You wake up one crisp, fall morning, and you want to see some colorful leaves.
But, you don’t have the time or the money to drive to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.
What to do? What to do?
May I suggest heading east toward the Alabama/Georgia state line and taking in the beauty of Fort Payne, Desoto State Park, Cloudmont Ski and Golf Resort, Rainsville, and Mentone. If you plan just right, you might make it for the Annual Colorfest in Mentone — generally scheduled for the 3rd Saturday in October. Over 70 vendors set up their wares at Mentone’s Brow Park which is situated on a ridge near the top of Lookout Mountain — a breath-taking setting. Mentone also plays host to a year-round, state-sanctioned Farmers’ Market, and the permanent shopkeepers are always happy to have customers, too.
Snow-skiing in Alabama?? You bet! As soon as overnight temperatures drop to 28 degrees or colder, snowmaking begins at Cloudmont via machines and snow grooming equipment. During “the season,” the slopes are open daily from 9:00-4:00 and nightly from 6:00-9:00 p.m. Skis, boots, poles, and snow boards are available for rent, and instruction is available for beginners to experts. In the milder temperatures, Saddle Rock Golf Course is up and running. Check it out — www.cloudmont.com.
If you want to make an overnight trip, you could choose the motel rooms, chalets or log cabins of Desoto State Park (www.alapark.com), the chalets and cabins at Cloudmont, or perhaps Mentone Inn Bed and Breakfast. www.mentoneinn.com.
You will get hungry breathing in all of the fresh air. I have not tried Moonlight Bistro, but the reviews are good. I have, however, tried Wildflower Cafe. It takes an exceptional place to justify a long wait. Our timing was not good on our visit — probably the busiest day of the year for Mentone — but I’m glad we stuck it out for the full hour and a half. (Normally, I’m sure the wait would be less than 30 minutes). The food was fresh and very flavorful. They serve sweet potato biscuits made right in nearby Fort Payne at Granny Hester’s. Those are great just plain, but the chef at Wildflower has cranked it up a notch with his creation of sweet potato bread pudding with curried coconut rum sauce, a dessert worth its calories. The signature dish at Wildflower is tomato pie. We sampled that, as well as spinach quiche and chicken salad on sourdough bread. Be sure to check the website for the Weekend Brunch menu and the Dinner Menu, both have other tasty options. www.mentonewildflower.com
This corner of Alabama is worth a day or a weekend or even several visits. Think about it.