(ODD)yssey, Blog Post

I was looking for a message from Mother Nature and found a ‘real’ live unicorn

I have long wanted to take a photo of a natural attraction I’d written about but never seen – the trees that grew together to spell HI in the Hays Nature Preserve on the outskirts of Huntsville. I finally got my chance Saturday along with another surprise: a visit with a real-for-sure unicorn (lots of photos at the end of this post).

The HI trees along the Flint River in Hays Nature Peeserve (Photo by Wil Elrick)

It started when Sweetums and I took an unexpected trip to Guntersville Saturday. All the aboveground swimming pools were sold out locally and a friend told us we could find one at the Walmart there. We drove from our home in Toney and arrived 1.5 hours later. We put on our facemasks and, thankfully, snapped up one of the last 16-foot pools. I can’t make it through summer without my adult kiddie pool and we’re trying to get the site ready at the new house.

On the way home, we passed the entrance to Hays Nature Preserve in Owens Cross Roads just outside of Huntsville. Sweetums stopped and took me on a short walk to find the trees, which grow on the bank of the Flint River and spell the word “hi.” The formation is reportedly a natural one. I took a few photos of the pretty park on the gorgeous sunny day and we headed back to the car. We were driving to the gates when Sweetums said, “Wait. Was that a unicorn?”

I followed his gaze. “It is! Pull over. Pull over.”

I was out of the car with my camera almost before the car stopped. It’s not the first time it’s happened, bless Sweetums’ little heart. I asked permission to take photos from the nice couple with the small “unicorn,” who told me they have a business called Pony Parties at Shady Acres Farm in Arab that provides pony rides for kids. They also offer unicorn photo shoots and that is why they were in the park that day. They placed a stuffed play-wear horn (very lightweight and not harmful to the horse) on a small white pony and they had also brought two miniature zebu, which are those strange-looking cattle with fatty humps like camels. The zebu were adorable too. (Horses are permitted at Hays, which has riding trails, as are dogs if they are kept on leashes.)

The “unicorn” from Shady Acres Farm. (Photo by Kelly Kazek)

I was happy just to see a unicorn in Madison County, Ala., on a random Saturday but if you’d like to contact the couple, visit the Facebook page or call 256-586-8565. Note: We have never hired the couple for a party or photo shoot but they seemed like nice folks so I offered to pass along the info.

Just a heads up, children’s play parks may soon re-open in Alabama but the park at Hays Preserve was closed on Saturday. It was a really cool and “green” park with all the equipment made from natural logs. The address for the preserve is 7153 Highway 431 South, Owens Cross Roads.

The City of Huntsville website says: “The Hays Nature Preserve features over 10 miles of trails and greenways that follow the Flint River and its associated oxbow lakes through low riparian habitat, old fields, and a golf course. This natural area is even an important part of the North Alabama Birding Trail.” The Green Team offers educational and preservation programs there.

Sweetums in Hays Nature Preserve on the bridge over the Flint River. (Photo by Kelly Kazek)
The Flint River in Hays Nature Preserve. (Photo by Kelly Kazek)
The Flint River in Hays Nature Preserve. (Photo by Kelly Kazek)
One of the rare Monster Tupelo Gum trees in Hays Nature Preserve. (Photo by Kelly Kazek)
The Flint River in Hays Nature Preserve. (Photo by Kelly Kazek)
A unicorn in the wild. (Photo by Kelly Kazek)
Miniature zebu were in a temporary “play pen” awaiting the photo shoot. (Photo by Kelly Kazek)

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