Of limestone and luggage
Grant, Scottsboro hold treasures for every interest
By Tracy L. Brady
Whether you're looking to step into nature or to step back in time, a day trip to the northeast corner of Alabama is sure to unearth a bounty of treasures for those in need of a mini-vacation.
Your treasure hunt will begin by heading east on Highway 72 to the 14-acre underground world of Cathedral Caverns in Grant.
Tourists stumble upon the first of six world records before ever entering the completely limestone cave. There you will find the largest known cave entrance in the world, measuring 25 feet in height and 128 feet in width.
Shortly into your journey through this naturally air-conditioned wonder (the cave is a constant 60 degrees), a giant named Goliath stands patiently waiting to greet you.
Goliath, the world's largest known stalagmite, measures 45 feet in height and 243 feet around.
While Goliath may seemingly be the most impressive natural treasure in the cave, a new wonder awaits at the turn of every corner.
The world's largest frozen waterfall, largest flow stone wall, largest stalagmite forest, and an unbelievable stalagmite formation are still ahead. Experienced tour guides distribute history with humor as you take time to marvel at each rarity.
Cathedral Caverns was originally opened to the public in July, 1959, by Jay Gurley and remained a popular tourist attraction until maintenance difficulties forced its closing in the 1980s.
The State of Alabama bought the site in 1987, with the intent of making it a state park, and started building the Jay Gurley Bridge across Mystery River and through the cave in 1995.
The bridge, a long-time dream of Gurley's, would make the tour experience of Cathedral Caverns not only easier, but also safer than Gurley's original trail.
The cave was reopened to tourists on August 9, 2000, nearly four years after Gurley's death.
According to Cathedral Caverns State Park Ranger II Danny Lewis, Gurley reported 25, 000 visitors to the cave annually. Since the construction of the bridge, the park now reports 50,000 visitors annually.
Another new convenience for tourists is currently under construction at the park. A 4,000 square-foot open-air pavilion will house an office and ticket booth, public restrooms and seating for those waiting for hourly tours to begin.
Plans for a video of the cave's Crystal Room, which is not open to the public due to the fragility of the crystal formations inside, are underway and may be featured in the pavilion.
The pavilion is scheduled to be complete by this Thanksgiving.
Out of the caves of Marshall County and into the coves of Jackson County, a stroll through historic downtown Scottsboro is just the thing the complete your visit to northeast Alabama.
Continuing east on Highway 72, take the Broad Street exit to downtown and get ready for an inviting trip down memory lane.
Park on the town square and visit Village Square Antique Mall, one of ten arts and antiques stores in downtown. There you will find vintage dishes, ladies hats, cookie jars, books, furniture and much more.
After exploring this glimpse into yesteryear, head next door to Hammer's, one of Scottsboro's oldest department stores "where there's always something new."
Hammer's offers clothing, furniture and housewares for the entire family at discount prices.
Ladies, be sure to check out the extensive line of brand name purses in the newest fashions.
If you begin to tire from all the shopping and strolling, stop in and see the folks at Payne's Soda Shop on East Laurel Street.
Payne's has served fountain sodas, sandwiches, ice cream, and fresh baked goods in downtown Scottsboro since 1869.
For the history buff, stray across the square to the Scottsboro-Jackson Heritage Center on South Houston Street. This museum houses town and county history and hosts cultural events and exhibits year-round.
After making your way around the square, don't forget to visit one of Scottosboro's largest attractions.
The Unclaimed Baggage Center is located three blocks from downtown on West Willow Street.
This store is just the place for treasure hunters and savvy shoppers.
Unclaimed Baggage offers clothing, fashion accessories, fine jewelry, electronics, music, movies and, of course, luggage.
Shopping or sightseeing, historic downtown Scottsboro holds a bevy of treasures to delight the senses.
And, less than an hour away, the northeast corner of Alabama is sure to provide plenty of sights and attractions to make your day getaway a memorable event.