Monday, June 6, 2011

Mentone: Musical Mountain Spring

Little River Canyon: All Photos Courtesy of Dekalb County Tourist Association. Click some photos to enlarge!
Excerpt from: Alabama Troubadour by Karren Pell
Tourism Attraction: Lookout Mountain
Location: Dekalb County, Alabama
Photos: Courtesy of Dekalb County Tourist Association

Writers always lend their unique perspective of the places they cover. Rarely have I appreciated a writer’s perspective more than Karren Pell’s in her book of essays, Alabama Troubadour. Her book covers eleven unique places to visit in Alabama. I had already visited over half of these places, but Karren’s particular perspective of them offered something new, beautiful, and deep (even the Coon Dog Cemetery!). I want to share a bit of her writing from the book below about one of my favorite places to visit: the mountains.

From Alabama Troubadour . . .

I have always loved the mountains. Up there my lungs fill with crisp air and my body breathes easy. My feet enjoy putting on hiking boots and tromping along trails—especially ones that lead to overlooks where my eyes follow hills that roll like a misty sea until they merge with the horizon. My shoulders feel like a load is lifted and my mind rests.

I like to stand on the edge of an overlook (but not too close to the edge) and pretend that I am the girl on the mountaintop in that famous Maxfield Parrish painting. You know the one: cobalt sky with alabaster pillow clouds that frame those azure peaks specked with tangerine—the girl’s hair and garments flow out from her body with ease and grace. She is healthy, free, and connected to the peace of nature.

So one morning, I left the “To Do” list on my desk, let two deadlines slip past, put a message on my answering machine that I was taking a break, and headed for the mountain village of Mentone . . .

The Desoto Falls and over five thousand interior acres of Lookout Mountain became Desoto State Park. The Civilian Conservation Corps developed the park and built a lodge. The creation of Desoto State Park, along with Little River Canyon National Park, has doubtless been a major factor in the preservation of the wild and beautiful land of Lookout Mountain, as well as the preservation of Mentone.
Desoto Falls

The view of Old Hotel Square is a romantic, rustic, and welcome sight in comparison to the strip malls and chain motels common in the modern era. One corner of the Square is occupied by The Hitching Post, a rustic, wooden building whose beginning dates from 1900. The Hitching Post was so named by its owners because in the forties an early breakfast was served for fox hunters staying at the hotel.

Today, it beckons visitors to browse among an eclectic collection of shops that offer crafts, antiques, and original pottery. Across the street and up a few wooden steps, a series of weathered buildings stands on higher ground and comprises the next corner of Old Hotel Square. The collection includes the Moonlight Bistro and another assortment of shops.

Up on the ridge, the renovated Mentone Springs Hotel remains the focal point of the Square. The inn’s Victorian architecture combined with modern accommodations is reminiscent of an earlier, elegant time and continues to attract guests. The grand, beautiful, and romantic Mentone Springs Hotel contrasts congenially with the homey arts and craft-style Mentone Inn across the street.
Mentone Springs Hotel

The Mentone Inn sits back from the road, framed by a low rock ledge. A wide, wraparound porch, complete with rocking chairs, sends an irresistible invitation to “set a spell.”

I followed the land that sloped gently and ended at the rock ledge. I looked out upon the sky that stretched beyond where human eyesight can peer; there was no need to look farther. The trees murmured as a mountain breeze whispered in their leaves; there was no need to hear more. Deadlines and due dates faded as my attention was drawn to a hawk circling overhead; there was nothing more important.

Below, the landscape was painted in seasonal colors, and one part blended and contributed to the whole. For—regardless of the reality I had left below—from that vantage point it became obvious there was peace in the valley.

---Excerpted with permission from ALABAMA TROUBADOUR by Karren Pell. ©2003 Karren Pell. All rights reserved.

Tourism Guide

Mentone and Lookout Mountain are definitely places geared towards a retreat, not just physical but spiritual. The lodgings range from rustic to elegant, depending on your choice. Rustic is always my favorite. The views are stunning, and the air is filled with the scent of peace. Mentone was once a high-end resort for those who sought healing from the mineral springs that made the area famous, but fortunately the tourism industry there never got overly-commercial. Follow the links below to learn more about visiting the area.

Tourism Links

Visit Lookout Mountain: take a virtual tour and request a visitor’s guide
Discover Lookout Mountain

Mentone Springs Hotel
Order Alabama Troubadour
Learn more about Karren Pell
Lookout Mountain on Facebook: Lots of photos and videos