#29 Cheaha Mountain, Alabama (2,407 ft.)

I should state from the get-go that we made plans for our Deep South trip months before the political situation in Alabama deteriorated from the usual grotesquerie to farce. As we drove north out from the Florida panhandle into the cotton fields of Dixie, we weren’t yet privy to the salacious details of the (allegedly) predatory Republican candidate for the Senate. I did notice, however, the the last name of one candidate running for higher office was “Twinkle,” and that was ludicrous enough.

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Alabama, as is plainly obvious, is a state of contradictions, and Montgomery, in particular, is a city of contradictions within that already bedeviled state. Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Jr. organized the Montgomery bus boycott, is within staring distance of the capitol, on whose steps a gold star commemorates the spot where Jefferson Davis took the oath of office for president of the Confederate States of America.


In the middle of the so-called Black Belt the buildings of downtown, which was virtually deserted when we visited, are gleaming white, almost painful to the eyes under midday sun. This Jerusalem of the Deep South, layered of hate and resistance, is a weird, weird place.

From Montgomery we headed northeast toward Cheaha State Park. We arrived after dusk, but fortunately the restaurant was open and still serving (which was fortunate given that the backup option would likely have been fast food in Talledega). The sunset from the restaurant balcony was stunning, and dinner in the Pinhoti Room was surprisngly good, too.

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The next morning after breakfast we hit the highpoint, marked by a great stone tower built by the Civilian Conservation Corps back when our politics hadn’t yet soured and suffered a selfish, ignorant death.

The museum was unfortunately closed, but we were able to climb the tower steps and peek around. We had it to ourselves. Mom, getting into the high pointing vibe, proudly flashed the victory V to signal just her second state highpoint.

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Either that or she was telling me to go screw myself for taking her on this crazy road trip. She’s a game traveler, my mom. From the park we headed due west, past cotton fields and little towns clotting the secondary byways with car dealerships at irregular intervals.

Before we crossed over into Mississippi we stopped in Tuscumbia to visit the Helen Keller House.

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Among the highlights, and there were quite a few, was the dining room featured in the famous food fight scene with Annie Sullivan.

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The china on display is all that remains of the set that young Annie destroyed in her fit of rage.

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Just outside is the famous well where Annie finally got through to Helen, who connected a physical thing (water) to the signs she was being taught. It is more moving than you expect. If you think of all the wretchedness that the state of Alabama can represent, this one humble well pump stands alone as a testament of hope against ignorance and oblivion. 


 

       

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