The Segregated State Park

Tennessee is a beautiful state with amazing state parks. Parks that range from high mountain peaks to the Mississippi delta, from battle fields to Native American burial grounds, from gorgeous blue lakes to diverse river systems. There’s just so much beauty and variety. So, I’ve made it a goal of mine to visit every state park in Tennessee in 2018. Below is my story of my adventure at one park.

The day, which had begun cool and damp, had turned into a perfect evening full of sun and warmth and the promise of spring on the breeze. It beckoned me to get outside and explore someplace new. So I decided to add another state park to my list- Booker T. Washington State Park.

Continue reading “The Segregated State Park”

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.

an unlikely adventure

If you have kids I’m sure you know how quickly you can reach that moment; that moment when things suddenly cross the line.

The other day I was home with my kids and things were going well.  The girls had dressed up and were having a tea party and the boys were building robots and swords.  I was curled up reading a book when I heard a sniff next to me.


I looked up to see my son standing there crying because his brother had made him (made him??) eat a rubber ball and the girls were “being mean”.  I got up at went into the other room to find my youngest daughter holding our 17-year-old cat upside down while her sister had managed to find every single nail polish bottle we own.  My other son meanwhile had decided that the family room was a good place to eat chips.  The room was trashed!   I mean stuff was everywhere.

We had reached the line!

“That’s it” I yelled, “it’s time to get out of here.  It’s time for an adventure.” Continue reading “an unlikely adventure”

we’re not lost, really…

This past Sunday we decided to go on a short hike with some friends.  It was a decent winter day and we were ready for a hike; it had been awhile.  The hike was at  Wildcat Ridge Hawk Watch, a 4.5 mile loop that would bring us through hills and valleys, past remnants of mining, and up to a lookout/hawk watch with great views of the surrounding area.  We met in the parking lot and on went the hats, gloves, and winter coats on top of the two or three layers of clothes I had already made the kids wear.  My husband just shook his head, but you can always take off layers…  Next we got out our Kelty backpack, ready to be used when our youngest got tired, and out came the items from our last hike: 5 rocks, a half empty water bottle, unidentifiable crumbs, and what I think was once a flower; either that or a dehydrated caterpillar.  We then packed it with the essentials: water, granola bars, space blanket, first aid kit, wipes, lighter, and a bag of toys for our geocaching.   I put the 30 pound, childless pack on and off we went on our nice little hike.  But it turns out we had more of an adventure than we bargained for. Continue reading “we’re not lost, really…”

Chubby Buffalo

My outdoor life changed two years ago.   Daylight savings time had just started but March in New Jersey is often bleak.  Spring with its warmth and new life still felt a long way off so it was the perfect time to plan a summer vacation.  I was looking at a tourism website of a possible location when I saw a section about geocaching.  I had read about the activity in the past but never paid much attention, but this time I decided to do some research.  I went to a geocaching website and what I learned got me more and more excited. Continue reading “Chubby Buffalo”