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.




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”.

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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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reasons why Frozen has become an obsession in our house (can you releate?)

Frozen.  No, I don’t mean the weather outside although it would be appropriate during this colder and snowier than normal winter.  I’m referring to the Disney movie.  If you have kids of any age, I’m sure you’ve seen it.  The movie is good, really good.  More like a musical complete with Broadway stars playing the main roles.  The music is amazing.  I’m sure it will be on Broadway within a couple of years.    In case you haven’t seen it, below is a scene from the movie.

Continue reading “reasons why Frozen has become an obsession in our house (can you releate?)”

a hike of legends and death

Last month, on a beautiful fall day, we decided to go on a hike.  The day was perfect: bright blue skies to serve as the perfect backdrop to the reds and oranges and golds of the changing leaves.  The day was unseasonably warm which was a good thing because we were headed to a corner of New Jersey known for its history of death and mystery.

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an elephant on the jersey shore

 

The Jersey Shore!  Home to sun, surf, sand, and elephants.

Elephants?!!

That’s what I thought when my sister asked me if we wanted to join them on a visit to Lucy the Elephant on our way down to Cape May.  “It’s only the oldest example of Zoomorphic Architecture out there”, my brother-in-law said. I can’t resist anything old and unique so of course I said yes! Continue reading “an elephant on the jersey shore”

a little dirt never hurt: a mud run for kids

It was early morning and the day was already warm.  I walked around the empty field, enjoying the stillness of the morning, yet nervous because everything had to be perfect.  I looked down and breathed a sigh of relief because of what I saw in front of me.  Soupy, wet, thick mud.  Perfect!

It all started when I convinced a bunch of my friends that we should sign up together for a mud run.  A mud run, in case you don’t know, is a race involving obstacles and, of course, mud!  These are extremely popular events right now!  In just 2 years these events have gone from 41,000 participants to 1.5 million! Most events are for adults only or have a kid version of the event before the actual event, but I realized there are virtually no for kid only mud runs.  And who loves mud and obstacles more than kids?  I decided to change that and create a kid’s mud run! Continue reading “a little dirt never hurt: a mud run for kids”

what winning really looks like

Basketball season ended last week.  It was a great season all around for all of my kids, even my 4 year old.  She learned to dribble the ball while watching all of those practices from the sidelines!  I am proud of the improvements that they all made and joy they had in playing the sport.

I was one of the coaches for my 4th grade daughter’s team.  The term coach should be used very loosely here, but I did what I could (my husband and two other men were the main coaches!).  During the games I had the privilege of sitting on the bench with the girls and rotating them into the game.  It was so much fun!  Here, I had the opportunity to really get to know the girls.  Their true personalities came out as they played ball and watched their teammates compete. Continue reading “what winning really looks like”

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.

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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”