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In Love With: Walking in a Winter Wonderland

02.11.2008 by André Natta · → Leave a comment

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Rock with a View - Charles Buchanan

A rock with a view. Charles Buchanan/The Terminal. 

Winter is not my favorite time of year in Birmingham. The frequent gray skies and stark, barren trees make me miss my lush, green city of the warmer months. So the other day, when the sun popped out to provide a gloriously bright, somewhat warm weekend, I got out in it. Specifically, I got myself out to Moss Rock Preserve in Hoover.

This 250-acre patch of public wilderness in the middle of suburbia is quite a hidden gem—and hidden it is, just a block or so off Shades Crest Road and surrounded by subdivisions. But once you’re inside, the sights and sounds of the outside world (mostly) fall away, and there are approximately 10 miles of trails to take you up and down mountainsides, along bubbling creeks, and through forests and wetlands.

Moss Rock also is the closest thing Birmingham has to Oz, Narnia, or Middle-Earth. The Boulder Field, a haven for climbers, offers giant rocks with weird shapes, cave-like shelters and passages, seemingly bottomless crevasses. Some of the smaller boulders are even suspended in midair, trapped between rocky walls. Higher up on the mountain, a large open area resembles a moonscape. And waterfalls (which are probably even more beautiful when we’re not in a drought) slide over smooth shelves of rock. Exploring Moss Rock in winter only added to the otherworldly atmosphere, since the lack of leaves allowed me to see and hear more—wind, water, the echoes of people across a valley—through the trees.

Visit Moss Rock Preserve’s site for details, rules, and directions for your own explorations. A few caveats: Some of the trails are not well marked, and the trail maps don’t seem to match up too closely. I got lost a couple of times, which wasn’t bad because I’d inevitably stumble upon something scenic. Speaking of stumbling, wear good shoes for scrambling up/down hills and rocks and across creekbeds. You’re going to stub your toes and/or trip at least once, so I don’t recommend sandals. Bring water also since you’ll be doing a lot of walking.

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