Sunday, October 18, 2009

Huntsville and area

Our next stop was going to be Huntsville, but once we arrived we found the place we planned on staying had changed. There aren't many choices in the area and we ended up in a Passport America park about 35 miles away in Elkmont, AL. It turned out to be a good choice because we had planned on boondocking, but the next day it started raining and it has been rainy and cold (down to 37 last night) since. At least at this park we have hookups. (Am I getting spoiled or not?)
Right outside the RV park was a rail to trail. We initially just went to check it out, but before the day was over we had hiked about 11 miles. It was a great hike, the trees are turning and the leaves falling. As you can see I am still in short sleeves, it turned cold and rainy overnight.

These guys almost made me think I was back in the 1800s. We ran into these guys as we were hiking to the Sulphur Creek Trestle. General Forrest, Confederate, was on his way to take back Athens in 1864. He stopped here and destroyed the trestle, thus breaking the chain of supplies via the railroad. He also took over the fort which was supposed to protect the trestle. Over 200 men were killed here, and several thousand taken prisoner. The sign says this was the bloodiest battle in all of Alabama, yet none of the Civil War books Max has even lists this battle at all.

Once a thriving railroad town, there isn't much left at all now.

The county seat of Limestone County, Athens, Alabama. Limestone county has several dubious points for recognition. 1. It is the oldest county in Alabama, being established in 1818, even before Alabama became a state. 2. It was the first county in Alabama to be occupied by Federal troops (May 1862) during the Civil War.

Foundry Hall, Athens State College, is the original building for the oldest college in Alabama, being established in 1822. When Athens was taken in 1862 by Russian born Federal Colonel Turchin, he allowed his men to sack and plunder the town, destroying all the homes not occupied by he and his men. The story goes that when they came to the college to burn the building the dean of the college came out with a letter. After the Federal officer read the letter he told his men to leave this building alone, it was not to be touched. And it wasn't. Rumour has it the letter was from Abraham Lincoln stating the college was not to be hurt in the course of the war.
Another point about the take over in 1862 and Col. Turchin. He was eventually court martialed for encouraging his men to sack and plunder the town, but when his wife appealed to Abraham Lincoln for clemancy for her husband, he was released and pardoned.

We did return to Huntsville for the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. I wonder what will happen to the rocket when Max moves away? I bet he gets tired holding that big rocket up!

Werner Von Braun was instrumental in Huntsville being the center for much of our space program. The Saturn rockets were developed here as well as earlier rockets. Many of the vehicles used to send men to space and to the moon as well as being involved in the International Space Station, has its roots here at the Marshall Space Center and Redstone Arsenol in Huntsville. They are developing a new rocket, the Aries, which will replace the Saturn. It was supposed to see its first flight this year, but not really be used for operation until 2015.

This is what is planned to take the place of the space shuttle, which is due to be retired in the next year or so, supposedly. It will be carried on top of the Aires rocket and instead of landing like the space shuttle, will land in the ocean like the original space vehicles such as Gemini, and Apollo.

They even have a memorial for Miss Baker. Miss Baker was the first U.S. animal to be sent out to space and return alive. She lived to be 27 years old. It also says she lived a pampered life here at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

I spent several months in Huntsville back in 1988. Boy, has it changed. But what I do remember are beautiful, old, antebellum homes. This passenger depot in downtown Huntsville is not that old, built in 1860, just before the Civil War. Huntsville was important to the Federals because of its strategic location and railroads, and it being supply depot.

Because of the many Federals occupying the area, many of Huntsville's old, antebellum homes were not destroyed. This home, built in 1822, is where General Morgan, of Morgan's raiders, was born in 1823.

Notice the dark panes of glass? Those are some of the original blue glass placed in this home when it was built in 1818. Many of the clear glass panes are also original. There are some 60-70 homes, all built in the early 1800s. The earliest we saw was 1814.

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