Editor's note: This post is part of the Eighth Day Escape adventure series and contest by Parks Explorer. Throughout this year, Parks Explorer will share trip ideas, staff stories, activity suggestions, and much more from each Alabama State Park. These monthly posts will be personal accounts of traveling Park Naturalist Emily Vanderford, where she details her park adventures and experiences in the unique natural areas across the state. While reading about park adventures is not nearly as meaningful as experiencing them first-hand, Parks Explorer wants you to know just how many opportunities there are for you to enjoy Alabama the beautiful.

The Eighth Day Escape Contest began January 8, 2016 and will conclude January 8, 2017. Monthly winners will be randomly selected each month and the grand prize winner will be drawn January 8, 2017. Click here for contest entry forms and more information. Be sure to enjoy previous monthly adventures also: JanuaryFebruaryMarchApril, May (Part I)

During the month of May, I took a few days of vacation from work to visit Joe Wheeler State Park with my family.  I have always enjoyed going to Joe Wheeler for work projects, but had never spent time enjoying the park as a guest instead of employee.  Springtime fishing with my dad is one of my favorite things to do, so I was excited for the chance to try our luck on the Tennessee River. My parents drove up to Rogersville through the Bankhead National Forest while I took I-65 north through the center of the state to meet them at the park. It’s my husband’s busy season at work, so it was just the four of us for the week – my mom and dad (better known as Nana and Pawpaw), my little boy, and me. Oh, and my parent’s dog Buster.

We really didn’t have an agenda on this trip other than catching some bass and spending a little bit of time relaxing. On the afternoon we arrived, Dad and I launched the boat at the park’s First Creek landing to scout our options for fishing over the next few days. I have been fishing in the same boat with my dad since I was a little girl. It’s a 1988 model 16’ aluminum boat with a 60hp Johnson. It’s not fancy, and it’s definitely not new, but there have been a lot of fish reeled in to that boat (and plenty of memories and stories to go with them). First and Second Creeks were both easily accessible from the park, and kept us from having to travel on the main channel of the Wheeler Reservoir.

The next morning, Dad and I headed out at daybreak to see if we could find a few largemouth interested in what we were casting. Conditions weren’t as great as we had hoped thanks to a cold front that moved in, but the morning wasn’t a total bust. The weather stayed less than ideal through the week, but we made the best of it and caught some hard-earned bass each trip. Most of our catch came by way of buzz bait and square-billed crank baits. I have to admit that my favorite part of each trip was bringing the catch back to show it off to Nana and my 11 month old fisherman-in-training. Watching the curiosity on his face when his Pawpaw showed him a fish for the first time was priceless, and I'll never tire of seeing the picture of him peeking into the same livewell I grew up peeking into. 

JT went on his first boat ride on this trip too, and If the smile on his face (and his Nana's face) was any indication, I think he enjoyed it. Our parks provide so many memory making opportunities, and I am so thankful to have had the time with my folks at Joe Wheeler. I could share detail after detail about all the things we did at the park, like catching glimpses of prothonotary warblers in the trees on the bank of first creek to watching osprey soar overhead from the window of the park's restaurant. It was a great trip, and one that I hope to repeat sometime soon. I hope you will make plans to do the same.


JANUARY WINNER (entries received 1/8 - 2/7): Cathy Struntz
FEBRUARY WINNER (entries received 2/8 - 3/7): Chelsea Gathers
MARCH WINNER (entries received 3/8 - 4/7): Cathy Goss
APRIL WINNER (entries received 4/8 - 5/7): Lamar Johnson
MAY WINNER (entries received 5/8 - 6/7): 
JUNE WINNER (entries received 6/8 - 7/7): 
JULY WINNER (entries received 7/8 - 8/7): 
AUGUST WINNER (entries received 8/8 - 9/7): 
SEPTEMBER WINNER (entries received 9/8 - 10/7): 
OCTOBER WINNER (entries received 10/8 - 11/7): 
NOVEMBER WINNER (entries received 11/8 - 12/7): 
DECEMBER WINNER (entries received 12/8/16 - 1/7/17): 

GRAND PRIZE WINNER (all entries received 1/8/16 - 1/7/17):

Go Explore!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016