Service Park Campground, AL

I’m very excited to write about what may be my new favorite car campground! Service Campground in Alabama is run by the Army Corps of Engineers, and is part of the Black Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway. In fact, this campground is situated right on the banks of Coffeeville Lake. A place called Coffeeville? My caffeine addicted husband is pleased.

My husband’s deployment dates were changed the week before Veteran’s Day weekend. It left us kind of down in the dumps, and we decided that the best way to defunkify would be to get out of the house and back to nature. The weather was nice and cool, and we wanted to do nothing more than hike and hang out around the fire.

And chop some wood. We wanted an excuse to break out the ax!

And chop some wood. We wanted an excuse to break out the ax!

Since most of the campgrounds around our home in Florida were booked, we had to look north into Alabama. We picked this campground because they had two tent-only sites, and because it was a small campground that only had a few other reserved spots.

The next day we drove 3 hours north, and arrived at our site. We couldn’t stop staring at the view. It was gorgeous! The water, if there were no boats passing through, was smooth as glass. The leaves on the trees were changing colors, and in the late afternoon sun they showed their brilliants reds and oranges. It was so peaceful and so quiet, and our campsite was at the very end of the park, away from everyone.

End of the line. This is the last site in the park.

End of the line. This is the last site in the park.

There's an amazing view of the water from the fire pit.

There’s an amazing view of the water from the fire pit.

Panorama of the water from our site.

Panorama of the water from our site.

Brilliant colors.

Brilliant colors.

A tugboat moves some barges down the river.

A tugboat moves some barges down the river.

So smooth. That ripple was from a fish that had jumped up a moment before.

So smooth. That ripple was from a fish that had jumped up a moment before.

After a peaceful sleep in our tent, we rose, had breakfast, and set out on a walk. There are a few short trails in the area, and they actually have a bit of elevation to them! As Washingtonians living in flat Florida, we’re always looking for a way to hike a bit above sea level. The trails all combine to make a 4 mile loop through the woods. It’s a “nature walk” as well, so there are signs describing some native birds and other  wildlife. We walked back to camp for lunch, and ended up taking a nap by the fire. It was a perfectly clear day.

Unfortunately for our dog, Ellie, that clear day equated to a cold night. Cold? In November? I know, I know. But the night before was only in the mid 40s, and she had a sleeping pad, blanket, and a fleece jacket. She was fine.

See? Look at that fleece jacket. Perfect for a mid-40s night in the tent.

See? Look at that fleece jacket. Perfect for a mid-40s night in the tent.

That night, however, a cold front moved in and dropped the temperature to about 30 degrees. My husband and I were fine, but sometime around 4:30am, our dog woke up, moved up against my husband, and shivered so violently it woke him from his sleep. I awoke to the sight of my husband piling all of our sweaters and jackets on top of our dog, who fell back asleep with a wag of her tail.

The next morning, we walked through the thick morning fog to find a spot of cell reception and look at the weather forecast. The upcoming night was supposed to be even colder, so we decided to cut the trip short for the sake of Ellie. We had a leisurely breakfast, and packed up our gear.

Usually she loves the tent more than we do, and wants to go inside by 8pm no matter where we are.

Usually she loves the tent more than we do, and wants to go inside by 8pm no matter where we are.

Our campsite host came over to ask if we were leaving early. He was a grizzled old man, with a beard and thick glasses. We told him we were, but that we’d have to come back sometime because of the beauty of the place. He agreed that is was beautiful, and told us how he acts as a campsite host there every winter. He lives in a huge teepee-like tent with a heater inside, and spends the day maintaining trails, cleaning the facilities, and checking guests in for the night. We talked a bit about the trails around the area, and he told us that at age 73 he decided to try backpacking for the first time. In fact, the first time he tried backpacking was on the Appalachian Trail! He said he attempted a thru hike (which turned into a section hike), but only made it to Connecticut or Massachusetts by October and had to wait until spring to start again. He went back that next spring and completed the hike at 74! I asked him if he had a trail name, and he laughed and said they called him Mom. When other hikers would ask him how he felt, he’d say “Every mile I make is a miracle!” and his name evolved from that. Mom = Miles of miracles.

On that high note, we left the campsite and returned home. Ellie slept all the way to Mobile, and then sat backwards for the rest of the trip, looking out the back window, and enjoying the drive.

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