I’ve started working on a two travel-related stories for the summer issues of both American Spirit and Nashville Lifestyles magazines. One will explore five waterfalls in Middle Tennessee to hike, climb and swim in this summer. The other will highlight 10 unique roadside attractions that are worth pulling over for on your next road trip. In the spirit of travel and adventure, I’ve compiled a list of local destinations to hit when the weather is more consistently favorable:
Man-made treehouse in Crossville, Tenn. Treehouses aren’t always for children. The one built by Horace Burgess in Crossville, Tenn., stands over 97 feet tall and takes up about 8,000 square feet. Built around an 80-foot white oak tree, Burgess’ tree house has 11 floors, and it includes a miniature basketball court, a chapel and several porches. He told one news outlet that he built it with God’s help.
See Rock City. You can’t traverse Tennessee on I-40 without seeing barns, buildings and road signs imploring you to “See Rock City.” Unfortunately, I haven’t made the trip to the trail, which lies just outside Chattanooga. The self-guided path is said to contain a 100-foot waterfall, a 1,000-ton balanced rock, a swinging bridge, the legendary view of seven states from Lover’s Leap — and something called Fairytale Caverns and Mothergoose Village. Sounds like shenanigans to me.
Mammoth Cave. I tried to go to Mammoth Cave once when I was in college, but that’s another story. The portion of Mammoth Cave that you can tour is part of the longest known cave system in the world. So far, 390 miles have been explored. 390 miles! If you take the historic tour of the cave, you can cross a bottomless pit, learn about old mining systems, and discover what prehistoric visitors saw when they first discovered the caves. I want to take the River Styx tour, though, because the name is cooler and you can learn about underground rivers, which are still moving and widening the cave system. I took that tour when I was a kid, and they told me that the fish in the rivers don’t have eyes. Evolution.
Maker’s Mark Distillery. I stopped by the Maker’s Mark distillery on my last trip to Kentucky, but I couldn’t tour the facility because it was 80 degrees outside, and there was a sad, hot golden retriever in the backseat of my car. I’ll be back this Spring to taste whiskey and learn about the making of hand-hewed whiskey barrels.
Honey Creek Trail at Big South Fork. This trail came as a recommendation from a dear and trusted friend. All sources agree that the trail is beautiful, but strenuous, so it will take a good portion of the day to do it. According to various websites, the trail holds a number of Rhododendron bushes, so I would like to make time to hike it when they bloom in the spring. There are overhangs, cliffs, waterfalls, boulders to climb, and streams to cross. I’ll need to wear my hiking boots.
Swimming Hole on the Fiery Gizzard Trail. I hiked part of the Fiery Gizzard Trail when it was 60 degrees on New Year’s Eve. One our three-mile journey, we came across a small waterfall that leads into a great swimming hole, and I made a mental note to return when the river is warm, so I can swim with a golden retriever and some good friends. Recently, this trail was saved by the Land Trust for Tennessee and the Friends of the South Cumberland State Recreation Area. Portions of the trail were owned by a timber logging company, but they were required to sell it back to the state, and now the trail — which is considered to be one of Tennessee’s most beautiful hikes–is safe. Let’s take advantage of it.