HEFLIN — Adam Dasinger pointed to 80-foot-tall poplars and loblolly pines between the Heflin Spur trail and the nearby railroad tracks, noting, “Most of these trees are decades old at least, so it’s almost like an old growth forest.”
Dasinger made his observation to a group of 20 people who had met at the Pinhoti Heflin Spur Trailhead Forest Road 500 parking lot near Heflin for an informative hike. Their destination was a scenic waterfall as part of the third “Wild Wednesdays,” an environmental education program for kids and adults sponsored by the Friends of the Talladega Forest and the City of Heflin.
Dasinger called the strip of trees “no man’s land,” because the U.S. Forest service does not cut them and neither does the railroad company. That allows the trees to flourish and mature as they would in nature.
Dasinger, principal of Pleasant Grove Elementary School, and avid outdoorsman Mark Truett spearheaded the effort to make some old logging roads and forest roads into an official 3.5-mile-long spur trail last year.
On Wednesday the group made it to the waterfall, which is part of an old dam originally built to turn a flywheel to generate electricity for nearby Heflin. At the bottom of the waterfall a pool of cool water awaited the kids, who enjoyed splashing as their laughter echoed off the rocks.
Dasinger told the group Alabama Power had bought the power-generating “contraptions” in 1926 from the previous owner, who had run afoul over permitting from the Alabama Public Service Commission. Dasinger pointed to weathered foundation blocks used by the power plant which still remain.
He said the trail above the dam continues for another two to three miles along Rocky Creek. He compared it to the beauty of the Smoky Mountains because the trail has 30-foot-high mountain laurel, various older hardwoods and beautiful ravines that the water has carved out over eons. Dasinger said he hopes the trail, which eventually connects to a forest service road, will be officially recognized in a manner similar to the Heflin Spur trail.
Dasinger said the part of the Heflin Spur trail that the group had hiked on originally was the only way to get from Heflin to Oxford before U.S. 78 was built.
Along the trail Dasinger pointed out a large umbrella magnolia, white oaks, blackberries, cinnamon ferns and other features that make the Heflin Spur trail such a treat for hikers.
Ginger Newsom, 65, of Anniston said she has hiked Mount Cheaha and parts of the Heflin Spur trail and was struck at the natural beauty of the area.
“It’s beautiful, I love it, we will be back,” Newsom said.
Julie Hulsey brought her 10-year-old daughter, Laynie, to the hike to see the waterfall. After swimming in the waters of Rocky Creek below the waterfall, Laynie said it was “so cool” and she would do it again.
Before the hike, Heflin Park and Recreation Director Tammy Perry welcomed the group and told them that hikers who visit City Hall receive a Pinhoti sticker and get to have their photo taken with city officials. City Hall is the official trailhead of the spur.
“It’s a great exercise, it’s a great view, it’s just beautiful,” Perry said about the spur trail.