By Trevor Clark
I was born and raised in the Southeast, in Louisiana and Alabama. I have lived in Seattle, WA for the past 6 years; first for school and now for work. I will soon move back to the South to attend graduate school. Before going back to school for 5 years I decided I need a nice, long camping trip! I have camped all over this amazing country of ours; from Alabama, to Maine, to Washington, to California and everywhere in-between! As an Eagle Scout I have had the opportunity to go on many canoe trips while growing up. Some of my favorite places I have canoed have been the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia, the Buffalo River in Arkansas, and a 100+ mile trip into the Quetico Provincial Park in Canada. I decided my nice long camping trip will be to paddle the Alabama Scenic River Trail.
The Alabama Scenic River Trail
I will be solo paddling the core of the Alabama Scenic River Trail (ASRT) from May through June. I will launch from Lake Weiss, near the North Alabama/Georgia border and end my journey at Fort Morgan in the Gulf of Mexico. I will be paddling 631 miles of lakes, rivers (up to class III), swamp and sea. There are 6 dams I will portage and 3 locks I will paddle through. I have planned my food, gear, first aid (both pharmaceutical and botanical) and physical training to be able to make this trip and will write articles about my trip preparations prior to launching. I will also write weekly updates to this blog, cell signal permitting, as I progress along the trail.
Alabama the Beautiful
The ASRT is the longest single-state river trail in the nation. When I learned about this river trail it sounded amazing and I knew that I had to paddle it! I grew up camping, hiking, and canoeing all over, but the woods of Alabama hold a special place in my heart. Flowing through those southern woods are an astounding 140,000+ miles of streams and rivers. The length of navigable channels in Alabama surpasses any other state in the nation at 1,438 miles. Most of the streams and rivers flow into the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, featured recently in a PBS documentary as North America’s Amazon. Knowing this, it is no surprise to find out that Alabama is home to more species of aquatic and semi-aquatic animals than any other state.
From the Mountains to the Sea
I always loved the thought of the fresh mountain streams descending the hills, feeding into larger rivers and mixing with the sea. The idea of following those streams from the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains all the way to the salty waters of the Gulf of Mexico really appeals to me. I stowed away this longing to paddle the ASRT awaiting the right time to be able to take such an extended trip. After waiting nearly 10 years I have decided that now is the time to conquer the ASRT!
My primary pursuit in life is a multi-disciplinary education in botanical medicine: plant identification, collection, preparing efficacious medicinal extracts, chemical constituent research and learning about their native and current uses. My path to studying plants started when I sustained a spinal fracture in my senior year of high school. After my spinal fusion I was handicapped for four years with a chronic pain condition and I was told that I would have those debilitating pains for the rest of my life. My doctor suggested looking into herbs because allopathic medicine could only provide palliative care at that point. After reading many ethnobotany reports on pain-relieving herbs and exploring many potential treatments, I was blessed enough to find the herbs to heal me. I reclaimed my life and so began my passionate pursuit of medicinal plant knowledge. I am currently seeking the next step in my education, a graduate degree in Pharmacognosy.
Ethnobotanical Vision: AKA He’s Got Green Eyes
Since I attended school in Seattle to study herbs, most of my plant identification fieldwork has been with Pacific Northwest plants. Every time I go back to Alabama I try and learn a few more Southeast plants and uses. This intersects perfectly with my love for the outdoors. My outdoor endeavors now had a mission: to learn, identify and use the medicines of the forest. When you know a plant by its proper name or even just by its family name it is like meeting an old friend! It allows you to see the woods with a new set of eyes. When I go back to the same places I used to camp and hike in Alabama it feels different yet familiar. My hikes are filled with a new type of familiarity, a botanical familiarity. I can’t wait to see my old state, from the rivers, with this new set of eyes. As I travel I will perform an informal survey of the native medicinal plants of the ASRT. Welcome to my journey!
Alabama Scenic River Trail Official Website
Alabama Rivers Alliance
River systems and Watersheds of Alabama