Day Trip from Nashville to Port Royal State Historic Park, Dunbar Caverns, Clarksville

In early summer 2017, Aleksi and I took a great day trip from Nashville, TN, up to Clarksville, a cute little town an hour north of Nashville, right on the border with Kentucky. Our first stop was the nearby Port Royal State Historic Park. This is a really neat park. Not only was it lush and gorgeous and filled with wildflowers, it has some fascinating history. Settled in the 1780’s, it was one of the earliest colonial communities and trading posts in Middle Tennessee. In the 19th Century, the town of Port Royal became a trading hub, thanks to its strategic location at the head of the Red River. Eventually, bigger trading towns rose up in the region and the town slowly disappeared. Today, all that’s left is one historic general store building, but there’s some great signage around to let you know what was once there.

The area is also significant because it sits right on the infamous Trail of Tears, the horrific forced march of thousands of Native Americans westward by the US government so that white colonists could take their ancestral lands. It was moving to stand on the old road where they would have walked, and a sober reminder of the foundation of cruelty and theft so much of American society is built on. The town of Clarksville itself is really cute. The star of the little historic downtown is a stunning Victorian building from the late 19th Century that once served as a customs office and now holds the local history and art museum (which is worth a visit, especially when you need to get out of the Tennessee summer heat). I had to a do a double take when I first saw the building because it’s not the kind of thing you expect to see in a little Tennessee town.  After wandering around downtown Clarksville, we ate an incredible lunch at Silke’s Old World Breads, a killer German-style bakery and lunch spot run by a German woman and her family. It was so fun to be in the middle of a small town in Tennessee and hear people behind the counter and in line speaking German! And their bread basket definitely satisfied some of my cravings for German bakeries that had plagued me since coming back from Berlin a few months earlier.

After lunch we checked out another nearby TN State Park, Dunbar Cave. There’s not too much to see there except the opening to the cave and the old concession area built in the 60’s. However, it’s got a really interesting history as a community gathering space and summer recreation area, thanks to the cool air that comes out of the mouth of the cave, which is one of the largest in the county (Middle Tennessee has endless caves, so that’s saying something). Definitely worth a stop by if you are in the area.


35mm taken with my Canon EOS Rebel 2000. Click here for more posts from Tennessee.

And don’t forget to check out my podcast about museums and travel, Museums in Strange Places, available on Apple Podcasts and wherever else you get your podcast fix.

Weekend Trip to Chattanooga and South Cumberland State Park

Back in April 2017, when I was still living in Nashville, Aleksi (who was visiting from London over Spring break) and I took a fantastic weekend camping/road trip down to South Cumberland State Park and Chattanooga. I’m sharing the Chattanooga photos first because they turned out so much nicer. (Fun fact about me, I am incapable of saying “Chattanooga” without humming the classic Glenn Miller tune. I probably watched The Glenn Miller Story with my grandma dozens of times growing up, so the tune is really nostalgic for me.)

South Cumberland is another fantastic Tennessee State Park. It’s known for a long hiking trail (with a great name), Fiery Gizzard Trail. But we decided to see the incredible waterfalls at each end of the trail the easy way, by driving between and enjoying the two shorter hikes instead of day/multi-day hike. We camped at the Foster Falls campground, which was a really lovely and peaceful spot in the woods.

After a day of camping, we popped down to Chattanooga. The downtown, touristy area in Chattanooga is really cute. They have a fantastic aquarium with interesting exhibits on fish around the world and in the local ecosystem as well as a really impressive art museum, the Hunter Museum of American Art, that’s held in three buildings: a historic 1850’s mansion, a brutalist structure from the 1970’s, and a stunning contemporary building cantilevered over the Tennessee River. The photo above is from outside the art museum and so are photos 5,6, and 7). 

35mm taken with my Canon EOS Rebel 2000. Click here for more posts from Tennessee.

And don’t forget to check out my podcast about museums and travel, Museums in Strange Places, available on Apple Podcasts and wherever else you get your podcast fix.

Burgess Falls State Park, Tennessee

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A few photos from an early-Spring 2017 day trip to Burgess Falls State Park, about an hour from Nashville, Tennessee. One of my favorite thing about living in Nashville for two years was the state park system. Tennessee has 56 state parks filled with gorgeous nature, waterfalls, caves, cliffs, and other amazing natural and man made features (some ancient). I went to Burgess Falls a few time while living in Nashville. As you walk along the trail through the woods, you can stop at three waterfalls of increasing size. It’s a wonderful day trip from Nashville, and if you go I highly recommend stopping at the Cafe Between the Parks (8272 Burgess Falls Rd, Baxter, TN 38544), a cozy family-run shop and lunch place between Burgess Falls and Cummins Falls (the latter is an amazing place to go swimming in the summer, FYI). burgessfalls2burgessfalls7

35mm taken with my Canon EOS Rebel 2000. Click here for more posts from Tennessee.

And don’t forget to check out my podcast about museums and travel, Museums in Strange Places, available on Apple Podcasts and wherever else you get your podcast fix.

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.]