CHEAHA STATE PARK — For Lorelei and Mark Liles of Auburn, the park surrounding Alabama’s highest point isn’t just a place to go camping and hiking, it’s a place to make new memories and think about old ones.
Lorelei Liles said this November marks her birthday and the fifth anniversary of the day Mark, her husband, proposed to her on the Bald Rock Trail. They’ve come around this time each year since to celebrate, she said.
The couple were one of several families to spend the day Saturday hiking and camping at Cheaha State Park. Temperatures reached the 20s the previous night and are expected to drop below freezing in the coming week, but some at the park said the weather was perfect.
Liles said she has walked the Bald Rock trail plenty of times, but she planned to hike the trail leading to the Devil’s Den waterfall.
“If we’ve got time, I’d like to hit both,” Liles said.
Liles said she has heard the hike on the Bald Rock trail is more intense than the Devil’s Den trail, but the view makes it worth it — especially with the bright red, orange and yellow hues on the trees.
“This is a gem of Alabama, for sure,” Liles said.
The weather around noon Saturday wasn’t chilly at Cheaha State Park, Phil Roberts of Ohatchee said, compared to the cold gusts of wind that hit him the night before.
Roberts, who began his overnight hike with his son-in-law, Michael Cleveland, on Friday, said the two hiked the nearly two miles along the Pinhoti Trail to McDill Point, where they set up camp and slept on hammocks.
“The winds were all night long blowing 20 miles an hour... We dealt with it very well.” Roberts said. “It just kind of saps the heat from your whole system.”
Cleveland said this was his first time to do an overnight hike. Because Roberts spent months recovering from shoulder surgery, he said, this was his first time to hike since spring of 2018.
“I’ve been anxious to get back on the trail,” Roberts said.
Emme Hobbs, of the Gulf Shores area, who came with her husband, Tim, and their three daughters, said Saturday morning the family had just spent their first night on one of the park’s campgrounds.
Tim Hobbs said the family came to visit the park for a day and liked it enough to keep coming back.
Emme Hobbs said the family camps frequently, but this is her favorite state park so far.
Luckily, Hobbs said, her family was able to snag the last spot available in all of the park’s campgrounds when they arrived.
Hobbs said the weather was very windy the night prior, but the RV they slept in had heating. Despite the cold, she said, the family enjoyed seeing the fall foliage and being able to hike without the threat of snakes and bugs.
By Mia Kortright
The Anniston Star