Thursday, February 20, 2014

Dreams of Spring by John Dersham

I stopped along the trail and placed an American Chestnut seeding on the ground to prepare for planting. Yes, I said American Chestnut. You are correct in thinking this was a near extinct tree. A blight in the early 1900’s killed off this giant American classic tree that covered most of the Appalachian Mountain areas, including ours. Yes there are still some around. They keep coming up from roots, they are small and when they get bigger the disease that killed them to begin with infects them again. So why am I talking about planting an American Chestnut seeding on my land on Lookout Mountain? The answer is that after years of research to find a way to re-establish this wonderful tree a hybrid between the American and Chinese Chestnut has been developed that is 94% the original tree and the 6% that is not is the part that makes the tree resistant against the infestations that killed them to begin with. All along the Appalachian Mountains there are organizations of tree and forest lovers committed to re-establishing this tree in quantity. The American Chestnut is not only a large and very beautiful tree, its lumber is a wonderful hardwood that was once a primary tree for the construction of homes, barns and furniture.
Over the years many tree species have been lost to disease or insect infestation. Many of them like the great American Elm have hybrids or variations of the same species that live today. Right now the Eastern Hemlock and native Dogwoods are under attack and mass efforts are in place to try and save them, either by treating them or finding prevention or cure for the disease.
As I walk through these beautiful hardwood forests of Lookout Mountain it feels good looking at our diverse plant cultures. We have an abundance of wonderful tree and shrub varieties to enjoy. Our area, being in climate zone seven, contributes to our diversity by allowing plant varieties to grow here that would normally be better associated with areas further south or further north.
 It is sort of mild day today, between cold fronts. It is wet and foggy out here but there is no day of the year these woodlands are not beautiful. I love hiking and seeing the changes occur almost daily as each fragment of each season has its own look and feel. You only know this if you look close and pay attention to nature. You have to watch closely to notice that even in the dead of winter the woodlands are alive and well and they are busy into their processes required to move into spring, and bloom and grow. There is nothing I like better than seeing the new birth of spring in the woodlands each year. My wife and I take daily hikes and often twice a day just to see this amazing re-birth as it moves full speed ahead into its annual growth cycle, then it slows down as summer evolves and gradually begins to retire for the season and go into another dormant stage to replenish itself to start is all over again.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Ski Bama! By Kayla Worthey

Well, the Arctic Blast has arrived with its bone chilling, frigid temperatures and while it didn’t bring a lot of the white stuff with it, the well below freezing temperatures were enough to make one local attraction very happy... and a lot of their customers too!  Cloudmont Ski Resort, the only ski slope in Alabama, has managed to cover a full 1000 foot slope that has an elevation of 1,800 feet and a vertical rise of 150 feet on one side and a teaching slope on the other with plenty of the white stuff.
Whether you are a “newbie”, which is a beginner, or a serious amateur, which is not a beginner, this is the place for you!  By offering rental equipment, such as skis, boots, poles and snow boards, expert guidance from their instructors, snacks, drinks and a cozy wood burning fire, Cloudmont shows off their accommodating southern hospitality.
Cloudmont is a great place to take the entire family. Thousands will come during the season at Cloudmont which usually lasts from sometime in December until the weather becomes too warm to make snow and keep it on the slopes. There have been some years that skiing has continued on into March and occasionally into April.
If you have never been skiing, now is the time to give it a try. Or if you haven’t been this year, it is a good time for you to give it a go!
Cloudmont is located on County Road 614 in Mentone. Their hours of operation are as follows: weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.; weekends and holidays are from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Please call in advance to make reservations and check skiing conditions before you go. Also note that ski equipment can be reserved.
For more information call 256-634-4344 or go to
An assortment of ski chalets, cabins, bed and breakfast inns, and hotels are available within a short drive to Cloudmont Ski Resort for those looking to stay overnight. For more information about local lodging, contact DeKalb Tourism at 888.805.4740 or visit  

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Changing Seasons by John Dersham

I always look forward to each changing season. It is such a beautiful process as each season brings forth it own set of moods, feelings and memories of all the same season from the past. I think I look forward to them all nearly equally with perhaps spring and fall being my favorites.
In the spring I look forward to those first warm sunny days when you get that timeless irresistible desire to get outside and enjoy the feel of the warming sun on your face.
Our area is very special because we live in the last climate zone that in my opinion has a true four season change. We have the advantage of having more days of the year that are comfortably warm than our neighbors further north and more distinct falls and winters than our neighbors to the south. Once you get south of Birmingham the fall color is less, much in part due to the lessening hardwood forests which dwindle as you move south, but also the warmer temperatures don't trigger the wonderful color in fall like we have here. We get cold weather and some snow too. From someone who lived much of my life much further north, I can say our seasons go through an equal change in look but we have the advantage of warmer annual temperatures and more warm days in both spring and fall and  in winter too. I prefer living in a climate with four distinct seasons, like ours. Much of my enjoyment each year revolves around the climate changes and the changes in look and feel that each seasonal change evokes.
This time of year as fall foliage begins to fall to the ground and temperatures drop I start getting in the Thanksgiving and Christmas feeling. The thoughts of family times, laughing, good conversations and plenty of food and holiday music always trigger wonderful thoughts of Thanksgivings and Christmas’s of our past.
…so from our house to yours, I wish all of you a blessed and joyous holiday season. Have fun, be safe and eat well.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Southeast Tourism Society - Fall Forum by John Dersham

The Southeast Tourism Society is the largest regional tourism organization covering our 12 southeastern states. They are well known nationally and internationally and are considered one of the best tourism organizations in the world. STS is a leader in Governmental affairs as they relate to the tourism industry and they are the nationwide leader in providing educational services to those of us in the tourism industry. They have a spring and fall symposium each year. These three day seminars are held at various destinations within STS’s twelve state geography. This year our Fall Forum was in Jacksonville, Florida at the Omni Hotel. As is the case with most of their events there were from 125 to 175 tourism professionals from all over the twelve state STS region who came to learn the newest information that guides us all toward staying current on the latest ways to manage our organizations and the newest methods to market our destinations. In this rapidly changing business and technology environment those who stay current with how their potential visitors get their information provide a definite advantage in making sure their potential visitor will be exposed to their destination using whatever technology is the most popular at the moment. In less than two years more than 50% of vacation planning is done on a smart phone or a tablet. Five years ago that number was near zero. In addition, people are making reservations and making last minute changes to where they are going, as they travel using handheld wireless technology. It is critical to have a mobile ready website or App for viewers to use or we potentially lose out. DeKalb Tourism has been mobile ready for several years now and visitation to our mobile website is increasing monthly as traditional website views has leveled out.  It has only been about 15 years that people have been using the internet to plan their travel, prior to that the age old newspaper and magazine ads, printed travel guides and trade shows were the standard method to deliver your destination information. Then came radio and TV and now all of these means are used but as more and more potential visitors use electronic information, we as destination marketing organizations prioritize our advertising budgets to use more web ads, social media, electronic newsletters and mobile friendly websites. STS brings to their conference the top speakers who are best educated in particular applications that untimely influence everyone attending. Last week in Jacksonville we had a host of professional speakers that coached and helped develop our skills at learning how to use all of the electronic applications to our advantage, including how to measure the data and how to change our strategy to better target our potential visitor. We can now seek out our potential visitor just by matching their interest sets to our offerings. This is amazing stuff. We no longer have to mail out a generic untargeted flyer and hope to get a few interested in our destination. Now we can figure out a pool of people who like to do the things our area offers and then we find places and methods to advertise where they are mostly likely to see it.
Southeast Tourism Society hosts its annual Marketing College in Dahlonega, Georgia each year at North Georgia College and University. This is a three year certified program to educate tourism professionals with a diploma specific to the travel industry. Kayla Worthey, our Marketing Manger and I have attended Marketing College and received our Travel Marketing Professional diploma.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Canyon Fes set for Saturday by Kayla Worthey

The 5th Annual Canyon Fest Celebration is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. this Saturday, November 2 at Jacksonville State University’s Little River Canyon Center on Alabama Highway 35.  This festival was designed to celebrate folk life, arts and nature, and to benefit the children of the community.
It will feature ongoing arts & crafts, demonstrations, art sales, food vendors, storytelling, live animals and children's activities. You can also tour the new exhibits at the Canyon Center.
There will be demonstrations of Native American games and weapons, and tools used by Native Americans. There will also be a lot of games and activities to keep the children busy.
You will enjoy fantastic live musical performances from noon to 4pm at the festival. At 12pm,
Matt Downer, the local fiddler and music historian who revived the Great Southern Old Time Fiddlers Convention can be heard on the front porch of the Canyon Center. At 1pm, local musician, Curtis Strange will perform and at 3pm there will be a special performance by the Army Material Command (AMC) Band at the new Canyon Center Ampitheater.  
The AMC Band, with its eight Music Performance Teams, travels extensively throughout the country and overseas supporting 30 installations, 26 major tenants, seven Army Field Support Brigades, 11 subordinate commands, and four separate reporting activities within the AMC enterprise.  The AMC band has performed in Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirites.
There is no fee for Canyon Fest, but donations are welcome. For more information about this festival, call 256-782-5697.