Cheaha Park, Ladiga Trail crowded as punishing summer comes to an end
by Laura Johnson
Sep 07, 2010 | 2064 views |  0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CHEAHA STATE PARK - A drive around the two-lane, tree-lined loop that encircles Cheaha State Park revealed bands of bikers, dozens of butterflies crossing from sunny spots to shadows, flashes of scenic views and a cloudless sky Monday.

People crowded the state park, area trails and waterways to enjoy what serves for many as the last official day of summer. The day’s mild weather provided a break from summer heat and served to draw some larger-than-normal crowds to the recreational areas on Labor Day.

“It’s really unusual to have temperatures this cool for this time of year,” a Gary Goggins, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Birmingham. “It’s defiantly a lot cooler than what we’ve seen in that last month.”

Monday’s high hovered around 90, while humidity levels topped out at about 30 percent, providing the sense of the first hint of fall, Goggins said.

That’s part of what led Louise and Arnold Gaddy of Georgia to make the spontaneous two-hour trip to the park Monday atop their motorcycles.

“We were both off and just said we were going to get off and ride,” said Louise.

The pair were just two of the almost 1,000 day-visitors who checked into the park over the weekend and on Mon-day. Park officials there said it was a particularly busy, even for the holiday weekend.

“We’ve had motorcycles backed up and the entrance (ticket sales) have tripped this weekend,” said Amber Hamlin.

Hamlin, who manages a small store at the park, was so busy selling moon pies, souvenir stickers and camping ne-cessities Sunday that she kept the store open an extra hour to accommodate the demand. The park restaurant, located within walking distance of the store, was also full with visitors over the weekend.

On Sunday, the restaurant served 215 people for lunch. That’s 61 more than the 154 it served last year on the Sun-day lunch before Labor Day.

The park’s lodges, cabins and camping lots were also packed with people. Tammy Power, the lodge manager and a 27-year employee of the park, said the park hasn’t had a weekend this busy in more than a decade.

“It’s just an absolutely beautiful weekend,” Power said. “You get beautiful weather and people want to get out.”

Jack Holder, director of the Eubanks Welcome Center in Piedmont, said more than 200 cyclists raced along the nearby Chief Ladiga trail early Monday. The center served as a turning point for a holiday cycling race on the trail that began in Georgia.

But long after the race, cyclists passed over the pavement on the trails, and visitors’ vehicles filled the center’s park-ing lot.

“When they feel like it’s going to be cooler and dryer they flock to the trail,” Holder said.

And while peddlers were crossing Ladiga, paddlers were floating down Terrapin Creek, which also runs through Piedmont. Bobby Warren, owner of The Terrapin Outdoor Center, said there were more boats on the creek than he ever remembered being there at one time.

“It started about Memorial Day and it’s been good all summer,” Warren said.

But the pleasant weather that some expect helped draw the Labor Day crowds outdoors won’t be around for long, Goggins said. By the end of the week, highs are expected to inch back up into the mid-90s.

“It’s going to be a return back to what we were to begin with,” Goggins said.

That’s likely all right with Virginia Sharp of Leeds and Reggie Horrell of Vestavia. They were able to enjoy a not-so-frequent trip in the fall-like air Monday while overlooking the view from Cheaha.

“We just wanted to come up here to make a day’s excursion of it because it’s just a beautiful place,” Sharp said.

Contact staff writer Laura Johnson at 256-235-3544.

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Cheaha Park, Ladiga Trail crowded as punishing summer comes to an end by Laura Johnson

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