Unclaimed Baggage and Coming Back Home: Part 1

Why you need to visit Northeast Alabama this summer

Last month after a fantastic three days of learning more about the travel writing community at TBEX, I was invited by Unclaimed Baggage to come spend a day and a half in northeast Alabama exploring the beautiful area and learning all about how Unclaimed Baggage works. 

(Click here if you want to read my story about our day at Unclaimed Baggage!)

One of the fun things about this particular trip is that it was really a trip through my own backyard; I grew up 20 minutes away from Scottsboro, where Unclaimed Baggage resides. 

The beauty of northeast Alabama is the of kind people should write about much more often. The foothills of Appalachia intertwine with the wide Tennessee River, dammed up in the 1930s to bring electricity to the area and creating the happy byproduct of a large lake swimming with bass and boaters.  

Tiny mountain towns like Mentone and Valley Head have become artisan enclaves, while state parks and national preserves have ensured the region’s rare, precious, and in some cases, endangered species of flora and fauna. 

Alabama has a range of beauty, from the sugar sand shores of the Gulf to river-laced shoals, but this little corner of it will always have my heart. 

We were treated to lunch at the Wildflower Cafe (tomato pie, y’all) before a quick stop in a Kamama art gallery, incidentally where my sister-in-law’s father-in-law’s (John Miller) beautiful abstract paintings are sold! 

Wildflower Cafe in Mentone Alabama

Tomato Pie from the Wildflower Cafe in Mentone Alabama
Tomato Pie

An unimpressive picture of three impressive paintings by John Miller

Next we drove up the mountain a little bit to stop in on Valinda Miracle at Miracle Pottery in Valley Head. She shared with us her incredible story while she did a quick pot-throwing demonstration. 

Photo by Matt Pittman

More than thirty years ago Valinda was in a devastating car wreck, not only nearly killing her, but causing severe damage to her short-term memory function. No longer able to continue her previous career of commercial real estate, she threw herself into art. In pottery she found not only calm and focus, but also a form of creative expression she could do without worrying about her memory loss—the wheel keeps going ’round and ’round. 

Today Valinda and her husband sell her beautiful stoneware all over the world, and her injuries have healed far beyond where her doctors ever said they would. 

A piece Valinda made depicting the artist coming out of her. (Photo by Matt Pittman)

Next it was time to go chasing waterfalls! We went to DeSoto Falls in DeSoto State Park and Little River Falls in the Little River Canyon National Preserve. 


After dinner at the Preserve’s lodge we took the drive back down from the mountains to Scottsboro for a night on the river at Goose Pond Colony. It was already dark by the time we got there, but that didn’t stop me from going down to the water and trying my hand at a few long exposure shots. I didn’t have my tripod, so my only option was setting it on the dock. 

I held the shutter open while I moved the camera in front of the moon in this heart shape <3
A car moving across the causeway

The next morning I woke up early to catch the sun’s earliest rays, and while the direction of my cabin (facing west over the water) was not conducive to a stunning sunrise shot, I did get to catch the perfect pastels of this temperate Spring morning. 

A Grey Heron was out on the dock with me the entire time, one eye on my and one on the large fish swimming lazily in the shadow of the pier. 

The fresh air and calming ambiance of the wide, lazy river woke me up gradually, but more completely than a cup of coffee ever could, and by 7 it was time to load up in the van and head over to Unclaimed Baggage. 

Read the rest of my story in Part 2!

Thank you to Unclaimed Baggage for hosting our TBEX group!

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