Trailbuilding – Stonefly Trail

Note: This is one of several blog posts on the history of Alum Hollow and the construction of trails in the Green Mountain Nature Preserve for the Land Trust of North Alabama.

Back up on the plateau, we had one more trail that the Land Trust wanted to create in the northwest corner of the property.

We began flagging for the new trail near where West Plateau Trail starts to bear southward and skirts a small creek that is headed for the Alum Falls area. I knew this creek and had been to this small creek many times as a teenager. Before all the houses were built on the mountain, this was a very remote spot. I knew the small creek as Stonefly Creek.

Stonefly Trail as it was being constructed

Back when I was a biology student at UAH, I was very interested in entomological taxonomy – the identification of insects, basically. My studies had taken me to many areas, but this one in particular was the only place on Green Mountain where I had found Stonefly larvae (order Plecoptera) living in the creek. Perhaps it was because the micro-habitat was so distinct; the creek was fed by not just the typical watershed of an Appalachian plateau, but by a small (approximately one acre) marsh just to the north of the powerline. Also, the actual powerline construction, several decades before, had caused a small dam to produce this marsh and had also opened a fair-sized sunny spot upon the creek, allowing several distinct species of marsh plants to flourish here.

But that’s ancient history now. Houses dot the landscape nearby and I’m pretty sure there are no more stoneflies there. At any rate, that is the origin of the name of this area. As we flagged this area, we crossed Stonefly creek, plus two other small creeks on their way to the Alum Falls area. Each of these crossing was fairly small and you could simply jump over the creeks. It is planned to put three small bridges here someday soon.

A bit more history. As I mentioned, this was a very remote area. Back in the early twentieth century, this remoteness was put to use by moonshiners. Remnants of moonshine stills and accompanying jars, pots and other items have long been visible around here. Unfortunately, to reveal a still’s location is to seal its doom. We saw this happen over at the Madison County Nature Trail, which originally went by an original moonshine still remnant, it being labeled as such. A decade or two later, there is no visible trace of anything ever having been there.

So in this same area, there is evidence of much human activity. Metal detector scans have revealed items maybe 8 to 12 inches down in certain locations, but we’ll probably never know exactly what they are. Just as well that way, I believe.

A sample of moonshine crockery in the woods

So we began flagging what would be known as Stonefly Trail. This time, Brandon let me do some of the flagging myself, as he had been teaching me the proper way to flag a trail – watching the contours and always keeping water flow across a trail in mind in order to produce a really sustainable trail.

Stonefly Trail provided an extension of Oak Bluff Trail northward past the Alum Falls area, and was designed to be a more convenient route that stayed on the western side of Stonefly creek.

About Phill Gibson

I'm from Huntsville, Alabama where I work as a Software Engineer and part-time banjo instructor. My wife Miiko and I worship at Rivertree Downtown. I've been playing various instruments since my teen years. I started mandolin and dulcimer at about age 17 and banjo at 20. I love just about all kinds of music. In terms of banjo styles, I play and teach Scruggs, melodic, clawhammer, and 2-finger styles. I'm also very keen on theology, being a Trail Care Partner with the Land Trust of North Alabama, photography, urban planning, architecture, astronomy, ATM (amateur telescope making), birding, martial arts, and about 30 other distracting hobbies to a (mercifully) lesser extent.
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