge is about a 90-minute drive from Huntsville and when you arrive you will notice not only the historic bridge, but walking paths, water features, a picnic area, and two period structures built to match the historical nature of the bridge: a Dogtrot log cabin and a working grist mill. There are bathrooms, though they are only open during the warmer months.
Parking is directly by one of the bridge’s entrances and you’ll notice how picturesque the bridge is surrounded by mature trees and flowing water. There is a historical marker teaching you more about the history, which includes the bridge being built in 1904, only to be destroyed by a large storm in 1921. The bridge was rebuilt a year later and in 1974 it was names to the National Register of Historic Places.
After you take the necessary Instagram photos of the bridge and the view, walk on over to the trailhead and path to the picnic area and mill. That area might not be for snake haters, as there is a large sign warning to ‘watch for snakes.’ While it was chilly out, I couldn’t help but find a path into the Crooked Creek to dip my toes in and feel one with nature, keeping my eyes out for snakes, of course.
There was a family with three kids who were all wielding metal detectors and running around the picnic area while I was there. They seemed to be having a lot of fun and enjoying the opportunity to play and be outside. Also, I assume if they find anything of value their parents get to keep it, so great idea all around.
I enjoyed walking over towards the mill and seeing how it received water from a body of water up at a higher elevation. The water wasn’t flowing very strongly, so there wasn’t a lot of spinning of the mill wheel, but it was still a fun glimpse into the past workings of mills.
Once I was done exploring the area run by Cullman Parks & Recreation my plan was to head over to Ave Maria Grotto. According to their website: “The Ave Maria Grotto is located on the grounds of St. Bernard Abbey, the only Benedictine monastery of men in the State of Alabama. The Abbey was founded in 1891. The Grotto consists of a landscaped hillside of 125 small stone and cement structures, the handiwork of the creative genius, Brother Joseph Zoetl, O.S.B., a monk of the Abbey for almost 70 years.”
As with many plans, it was quickly changed as I drove past what looked like a big scrap yard, old plane included. I soon realized that it was an antique/thrift/craft/consignment/all the things store that I knew I had to go explore. After a quick U-turn I was in the parking lot of Highway Pickers; address 1354 US Highway 278 W, Cullman, AL 35057. I first took pictures of the dilapidated two-seater plane, knowing that my dad would get a kick out of seeing it in pieces. After admiring some of the old metal items they had outside-including a dated gum stand-I headed in.
Little did I know that I was walking into Wonderland. If there is anything that you have been looking for, whether it’s a Nancy Drew book, NASCAR tin sign, handmade wood coffee table, creepy dolls that eyes follow you or a giant snowflake made out of white plastic hangers, they have it! There are three floors of what seems to be never ending booths.
I found two gems that I ended up purchasing after two hours of walking around. The first was a homage to my obsession with alligators (Go Florida Gators!) One booth had a light up bar sign advertising Alligator Ice with an alligator drinking a beer- that is now hanging in my back porch window and ready for summer. I also came across four hand-crafted stepping stones that spelled out ‘HOME’ with blue glass pieces in a cement base. Of course, these were procured in a booth as far away from the entrance as possible and took two people to each carry two heavy cement slabs each over the river, through the woods, down ramps and across the building.
After a morning of outdoor exploring and then the afternoon of indoor exploring I was hungry and tired. Ave Maria Grotto would have to wait for another trip on another weekend. Luckily, there was a delicious Chipotle on the way home to stop at and renew my energy. When I got back home to Huntsville the first thing I did was replace my boring stepping blocks in the front of my house with my new set of HOME stones. I deemed the day trip highly successful!
Author: Ashley Polesak
Ashley Polesak has spent the last 10 years living her best life in Huntsville, Alabama. She loves to explore all of the things that Huntsville and the surrounding areas have to offer and is a big proponent for scouting out local experiences. Ashley lives and breathes the outdoors and recreation opportunities in the area, you are very likely to run into her at a park or on a hiking trail. If she has her two rescue dogs with her, Oba and Twyla, please excuse their over-excitement, they are currently being trained and it’s a work in progress! If she had to describe herself in television characters she would choose 1/4 Eleanor Shellstrop, 1/4 Leslie Knope, 1/4 April Ludgate and 1/4 Margaery Tyrell.