September is an invigorating time to be in the mountains of NE Alabama. The fresh air gives you a gentle hug with its cooler breezes and crisp woody smell of Autumn on its way. September is a perfect time to explore the region as one anticipates what is to come during the months of October and November where Nature presents a colorful palette of foliage spreading across the peaks and valley of our rugged terrain.
Alabama’s DeKalb County is comprised of two mountain ranges extending from the Appalachians and a narrow valley that each afford a unique drive from one end of the county to another. One can follow the Lookout Mountain Parkway from Chattanooga to our charming town of Mentone, to DeSoto State Park and waterfalls, the Little River Canyon National Preserve, to the mountain’s southern tip of Noccalula Falls.
Another route running the length of the county is the U.S. Highway 11 that, from north to south, enters in the NW corner of Georgia into Valley Head to Fort Payne to Collinsville for a scenic course along rolling hills, charming and historic downtowns and rural farmland featuring barns, cattle, horses and other farm animals. This route was once the major thoroughfare through our county before the construction of Interstate 59 pulled traffic off the picturesque highway and onto a faster ride north and south.
A third route, and one that deserves attention, is Alabama Highway 75 that follows the length of Sand Mountain from, again, the NE corner of Georgia near Trenton and from Tennessee via Highway 72 at South Pittsburg to Alabama Highway 117 to Highway 75 in Ider.
Here, one enjoys such activities as vintage picking to picking flowers, to leaving only footprints and taking only pictures, purchasing a new saddle, to dining at any of the many family-owned restaurants. The mountain is replete with things to see and do, along Highway 75 and slightly off the beaten path, that can take 2 full days to do it all, depending on your pace.
As you begin your journey on Alabama Highway 75, the retail store in Ider for Valley Head Saddlery offers Circle M and Pro Series saddles to the public, as well as other tack and gift items. Ider also has Vintage 75 vendors shopping and Howards Restaurant with menu items and specials that include broasted chicken, bbq pork, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, turnip greens and other southern comfort foods.
Enjoy the scenery as you near the city of Henagar, well known for Liberty Baptist Church, and its Sacred Harp singing. The Henagar City Park, located on 75, has amenities that include a walking track, various ball courts, a playground and picnic areas. It also has an old log cabin that decades ago served as the first tourism welcome center for DeKalb County.
Henagar is a good place to spend some time when taking a drive along Highway 75. Aside from City Park, the shops and eateries include the famous Eddies Florist with beautiful gifts and florals year-round but a feast for the eyes several months out of the year when they decorate the entire store in dozens of Christmas trees, turning the place into a stunning wintry Christmas wonderland.
Phillips Farm and Garden at the crossroads in Henagar, carries a variety of products adapting seasonally to include flowering plants, fresh produce, as well as plumbing and hardware supplies.
One cannot pass through Henagar without eating at Limon’s Mexican Restaurant. This family-owned establishment offers top quality Mexican food, popular mixed drinks, occasionally live entertainment and the finest in friendly hospitality sure to make your dining experience one you won’t soon forget.
Not to be ignored, that white smoke billowing heavenward signals that some of the finest bbq is about to be served at Bama Boys BBQ. This restaurant boasts such fare as loaded bbq taters, bbq nachos, bbq plates, ribs, hot dogs, burgers and much more.
Slightly off the beaten path from Henagar is the Council Bluff School, originally erected in 1903 near the top of Sand Mountain. The building is the last one-room school house still standing in DeKalb County and has been frozen in time through the historic preservation group, Landmarks of DeKalb County, Alabama. The grounds occasionally see concerts featuring the Sacred Harp singers.
Continue your journey across the mountain to Sylvania with their city park and the DeKalb County Public Fishing Lake. Also nearby is Moonflower Farms. Delight in the array of flowers from zinnias, cosmos, sunflowers, dahlias and many other flower varieties. The farm is perfect for photography settings, clipping your own bouquet of flowers for a gorgeous cheerful arrangement and browsing their gift shop of unique items. Laura, who owns the farm with husband, Eddie Fauk, says the property is sentimental to her as it is family land and where she grew up. Having the flowers and being able to share the farm with others brings her much joy. The farm is open during the week by special arrangement for photography sessions and open to the public on weekends during September. Where there are colorful blooms can also be found an array of bees and butterflies. This side trip is well worth the visit.
Highway 75 takes you to the bustling crossroads of Rainsville with a wide variety of shops and eateries, and a hotel, the Super 8 by Wyndham. This could easily be your mid-way point for overnight accommodations while you explore all Highway 75 has to offer from south to north.
Rainsville has a plethora of eateries that includes the popular and fan favorites Kelly’s Kitchen, 50 Tater’s, Topher’s Wings and Katy’s Katfish. A stop in Rainsville would not be complete without checking out Faith-N-Hymn Christian Bookstore and Gift Shop.
Follow 75 to Fyffe and an eclectic strip of downtown shops, antique stores, and eateries. Local shops include The Cupboard, Vintage Pickers, Two Peas in a Pod and Fyffe Unclaimed Storage. You will want to leave plenty of room in your vehicle for your purchases at these unique antique and thrift store finds.
Plan your lunch in Fyffe at Shines BBQ, owned and operated by Ike Ridgeway, who named his restaurant after his grandfather. Shine’s began as a food truck and quickly grew in popularity, becoming a crowd and hometown favorite, to now being housed in a permanent structure. Manager, Devin Wooten, says one of their popular menu items is their loaded nachos, sure to please those looking for a sharable appetizer or stand-alone meal.
Our next stop along Highway 75 is Geraldine and, James Bar-B-Q, established in 1991. People come from far and wide to enjoy mouthwatering bar-b-q plates, family meals, sandwiches, salads, homemade desserts and much more at this family-owned restaurant.
Our journey doesn’t end here. Side trips off Highway 75 on Alabama Highway 227 from Geraldine includes the spectacular High Falls County Park and Buck’s Pocket State Park. High Falls Park has a stunning waterfall, of the same name, with a pedestrian bridge spanning the width of Town Creek, the stream that feeds the majestic 35-foot waterfall that can spread as much as 300 feet wide during wet seasons. The pedestrian bridge was built to rest on pillars of rock that once heralded a horse and buggy route, that back in the day was the road to the mercantile for the rural farms and families that resided on this end of Sand Mountain prior to automobiles and major highways. Buck’s Pocket State Park is a nature lover’s paradise. The park offers a renovated campground, hiking trails, scenic vistas into a natural pocket, spectacular sunsets from Point Rock Overlook, an off-road vehicles trail, and natural beauty all 4 seasons.
As summer draws to a close and autumn approaches, it is time to get off the fast lane and into small town America via the highways that were once the main means of transportation for this little piece of Heaven in NE Alabama. While all roads lead to DeKalb County, and each offers a wealth of sights and sounds, cruise along Alabama Highway 75 for a slice of Americana at its finest. While here in September, be sure to make your plans to return for Autumn in DeKalb during October and into November when Fall foliage continues to provide superb color.
Most of the businesses mentioned above can be found on Facebook and on the website for DeKalb Tourism. Plan your journey today. We can’t wait to see you!
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