To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Alabama State Park system, Alabama First Lady, Dianne Bentley, was not content with blowing out a few candles on a commemorative cake. Instead, this grandmother of seven created a bucket list of things to do and places to see in the parks, which highlight the outdoor activities that these state treasures have to offer. Christened "Mrs. Bentley’s Bucket List", it reads like an adventure tour itinerary, with zip lining, caving, mountain biking, hiking, and at least one selfie.
The First Lady’s adventures started in May at Cathedral Caverns State Park, where she explored the caverns on a 1.5-mile hike with an out-of-town family visiting from South Carolina. She later hiked to the highest peak in the state, posing for a photo by the summit marker next to 2,407-foot Mt. Cheaha. She took a selfie by the great cascades of Fort DeSoto State Park.
Checking off No. 7 on #mrsbentleysbucketlist, she visited Oak Mountain State Park to learn how to mountain bike on the IMBA Epic trails that have made this park the centerpiece of one of the nation’s best trail systems. Riding a full-suspension shredder with 27.5-inch wheels (which did, admittedly, make her a bit nervous), Mrs. Bentley got a small taste of the quality trails that are attracting riders from all over the United States.
“For Oak Mountain, we chose to emphasize the biking,” she said. “I think it’s phenomenal that people come from other states.” Mrs. Bentley was led by two women— Kim Cross, a local mountain bike coach from the Magic City Cycle Chix and Mickie Powell, the vice-president of the Birmingham Urban Mountain Pedalers (BUMP)—as she pedaled part of the beginner-friendly Lake Trail, which loops around Double Oak Lake.
And that was just the morning. Bentley finished the day with a caving trip to Rickwood Caverns, where she took a 1-mile hiking tour deep under the surface of the earth. “After touring Rickwood Caverns, you feel like you’ve accomplished a real adventure,” she said, “It is a fantastic getaway for Alabama families.”
The Governor’s wife recently completed her statewide tour with a zip lining adventure at Gulf State Park, but not before she sampled the best of eight other parks across the state. Her goal of highlighting the great natural resources and family friendly adventures that Alabama's park system has to offer was met with much interest and local press. We’re too polite to mention her age, but let’s just say we were impressed. We look forward to taunting other states by saying, “Our First Lady could drop your First Lady like a hot potato.”
Follow along with Mrs. Bentley’s adventures on her blog or on Twitter @firstladydb. Better yet, go out and make your own bucket list and explore the state parks in your neck of the woods. As Mrs. Bentley found out, there’s always a helpful face at the park to guide you or some local user groups that are willing to welcome you in. And RootsRated can tell you which places to go & how to get there.
Mrs. Bentley’s Complete Bucket List
1. Retreat to a lakeside cabin at Joe Wheeler State Park.
2. See the 126 ft. wide, 25 ft. high cave opening of Cathedral Caverns State Park.
3. Take a selfie by Desoto Falls at Desoto State Park.
4. Enjoy fine dining at Guntersville State Park.
5. Go 175 ft. below the earth’s surface at Rickwood Caverns State Park.
6. Hike to Alabama’s highest point (2,407 ft. above sea level) at Cheaha State Park.
7. Mountain bike or horseback ride through Oak Mountain State Park.
8. Rent a boat at Lakepoint State Park.
9. Zip line along the coast of Gulf State Park.