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: JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMay (Part I),May (Part II)JuneJulyAugust (Part I)August (Part II), September

Escape to the Scarecrows at Frank Jackson State Park

October is my favorite month of the year. The weather turns cooler (usually), the leaves start changing colors, migratory birds are filling Alabama feeders and forests, playoff baseball is on television, and there are fall festivities everywhere! Without question, there are plenty of great reasons to visit parks this time of year. One example of a park already decked out for the season is Frank Jackson State Park in Opp, Alabama. I spent a day at the park recently enjoying their annual community tradition of Scarecrows in the Park, where local businesses, schools, organizations, and families decorate the trails with Scarecrows of all kinds. What a fun way to spend a day!

Frank Jackson State Park--Scarecrows in the Park

I wish I could have stayed at the park longer than I did, but I made the most of my time and explored as much of the park as I could. When I arrived at Frank Jackson on Wednesday morning, I was greeted by the park manager, Chris Jones, and Frank Jackson Trail Masters President Charles Willis. They told me about how Scarecrows in the Park is always a fun time – local school groups field trip to the park, the campground and cabins are brimming with happy visitors, and fall fishing is hitting its prime. They gave me a tour of the Magnolia, Dogwood, and Azalea trails, and we all laughed and enjoyed the creativity of the scarecrows lining the trails. From minions to firefighters, there were seriously scarecrows of all kinds. I encourage you to take time to visit with your friends and family. Guided golf cart tours can be scheduled for senior adults and others who are unable to walk the trails.


Once I finished the scarecrow tour, I spent a little time hiking the trails on the island at the park. Alabama State Parks has recently launched its iNaturalist project, so I was anxious to enter a few records from Frank Jackson. This project was created so that park visitors can document the biodiversity in Alabama State Parks! The iNaturalist info page on alapark.com has more info about how you can get involved. I always enjoy walking the trails on the island because they are a relaxing and easy hike, and I always see some of my favorite plants scattered in the understory of the mixed pine-hardwood forest.

On this trip, I found a strawberry bush (Euonymous americanus) loaded with fruit! Another name for this plant is Hearts-a-bustin' because it's fruit looks like it has four chambers that are "bustin' out." The colors are bright pink and red, so it absoltely stands out this time of year. American beautyberry (Calicarpa americana) is also fruiting this time of year, and its bright purple berries are always nice to see. Before I finished my hike, I stumbled (almost literally) onto an armadillo. I laughed at how badly it startled me when it scampered out from under me, and then I snapped its photo before it disappeared off the trail. Moments like that are what make me love the outdoors. You just never know what you might see, or just how close you will be to it before you see it (or it sees you)!

Days I spend outdoors are almost always better than the ones spend indoors, but that's especially true this time of year. Have you made plans to enjoy this fall season in an Alabama State Park? I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Frank Jackson State Park, and hope you will make plans to visit soon.

Suggestions for your next trip to Frank Jackson State Park:

Frank Jackson State Park--Hiking, Biking & Camping


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): Malia Ragan
JUNE WINNER (entries received 6/8 - 7/7): no valid entries 
JULY WINNER (entries received 7/8 - 8/7): Nikki Nelson
AUGUST WINNER (entries received 8/8 - 9/7): no valid entries
SEPTEMBER WINNER (entries received 9/8 - 10/7): Sandra Lyons
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): 





Saturday, October 8, 2016