Bring Your Boots.
One Saturday morning, with the kids away at Grandparent-land, Bob and I each pull on our tall rubber boots in preparation for our first trek into Cypress Nature Park in Montgomery, AL. A scheduled tour is always prefaced by, “wear tall, rubber boots”. So we did. (Mine are black, faux crocodile with lavender interior and fabulous.) We meet about eight other fortunate explorers at the City of Montgomery communication center and Bill, our guide, rolls out a huge aerial map on the hood of his truck. With a thunk of his finger landing on the map, he proclaims, “We are here”. He then begins to quickly define each shadowy section as Cypress and Tupelo swamp, natural seeps and ravine 1, ravine 2, ravine 3. “We ready”, he asks? We are. So we pile into, and onto, 2 trucks, jump a curb and begin to wind slowly down a “road” to get to the swamp.
We leave the trucks parked on the “road” and our group heads into dense growth of shrubs and trees. Pretty soon the ground begins to get soft. Then a little squishy. Then we are all grasping for low hanging branches to steady ourselves as we hop over little islands of thick, black mud. We get to a stopping point and look around to see huge Bald Cypress and Water Tupelo trees and knees coming out of the water. We are in the swamp. Bill begins to talk. His eyes flash as he tells us how the swamp looks after big rains, after periods of drought, after a rare snow, when the Virginia Sweetspire is in bloom. He points out a clump of Southern Blue Flag iris, an old growth tupelo, a Marbled salamander. He pauses to identify the call of a bird. He loves this place. As the group listens, and learns, I realize that it is so quite Bill’s voice is practically echoing around us. Weren’t we in downtown Montgomery about 3 minutes ago?
From the swamp we head to the seeps. This is a place where the water table rises out of the ground before going back in. Thus the water “seeps” from the ground and forms little babbling brooks. It is quiet enough to hear the water gurgle and flow around tree roots. Bill tells us of the different trees and plant life that thrive only around the seeps; Sweetbay, Florida Anise, Climbing Hydrangea, Jack-in-the-Pulpit and Jewelweed. I can’t take my eyes off the water. It is crystal clear and you can feel how cool it is just standing next to it. Makes me want to get down in the mud and leaves on my hands and knees and take a long drink.
Next up on our journey that Saturday morning, the three ravines. Each one bigger than the last. Robert, the other leader of our group, takes us through each ravine and declares, “This is my favorite place”. He envisions people, young and old, climbing these old ravine walls, maybe playing Tarzan. The sheer cliffs and sandy bottoms of the ravines are enchanting. Exposed tree roots hang over the ravine sides, fallen trees make vine covered passageways. As our group stops at the bottom of the tallest ravine, Robert tells us, “Somebody’s backyard is about 30 yards back from the top up there”. Then I remember we are smack in the middle of downtown Montgomery.
Bill goes out to the swamp, seeps and ravines almost every Saturday. Contact him if you are interested in a tour. Once you visit Cypress Nature Park, you will see the need to preserve and share this wonderful and unique place. But be sure and bring your boots.