After finishing up some personal things and getting our 6 month dental cleanings, we were ready to be on the road again. We left Richmond on Sunday, the 5th. We stopped in Lafayette, LA for a couple of nights. Millie wanted to go to Avery Island, LA and tour the Tabasco plant.
Monday was overcast and warm with scattered showers, but we drove south to the island. We arrived in time for the 12:20 tour. The tour was very interesting; we were given the history of the Tabasco Sauce and watched as two of the types of sauce were being bottled. The original and the green Tabasco were being bottled as we watched.
Avery Island also contains Jungle Gardens, a 250 acre garden with many exotic plantings. The gardens were the creation of E. A. McIlhenny. The gardens can be viewed by a self guided driving tour. Apparently, we visited at the wrong time of year as nothing was in bloom and there really wasn’t much to see. We did see a couple of alligators and some turtles. We also visited the temple garden which contains an ancient Buddha.
Of particular importance in the Jungle Gardens is Bird City. 40 years ago it was established as nesting area for Snowy Egrets. These birds were on the brink of extinction. Today many nests are established on platforms built of bamboo and chicks are raised there. More than 30 truckloads of twigs are dumped in the area every spring to provide nesting material for the birds. It is said that 20,000 nests are established here every spring.
After driving through Mississippi and Alabama, we arrived at Best Holiday RV Park in Chattanooga, TN. This park is located on the site of a Civil War battlefield and is a very nice park. We had stayed here on number of years ago.
As luck would have it, the rains came! We are beginning to believe that we should hire out as rain makers; we seem to take it everywhere we go.
Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Park is the site of a major battle of the Civil War. It is also the first National Military Park to be established. It was officially dedicated on Sept. 18, 1895 and contains 1400 monuments and historical markers. We visited the Visitor’s Center and saw the multi-media presentation there. Then we toured the museum and also the exhibit of the Fuller Collection of Military Shoulder Arms.
At tour of the battlefields with a park ranger is offered and we signed up for it, however it required a minimum of 4 adults to make and we were the only ones signed up that day. We decided to try again another day for the tour.
After several days of rain, the sun finally came out and we toured Missionary Ridge, site of another Civil War engagement.
We also drove up Lookout Mountain, but didn’t stop at the battlefield, as we had been there several times before. We drove the Scenic Highway that runs along the top of the mountain. It was a nice day for a drive, but the scenic vistas we were hoping for are not there. The mountain is covered with large homes and no place to enjoy the view. We returned back to Chattanooga by way of the Chattanooga Valley Road, enjoying the rural scenery.
On our last day in Chattanooga, we drove back to Chickamauga to make a self guided tour of the battlefield. We spent the afternoon driving through the park, stopping at various waypoints to hear the recorded stories about the battles and participants. The most impressive monument is the Wilder Brigade Monument, honoring Col. John Wilder and his brigade. It is 85 feet high and has stairs inside that lead to the top. We climbed the stairs and enjoyed a good view of the battlefield area from the top.
Boone, NC was our next destination. This town is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains and we spent a week at the KOA there. This park is at 4000’ in a rural location with a wonderful mountain vista.
We attended the opening night of the historical drama “Horn in the West” which is celebrating its 54th year of production. The drama is presented in an outdoor amphitheater. We have attended this production once before and enjoyed it the second time.
Grandfather Mountain is the highest point (5964’) in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It has also been designated as an International Biosphere Reserve by the UN, the only such one privately held. It contains over 66 rare and endangered species.
Our first stop up the mountain was the Animal Habitats with exhibits of Black Bear, Bald and Golden Eagles, Panthers, Deer and River Otters. We especially enjoyed the antics of the River Otters.
After lunch at the café, we toured the Nature Museum and enjoyed a film on Black Bears. Then we drove the road to the top of the mountain. There is a Visitor’s Center and the Mile-High Swinging Bridge. The Bridge was built in 1952 at a cost of $15,000. It spans an 80’ deep ravine. In 1999 it was rebuilt at a cost of $300,000. Dick walked across the bridge and enjoyed the views from the rocks. Millie stayed on the other side and enjoyed the views from there!
We had also been here many years ago and were amazed at the change in the area. Many homes and condos now dot the valley and mountainsides below. As we returned to the truck, the rains began.
After returning to the Blue Ridge Parkway, we stopped at the Moses Cone Visitor Center and Parkway Craft Center. Dick enjoyed a rest on the large front porch while Millie browsed the crafts on display.
After several rainy days, on our last day in Boone, the sun finally decided to show up again. We donned our hiking boots and headed for the Blue Ridge Parkway. This is one of our all time favorite drives. Our first stop was the Northwest Trading Post where local crafts and food items are sold.
At mile 272 we parked and made the walk to the Cascades, a beautiful waterfall. The circle trail is not extremely difficult and markers explain the different trees and plants seen along the way.
We returned to the parking lot and on the other side, took a trail to an area that contains a cabin and church. We then walked back along the highway to the parking area.
The Linn Cove Viaduct is an engineering marvel and the first bridge constructed in the US using the pre-cast method. It carries the parkway around Grandfather Mountain and many years of study took place before it was built, due to the fragile ecological system of the mountain. Each precast concrete section is different from all the others and only one is straight and square. It was the last section of the parkway to be completed and was opened in 1987.
We hiked out to an area where we had taken photos once before, but didn’t get real good photos of the viaduct due to the foliage. When we were here before it was in the fall and we had good photos due to the trees being bare.
Our last stop of the day was Linville Falls. This area suffered a lot of devastation during the hurricanes in the fall of 2004 and is still in the process of being rebuilt. Pictures in the visitor center show the power of the flooded river. We walked the trial to the upper falls but elected not to go to the lower falls (which are higher), as it was late in the afternoon and we were getting tired.
We left the Parkway at Linville. Unfortunately, for now, the Parkway is not accessible south of this point. Damage to the road during the hurricanes has necessitated detours. We drove back to Boone on the US highways.
The weather has been quite cool for the week we spent in Boone, with daytime temps in the high 60’s to low 70’s and in the 50’s at night.
Our next destination was Corbin, KY. This town is in the SE corner of KY, not far from the Tennessee state line.
Corbin, KY was our base for a week. We visited the Big South Fork National Recreational River. We drove to Stearns, KY where we boarded the Big South Fork Scenic Railroad for a trip to Blue Heron, a former coal mining town, part of the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.
The land was originally purchased by Justus Stearns for its timber. Coal mining was developed to provide fuel for the trains that transported the timber but in time became the main industry.
Blue Heron has been recreated by the park service as a town of “ghost” structures. Each structure is on the original footprint of the building and contains an exhibit and oral presentation of life as it was in the days of the town. We walked around looking at the exhibits until time for the train to depart.
After our return to Stearns, Millie visited a couple of the shops offering crafts and items for sale. Then we visited the local museum, located in the former Stearns Company headquarters building.
We visited Cumberland Gap National Park last October but wanted to return and do more sightseeing there. We were disappointed to discover that to visit the Henley Settlement, you had to sign up for a tour with park rangers and that the day’s tour was already full.
We drove east, through the Cumberland Gap Tunnel to the town of Cumberland Gap, TN. There we visited the old Iron Furnace, used to produce iron in the early 1800’s. We then hiked a portion of the Wilderness Road to the saddle of the gap. This was the road blazed by Daniel Boone and traveled by more than 300,000 pioneers who settled the land west of the mountains. It was a warm day but we took our time and enjoyed the hike.
No visit to Corbin would be complete without a visit to the Colonel Sanders Café and Museum. Colonel Sanders developed his secret recipe for chicken here, first selling his food from his gas station, and then building his café and a motel. The original café contains a museum showing the rise of the company. You can now order your chicken at a modern day KFC and enjoy your meal in a portion of the old café.
In Harrogate, TN is the campus of Lincoln Memorial University. The Lincoln Museum there is devoted to the life of Abraham Lincoln. We saw a short film on Lincoln and then toured the museum. A large wall contains a large collection of every know photograph of Lincoln from the collection of Frederick Meserve. We did not realize that so many photographs of Lincoln had been taken, beginning when he was a young man. A tea and chocolate service used by Mary Todd Lincoln in their Springfield, IL home is on display. An extremely informative and interesting presentation on the Lincoln assignation was presented by a young man who was a docent. If you are in the area, we recommend this little known museum.
We drove back to Blue Heron on Monday. We thought it would be a good day to return and finish our tour as the train does not run on Mondays and the park would be quiet. We had seen a small herd of deer going thru the town when we came into town on the train and were hoping for another glimpse.
We stopped at the parking area for the Blue Heron overlook and walked to the viewing platform for an outstanding view of the river canyon. We could hear thunder in the distance, but it didn’t rain on us.
When we arrived a Blue Heron there was a couple of vehicles in the parking lot. We were disappointed to find that most of the exhibits were locked and we were unable to see them. We did finish the tour, looking at the buildings we previously missed and listening to the oral histories.
We returned to the campground without encountering any rain, but later heard on the news that the area we had been in had experienced some severe weather.
Cummins Ferry Campground was our destination when we left Corbin. We were on the bank of the Kentucky River and had a nice large site. It was a short drive distance wise from Corbin but not on a major highway so it took us about 4 hours to drive.
The Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington is a 1200 acre park and working farm devoted to the horse. It contains two museums and many exhibits pertaining to horses. The burial place of the famous race horse Man O’ War is on the grounds. We spent the day viewing the many exhibits and shows at the park. This is really an exceptional place to visit if you are in the area.
Next month we will spend a few more days in Kentucky, then travel on to West Virginia.
(Lots of new photos in the gallery, take a look. We couldn't link to all of them.)