Panther Creek State Park

A bit of internet browsing led us to a new state park today.  Although, I have to say most of Tennessee’s state parks are well west of Newport.  Maybe they figure that everyone in the far eastern end of the state can go to the national park. Panther Creek State Park is on the shore of Cherokee Lake. It is a relatively small park offering a playground, a campground, several large picnic pavilions, a swimming pool, a boat ramp, numerous picnic spots, a gorgeous overlook of the lake, and many hiking trails.

We drove through the campground to check it out.  It is lovely and cheap, with full hook-ups for RVs.  Our next stop was at the end of the road, high atop a narrow peninsula poking into the lake. As soon as we got out of the car, Andy pointed out the red leaves on a nearby tree.  That is our first fall-color sighting.

b01-a-hint-of-fall-red-leaves
Red Leaves, a Hint of Fall

The observation deck appeared to be hanging out in space and I wanted to tell the young man to get off that railing before he fell to his death.

b02-overlook
Overlook at Panther Creek State Park

After we got closer and looked over the edge, I could see that he would not kill himself, maybe just break a leg or a neck.

b03-young-man-reading-at-the-overlook
Young Man Reading a Book on the Overlook

There was a panoramic view of the lake and we were high above it.    We admired the view for a while and then walked on to the cul-de-sac at the end of the road.  The Ridgecrest trailhead was past the circle, so we followed the trail for a bit. The promontory was getting more and more narrow as we walked along.  There was a steep drop-off on both sides of the trail.  It wasn’t a mountain but, it was a really big hill.

b05-ridgecrest-trail
Ridgecrest Trail

When the trail began getting steep, we turned around.  Back on the road, it was clear that the short white wall around the center of the cul-de-sac was a large heart.  I was enamored.  Andy was indifferent. I could not capture the whole thing in one picture.  This is the top of the heart, clear as we were walking off the trail.

b06-heart-shaped-cul-de-sac

From the side, it is clear that the bottom of the heart has a point.

b07-heart-cul-de-sac

We drove out of the park and down the road a piece to the boat ramp.  The woman in the visitor center suggested that it was an easy place to walk on the waterfront.  Easy and ugly.

b08-very-long-boat-ramp
The Longest Boat Ramp I’ve Ever Seen

This is the time of year when the dams release water from the lakes for use downstream so there was plenty of beach.  Instead of sand, it is dry mud. I admit that is was fairly easy to walk on.

b09-dry-lake-bottom
Dry Lake Bottom

When we returned to the boat ramp, I noticed a dry inlet on the other side.  It had piles of old tires placed at regular intervals along the now-dry cove. We guessed that they were placed there as artificial reefs (for lack of a better word) that would provide a safe haven for young fish.

b10-old-tires-on-lake-bed
Old Tires on Lake Bed

Next, we drove back to the campground for the second hike the woman in the visitor center recommended.  We parked next to the dumpsters. This little bridge took us across a small creek.

b11-bridge-from-campground-to-fields

Then we were following a footpath along the creek.  A cross-country team was running in our direction.

b12-track-team-approaching

We saw a bridge and a sign for a 1.1-mile nature loop.  The cross-country coach said all the runners were out of there.  I responded with, “So, we’re not going to see any wildlife?” Actually, we did see some.  Andy spotted deer three times.  I only saw deer-butts bouncing through the forest. The trail was very easy and wide.

b131-nature-trail
Nature Trail

There were numerous little posts with numbers on them but, we didn’t have a brochure to tell us what we were supposed to be looking at.  At one point, we were walking along a ravine.  There was a post with a number on it so I walked to the edge of the ravine for a look.  It was the remains of an old car. Then I really wanted a brochure to find out the story behind that.

b14-old-car-in-ravine
Old Car in Ravine

This is the view as we emerged from the nature trail.

b15-leaving-nature-trail-loop

We crossed the small bridge back to our car parked next to the dumpster.

b16-bridge-back-to-campground
Small Foot Bridge Over Creek

It was yet another nice outing.  I was disappointed when we got home and I checked my pedometer. It said 1.3 miles.  Hey!  That nature loop was 1.1 miles and I know we walked more than 0.2 miles on the hilltop and along the lake shore.  I’ve been robbed!

 

 

 

Davy, Davy Crockett. King of the Wild Frontier! And Jonesborough, Tennessee

Before we head off on today’s adventure, let’s stop in the Newport City Park for a look at the path we have been walking.  It is about a half-mile winding loop, mostly in the shade of big trees.

b01-Wal-path-in-newport-city-park
Walking Path in Newport City Park

 

On to Davy Crockett‘s  birthplace in Limestone, Tennessee, now Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park.  It is several miles off the main road, down several narrow country roads.  The road made a sharp curve and I drove straight into the park.  Andy exclaimed, “This can’t be it!  We are not on a mountaintop!”  He was right, the mountains were in the distance. What about “Born on a mountaintop in Tennessee; Greenest state in the land of the free”?  Sorry, that must have been a Hollywood fabrication.  We were terribly disappointed.

I wonder how many people younger than me even know who Davy Crockett was. Anyone watching television in the 1950s saw the wildly popular television series about him.  It was part of the Walt Disney program. But, Crockett didn’t need Disney to become famous.  He was a legend in his own time. He was known as an expert hunter and trapper.  Muscular and good looking, he was popular enough to get elected to congress.  There, he was described as uncouth, loud, and illiterate (which he was).  He was also famous for his colorful mountain language such as “….a huckleberry over my persimmon”. He was fearless in his fight against President Andrew Jackson in 1830 over the removal of the Cherokee from their lands. He later lost an election over this issue. That is when he headed west to Texas.

We passed the very nice campground (with 40 full hookup sites (30 amps)).  There is also a large swimming pool. Our first stop was the memorial, not to be confused with a grave.  He was, of course, killed at the Alamo.  I asked Wikipedia what happened to the bodies.

“Once all of the defenders had been killed, Santa Anna ordered his men to take the bodies to a nearby stand of trees, where they were stacked together and wood piled on top.[160] That evening, a fire was lit and the bodies of the defenders were burned to ashes.”

b01-davy-crockett-memorial
Davy Crockett Memorial

Here is a closer look at the monument.

b02-inscription-on-davy-crockett-memorial
Davy Crockett Monument

There is a nice replica cabin I presume to be typical of the place and time.  There were bars over the door so we could not go in and it was hard to take any pictures.  (I should have had my smartphone with me.) The positive side of bars over the door was that the interior was furnished nicely for the period. I also noted that park visitors have not written and carved their names into the logs as they have in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park cabins.

b03-cabin-replica
Davy Crockett Replica Cabin

 

There was something very strange about that place.  The soil glittered.  I didn’t capture it very well with my camera but, here is my best attempt. Those white specks were shining brightly in the sun. I told Andy I thought it was mica even though I really didn’t know what mica is. It took a bit of Googling to find the answer. There are mica mines upstream in the mountains.

b04-mica-in-sand-along-nolichucky-river
Glittering Mica in Sand

The Crockett cabin is on the banks of the Nolichucky River, which flows into the French Broad River, which joins the Holston River to form the Tennessee River in Knoxville, Tennessee.

b05-nolichucky-river
Nolichucky River

Next, we drove a relatively short distance to the town of Jonesborough, the oldest town in Tennesee and the storytelling capital of the world. It was the capital of the state of Franklin, which was never recognized by congress.  It was reclaimed by North Carolina but, eventually became part of Tennessee when it was admitted to the union.

We stopped in the visitor center and picked up a walking-tour map.  Our first stop was the Main Street Cafe for lunch. The historic downtown is several blocks long and full of old buildings. Here are a few.

This private home is the Naff-Henley House, built in 1840.

b06-naff-henley-house-1807
Naff-Henley House – 1840

This might be the most charming building on Main Street.  It is owned by the state of Tennessee and has a excellent museum on the ground floor. It was built by the local doctor in the late 1790s as the Chester Inn to accommodate travelers on the Great Stage Road (same as the Wilderness Road Daniel Boone helped to clear). Later it was doubled in size.

b07-chester-inn-1790s
Chester Inn

The Mansion House was built in 1843 by the town’s first postmaster.  It served as one of Jonesborough’s earliest hotels.  It is humongous.

b08-mansion-house-1843
Mansion House

This three-unit row house was built in 1820 by Samuel Jackson of Philadelphia.  His three daughters rented the units and it became known as Sisters Row.

b09-sisters-row
Sisters Row

This building was built as a residence in 1797. It was enlarged and converted into a hotel in the late 1800s.

b10-eureka-inn-1797
Eureka Inn

This log cabin was built a couple miles outside of town and later moved to the city park  to preserve it.  It was built by Christopher Taylor in the 1770s. Andrew Jackson stayed in this cabin for some months and studied law.

b11-christopher-taylor-house-1770s
Christopher Taylor House

When we got back to the car, parked at the visitor center, I thought someone had drawn a happy face on the pavement with chalk.  It was really a reflection of the sun off the neighboring car’s wheel.

b12-happy-face
Happy Face

The Official Big Creek Mugs

One of the most popular exhibits at the Milwaukee Art Museum is the janitor. Just about everyone loves to pose for a picture with him.  He is life size and very realistic. Here is a picture I took of him in August.

b91-janitor
The Janitor

George and Jennifer bought a large coffee mug with a photo of the janitor on it at the museum gift shop. As we were sitting at the table while someone was drinking out of the mug, Andy got the idea to make a mug with Spence on it.  I immediately knew which photo of him I would use. One of my favorite pictures of him.  He was blowing leaves off the handicap sidewalk when we were walking up to the campground.  He paused to say good morning to us and rested the leaf-blower backpack on the water fountain .

b-spence-with-leaf-blower

Unfortunately, there are not that many choices at Walmart on how many or how they are arranged.  So, this is what we ended up with:

b01-big-creek-mug
Big Creek, A Closer Look at a National Park Coffee Mug

Uh oh!  I just noticed that the word “a” got cut off of the book cover picture!  Well darn.

I did get the picture and also one of him mowing the grass in the day-use parking lot.b02-spence-mug

Also,  a picture of him whacking weeds (the park calls it “string trimming”). My favorite picture of Spence is the lower one.  I think it shows his smart-aleck personality. He was probably saying, “HEY!! I TOLD you not to take a picture of me when I’m not working!”

b03-spence-attitude-on-mug

Of course, Andy didn’t want to stop there.  We also made mugs for Linda, Boss Larry, and Ranger Heath.  That is with their own pictures on them, not Spence. We drove over to the Cosby campground this afternoon to deliver them.  Everyone was there except Heath, who is working mostly in the Little River section of the park now.

I will also give them each a copy of the book, whenever I finally get it. They are the main characters in it, after all. They all seemed to get a big kick out of their official Big Creek mugs.

 

Cumberland Gap

This is the kind of history we mostly forget and scramble what we remember. Like the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Cumberland Gap is something we learned about in school and vaguely remember. But, I had seen signs for it and put it on my list of places to see while we are here waiting for books. I asked Spence about it last week and he said he and Sharon made many drives to the Cumberland Gap when she was well enough. I invited him to come along with us and it happens to be his week of vacation.  He said he would call on the day he wanted to go. This was the day.

It was very impressive to see the gap in the mountains from a long distance away.  I probably would not have noticed without Spence in the back seat to point it out.  I was driving and did not take a picture.  This was the best representation I found to snatch off the web. This was a picture from during the Civil War.

cumberland-gap-strobridge-and-co-600

We stopped atop Clinch Mountain at the Veteran’s Overlook.  A number of people had placed flowers, memorials, and trinkets there.

b01-veterans-overlook-on-clinch-mountain
Veteran’s Overlook on Clinch Mountain

This is a bit of zoom on the view of Cherokee Lake.

b02-cherokee-lake-from-veterans-overlook
Cherokee Lake from Veteran’s Overlook on Clinch Mountain

I did not take this picture either, got it off the web.  The road US25E does not follow exactly on the old Wilderness Road, but cuts through the mountain, preserving the historic mountain pass.

road-tunnel-under-cumberland-mountain
Entrance to Tunnel Under Cumberland Mountain

This small cabin sits outside the visitor center at the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.

b03-small-building-at-cumberland-gap-national-historical-park

Andy and Spence were getting information and chatting it up with the young lady behind the counter.

b04-spence-and-andy-in-the-visitor-center

There is a small museum telling the history and significance of the gap. Dr. Thomas Walker was the first white man to explore, describe, and document the gap in 1750. Of course, animals made a path  and native Americans had traveled through for centuries before.

Daniel Boone, born in 1734 in Reading, Pennsylvania led a team of men to clear the Wilderness Road  through the gap in 1775. Then settlers streamed through the gap and into the Ohio Valley on the western side. Between 200.000 and 300,000 people crossed through the gap in the years from 1780 to 1810. Kentucky became the first state west of the Appalachian mountains in 1792.

This was an interesting exhibit in the museum.  It gives the price, in buckskins, for European goods bought by the Indians in 1716.

b05-1716-trade-goods-price-list-in-pelts

There was a fine movie in the museum with the story of Daniel Boone leading pioneers through the gap.  He lost two sons to Indian raids. This picture is on the park brochure.

daniel-boone-leading-pioneers-through-cumberland-gap
Daniel Boone Leading Pioneers Through the Cumberland Gap

This map indicates the significance of the Cumberland Gap to the westward expansion of the United States in that time period. People walked or rode wagons and horses all the way from Philadelphia  to pass through the Cumberland Gap!

wildernessroadmapnps
Wilderness Road

This is what the Wilderness Road through the park looks like today. When the park service bought the land, they removed any modern structures and even the pavement on the old road that went through the gap to return it to its historic state in 1810. It was just wide enough for a wagon and a team of horses, mules, oxen (whatever they used).

cumberland-gap-today

We did not hike on the old road, but drove up the mountain, near the top and walked the rest of the way to the pinnacle.  Unfortunately, the trees have grown up so much that there is not much of a view.  We looked out at Fern Lake, in Kentucky.

b06-fern-lake-in-kentucky-and-tennessee

This view from the end of the trail is looking southeast, I think, to US25E approaching the tunnel.  We could not look directly down and see the old path through the gap.

b07-us25-heading-into-cumberland-mountain

 

There is a Civil War era embankment up there used by both the Union and Confederate sides to control the gap. They had cleared a large area at the top of the mountain to give them a good view of the gap from both ends.

On the way home, I pulled over at the Clinch Mountain Restaurant to find out first hand about Vinegar Pie.  What?  Spence mentioned it as we passed by and said Sharon and her mother both ate some in the past but, he did not try it.  I never heard of it and could not pass on the opportunity to discover something new.  This is the view from the restaurant.

b08-view-from-clinch-mountain-lookout-restaurant

Sure enough, it said vinegar pie right on the sign on the front of the building.

b09-vinegar-pie-sign

This time Andy declined a slice.  Spence and I each had a slice and we all had coffee. We sat at the prime table overlooking the valley below. The pie did taste a bit like lemon pie, but I did detect a vinegar flavor.  Now we’ve tried it, we probably won’t again.  It wasn’t bad, we would just choose something else over it. Spence said he would prefer apple; I’m choosing cherry next time.

b10-andy-and-spence
Andy, Spence, and Vinegar Pie

It turns out the vinegar pie was only new to me and not new at all.  I found a blog post on Sandy’s Chatter about vinegar pie and other forgotten recipes. According to her post, vinegar pie is a adaptation of lemon pie (created in Philadelphia by Elizabeth Goodfellow).  Pioneer women did not have access to many lemons so they substituted vinegar.  I say, go for the lemons if you can afford them!  If not, vinegar pie will do.

Cherokee Dam

We decided to check out another dam since we are in the Tennessee Valley watershed and it is famous for the many dams built by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). We also knew there would be ample walking opportunity, which we both sorely need.

Dams are certainly not beautiful, but the area around them is.  This was our view when we pulled into a parking space at the south end of the dam.

b01-view-from-our-parking-space
Cherokee Lake

The dam is 6,760 feet long (2,060 m)  and 175 feet high. There is a walkway on the top.

b02-walkway-on-top-of-cherokee-dam
Walkway Atop Cherokee Dam

There was beautiful countryside and the Holston River on the downstream side of the dam.

b03-view-from-top-of-dam
Holston River Below Dam

This is the lake side of the dam.

b04-lakeside-of-dam

Here is the view as we turned back.  The car in the parking lot gives a sense of how large the dam is.

b05-downhill-side-of-dam

After our walk, we drove around to the opposite side of the river so I could take a picture of the powerhouse.

b06-downstream-side-of-cherokee-dam
Cherokee Dam

There were several reasons all the dams were built in the Tennessee Valley.  In the 1920s the reasons were distrust the privately owned power companies that charged too much for electricity, economic development of the impoverished region, and flood control.

The foremost reason for the Cherokee dam in 1942 had to do with providing power to produce aluminum for the war effort.  Now there are 29 dams in the system and also ten coal-powered plants and three nuclear power plants.  There has been controversy every step of the way. More than 15,000 families have been displaced over the years. I suppose there are valid points on both sides.

On Top of Old Smoky CD Release Concert

We experience another side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park today when we attended the “On Top of Old Smoky” CD release concert on the lawn in front of park headquarters. We got there early to get a good spot to set up our chairs but, that was not necessary.   The turnout was light. All those people who didn’t come missed a good show.

The CD is old-time Smoky Mountain music of the people who lived in the mountains before the park, sung by contemporary musicians. A number of them came to the park today to perform their song on the CD and several more as well. It was a three-and-a-half hour concert.

 New Old Time Smoky Mountain Music

I don’t think the first group is on the CD.  They must have been the warm-up show and were excellent.

b01-first-group

This guy was the lead singer, with the woman backing him up.  He was phenomenal.

b02-lead-singer

This is our view of the show without the zoom.  We were in the shade and it was close enough.

b03-park-headquarters

This is John Lilly. He did some fine yodeling in some of his songs. I like yodeling but, as one of the songs he wrote and performed shows, a little yodeling goes a long way.

b04-john-lilly

The Brother Boys were quite lively.

b05-the-brother-boys

Dale Jett, on the left, is the grandson of A.P. and Sara Carter of The Carter Family fame. Oscar Harris, on the right, is playing the autoharp.

b06-dale-jett-and-hello-stranger

Here was the real treat of the afternoon.  Amythyst Kiah sang her mountain music with a bluesy twist.  She had a strong, beautiful voice. And, since she drove past Dollywood on her way to the park, she sang Dolly Parton’s “Joline”.  Powerful.

b07-amythyst-kiah

Dolly Parton is on the CD, but she did not perform for the release concert.

Walk Along Big Creek

We puttered around the motorhome in the morning, getting some chores done. After lunch, we drove up to Big Creek to return a notebook of Big Creek history to Bob Taylor, the current campground host.  He has done a bit of research and has old photographs of the town and logging mill. There were many more houses there than I had thought.

We chatted briefly with Bob and Shirley before taking an overdue walk along Big Creek. We stopped on the bridge to look at the creek.  The water level is low.

b01-big-creek-downstream
Big Creek Downstream

Then we headed down the path.

andy-walking-along-big-creek

This is the “secret” swimming hole that is not really a secret but is seldom visited. Today, the water level was so low there was a bit of  a shoreline below the steep bank.

b02-swimming-hole-big-creek

A fisherman was in the creek when I went down to take some pictures.

b03-fishing-in-big-creek
Fishing in Big Creek

I walked upstream to take a picture as the fisherman walked upstream to catch a fish.

b04-fishing-big-creek

Our RV campsite is not level so the bottom step to get in the motorhome is high off the ground.  Andy found two pieces of wood on our site and laid a board across them to make a step. Then, for several days in a row, he would add another board or two.  I told him he had made me consider spending the big bucks for one of those steps made for that purpose in the camping store. I had to admit that it is functional.

We stopped by the Walmart on our way back from Big Creek and found a cheap plastic step. Andy set it in front of his work of art and tried it. He decided the plastic step so much better than his that he dismantled his wooden one.  I took a picture first.

b05-jenga-steps