Alexander City and Wind Creek State Park have been invaded for the second straight year by a group of ladies from Sisters on the Fly.
Fifty-two members of the group numbering more than 10,000 strong nationwide staked claim to lakeshore sites at the park in vintage and retro campers to enjoy a girls weekend.
“It’s always girls,” Jeanne Gaffney said. “No men, no kids. Have fun and no drama.”
The Sisters are like a sorority getting together, camping and just plain having fun while sharing stories and enjoying life.
“I saw it on the Travel Channel,” Heidi Byerly said. “I was a Girl Scout growing up through high school. This is kind of like grown up Girl Scouts. I do the same stuff. I camp. I sit around the campfire with friends.”
Gaffney, from Hoover, was the event host and had a special name for it – ‘Winding Down at Wind Creek.’
“You can take that any way you want,” Gaffney jokingly said.
And the jokes are plenty amongst the ladies, some of who are mothers with children at home. Others are empty nesters wanting to get back out in the world and others are retired.
“We have everything from housewives to CEOs,” Lisa Alston said.
Alston is a retired parole officer from South Carolina who now lives near Asheville, North Carolina.
“I went from the beach most of my life to the mountains,” Alston said. “It was too hot, too muggy, too many biting bugs. I needed a change. I love the beach and I am torn between the two.”
Alston and Gaffney have met previously and Alston made her first trip to Alabama because of Gaffney.
“I came here because of you,” Alston said. “I had never been to Alabama and just decided I want to come and meet some Alabama people. They are a little different… I am just kidding.”
Gaffney provided the story for the stereotypical ‘Bama resident which is true, according to her.
“We marry our cousins, that’s why,” Gaffney said. “Well – actually I dated a cousin once. I didn’t know at the time. He was a second cousin.”
Not to be out embarrassed, Alston tries to top Gaffney’s story on the shoreline of Lake Martin after breakfast.
“When I was in training they took us on a tour of death row,” Alston said. “They were looking for a volunteer to sit in the electric chair. They put the thing over my head that has killed several people. They hooked me in the chair, turned out the lights and left.”
Alston survived to meet Gaffney years later at a Sisters on the Fly event at Moonshine Creek.
“She taught me to fly fish,” Gaffney said before Alston recounted the story.
“This one fell over face first in the water,” Alston said. “We were watching her and she was upright. Next thing you know, she just fell over.
“Two of our friends were with her. They grabbed her and flipped her over. They had her by the neck and pulling her across the water. It looked like they were pulling a dead body across there.”
“But then she finally gets up and her waders are full of water. Her legs are up to here with cold water, but she doesn’t let that stop her. She casts her line back out and catches a fish. She doesn’t quit. The water is freezing and she just gets back up.”
“Hey I am a diehard,” Gaffney said. “I caught my first fish on a fly that she tied. And she gave it to me.”
The stories continue stretching into Mardi Gras to a favorite pose for a photograph.
“I like the two breast and thigh pose,” Gail L’Esperance-Norris of Atlanta said.
The bond between the sisters is what brought them to Wind Creek.
“There is a woman here at Wind Creek, Nancy Williams who answers the phones,” Gaffney started. “She is a Sister. She can’t get to events and camp. So I decided to bring it to her. It has been great.”
The group at Wind Creek included nearly a dozen veterans, some women in their 40s and some pushing 80. They even took over JR’s Thursday for karaoke.
The bond goes beyond just a girls weekend as they have the “Sister Corp.”
“There is a large group that will respond to an area for assistance,” Byerly said. “We will go in mass with our trailers. Just last year I helped after the hurricane. It is self-motivated. We just say there is a need and go.”
Byerly said she meets people of sorts on those events, but it’s the planned events that get close ‘Sisters’ together.
“I look at the sister site and see who is coming,” Gaffney said. “I like to come where I know people – not necessarily everyone but a familiar face or two. There is a comfort zone there.”
Gaffney is no stranger to camping in vintage trailers, even having bought and sold a couple. She always decorates them herself.
“I found this one in Ohio,” Gaffney said while sitting in her red 1963 Shasta Nomad. “This one is more like a cabin. It can be anything, probably not what you have at home. You make it your own but. He (husband) might like it, but if he didn’t it would be OK.”