Maiden Voyage

We wasted no time getting on the road after purchasing our new popup. We wanted to stay fairly close to home on our shakedown voyage. So just a few days after we towed it home we headed out to DeSoto State Park in Mentone, Alabama. It’s less than an hour from home.

Hiking in the park

The park is located on a mountain and you can find some bluff views however, the campground is not on the bluff. The park also contains Desoto Falls and you can kayak and canoe on the river above the dam for miles. Rentals are available at the falls. I have a unique tie to the area. My mother grew up in the area and actually used to walk across the dam. My cousin lived with my mom and grandmother when he was 5 years old and they would put a life preserver on him when they walked him across the dam. The park also has a swimming pool and restaurant.

Nearby is the small town of Mentone and it caters to a small tourist crowd with some shops and restaurants. We recommend the Mentone Market for pizza and beer on tap. They have a good selection of craft beer in cans and bottles also. As the name implies it is also a market with a small gift shop area as well as groceries. Another favorite is the Wildflower Cafe. It a very unique venue in an old house and the food is fabulous. The food is what I would call country chic.

The trip

Well maiden voyages are always interesting with a new camper. First we stopped for supplies at the MegaStar. A convenience store with 12 taps of craft beer. They offer crowlers and packaged craft beer. Popup camping means coolers and ice as not much fits in the mini fridge. We of course had to stop at Walmart for some food and items we had forgotten.

We rolled into Desoto Campground starving so we unhooked the camper and drove straight to the parks restaurant. The restaurant at Desoto is pretty good for a state park and the have a regular seafood buffet on certain nights. We made it back to camp with about 15 minutes of daylight left. A cold front decided to pay a visit and it was 38 degrees. Setting up popups in the rain is not the most fun thing in the world to do, especially if it’s your first time with your new camper. So we needed some beer and fun afterward. Actually, during setup. I should note that Alcohol is prohibited in Desoto Campground. This is changing around the country but here it’s still not allowed, so be careful to keep it concealed and don’t act the fool as my mother would say.

Craft Tower

It was a cold wet night but Cathy was determined to have a campfire on her first camping trip. We arrived 10 minutes after the camp store had closed so we were not able to purchase firewood. This did not deter Cathy as she went scavenging empty campsites and the woods. This started a fire starting oddessey that if I remember included words and phrases I will not share here. Eventually, Cathy got her fire which once started put up an admirable fight against the drizzling rain and wind. Finally Cathy grumbled something about being cold and we retired to the camper where we played quarters with craft beer.

The next morning did not bring much better weather but I did take Cathy to see a local attraction. The Sallie Howard Memorial Baptist Church. The unique thing about this church is that it’s built around a rock that has a man buried inside it. It’s open daily and services are still held at the church.

After that we walked around Mentone for a bit before heading 20 minutes down the road to Gadsden, AL for some brewery fun and food. Gadsden is home to Back Forty Beer Co. This is a great venue with games, including ping pong, live music, outdoor seating, food and good beer. Cathy is partial to their Bama Mosa and I like their peanut butter porter. Naked Pig and Truck Stop Honey are a couple of their core beers.

We didn’t eat at the brewery on this trip. Instead we walked over to the Blackstone Pub & Eatery. Another establishment with a huge selection of beer on tap and in bottles and cans. It’s got the feel of a large dive bar, live music, outdoor seating and amazing pizza. Don’t miss this when you are in town.

So we headed back to camp and settled in to our nice cozy camper. The gas furnace is more than enough run you out of the camper all together. We slept great and stayed very warm between the furnace and the heated mattress. Around 8am the next morning we learned the limit of our single propane tank but the heated mattress kept things comfortable for a lazy morning. Coffee at the table was a little chilly though. The night time temps were around the high 20’s all weekend.

Sunday turned out to be bright, sunny and 70 degrees. Since it was not raining when we got up we decided to bundle up and go hiking. We shed layers as it warmed up.

The park has miles of trails. Many cross each other. They start and end in the different campground areas. Creeks and waterfalls are scattered through the park and thanks to the less than optimal weather the rest of the weekend we did not see many people on the trails. However, normally they are quite busy.

Our first trip in our Flagstaff MAC 206LTD was a memorable one and another adventure in the books.

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