In which I fell down a mountain and thoroughly enjoyed it
I have previously mentioned how I'm really not much of an adrenaline junky. I don't do roller coasters, heights, jumping off things ect. I know; I’m tons of fun. This also means I had never gone mountain biking, had being the operative word because that changed when I got to Anniston Alabama.
Cold Water mountain has world class mountain biking trails which, somehow, people thought it was a good idea to send Going up the trails was actually significantly less difficult than I expected however I can honestly say I wouldn’t have made it without my amazing guide Marcus and first aid aficionado Aubra, the latter of whom runs the mountains emergency patrol. This is an incredibly important and rare resource because he has a better grasp on the trails and a greater degree of accessibility than traditional emergency responders. Aubra decided to start this patrol because of a series of bad accidents; an unfortunate side effect of having world class trails is you get world class riders who are willing to try extremely dangerous jumps.
Now mind you I was getting told about all these crazy falls on our way up which was not putting me any more at ease for the ride down. Rightfully so because about 50 feet into the first downhill trail I totally wiped out. If you're reading this mom, I promise I only ended up with skinned knees. I have to mention though that this experience was unique to me, our group had a least 8 members many of whom were well into their sixties and none of them wiped out, neither did the groups of teenagers that passed us. This, the apparent approach ability of the sport,at least in terms of age, probably surprised me more than anything else (though it didn't do anything to fade the bruise on my ego).
Another interesting thing about the rider population that day was at least half the people we stopped to talk to were coming from Atlanta, Georgia. When I explained to them why I was there they couldn’t have been more excited about the train getting bike service. While the first round of changes won’t see bike accessibility come to Anniston because it is an unstaffed station; they are incredibly excited about the impact this could potentially have on their recreational tourism. Much like Whitefish, Montana they are hoping to expand that sector and to focus on green tourism; the latter making trains a very logical partner.
Cold Water Mountain is obviously enough of an attraction that people are willing to make the trip even without bike compatible train facilities at the moment. It definitely helps though that when you come off the mountain Anniston has lots to do outside of biking. It has several breweries, a farmers market, a restored boutique hotel and one heck of a soon to be implemented bike plan.
Those amazing city features somehow pale in comparison to the two I got the opportunity to visit at the very end of my visit. Anniston is home to a museum complex which houses a natural history museum, an art gallery (its really so much more than that) and a botanical gardens. The natural history is actually a Smithsonian affiliate and lives up to that connection. The art museum is really more of a rare artifact collection which was previously the private collection of two former spies. I know.You couldn't write this stuff.
The range of type and origin of the objects on display is absolutely remarkable with everything from a room full of Remmingtons, to Napoleons grooming kit (I feel like you really must know you've made it when people want your old hairbrushes...). I unfortunately didn't get the chance to visit the botanical gardens but I fully intend on remedying that when I go back.
Anniston was not a place I expected to plan to return to, like many of the cities on this trip I wholly underestimated it. But with all the amazing things to do there, its easy train accessibility and its prime placement between Atlanta an New Orleans I know I'll be back eventually, at the very least to make it down that mountain.
P.S I should note that on the way to Anniston Mayor Stewart got on board for what was supposed to be a quick ride from Birmingham to Anniston. That quick ride turned into 3+ hours stranded on the tracks because of a tornado and some downed trees. I felt terrible but Mayor Stewart could not have been nicer or a better sport about the whole thing. In fact everyone who I met once we got to Anniston was just unbelievably kind, they are so much a part of the reason why I want to go back.
PPS That train delay? It was my first of the trip :)