I grew up on Lake Guntersville in Alabama, where the Appalachian Mountains fall off into the Tennessee River. Okay, those mountains are more like foothills, but when I was a kid, they were mountains — wonderful and glorious mountains. We lived on the last body of water before going up the mountain to Lake Guntersville State Park. There are railroad tracks between the water and what we called the State Park Road. The tracks run from the river, alongside the lake, across the causeway, by our house, cutting through the hills, through Polecat, Walley, Derrick, and Jughandle Hollows, and then on up to Albertville. Where it went after that, we never knew. My brothers and I would hop onto the tracks and walk along, and with our street in view, down the tracks looking for adventure. When we passed the road’s end, we entered a whole ‘nother world. A journey through time, we imagined the history of Polecat Hollow (or Holler). We would walk by the Hammer’s barn, the old well, across the old stone creek culvert and look up to Walley Hollow’s sandstone bluffs. We would look for beaver dams, pass by what we called Bamboo City, by the remnants of old Stocklaw Johnson’s home, through several rock cuts, over the two very old wooden train trestles that bridged the steep gullies, and finally on to Sand Mountain. We went as far as Lane’s Switch Road before we’d turn around and go back home. Those treks on the tracks were marvelous adventures filled with lessons in geology, history, the natural world, danger, and southern culture. Our favorite adventure before we discovered our great Railroad Holler Hop, was the Boulder Craw up a creek to what we called Kidland Canyon on top of Wyeth Mountain. Growing up, there was hardly a weekend we didn’t put on our dirty dungarees and go exploring. We made up names for our favorite places. We built and played in all kinds of outdoor spaces. We lived in our imagination.
I am grown now but I still search for and explore those ‘nother worlds.