Tennessee travel tales come to an end
July 5, 2013
Preparing to write this week's column, I "Googled" synonyms for procrastination. It was an appropriate exercise is "wordsmithing" because this week I put off, delayed, dawdled, loitered, paused, held off, dilly-dallied, drug my feet, hesitated, let slide, paused, postponed, shilly-shallied, stalled, tarried, temporized and suspended any attempt to write this column until today — FATHER'S DAY.
So, here I set at my computer on a national day of rest and recognition for all fathers — and I have nobody to blame but myself.
I'll finish my travelogue that I started last week about ol' Nevah's and my weeklong trip to Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia and Kentucky. After we left Pigeon Forge, Tenn., we headed east on Saturday morning and drove northeast along the foothills of the Smoky Mountains and into the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Our destination wuz Boone and Banner Elk, N.C., where our long-time friends, the Parks, have parked permanently — a beautiful place to live to escape the heat and humidity of summer and enjoy the ski slopes in winter.
We enjoyed two days of reminiscing with them since we haven't seen them in more than 20 years and spent a rainy Sunday touring the Blue Ridge high country. One highlight for me was a half-mile trek down to Linville Falls, a spectacular white water plunge through a crevasse in the mountainside. I also got my picture taken "doing ten" on the Appalachia Trail. I don't mean 10 miles either. I mean 10 steps. Did I mention it wuz raining?
Monday morning we bid our friends goodbye and headed north to Damascus, Va., where the Appalachia Trail comes down out of the mountains and hikers can rest up and refuel before hitting the trail again. The hikers were saw were a bedraggled bunch after spending a rainy day and night on the trail.
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We headed west across the western tip of Virginia and it was not nearly as mountainous as I figgered it would be. It was just mile after mile of rolling green country with a goodly amount of agriculture mixed in.
We entered southeastern Kentucky near Harlan and Hyden — two coal mining communities and the scenes of former coal mining disasters. I wanted to tour the coal mining museum, but we didn't have time to make that side-trip. So, we re-entered Tennessee at the tip of Virginia and did take the time to tour the Cumberland Gap historic site and heritage center. The history of pioneers making their way west through the only gap in the eastern mountains was fascinating.
From there we headed west through northern Tennessee, sort of, because there is no road that goes straight west in that region. All roads run southwest to northeast so we "zippered" our was across that part of the Volunteer State — go southwest 30 miles, then north 10 miles, then southwest another 30 miles. We went through several beautiful state parks and overnighted at Cookeville, 80 miles east of Nashville on the Interstate.
Tuesday we took our time getting to the Nashville airport and had an uneventful flight back to Kansas City and drive back to home sweet home in the Kansas Flint Hills.
Before I quit talking about this trip, I'll make several observations. First, for the whole trip we saw zero wildlife except for some squirrels. Didn't even see a dead deer on the road.
Second, for all the wonderful fescue pastures and meadows that were being baled for hay, I wondered where all the cattle were. From the roads we traveled, it looked to me like the whole region could support a much more vigorous cow-calf industry. We did see some cattle, but mostly we just saw excellent grass. Perhaps all the cattle were hiding.
Third, I wonder who owns the forested mountain tops that aren't in state or national parks. All the towns are what I call "linear communities," meaning they stretch out in the narrow valleys along rivers and streams. The lower parts of the mountains are cleared and populated, but there are virtually no fences heading off into the forests. So, I wonder who owns those privately-owned forested lands and what the property taxes are on them? Guess it'll take another trip to get that question answered.
Fourth, all the little tobacco patches are gone. No one is growing tobacco for cash and consumption like they used to. In the Blue Ridge mountain valleys, Christmas tree farms have apparently taken the place of tobacco. Elsewhere, I saw quite a lot of vegetable gardens. The whole trip I saw two small patches of tobacco.
Well, this ends my Tennessee travel tales. I'll close for this week with these words of wisdom about travel from Founding Father Thomas Jefferson: "One travels more usefully when alone, because he reflects more." And Benjamin Disraeli said, "I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I've seen." That last one describes me. Have a good 'un. ❖