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VTA in The News 

May 31, 2013

Turkey Creek Nature Preserve was one of 28 recipients of the National Recreation Trail designation announced the Secretary of the Interior and the Director of the National Parks Service. The newly developed trail loop consisting of the Thompson Trace and Hamby Hollow trails, built by the VTA, was a major factor in receiving this honor.  The loop is 2.3 miles long with trailheads at the Falls Parking Lot and the Highland Parking Lot. 

February 7, 2013 

VTA President, Anne Mathews, attended the quarterly meeting of the Forever Wild Land Trust with Charles Yeager, manager of Turkey Creek Nature Preserve in Pinson, Alabama. She reported on the Thompson Trace, a 1.4 mile trail the VTA built in conjunction with the Preserve management. The work began in the spring of 2011 and culminated on October 27, 2012 with an opening hike led by the VTA. The scenic trail crosses a small draw and then  climbs to head East along the ridge. it rounds the top of a hill above the falls and then leads down towards the falls where it ends in the Falls parking lot. It is of moderate difficulty with long periods of flat trail along the wide ridge area.  

Hitting the trail at 60

Hiker tames Appalachian Trail on 182-day Georgia-to-Maine trek


Tuesday, October 10, 2006


News staff writer


Shirley Funderburk didn't spend her 60th birthday the way she planned.


Sitting on the deck of her Pelham house on Friday, Funderburk said she had hoped to spend that day at Mount Katahdin in Maine, the summit of a 2,175-mile journey up the Appalachian Mountains that took her over six months.


Decreasing temperatures led Funderburk to step up her pace, finish the hike in late September and return home.

Still, Funderburk can boast of being one of the few hikers, and one of far fewer her age, to make the northbound trek of the Appalachian Trail.


In 2005, according to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, only one-fourth of an estimated 1,392 people of all ages who embarked on the journey from Springer Mountain in Georgia made it all the way to Mount Katahdin.


Funderburk said hikers attempting the journey become like relatives. "You're not going to be alone unless you want to be," she said.


Funderburk has been hiking for 15 years, but when she began she was a single working mother who could not afford to spend 182 consecutive days fording rivers and climbing boulders from Georgia to Maine.


With her children grown and pursuing their own careers, Funderburk said her husband, Bill, was supportive of her decision to tame the Appalachian Trail.


From Georgia to Pennsylvania was the easiest part of the trip, Funderburk said. Once she reached the northern states, "the boulders got to be the size of houses."


Scrambling across the large rocks and encountering porcupines and bears, was not what worried Funderburk.   "The concern I had was crossing the rivers in Maine," she said, where there are no bridges along the trail.  A rainless week meant the waters were only waist-high, but Funderburk said she had heard horror stories of hikers treading neck-high water carrying backpacks over their heads.


Funderburk said the sight of the river and the mountain was both majestic and terrifying.  "It's golden and red and the leaves are falling on you, and then you reach the river and think, `I'm going to die here,'" she recalled.


Along the trip, Funderburk stayed in hostels or shelters built for hikers, where as many as eight could sleep side by side on the ground.


Funderburk called home when she visited nearby towns, and her husband posted reports of her progress on a Web site dedicated to those who attempt the trip.


Funderburk said she cooked meals in a pot she ate out of, but a key source of sustenance was candy.

"That's what gets you up the mountain - the Snickers," she said. Facing one particularly steep cliff, Funderburk said, she decided to eat a bag of jelly beans for a quick energy boost.


Despite an increase in sugary snacks, Funderburk said she, like many on the trip, lost a lot of weight.


The hikers, she said, watched out for each other, making sure they were all healthy enough to proceed.

"The common goal is to keep healthy and keep moving," she said.

The Birmingham News, February 10, 2004:

State launches `Volunteers in Parks' program


News staff writer

For 23 years, Les Miller has walked the 10,000 acres of Oak Mountain State Park, leading tours and volunteering in many other ways.

Some say he knows the park as well as or better than the rangers who patrol it, said Mark Easterwood, director of Alabama State Parks.

State officials including Gov. Bob Riley honored Miller on Monday during the official launch of "Volunteers in Parks," or V.I.P. for short.

This is the first time the State Parks Division has launched a uniform volunteer program, Easterwood said.

In partnership with "Take Pride in America," a national volunteer program, the initiative will provide different levels of volunteer opportunities in all Alabama state parks.  That would include activities such as picking up trash or becoming a campground activity director.

State tourism officials said nature-based tourism is one the fastest growing segments of the industry, a trend that will keep people coming to Alabama's parks.  Riley asked residents who are concerned about Alabama's natural resources to get involved.

"There are so many things that so many of you can do every day," Riley said.

Alabama parks already have volunteers such as Friends of Oak Mountain, a park user group that planted wildflowers throughout Oak Mountain State Park in November.  But Easterwood said there is great potential for more people to get involved.

People can call 1-800-ALA-PARK or visit for more information.

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Last modified: 01/02/14