2010 Jeep Wrangler JK Sport with Top Off, Doors Off: Little River Falls in Fort Payne, Alabama

After finishing our 16 mile ride along Little River Canyon Rim Parkway, the journey officially ended when we arrived at the bottom of the mountain at Canyon Mouth Park.

We had planned to enter the park to play in Little River. However, we learned that it now costs $15 per vehicle to enter; whereas I remember it always being free my entire life.

But finding a Plan B didn’t take long at all. We had to drive back up to the top of the mountain anyway, so we simply drive a different route to Little River Falls.

It was a perfect day to play in the river, just a few hundred feet before the river became a waterfall.

So much fun… and totally free to park!

Dear Jack: Little River Falls/Abandoned Church Christmas Trip

4 years, 1 month.

Dear Jack: Little River Falls/Abandoned Church Christmas Trip

Dear Jack,

The way I’m wired, I just can’t stay indoors all day relaxing. I have to get out and feel the sun on my skin and breathe in the fresh, brisk air.

Dear Jack: Little River Falls/Abandoned Church Christmas Trip

So while I definitely appreciated all the fun we had Christmas morning, I headed up a trip to Little River Falls, which is just about 5 miles from Nonna and Papa’s house, in Fort Payne, Alabama.

Papa had a sinus infection, so he had to stay at home. However, had he went, all 8 of us could have fit in the 2014 Lexus LX we were driving that week.

Dear Jack: Little River Falls/Abandoned Church Christmas Trip

As we made our way down the walkway bridge to the waterfall, I realized something:

Your Uncle Andrew was the one taking care of you, while Mommy was taking care of your cousin Calla.

Dear Jack: Little River Falls/Abandoned Church Christmas Trip

In essence, it was like Mommy and Uncle Andrew swapped kids for a little while. Like most little boys, you idolize the men in your life.

Dear Jack: Little River Falls/Abandoned Church Christmas Trip

So while you and I do have a close relationship, I appreciate how much you look up to your Uncle Andrew, who has the mechanical skills I don’t.

Dear Jack: Little River Falls/Abandoned Church Christmas Trip

We had a fun race back to the car. Of course, Uncle Andrew had a slight disadvantage since he was carrying you!

Dear Jack: Little River Falls/Abandoned Church Christmas Trip

From there, we visited the old abandoned church we discovered last year while I was reviewing the Lexus LS. Last year, you and Calla were asleep so you didn’t get to check it out.


As we unloaded from the Lexus LX, Nana was concerned you’d fall out on the ground once I opened the door.


However, she saw that because there is an extra step before the running board, so combined with your climbing skills, you managed just fine.


So we did indeed attend church on Christmas day; we were just the only ones there.






The Return of the Small Town: Boom Days 2010 in Fort Payne, AL

A glimpse at the culture of Fort Payne, Alabama.

It can be common for people who grow up in a small town to want to move away as soon they graduate high school, as was the case for myself.  Since I graduated from Fort Payne High School in 1999, I have lived in Florida, Virginia, and for the last five years, Nashville.  That means for over 11 years, I have pretty much lived away from the hometown that molded me.  Now, I realize that a lot of this could be that I am married now and have a baby on the way, but I must admit, my old hometown suddenly seems really cool again.  Maybe it’s because the pace of my life is slowing down, compared to my single days and even my married-with-no-children days, and is now starting to match the speed of a small town and no longer a big city.  But I still think something special is happening in this small town, apart from my interference or commentary.

This past weekend my wife and I spent the weekend there with my parents, sister, and her husband.  My sister Dana had mentioned to me that there was this thing going on called “Boom Days” on Saturday in the city park.  She heard something about free pancakes and people dressed up like “old times”.  That’s all she knew.  I was way too curious about this possible Lord of the Rings picnic not to go.  So I went.

Turns out the pancakes weren’t free, but instead they were part of an all-you-can-eat-pancake-buffet for just five bucks, and the people dressed up were Civil War reenacters, not from Medieval times.  There was also a llama, a clown, a car show, a guy on a unicycle, horses, cool crafts exhibits, three concert stages, (four if you count two guys playing bluegrass on the sidewalk), a BBQ competition, and even a dog show.  I had originally only planned to check it out for a little while to say that I went, then leave.  But instead, I was there for over two and half hours and left with a slight sunburn.

In other words, I had a whole lot of fun.  It was a reunion of sorts: I caught up with some childhood classmates like Alex Igou and Tiffanie Baker Vincent, as well as our legendary elementary school librarian, Mrs. Jane Mauldin.  Boom Days 2010 was truly the kind of city wide event that had something for everybody.  I predict that like the days of June Jam (1982-1997), Boom Days will similarly help the culture of the town to resurface.

It wasn’t really until I was in college and started bringing friends home for the weekend that I realized that Fort Payne supersedes commercialized stereotypes of what a small Southern town is supposed to be like.  Fort Payne is not simply Country music, cows, and tractors- which are all good and necessary.  Being that when I was growing up I was constantly in plays and musicals, most of them written and directed by native Eddie McPherson, I was always aware of Fort Payne’s love of the arts.  It has to mean something when there are two theatres in downtown, on the same street, a block away from each other.

Fort Payne is also set apart from many towns in that half of the city is on a mountain and the other half is in a valley.  I grew up on the mountain side, sandwiched in between Little River Canyon, Little River Falls, De Soto State Park, and the artistic town of Mentone.  So while the valley half is where I learned to be social and outgoing, at school and at church, it was the outdoorsy mountain half that catered to my introspective and artistic side.  Simply put, Fort Payne is the perfect environment to yield well-rounded and level-headed people.

It takes a village.  Mine was Fort Payne.

All of the scenic route snapshots  used in this post were taken during Boom Days 2010, courtesy of Nick Shell.