MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala.
Wilderness park is located at 800 Upper Kingston Road in Prattville. This trail is pet friendly and handicap accessible, and admission is free. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class William Blankenship)
Wilderness Park gives options for autumn hiking



by Airman 1st Class William J. Blankenship
Air University Public Affairs


10/5/2012 - PRATTVILLE, Ala. -- Editor's Note - This is part two of a three part series.

October kicks off the start of cooler temperatures and brings the pinnacle of hiking season in the south along with it.

The hot and humid summer seems to be in Alabama's rearview mirror, accompanied by more favorable temperatures for outdoor activity, including a visit to Prattville's Wilderness Park.

"I came to this trail from out of town to spend the day with a friend," said Karla Sturm, from South Carolina. "This is a great place to bring your dog, put some music on and enjoy the outdoors."

The park houses bamboo from central China blended into the southern forestry. This bamboo forest, now a protected environment, has 60-foot tall stalks with trunks 6 inches in diameter.

"I definitely was not expecting to see bamboo here in Alabama," said Sturm. "The size of the bamboo is like nothing I have ever seen. It seems to tower over the path, which provides great shade."

Before the land became property of the city, retired Maj. Gen. William Butler, who graduated from the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field in 1932, owned the property. The land at that time was used for troop survival training, since the bamboo and overall landscape assisted in simulating conditions of Southeast Asia.

"It was very interesting reading about the historical uses of this park," said Elizabeth Riebe, another out-of-town visitor to Wilderness Park. "I never would have thought that this sort of area existed so close to all of the businesses here."

The trail measures about a third of a mile. "I actually prefer the shorter trails," said Sturm. "Longer trails sometimes tire me out halfway through it and there is no turning back. This gives me the option of stopping when I need to rather than hanging myself out to dry on a lengthy path."

Sunrise to sunset, hikers can bring their families out to walk amongst the giant bamboo and see one of Alabama's largest beech trees.

"I think being able to bring your dog out here really makes for a great opportunity to hike a trail with your pet without having to go to a very secluded area," said Sturm. "I was shocked to see that there was a trail that seems to be basically in the middle of town."

Wilderness Park is located at 800 Upper Kingston Road in Prattville. This trail is pet friendly and handicap accessible, and admission is free.