Rhonda Riley’s Story
“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” John Muir
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” Gandhi
With that being said….
Our family enjoys rambling through the waters and woods. Anything outdoors.
While talking with a neighbor about possibly hiking Bankhead, she shared with me about a podcast she enjoyed listening to. It was Anne Markham Bailey’s amazing podcast on Present Tense Media ‘The Fight for Alabama’s Last Wild Places.”
Listening to Anne's interviews with the people that fought to protect and save the forest, gave me a deep admiration and appreciation for their courage to action.
Our neighbor and hiking buddy, Vince Meleski shared with us maps, photos, videos and books on Bankhead and Sipsey and the Wild Alabama website.
I emailed Janice about the Forest Bathing opportunity guided by her and Anne Bailey. Forest Bathing is a pull on your soul to get you to the peace and calm found in nature. Since then, I look forward to Wild Alabama monthly opportunities to get back into the wild places with the hiking community.
John(my husband), children J. And Grace and myself love to go to Bankhead Sipsey Wilderness and explore the beauty and dynamic diversity of the forest.
As a family, we feel the importance to give back and give forward.
The courageous fight that saved wild places now calls us to “keep it” for generations to come to enjoy and learn about nature.
Wild Alabama’s mission is to inspire people to enjoy, value, and protect the wild places of Alabama. The mission aligns with our family goals of “giving back and forward”.
Wild Alabama offers so many ways to get involved and support wild places. WA board, staff and volunteers do an excellent job promoting, educating, stewarding and loving the dynamic diversity of wild places.
Terri is a lifelong resident of north Alabama and has been visiting Bankhead National Forest since she was a toddler when her family would spend weekends camping at Brushy Lake and hiking the woods. When they weren't camping, her Daddy loved riding the forest's dirt roads in his Ford pickup and Terri was always there with him.
Len moved to Alabama in 1992 and met Terri when they both were hired by TVA. They have been hiking together ever since from Bankhead and Sipsey to the Smokies, Glacier NP, Olympic NP, Yellowstone NP, Alaska, and Canada to name a few of their favorite hiking spots.
Terri and Len are both volunteer canine handlers for North Alabama Search Dog Association looking for lost/missing persons as well as deceased individuals. Terri joined the team in 2003 and Len followed in 2005. They have been deployed to Bankhead National forest for multiple searches. Len's "first find" was a missing hiker in the Gum Pond Cemetery area in 2012 who had been missing overnight. Len's SAR dog Rudy found the missing woman in less than 30 minutes.
Len and Terri also serve on the Board of Directors for a national canine search and rescue group, Canine Search and Recovery. Terri has served as the secretary for several years and Len is a Board member.
As Wild Alabama Volunteer Rangers, both are B level crosscut sawyers and have spent many hours helping clear trails in the Sipsey. Len and Terri also enjoy Ranger Patrols and interacting with hikers giving directions, suggesting places to visit, and sharing Leave No Trace principles. Both have participated in multiple trash pickups and campsite monitoring and cleanup. Terri likes to help out at the office when helping hands are needed for admin work, sticking labels and stuffing envelopes. Terri was named Wild Alabama Premier Volunteer in 2021, an honor she treasures. Terri also enjoys leading her photographer friends deep into the forest and the Sipsey to share with them her favorite locations, including the many beautiful waterfalls to be found there.
A few other things Len and Terri like to do in their "spare" time: Len is finishing rebuilding and restoring his grandfather's 1948 Farmall Cub tractor. Len is also an avid gardener, specializing in heirloom tomatoes, and spends many hours canning and preserving the garden harvest. Terri is working on obtaining her drone pilot's license hoping to put that to use in future search and recovery efforts. Len and Terri travel often with their two German Shepherd Dogs in their RV, spending weeks at a time on the road, and if there is a lighthouse, they will climb it!
Wild Alabama Newsletter Blog
Wild Alabama's mission is to inspire people to enjoy, value, and protect the wild places of Alabama.