Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Scottsboro is a Hidden Gem, Y'all!

Scottsboro, AL...Someplace Special

Scottsboro's founder and namesake, Robert Thomas Scott 

RelayRides, a peer to peer car rental company interested in spreading the word about great local hotspots and services across the country has challenged us to write about a hidden gem in our area. The more we thought about it, the more we realized that Scottsboro, Alabama is a hidden gem all by itself. Located in Jackson County, the seventh largest Alabama county by size, twenty-sixth by population, Scottsboro is situated on the banks of the Tennessee River in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. It is sheltered by Sand Mountain to the east and south and the Cumberland Plateau to the north. With all the water and woodland surrounding this tiny north Alabama hamlet, it is an outdoor lover's paradise.  Hunting, fishing, water sports, caving, hiking, repelling, golfing, canoeing, kayaking, sky diving and camping activities abound year round.

The city owned Goosepond Colony Resort is a great place to find many outdoor activities. With 127 campsites, 11 cottages and a lodge, Goosepond serves as a great home base while visiting Scottsboro.

Cottages on the lake


Goosepond also has two 18-hole golf courses for the golf enthusiasts in your group. Additionally, the resort features a civic center, a marina, a pavilion, an amphitheater, a swimming pool and walking trails.

The Tennessee River provides lots of water entertainment.

Goosepond's fine dining restaurant, The Docks, serves delicious food at water's edge and has a full bar, lighted pier and live weekend entertainment.

Entrance to The Docks

Oyster Po'boy from the Docks.
Save room for key lime pie.

Scottsboro is also home to First Monday Trade Day.  Every month beginning on the Saturday before the first Monday of the month, vendors come from all over to sell antiques, plants, produce, farm equipment, and handmade crafts around the courthouse square.  While most of the First Mondays have dwindled in size, one is still a standout. The biggest trade day of the year is held on Labor Day Weekend and coincides with Scottsboro's Art in the Park, sponsored by the local Three Arts Club.  Each Labor Day Sunday, more than 150 artists and craftsmen sell their creations from booths set up under the shady trees of Scottsboro's King Caldwell Park. There are activities for all ages and lots of local food to sample.

Jackson County Courthouse

The history of Scottsboro is as complex and varied as the people who have called this valley home. Beginning with the early Cherokee people who lived here and were eventually driven west on the Trail of Tears as a result of the Indian Removal Act enacted during the presidential term of Andrew Jackson, the county's namesake, to the European settlers who claimed the land for themselves, and, finally, to the current residents, Scottsboro has been a reflection of our nation's history, both good and bad.

Jackson County was named after Andrew Jackson.  Not sure what Old Hickory would think about the way he is portrayed in this statue!
Russell Cave located just north of Scottsboro in Bridgeport, AL, gives a glimpse of what life would have been like for the early Native Americans who lived in this area. Early people would have also inhabited Cathedral Caverns just south of Scottsboro in Kennamer's Cove.  Cathedral Caverns is one of the most stunningly beautiful caves in the country and should not be missed.

Another cave of interest is the Sauta Cave National Wildlife Refuge, also known as Blowing Wind Cave.  This cave is home to about 250,000 endangered gray and Indiana bats.  It is a major maternity cave for the gray bats who go to the cave to give birth and nurse their young. At dusk, thousands of bats can be seen flying from the mouth of the cave to feast on mosquitoes and other insects.  The land surrounding the cave is home to the endangered Price's potato bean plant. This refuge protects one of only thirteen populations of the plant in the entire country, with all occurrences being in the states of Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky.

The entrance to Sauta Cave, home to thousands of bats.

In the 1930's, one of the most racially dividing and controversial episodes our country has ever known took place in Scottsboro.  The case of nine young black men falsely accused of rape by two white women was a pivotal time in our nation's civil rights legislation. The Scottsboro Boys' trials set legal precedents that continue to this day.  Visitors to Scottsboro can learn about the case and see where the first trials took place, before being relocated to Morgan County.

The courthouse has been renovated, but still stands in the same location as it did in the thirties when the trials were taking place and is just a few blocks from the The Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center. Harper Lee is said to have based her book, To Kill a Mockingbird, on the Scottsboro Boys' trials.

Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center
Across the street from the Courthouse sits Payne's Sandwich Shop and Soda Fountain, where visitors can grab a bite to eat and quench their thirst, much as visitors to Scottsboro would have done as the trials were taking place.  Payne's opened as a pharmacy in 1869 and is the oldest continuously operated business in Scottsboro.  One of the most unique dishes at Payne's is their "squished" hot dog topped with red slaw.  The hot dog is flattened before adding the slaw which has a spicy ketchup based dressing.  Red slaw is a very popular hot dog accompaniment in Jackson County. 
Payne's begin life in 1869 as a drug store.
The soda fountain and lunch counter at Payne's

Payne's famous "squished" red slaw dog

The Reubens at Payne's are delicious, too!

On the opposite side of the square is the Variety Bake Shop.  Known simply as "The Bake Shop" by locals, this little establishment serves up delicious donuts, pastries, cookies, biscuits and other goodies.  Our personal favorites are the sausage pinwheels, tenderloin biscuits and chocolate covered glazed donuts.

The square is also home to several quaint shops worth checking out.  If a little more shopping is in order, the best, most unusual place to do that would be The Unclaimed Baggage Center just a few blocks from the town square and right down the road from the Scottsboro Boys Museum. Lost luggage from all over the country makes its way to Unclaimed Baggage, where shoppers can score a deal on everything from clothing to electronics and everything in between.  The annual ski sale is one of the biggest events in the county, with people setting up tents, lawn chairs and even hanging out in RV's to wait on the doors to open at 7:00 am.  All kinds of winter equipment from skis and snowboards to ski jackets and outerwear can be purchased for a fraction of their retail value.  And if you didn't fill up while you were at Payne's, you can grab a bite to eat at Unclaimed Baggage's own cafe, Cups. Chicken salad, salads, sandwiches and desserts are all on the menu.

Lost your airline luggage?  You might want to check here!

Scottsboro, a community rich in history, is mindful of its past, but not owned by it. The town continues to grow and change as new people move into the area and the population evolves. With all this area has to offer in terms of the land, the history, the people and the natural resources, Scottsboro truly is a "hidden gem".

The Docks on Urbanspoon Payne's on Urbanspoon Cups Cafe at Unclaimed Baggage Center on Urbanspoon Variety Bake Shop on Urbanspoon
Three Friends and a Fork
Three Friends and a Fork

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  1. Oh wow! I need to go explore more of Scottsboro! I've been there several times but mostly just to visit Unclaimed Baggage. That key lime pie looks FANTASTIC. :)

  2. Taren, there is so much more to Scottsboro and the surrounding area. I just hit the tip of the iceberg! And that key lime pie was divine! We discussed how much we enjoyed it because it wasn't mouth puckering tart like some key lime pies can be. Please do come back for a visit!