By Scott Morris
The 2016 version of fall may be brown and brittle, but autumn colors are peeking out along the remote roads around Brushy Lake.
The hues in Bankhead National Forest always seem more vivid than the valleys below and this holds true even in an exceptional drought.
I have been hungry for a return to the forest this fall, but the weather has been too warm to run the copperheads and rattlesnakes into hibernation, so mountain biking held more appeal than hiking.
A friend and I charted a 14-mile route starting at the old log Pine Torch Church, south of Moulton. Our journey, which traversed both gravel and paved roads, included Brushy Creek Road, Leola Road, Owl Creek Road and Mount Olive Road. It required two big climbs, but otherwise followed the mildly rolling ridge tops.
Our fast and winding descent to Brushy Lake was exhilarating. The recreation area brought back memories of childhood trips here. Back then, my cousins and I explored the lakeside trails both below and above the cliffs, and we usually played football in a flat, grassy area while the adults prepared lunch.
During the current year of lean rainfall, the lake has retreated to the main channel of Brushy Creek. Rather than pouring over the stair-step concrete dam, the water is low and stagnant, waiting more patiently than the rest of us for drought relief.
My friend Wayne and I rested along the banks and ate a snack, soaking in the sunshine and deep blue skies. Then, it was back on the pedals for a remedial course in bicycle karma, which demands a difficult climb after an easy downhill run.
We topped the hill at Pine Torch Church relieved — as we always are — to actually arrive back where we intended to be.