Many times in life we are forced to make changes or take detours. Friday was no exception. Approaching a long Columbus Day Weekend, I had made plans to visit Mount Cheaha. It’s the highest natural point in Alabama. Being a photographer, it’s only natural that I would want to get up high and see as far as my eyes and my lenses could see. Well, that didn’t happen as I worried that I wouldn’t have cell phone coverage in the wilderness of the state park in case either the daycare of the school called with an emergency for my kids. Anyone with T-Mobile will probably understand that you don’t venture too far off the road and expect much of anything. Coverage has gotten better, but I decided not to test it that day.
I instead decided to stay a little closer to home and ride to the small town of Shelby in Shelby County. I wanted to photograph the old Shelby Hotel. A camera club member dazzled me with outstanding pictures that she brought back from that location. Apparently she was a lot braver than me. When I arrived with my wife, Topeka, riding shotgun, we both looked like “We’re not going in there!” It was quite grown up around the property and neither of us really knew what would be found inside. Oh, well.
I’m not one to give up so I continued to drive and explore. Eventually, I ended up at US Hwy 280 just north of Childersburg, AL. Yes, I had been there before as I had visited Desoto Caverns, but I wanted to just take another peep around town. There was bound to be something to photograph. Thinking about how I didn’t particularly care to walk that day, I decided to get a little “petro” from the nearest station and continue my drive. While looking around I saw a sign for the Kymulga Covered Bridge. I got extremely excited and thought this is it! I asked Google Maps for directions and I was on my way.
Upon arrival, I must admit, the bridge was a little disappointing to look at, but there was another treasure onsite, Ben. I’m pretty sure my wife and interrupted his plans as he was preparing the venue for a wedding to take place later that day. And just maybe Ben, 73, was happy that we did. He immediately asked if we wanted some information about the site and we were like, “Sure, why not?” Ben pointed to his golf cart and said “Jump on. One up front and one on the back” After looking at each other, I decided to ride on the back and my wife climbed on board beside Ben. We probably rode about 20 feet before we made our first stop in front of the Kymulga Covered Bridge. I thought to myself, “What a wasted ride!” I couldn’t have been more wrong. Ben commenced to dropping some knowledge on us about the history of the bridge. He told us much more than the printed brochures and even Wikipedia. Neither of which made it be known that a black slave name King built the bridge and earned his freedom for doing so.
We spent a great deal of time with Ben during our visit as he took us along one of the trails just to the other side of the over 150 year old bridge. He pointed out some of the natural fruits called “paw paw” that grows abundantly around the property. Though I didn’t taste it, it smelled awesome! He also pointed out a few species of trees there and how to identify them. We then separated for a while as I imaged that he went back to preparing for the scheduled wedding. However, just as Topeka and I prepared to leave, Ben called us to the side door of the mill to point out some fascinating history about it. Ben had a wealth of knowledge and he, himself, makes the Kymulga Grist Mill Park and Covered Bridge worth seeing.