Dawdle: Sweetwater and Star Walk

On Monday morning, October 2, 2017 weekend campers cleared out from Harrison Bay State Park and only about a quarter of the sites in campground C were still occupied.

Image: Campground C on a Weekday

Campground C on a Weekday

Our little Lily was more exposed, but the wonky triangular camp set-up we had configured still worked well enough.

Image: Site 18 Set-Up

Site 18 Set-Up

The site had a small strip of woods to view from the shelter set in back and we enjoyed the quiet of sitting in its shade, feeling the light cool breezes of warm early autumn weather.

Image: Woods at site 18, Campground C

Woods at site 18, Campground C

We had planned to drive into Chattanooga for a touristy boat ride, but changed our minds. The city is just a day trip from home and we have visited a lot of its sights. The boat ride could wait for another time.

The little town of Sweetwater, TN had come on my radar while researching viewing sites for the Total Solar Eclipse. I thought it “sweet”, and business savvy, of a little town to invite basically anyone and everyone to their front row seat of the once-in-a-lifetime event. I imagined the town was back to normal now. It had appeared to be a picturesque little place. So, driving to Sweetwater became our destination for a late lunch.

The layout of Sweetwater is definitely driven by its many small businesses and, seemingly a history with lack of zoning. It has a scatterbrained mix of manufacturing buildings, business lots, store fronts and offices; with a type of landscaped town center thrown in.

Image: Sweetwater, TN Historic District

Sweetwater, TN Historic District

Instead of a prominent court house square, in the part of town we saw there is more a rectangle with a long silver train car and a gazebo (perhaps bandstand) tacked on at one end. In front, the gleaming train car is surrounded by a stand of flags and various memorial markers, crowded with shrubs and flowers. The street parking doesn’t surround the park area. There’s a variety of types of street parking and a confusing tangle of intersections, with walkers probably making a mad dash across heavy traffic from some angles in order to reach this town centerpiece.

Image: Sweetwater Train, Back Side

Sweetwater Train, Back Side

While the landscaping on the back side of the train is kept plain and simple.

Image: The Hunter's Cafe, Exterior

The Hunter’s Cafe, Exterior

We parked on a dead end side street, and walked over to the corner restaurant: The Hunter’s Cafe. While there, Earl texted with our daughter who lives near Las Vegas and we learned of the tragic mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip. The pain and heartbreak of victims, their friends’ and families’ trauma, will last far beyond the single day of the tragic event. We are left to consider what each person must do to help make the nation’s laws and values safer for every American.

Image: The Hunter's Cafe, Interior

The Hunter’s Cafe, Interior

Meanwhile we are sitting in the cheerful interior of  a renovated and clean restaurant, with comfortable seating. Small town USA.

The menu had soups, salads and sandwiches with a few entrees and desserts. (Standard fare, nothing stand out, but we are city folk and our perspective is totally spoilt from living near numerous dining choices.) Earl’s Cream of Broccoli soup was thin, watery, probably just made with milk. Our chicken salad sandwiches and were tasty and fresh. We ordered a piece of Carrot Cake and Apple Cake for take-out, which were both delicious and moist over the next two days.

Image: Sweetwater, TN Sidewalk View in Autumn

Sweetwater, TN Sidewalk View in Autumn

The restaurant was on a city block to one side of the train. The town’s sidewalks were decorated for autumn and Halloween. I especially liked the lamppost banners which each highlight a different historical building and business sponsor.

Image: Sweetwater, TN Depot and Visitor's Center

Sweetwater, TN Depot and Visitor’s Center

From the sidewalk, we saw a glimpse of what looked to be a small train depot building in back of the train, so we hopped into the car and rambled around to take a look at it before leaving town. The Sweetwater Depot serves as the town’s Visitor’s Center and was closed on this afternoon.

Back at Harrison Bay State Park we spent some time roaming around to find a good site to stargaze.

Friday night I had woke up and opened the trailer’s door to see a few very bright stars through our campsite’s canopy of trees. I thought twice before doing it, but woke Earl up to enjoy the sight with me. We sat on a cool bench of the picnic table and enjoyed the view of the stars together. On Saturday and Sunday night there were clouds. With luck the clouds would clear away for good stargazing on our last night in camp.

Image: Harrison Bay SP StarWalk Sign

Harrison Bay SP Star Walk

Yes, Harrison Bay State Park has Star Walk an amazing plot of land with a cleared circular path and stations with glow in the dark lettering to “enlighten” people about the stars.

Image: Harrison Bay SP Star Walk Project

Harrison Bay SP Star Walk Project

We went to check out the Star Walk area about sun down and noticed a few problems.

Unfortunately, at night there just seemed to be access to the Star Walk from the public road into the park. Each campground and the main road to the campground area has a gate, any of which may be locked closed at 10 PM. Plus, if we did get to drive up the long road to the campground entrance, in order to crawl through or walk around that gate, there’s no parking on the camp side.

Also, there is a bank of extremely bright security lights at a store on the public road facing the Star Walk. On the opposite side, within the state park entrance by the Star Walk, there is a single brightly lit flag pole.

So, we scouted around the state park more and came up with a alternative site, still without total darkness, more workable for stargazing in one direction. There’s an area beyond campground C that has picnic tables down a slight hill with a lake view.

Image: Picnic Area at Sunset

Picnic Area at Sunset

It does have some light poles at the hilltop in the parking area, but they don’t seem excessively bright. Campers can walk through the small stand of trees from the campground area to that picnic area, so you just have to be brave enough to do so at night.

As it ended up life did not give us any luck Monday night, the clouds lingered.

So, we got a good night’s rest and packed up Tuesday morning. We took time to pull over for a few last photos of the area before heading towards Interstate 75, homeward bound.

Image: Harrison Bay SP Sign

Harrison Bay SP Sign

Image: Neighborhood Day Use Area by Harrison Bay, TN

Neighborhood Day Use Area by Harrison Bay, TN

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Dawdle: The Cherohala Skyway

After a nice sleep-in and late breakfast on Sunday, October 1, 2017 we headed out towards Telico Plains, TN, about 1 1/2 hours from Harrison Bay State Park. The focus of our day was to drive on The Cherohala Skyway which runs 43 miles between Telico Plains, TN and Robbinsville, NC.

A few miles down the road, at a day use pull-off near Harrison Bay, we stopped to take photos of another part of the lake.

Image: Chickamauga Lake, TN

Chickamauga Lake, TN

Suddenly one of us noticed a nuclear warning sign and glancing around, we saw why! Upstream was the tell-tale vapor stacks of the Sequoyah Nuclear Plant in operation.

Image: Sequoyah Nuclear Plant, TN

Sequoyah Nuclear Plant, TN

It was just unexpected to see the serenity of nature juxtaposed with potential man-made mayhem. A jolting reminder that the mind’s focus may filter out a great deal of surrounding information. As we left the area in our car, we made nervous jokes about what the sign could actually say! (After our return in the evening, we saw we had even missed the same warning sign posted by the campground’s bathhouse.)

FullSizeRender

Traveling on towards the skyway, we traveled beautiful rolling countryside that included parts of the original Trail of Tears and onward through a major rural industrial park area. Added to the fact that Harrison Bay State Park, the oldest in Tennessee, was initially segregated (plus the looming nuclear plant): it seemed history and science were entwined in our experience of the day.

As we reached the main drag of Etowah, TN, I saw a parking lot sign for The Hiwassee River Rail Adventures. We swung around at the post office and returned to check out an information board.

Image: Hiwassee River Rail Adventures, Etowah, TN

Hiwassee River Rail Adventures, Etowah, TN

Across a walkway was the town’s large historic depot which houses a train museum and offices. There were a few seats available on a train about to leave the station, but since we had not had lunch we did not feel ready to take it.

Image: Historic Train Depot, Etowah, TN

Historic Train Depot, Etowah, TN

After checking our schedule, we bought tickets to return for a train excursion three weeks away. This season has been dry in the area and autumn foliage colors are not expected be the best, but we still look forward to experiencing the train route.

Further along, we swung into the downtown square at Tellico Plains and saw people sitting under bright green umbrellas on a patio at The Cotton Pickin’ Inn that also claims a Diner and Pickin’ Hall. It was a pleasant surprise to see a local restaurant open on a Sunday.

Image: Cotton Pickin' Inn, Tellico Plains, TN

Cotton Pickin’ Inn, Diner and Pickin’ Hall, Tellico Plains, TN

We enjoyed a nice lunch and friendly service there in the pleasant outdoor seating and learned that the pickin’ begins at 6 PM on Saturdays. So, we may be able to return for the music after our train trip in three weeks.

Leaving Tellico Plains, TN, we saw a beautiful covered bridge next to the highway on private property. We pulled into a Harley Davidson’s store parking lot to stop to take photos of the bridge. Interestingly, the store had a park-like walkway to a tidy wooden building that is a restroom provided for Motorcycle riders starting or finishing The Cherohala Skyway. There were also electrical posts in a grassy area, which seemed to me to be there to accommodate tents or market stalls.

Image: Covered Bridge, Tellico Plains, TN

Covered Bridge, Tellico Plains, TN

After taking bridge photos from the little “Harley Park”, Earl wanted a different angle. I u-turned our car and pulled into a gravel area directly across the street from the bridge.

Image: Covered Bridge side view, Tellico Plains, TN

Covered Bridge side view, Tellico Plains, TN

While Earl walked down the road to take more pictures of the covered bridge, I took a closer look at signs along the edge of the parking space. They turned out to be Civil War historical markers.

Image: Historical Marker, Tellico Plains, TN

Historical Marker, Tellico Plains, TN

We were starting The Cherohala Skyway in lush greenery, driving along the Tellico River. There are numerous waterways coming down the mountains, so it gets difficult to keep track of their names along the route. At this point, in a dry season, the river had a shallow flow through a wide rocky gully.

Image: Tellico River

Tellico River

The skyway is known for its many curves, for cutting through both the Cherokee and Natahala National Forests, and for views that compare to those along The Blue Ridge Parkway. Its designations as National Scenic Byway and National Forest Scenic Byway are well deserved!

Image: Along the Cherohala Skyway

Along the Cherohala Skyway

We expected the skyway to be crowded with motorcycles, bike riders and vehicles on a Sunday afternoon, but The Cherohala Skyway is not as well known as, as long as, or as crowded as, the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Image: Mountain Views, Cherohala Skyway

Mountain Views, Cherohala Skyway

As the elevation climbed, there were overlooks for valley views and distant mountains vistas. We made it to 4,470 feet, at The Unicoi Gap Overlook, and decided turn around to head back to our campsite long before the darkness of evening made mountain driving difficult. We will just have to plan to enter the skyway from its North Carolina side to complete the route one day.

There was time and daylight left to stop at a couple of overlooks on the way back down. Our overall favorite was our last of the day, which overlooked a valley dotted with a few lakes. In the past the valley was home to the Cherokee.

Image: Valley Home of the Cherokee

Valley Home of the Cherokee

To top off the beautiful view, before we even had time to react with dropped jaws, we were buzzed by a military jet zooming through the valley and banking sharply in front of us,

On the last few miles of the skyway,  we were behind a beautiful little covered wagon.

Image: Covered Wagon on The Cherohala Skyway

Covered Wagon on The Cherohala Skyway

Then back through the town of Tellico Plains and right to the farmer’s gate, we followed the covered wagon to its home.

Image: Covered Wagon, Tellico Plains, TN

Covered Wagon, Tellico Plains, TN

Later I read about the role that townspeople and covered wagons played in bringing The Cherohala Skyway to fruition. Read the story here.

Our return trip to Harrison Bay State Park continued to be interesting as we noticed photo ops of local color along the way.

Image: Old building made from small stones, TN

Old building made from small stones, TN

Image: Flight of a Heron, TN

Flight of a Heron, TN

 

Entering the park, we decided to head to the marina to catch the sunset. We watched from the cafe’s deck until lackluster colors faded.

Image: Sunset from Marina Deck Cafe

Sunset from Marina Deck Cafe

As we walked to our parking spot, there was a glorious burst of vivid colors as the sun’s finale.

Image: Harrison Bay State Park Marina Sunset

Harrison Bay State Park Marina Sunset

Sighting deer on the road back to the campsite was a nice calm touch to close our day’s outing.

Postscript

Sadly, Monday morning as I reviewed this post’s rough draft and double checked names of locations online, I came across news that explained the police, fire and ambulance vehicles we pulled over to let pass while leaving Tellico Plains, TN on Sunday evening.

I struggled a bit over whether or not to add our memory of the military jet we saw to this post, but decided that the last moments of the pilots’ lives and their service to our country deserve to be remembered and acknowledged with our deep appreciation. Rest In Peace.

http://wate.com/2017/10/01/monroe-county-sheriffs-office-responds-to-reports-of-a-plane-crash-in-tellico-plains/

http://www.knoxnews.com/story/news/local/2017/10/01/monroe-sheriff-plane-crash-reported-tellico-plains/721602001/

Miles 1761 – 1938

Saturday was a lazy day as we decompressed while staying close by our campsite during a return trip to Harrison Bay State Park, TN.

Image: Vistabule Interior: Tables and Sofa

Vistabule Interior: Tables and Sofa

After a quick breakfast of coffee, homemade cinnamon bread and peach salsa, I took interior shots of Lily to fulfill a request made by VT Teardrop Travelers. (Organizational details for the cabin will follow mid-week.)

Image: Vistabule Foot Wells

Vistabule: Foot Wells for Seating

The lowered floorboard serves as foot wells to provide a comfortable seating position while the futon is folded up. It also extends under the seat to provide storage.

Image: Vistabule Storage Wells

Vistabule Storage Wells

The elevated section of the floor under the large window has two lids covering storage compartments in underneath wells. There are screened air vents at the bottom of each side wall.

Image: Vistabule Storage Wall

Vistabule Storage Wall

When the futon is slid forward as a bed, the air conditioner and additional storage cabinets are visible.

Image: Vistabule Futon as Bed

Vistabule Futon as Bed

We can enjoy a landscape view out of the large window from the futon’s seated or sleeping position, with our heads at the storage wall.

Image: Vistabule Bed

Vistabule Bed Position

We can also change position and place our heads under the large window in order to look up at the night sky, or to hang a screen against the storage wall and project a movie.

Added Notes:

There are reading lights mounted on both sides at either end of the cabin and a room light beside each entry door.

My husband is 5′ 10″ and has several inches of space above his head when seated on the futon in sofa or bed position. I actually measured his chair seat to head to compare against cabin height measurements while shopping for a teardrop trailer.

We have a net (that came with our Walmart changing room tent) which fits the space under the large window. So far, we have not needed the extra storage, but may want to use it once we take longer trips

.

Throw Back Thursday – Trailers

The photo below of my mother and her girlfriends was taken in front of my parents’ temporary travel trailer home. I believe it was shot the summer of 1948 in Beaufort, South Carolina.

Image: 1948 Trailer

Trailer, summer of 1948, Beaufort, South Carolina

Gene, my mother, is the beauty standing on the left. She would have been twenty-one years old, a young mother of a year old daughter.

Bill, my father, back from war was stationed at Parris Island and the trailer park was filled with young Marine couples. After my sister was born at the Naval Hospital in Beaufort, South Carolina, they felt lucky to be able to move into that small trailer.

My parents had started married life with shared quarters, renting a single bedroom in a family home in Beaufort.

Four years after the photo of the women and the trailer was taken, I was born in my father’s home state of Kansas. By that time my father had left the military and began working at Boeing Aircraft Company in Wichita.

Later, my dad switched to working Civil Service with the Air Force and He gained generous vacation time. Each year my parents would wait for their tax return to pay for our camping trip, anywhere from $100 to $300!

Endless ham sandwiches and stopping at every free historical site along the way were the hallmarks of my parent’s method of travel. We camped through about 40 states in the fifties and sixties.

In the early sixties, our family graduated from tent camping out of our yellow Rambler station wagon into a green and white Dreamer truck camper on a white automatic Chevrolet short bed pickup truck.

Image: camper on ferry

Dreamer Camper on ferry across the Mississippi River

During our family trips south to visit my mother’s relatives, a couple of times we veered over to Beaufort, SC to call upon my parents’ first landlord and his family. So, as a school aged child, though the trailer park was gone, I actually got to see the little bedroom my parents had rented as newlyweds.

Little did I know that, about forty years after that picture of the women in front of the trailer, a job would pluck me from Indiana to live for three years in Beaufort, South Carolina.

Miles 1744 – 1760

This morning we hitched up Lily to take her to a museum parking lot for a show and tell meet-up with a wonderful young couple.

This is our second time officially helping out Vistabule when potential customers from our area contact the company for a showing. I previously forgot to add the short distance involved to Lily’s trip record. So, the number of miles from her storage room to the museum and back are doubled in today’s title. That corrects the grand total Lily has traveled.

Afterwards, we had lunch overlooking a nearby lake in Red Top Mountain State Park. With our annual parking pass for Georgia State Parks there was no additional cost.

During trips to Lily’s storage room, we try to add little new-to-us adventures along the way. On the way home, we also explored two U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Day Use Areas that are along the Etowah River.

Image: Etowah River, Georgia

Etowah River, Georgia

These sites really surprised us. First, we visited the Riverside Day Use Area.

Image: Sign for Riverside Day Use Area, GA

U.S. Corps of Engineer’s Riverside Day Use Area, GA

The miles of narrow roads going in were paved but overhung with untouched forest, feeling a bit dark and sketchy.

Image: Forest

Roadside Georgia ACE Day Use Area, Etowah River

Suddenly, after passing a gatehouse at each Day Use site, the settings opened into well maintained picnic areas – some with views of the river. There were mowed game fields, nice playground equipment, large pavilions being used for family reunions, hiking trails, plenty of paved parking, and modern restrooms.

Image: Sign for Cooper's Furance Day Use Area, GA

Cooper’s Furnace Day Use Area, Georgia (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Day Use Area)

Cooper’s Furnace Day Use Area even had an interesting historic structure. All for a five dollar day use fee, a bargain.

Image: Cooper's Iron Works and Historical Marker, GA

Cooper’s Iron Works and Historic Marker, GA

 

Miles 1567 – 1653

Harrison Bay State Park Campsite

Harrison Bay State Park, TN
Pull Through Campsite C-22

We spent a long weekend, September 7-10, 2017, at Harrison Bay State Park, Tennessee where we joined group festivities with awesome people from several states at the Tennessee Volun’tears’ Follies in the Fall gathering.

Good people, good food, beautiful weather, and being able to see all types of small trailers added up to a wonderful time! A huge thank you to each of the organizers and participants for being so welcoming to us first timers!

Fall Follies Gathering

Tennessee Volun’tears’ Playing “Camping Feud”

Tennessee Volun’tears’ is a chapter of the international Tearjerkers group. The parent body is now in its twentieth year of bringing together Teardrop Trailer (or other small trailer and tent) owners who are Teardrop enthusiasts! It is free to join the international group and to locate your area chapter by registering at tearjerkers.net.

Earl asked permission to take photos of several attendees’ campsites in the gatherings’ “official” area of the A loop campground. Many were beautifully handmade. We also saw some interesting small trailers throughout other campgrounds at Harrison Bay State Park.

Here are just some of the photos of the cute and comfortable camping trailers we saw during this outing…

 

Dawdle: Ditched Plans

In spite of hopes and bravado, my rib cage is healing normally instead of as quickly as willed. I am probably not yet in condition to manage hours of driving and several days of camping. So, we have ditched our trip to experience totality during the total solar eclipse in Tennessee.

Fortunately, we were able to switch our reservation dates without penalty to a different campsite in the same campground. Thank you to the State Parks System of Tennessee!

The second silver lining is that someone else will be able to have a last minute chance to grab a great campsite near totality. A sweet find.

Here at home during the solar eclipse, we will just “travel” up to our apartment building’s rooftop parking area which is normally empty.

We frequently go there to see the skyline and stars at night, or look over the progress of current construction projects around us during daylight.

It is also a fabulous place to take in our city’s Fourth of July fireworks display, which are shot from the grounds of an office complex that is across the street.

I am not expecting anyone else to be on the roof for the solar eclipse. Our metro area is having weekend festivals to celebrate the solar eclipse, but otherwise business as normal.

So, we now expect be enjoying our time together with some tunes and snacks while experiencing 97% totality on Monday, August 21, 2017.