29-Jan-2007 -- A mid-winter exploration to the headwaters of Coon Creek… In the past 16 years, I have made numerous trips on Interstate Highway 65 past Cullman, Alabama, each time noting the prominent signs for the world famous Ave Maria Grotto. Each time I have found an excuse to postpone a visit until a later date. However, on this late January afternoon, I found myself near Cullman, in no particular hurry to reach Atlanta, and blessed with a beautiful winter day, with bright sun and next to no wind ameliorating what otherwise might have felt like a chilly temperature. How could I ask for a more perfect time to visit this well known tourist attraction?
But consulting my highway maps, I realized I was only a dozen miles from an opportunity to visit my first confluence on the 87th west meridian. The winter season would also mean a minimum of briars and brambles, no insects, and an attempt today would be the perfect warm-up for a more ambitious undertaking on February 20th, International Confluence Day, now less than one month away. So, the famous Ave Maria Grotto is still on my "to do" list.
I followed the directions from the October 2005 visit by the Kerski party: Exit 299 off I-65 onto State Highway 69, then clockwise first south, then west of the cp. Along the way I passed numerous electrified fences and "POSTED" signs, but as I reached the 34th parallel, these had disappeared, and I found myself at an unmarked open gate only about 400 meters from the point. After entering a wooded hillside area, I dropped about 30 meters in elevation before coming out in an open field about a hundred meters from the spot. The previously mentioned barbed wire fence in the woods remains a challenge on the final approach.
I had the area to myself, with no nearby cows or people. I took my photos, then climbed back up the hill to continue my journey towards Georgia...