TN: Great Smoky Mountains National Park


Rather than fly or drive straight to Maryland for this past Christmas (2016), Aleksi and I decided to rent a car and make a road trip out of it. We took two days to get to Maryland. On the first day, we stopped to hike in the Great Smoky Mountains outside Gatlinburg, TN and spent the night in Johnson City. Our day two stop was one of my childhood favorites: the Natural Bridge in Virginia. After a few days in Maryland enjoying family and friends, we headed down to Asheville, NC, where we spent a few lovely days before driving back up to Nashville via Nantahala National Forest and Chattanooga.

The area we hiked in the Smokies was hit by the severe forest fires that affected the region in November 2016. During the first half of the hike, the forest smelled faintly of smoke and had little to no underbrush growing. Not many trees had been felled by the fire, but many trunks were blackened at the bottoms. Once we got higher up, there was a clear line where the fire had not gone, and it was shocking to see the lush undergrowth that should have extended all the way down the mountain. It certainly made for an interesting hike, although it was sad to think of those who had been killed or displaced by the fires.

 [35mm taken with my Canon EOS Rebel 2000. For more pictures of Tennessee, click here.]

Natchez Trace Parkway (Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee)


After almost a week in Alabama and Louisiana–including a day in Lafayette, Louisiana, and a night spent on a houseboat Airbnb on the Vermillion River, none of which I seem not to have photographed–a we rounded off our amazing 2016 Southern Road Trip with a two day drive up the Natchez Trace Parkway, starting in Jackson Mississippi, spending the night in Tupelo (birthplace of Elvis Presley), crossing through a corner of Alabama, and finishing up only 30 minutes from Nashville. 

What was so neat about driving through 400 miles of this pristine strip of parkland was how drastically the landscape changed from start to finish. I’d love to spend more time on the Parkway one day and go all the way to its end in Natchez, Mississippi.

 [35mm taken with my Canon EOS Rebel 2000. For more photos of my 2016 roadtrip through the South, click here.]

The Hike to Sunset Rock in Lookout Mountain, TN

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Last spring I went on a weekend trip with a new friend to hike. We hiked 14 miles across the Tennessee border into Georgia and back out again on the Bluff and Gum Spring Trails before ending up, exhausted, at Sunset Rock, where we had a grand finale of an overlook after over an hour of great views as we walked along the Bluff trail, which follows the base of bluffs on Lookout Mountain. (That’s me below enjoying the view before begging water off other hikers).

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After the hike, we grabbed dinner in Chattanooga, then headed back up to Falls Creek Falls, where we pitched our tent (lousy camping FYI). The next day we did some easy hiking to see the beautiful waterfalls in the park, then headed up to Cookeville (pronounced Coke-ville) for a Mothers Day brunch at a great New Orleans style restaurant.

 

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While I’m always down for weekend adventures, this may have been one of my most spontaneous trips ever. I’d been using Bumble’s BFF feature to meet new friends. I met up at Bar Taco in Nashville on a Thursday to get drinks with a woman I’d been chatting to on the app. While eating, we realized we both had been looking for folks to go camping with us that weekend. So, that Friday, we met up to adventure together. I love those moments when you connect with someone and instantly make adventure plans. It was a great weekend. My toenails are still healing today, almost a year later, from the damage my too-small boots did, but it was worth the pain!
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[35mm taken with my Canon EOS Rebel 2000. Click here for more photos of Tennessee.]

Native American Ruins at Old Stone Fort in Manchester, Tennessee

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Old Stone Fort in Coffee County, Tennessee (about an hour and some change south of Nashville, also home of Bonnaroo) is not a fort. When it was discovered by white settlers, they mis-identified it as a fort, and the name has stuck. In fact, the stone walls covered in earth works were created by Native Americans in the Middle Woodland Period (1,500-2,000 years ago). The site has been studied by archeologists on and off since the 60’s, but we still don’t know for sure what it was used for. The low wall is build along the edge of a peninsula created by the confluence of two rivers. The placement of the entrance to the large clearing within the wall suggests the area was used for ceremonial purposes.

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There are some interpretive panels around the site that can tell you more, but they are rather old. You can’t really see much of the wall, since it’s covered in earth and forest growth, but the site itself is a great place to walk around and explore for a few hours. There are a few little waterfalls and you plenty of paths to take you down by the rivers. There are also some ruins from civil-war era mills here and there. Aleksi and I drove down there last spring, and had a grand old time. I highly recommend it if you are looking for a nice half-day trip from Nashville.

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[35mm taken with my Canon EOS Rebel 2000. Click here for more photos of Tennessee.]

Cherry Blossom Surprise

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Back in March, I was surprised and delighted to find that the scrawny little tree in my front yard was in fact a cherry tree. It had some truly lovely blooms, which I captured on one of those strange-light afternoons where the sun peeks out from under the clouds in between bursts of rain. blossoms5

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blossoms6 [35mm taken with my Canon EOS Rebel 2000. Click here for more photos of Tennessee.]

Nashville: East Hill in the Snow

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While we don’t get much snow here in Nashville, last year in early January, we got 7-8 inches in one beautiful morning. Then the sun came out, and I walked around my neighborhood, East Hill, enjoying the crisp air and bright, fluffy snow while it lasted.

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[35mm taken with my Canon EOS Rebel 2000. Click here for more photos of Tennessee.]