Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Refurbished cabins keep history alive

The Spence Cabin in the Elkmont Historic District has survived.

And through work by the National Park Service, it is now thriving.

The historic district, located about six miles up into the mountains just outside of Gatlinburg, TN, was once the site of a logging operation and became the location of summer homes for the more well-to-do from the surrounding areas.

We became acquainted with the district having camped at Elkmont for the past 30-40 years. There was a tug-o-war inside the park service about what was going to happen to the buildings.

The park service allowed 50-year leases to people who owned land in the area. Those leases, initiated when the area became a national park, expired late in the last century. There seemed to have been about 30-40 houses in the area.

The first major issue that had a direct effect on our family was that of the decision about the Wonderland Hotel.

Except for the lodge atop Mt. LeConte, it was the only such place in the park. It was our annual ritual to eat breakfast there on the day we checked out of the campground and headed home.

The facility was vacated and each year we saw it deteriorate more and more. A fence was placed around it to keep people out so that no harm would come to them. The place just fell apart. It was part of the park service program, at the time, to let nature take its course and let the land take over.

There was back and forth over the years on whether or not that was the best way to deal with the structures.

And then, minds changed. Some buildings would be allowed to survive and some were even brought back up to what they looked like in their heyday.

The Spence Cabin was one such structure.

It is the one place i would love to own. The now-restored cabin sits on a hillside overlooking the Little River. And down at the river’s edge is a patio that allows one to enjoy the cascading waters tumbling down the mountain side.

In the summertime, the cool flowing waters act an an air conditioner. In the dead of winter, I assume one wouldn’t be able to enjoy the patio as much, but one will never know personally, because the area is closed to the public during that time of year.

On our last trip, I meandered over to walk the pathway that runs parallel to the river and discovered that the cabin had been restored. It is available for day use including weddings.

And after visiting that cabin, meandering further down the trail, one could find other cabins that were not so lucky — holes in their roofs, walls bulging out and rafters collapsed. Those were a sad sight.

But I can still enjoy the area knowing that all the structures will not be allowed to fall in disrepair and disappear.

The land offers us a look at and the enjoyment of nature, but it also offers us a glimpse of how people managed to enjoy the area before it became the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Next post: Sept. 2, 2014

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Second chance pays off for us, Blue Ridge

When I am at home and someone asks me to recommend a restaurant or coffee shop to them, I freely give them an answer.

But I add a caveat. Try them at least two or three times before writing them off.

I don’t know of anyone not liking the places I recommend, but I do know that each establishment does,  every now and then, have a down day. Or maybe a cook, or waitress has a down day and things don’t turn out as good as one anticipates.

A year ago, I read in a magazine about a small, quaint town in North Georgia. Wifey and I decided to make a stop there on our way back from the mountains.

Of course, it was summer time, hot and a little humid and I was pulling a popup camper. We pulled off the main highway to go through the downtown area and upon seeing the town, figured that it was really too “yuppy.” That wasn’t what I was looking for.

And as I headed down the one-way road through
downtown, a delivery truck was  blocking a portion of the street and I felt I couldn’t make it around the truck.

In the heat, I got out and waved smaller vehicles around me. I felt that I had had enough of that town.

Well, just this past July we were heading back from the mountains, and approaching that town, we powered up the GPS looking for a coffee shop.

And there was one. Close to downtown. Well, how would that work out, I wondered.

We gave Blue Ridge a second chance and it paid off for them and us.

The L&L Beanery, a coffee shop/restaurant just west of the tracks in the downtown area filled our need.

There was plenty of parking along the street that paralled the railroad, but I didn’t want to take up three or four spots by parking along the street, so I drove around and just a block south of the coffee shop was a church with an empty parking lot.

It was just right and a member getting ready to go on a youth outing at the church said it was OK to park there.

Wifey and I settled in at L and L with coffee and tea and got on our computers for about an hour.

We decided to stay for lunch and enjoyed our meals.

The visit to the beanery was an interesting experience in that we were eating in what was formerly a bank. The vault held a number of souvenir and coffee products or sale.

There was a piano for entertainment and a fireplace for cozy refreshments on a winter night.

I’m glad we decided to give Blue Ridge a second chance.

Next post: Aug. 26, 2014

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Carver's serves up apples and a lot more

One would think of red, red, red when visiting a restaurant built in the middle of an apple orchard.

But when I received my ordered meal, wifey noted that it was white, white, white.

But it was good. Chicken and dumplings, coleslaw and mashed potatoes.

What can I say? I like those things and, at the time of ordering, I wasn’t thinking of being colored-coordinated correct.

I just wanted food. Wifey had a different little take on her order and managed to get a little contrast with some pulled pork.

Well, the place all this happened was just north of Cosby, TN. It was a place named Carver’s Applehouse Restaurant. 

And in spite of the lack of contrast in my meal, the food disappeared anyway. And I managed to add on an apple fritter which did add a bit of contrast.

We had learned about this place from relatives and decided to give it a try. We enjoyed the excursion and meal. Cosby is about 15-20 miles east of Gatlinburg, TN on US 321 and the restaurant is about five miles north after hitting the intersection in Cosby.

The restaurant sat on the top of a hill overlooking an apple orchard (of course). The business also had a produce market offering a wide variety of fruit including (of course) apples, watermelons, cantaloupe, tomatoes and an assortment of preserves. Across the way was a “Krafts and Kandy” store offering mountain crafts and homemade chocolates.

It was just a short visit, but it was real filling.

Next post: Aug. 19, 2014

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Old is new again along the Nantahala

 We’ve found another interesting route to take on our way to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

It’s not a new road. Matter of fact, years ago wifey and I probably traveled it on the way home.

But with encouragement from our oldest son, who said another route to the mountains would be interesting, we gave it a try.

Something old is something new again.

It is US Highways 19/74 which runs through the Nantahala Gorge between Murphy and Bryson City NC. The highway was once a portion of the Trail of Tears forced migration of the Cherokee Indians and others from their mountain homelands to the plains of Oklahoma.

The Nantahala River, which at points parallels the highway, is popular with whitewater rafters, canoeists and kayakers.

We thought perhaps the season was over in late July, but as we traversed the route, going and coming, we saw hundreds, if not thousands, of enthusiasts on the river.

Heading to the Smokey’s, we stopped at a pullout along the river for lunch, and enjoyed seeing those who enjoyed the river.

At one time, the thrill of white-water rafting was in the deep recesses of my mind. I guess I could still manage a trip, but as one gets older, the body doesn’t always want to cooperate or either reminds us a day or so later that the muscles just aren’s up to snuff as they give forth with their aches and pains.

There are numerous companies that offer trips down the river and a number of locations offer food service where one can eat on a deck overlooking the river. I think we will at least give that a try next time.

Next post: Aug. 12, 2014