the road to nowhere

Lakeside Drive.  It was a typical enough road, climbing out of downtown as it took us past a school and houses and farms.  Typical enough, at least, until we rounded a corner and saw the sign that let us know we were on the Road to Nowhere.

Fontana Lake is beautiful.  Mountains drop straight down to its’ tourquoise-green waters while fish jump and bald eagles fly overhead.  It twists and turns through 30 miles and is so remote that you rarely see another boat.  But, it’s what’s underneath the lake that is the most interesting.


In the 1940’s, WWII had finally reached America and an increase in aluminum was needed for wartime efforts.  The rugged and remote valley of the Little Tennessee River was chosen to create a dam to produce electricity for the ALCOA aluminum plant in Tennessee as well as for Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Manhattan Project.  

The valley was filled with small towns.  People who had been there for generations, working in mines or for lumber companies.  People who loved the beauty and isolation of the area.  Old Highway 288 connected these communities to each other and to their cemeteries.  But, because of the war, things moved fast and, before they knew it, more than 1300 families were forced to leave the area.  The TVA built the dam, the tallest in the east, in a little over two years and Fontana Lake was formed, submerging the towns and Highway 288 far below.

The towns were gone but the Federal government promised to replace Highway 288 with a new road.  The road was to hug the north shore of Fontana Lake from Bryson City to Fontana, providing a way for the former residents to have access to the generations that remained behind in the old family cemeteries.

Construction began on Lakeview Drive in Bryson City.  The road entered the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and everything was going well until an environmental issue halted construction.  The issue was eventually resolved, but construction of the road never resumed.


The road now follows the lake about six miles into the park and abruptly ends at a tunnel.  It truly is a “Road to Nowhere”.   You can now park at the tunnel and hike through it.  Once through the tunnel, the asphalt ends and half finished guard rails give way to hiking trails that continue around the lake.  



 And the cemeteries still remain, more quiet and isolated than ever.  The only way to access them is by hiking in or taking a ferry that the Park Service offers during the summer so former residents can visit their ancestors.  One of the only reminders that this was once a valley filled with small towns bustling with activity.
Below is a map of the area.  You can reach the tunnel by taking Lakeview Dr. East (aka the Road to Nowhere) out of Bryson City.  The road ends at a parking area near the tunnel.

the most romantic picnic spot

It’s difficult to find a more beautiful place than the Smoky Mountains in June.  Spring’s lush green is everywhere.  Colorful wildflowers blanket the hillside.  The sun sets late, slipping slowly behind the mountains as lightening bugs flicker in the evening sky.  The heat and humidity of later months has yet to arrive.  And, best of all, the rhododendrons are in full bloom.


Catawba Rhododendrons, native to the Southern Appalachians, bloom in late-May at lower elevations and in mid-June higher up. The purple-pink bloom lasts only for a short time but is beautiful. One of the best places to view them is at the Roan Mountain Gardens on the North Carolina side of the NC/TN state line.  

Here you can wander through a naturally occurring rhododendron garden high up at an elevation of over 6000 feet. The main path is paved so it is accessible to most people. The bushes are dense and, when in bloom, make for a magical hike.


But the best part are the picnic areas. Tucked away in corners of the park are picnic areas. Moss covered tables nestled under pines and the rhodendrons. As the flowers fall they cover the ground creating a pink carpet. A fairytale setting for a romantic picnic!

You can find more information about Roan Mountain Gardens, including its exact location, here.




anything’s possible

My favorite month of the year is June.  

June is a month of possibilities.  It’s when all is new.  Bright green leaves, colorful flowers making even the stubbornest weed look a thing of beauty, newborn deer covered in spots peak up from their grassy hiding spots.  And summer; summer is new.  Stretched out before you seemingly endless.  Anything can happen in June.


There’s always enough time in June.  Always enough time for the adventure.  The sun hangs in the bright blue sky forever beckoning you out to play, to explore, to  relax.  To go somewhere.  Anywhere.

But my favorite time, my favorite part about June, is the evenings.  Day slips into a never ending twilight.  Darkness never comes.  The day’s heat leaves yet the air is still wam, wrapping around you like a blanket.  This is the time of many of my favorite memories and a favorite time to create new ones.

So get out there!

Catch a sunset.  June seems to have some amazing ones and the lateness of them means there’s time.

Catch an outdoor concert.  Music always sounds better outside watching the sun go down and the stars pop out one by one.

Build a campfire. Invite friends over.  Make s’mores, drink wine, tell stories, bring out the guitar.

Take a walk.  The world seems different in the twilight as darkness falls.  More mysterious.  You’ll notice things you never would see in daylight.

And, or course, if you live east of the Rockies, catch fireflies.  Let them light up as they crawl around your hand and then watch them fly off.  Blinking, heading higher and higher into the sky.

There’s still time!  What will you do this June?

the burning town

It was cold, the kind of bright icy cold that takes your breath away as soon as you step outside.  We had not felt cold like that yet this season, but the bright early morning sun pushed us to get out of the car and explore.  After all, we had driven well out of our way, twisting and turning through the mountains to get to here.  To…really nothing, at least not anymore.

Anthracite coal.  It’s discovery is how it all started and is the reason why there are so many towns tucked into the Appalachian Mountains of Northeast Pennsylvania.  These are small towns, difficult to get to, and far from major highways.  Towns where time seems to move forward at a slower pace.  Towns where you have to have a reason to go to.  It was here where we found ourselves on that icy winter morning, traveling through the deep dark hills to a town that was on fire.    Continue reading “the burning town”

adventure in the Kentucky bend

Summer was over.  Our carefree days were about to end.  Soon all of the busyness of the season would return.  School, sports, activities, meetings; all would fill our days.  But we had time for one last road trip.  One last trip to explore and discover.  One last trip together with no need to rush.

We choose one of the most out of the way places we could find for our adventure.  A place so difficult to  get to that it is isolated from its own state and, as of the 2000 census, only has 17 people living in it.  This area is called Kentucky Bend and, while it is part of Kentucky, it does not touch Kentucky at all and the only way to enter it is by one rural road.

The bend is a notch that was created from a tight loop of the Mississippi River which surrounds three sides of the bend.  The bend is tucked entirely into Missouri except for the bottom, which is connected to Tennessee and the only way into the area.  Not a single part of the Kentucky Bend actually touches Kentucky!

Continue reading “adventure in the Kentucky bend”

fall in the adirondacks

 The past couple weeks have been beautiful in Tennessee!  Sunny and warm with beautiful colors.  It’s amazing how you can see the color of the trees change day to day!  I was reminded of a post I wrote a few years ago about fall in my favorite place- the Adirondacks.  It is below.

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the loneliest place in new jersey

Our destination was Cape May. With its Victorian homes, seafood, long stretches of beaches, and lots and lots of people; it’s hard to get more New Jersey than Cape May. But our first stop was a place that was quite the opposite: quiet and abandoned and lonely. The town was Shell Pile, NJ.

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the road trip…with kids…and two run ins with the police

The road trip. It’s everyone’s dream; a topic of movies and songs and books. A summer must-do. We all have such a romantic view of it. Driving down back roads to never-before seen sights, singing your favorite songs, meeting new people, and trying the local food- what can be better?

But, reality is often very different! Especially with kids!

I had to go back to New Jersey for a few days. My husband stayed home, so it was just me and my three youngest kids (my oldest son was at camp). A road trip to New Jersey! This could be fun…well, define “fun”.

Continue reading “the road trip…with kids…and two run ins with the police”

moving to nashville

It was time for a change; something different. It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut, letting life go by doing the same things in the same place. It was time to break free.

So we have moved to Nashville! It’s the result of a year plus of research and planning. It should just be a better quality of life all around.

But moving is never easy! It can be a pain and has definitely been for us. We’re more or less settled in now, or at least as much as you can be in a tiny apartment (our house hasn’t sold yet- know anyone who wants a great house in N NJ?). It’s what happened leading up to the move that was…um…an adventure.
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the polar vortex vs spring

Hope was in the air this weekend!  You could feel it, hope that this winter might actually come to an end. 

Today I went for a run.  Sunny and 50 degrees felt amazing after so many weeks of freezing temperatures.  It has been a long time since I have run outside.  Cold, snow, and salted roads make it difficult.  But today I got outside.  No hat or gloves; nothing more than a pair of running pants and a shirt.

I ran on roads gray and slippery with salt.  The snow, despite 4 days above freezing, is still over a foot deep, but there was still a feel of spring.  A hope that, soon, things will change.  The sun shone brightly and as I ran I tipped my face towards it, loving the feel of warmth on my face.  Such a foreign feeling!  Birds flew overhead, a groundhog hopped about the snow, and I even saw a bug.  I ran so happy, feeling as though I had just been released from a prison.  Spring!  I remember you!

But, it’s come to an end. Continue reading “the polar vortex vs spring”