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Winter Wanderings Day #26, Fort Toulouse-Fort Jackson, Wetumpka, AL

Grateful the rain broke, the sun, finally, came out on Friday, but the temperature had dropped into the 30’s. By lunchtime, it warmed up a good bit and felt good in the sunshine. The puppies were blissful to be liberated from the van and outdoors, as were we. We hiked from the campground, across the road to Fort Toulouse, a National Historic Landmark. We had it all to ourselves. The recreated 1751 Fort Toulouse was a charming little fort that sat at the fork of the the Talapoosa and Coosa Rivers, as they came together to form the Alabama River. It had, mainly, been used as a trading post, where the Indians exchanged fur pelts for guns and household items with the French, stationed there on the frontier of their Louisiana Territory. The local Alibamu Indians were part of the Creek Confederacy. “There were no battles at the post as French diplomacy forged allies with the natives. The surrounding Indians, commonly referred to as Creeks, wanted peace so they could trade with both the French and British”. There were high pointed log walls, encircling two standing structures, two chimneys, which were remnants of a third structure, an outdoor brick oven, and ledges in the corners for armed protection of the fort. The two remaining structures were a commandant’s house and a barracks that were colonial clapboard structures.

We then toured the two Creek winter houses and the one summer house, right by Fort Toulouse. It was interesting, seeing the different types of Creek homes. Two were mud-sided and bark roofed houses with bamboo multi level sleeping quarters, ladders, and dugout fire pits inside. The summer house was open sided with multiple level bamboo sleeping areas the length and width of the structure with a bark roof. There was an outside gathering and seating area between the three.

We hiked through the park to reach, partially restored, 1814 American Fort Jackson. It had built up earthen walls with pointed logs, jutting from the sides and only a single log cabin structure. It sat high on the bank above the Coosa River. From there, we hiked past a 1,000-year-old Indian mound towards the Talapoosa River. “The first farmers, during the Mississippian period, built the mound on the edge of the village. The chief’s house was built on a platform on top. When the chief died, villagers tore down his house and covered it with a layer of earth. The mound grew with each new layer.”

We saw deer and raccoon tracks on the muddy trail beside puddles, in the middle of the trail, along the high, rushing Talapoosa River. We turned back towards the William Bartram Nature Trail, crossing a large field, where Nigel played fetch. We were only able to hike a bit on the Bartram trail, then had to take a different route due to flooding. The forest was completely underwater along the river. While we hiked on the Bartram Trail back towards Fort Toulouse, Pippa was hunting in the deep layer of leaves along the trail, pouncing on real or imaginary critters, the entire time. That’s what two days cooped up in the van will do for you. We had a great little hike!

The puppies spent the entire afternoon stalking and hunting the squirrel, right outside the window of the van. He provided hours of entertainment, up and down the tree, running around on the ground, digging up nuts, etc. Nigel lost his mind, Pippa much more calm and collected for sure. He was vocal. She was stealth, as always. The van is the perfect spectator seat with large glass windows to watch the nature all around.

After work, the clouds had returned and temps dropped back into the 30’s. I opted out of the afternoon hike. Wiley and the puppies did not go far. Thankfully, at sunset, the clouds parted. We watched from the warmth of the van, as the sun set behind us on the river. Even Pippa, sat in awe in the window frame. I was moved, watching her enjoying the sunset. It was a beautiful moment. So grateful for the gift and opportunity of being there in that moment with my pack in a van down by the river. Life is good!

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