Herb and Wildflower Day, at the Townsend Visitor Center, is one of the many smaller festivals that they host all year long in Townsend, TN, but the participants are no less passionate about their subject matter. Booths were set up under the pavilion representing several of the local Herb and Wildflower Nurseries in the area. Other offerings to round out the day included: fine pottery with a nature theme, a baked good sale, walks in the woods, classes and garden tours.
The day started at 7AM at Tremont with a walk lead by retired NPS Ranger Carey Jones featuring “Birds of the Smokies.” Afternoon wildflower rambles and hikes were on Chestnut Top Trail (“What’s in Bloom”) and Spruce Flats Falls (“Wildflowers on Rocks”).
The two most heavily attended classes were held at the Visitor Center. A 9AM lecture by Dr. Patricia Cox of TVA Natural Heritage on “Spring Flowers and Ferns of the Smokies” had an attendance of about 40 along with the 10:30AM lecture by NPS Ranger Adrian Mayor on “Wildflowers Pollinators- Bees and More.” Afternoon lectures were on “Exotic and Invasive Plants” and a “Blount Friendly Landscaping Gardening Class.” Perfect weather for the perfect Townsend style festival! mizkathleen@ Gracehill Bed and Breakfast
This photo shows a fraction of the tents set up at the 8th annual TroutFest 2011, held in Townsend, TN. A rousing success, as always, the festival is one of the largest of its kind in the country and the biggest in the Southeast. It’s hosted by the Little River Chapter of Trout Unlimited to benefit trout stream preservation and restoration. Last year they netted $45,000 that was donated to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Fisheries Department. This year, the festival had around 4,000 attendees including the guests staying at Gracehill Bed and Breakfast, our Smoky Mountain Inn. Although the sport of fly fishing is enjoyed by men and women alike, I’m here to say I have never seen so many solo men in the 30 to 60 age bracket, gathered in one spot in my life. Their minds however, were on 6 legged insect nymphs as in the “#12 George Nymph,” rather than the 2 legged nymphs of the goddess variety!
Top fly fishing vendors in the nation were represented along with some of the best known headliners like Lefty Kreh, Joe Humphreys, Bob Clouser, Zach Matthews and Tom Rosenbauer of Orvis. This year heralded the premier issue of the TroutFest Journal which was clutched to bosoms like my grannie’s Bible on a Sunday morning. Friday night had a reservation only banquet, and Saturday & Sunday was chock full of clinics, demonstrations, and heavy duty shopping. Maybe the most fun was the Kid’s Casting Clinic, but the most original was the brain child of Paula Begley of Little River Outfitters. She calls it a “6 hole course,” that was a casting competition at six different stations with paper mache rocks, waterfalls, rhododendron bushes and other assorted obstacles. She hopes to do a 9 hole course next year, and I plan on spending more time scoping it out. mizkathleen@ Gracehill Bed and BreakfastRead More
The Fiber Arts Festival was held this past weekend at the Townsend Visitor Center amid beautiful spring weather. This is one of the smaller Townsend, TN festivals, but the attendees make up for the smaller numbers with enthusiasm and there is nothing like parking only 50 feet away from activities for guests at our Smoky Mountain Lodging!
While the Visitor Center grounds held exhibits, demonstrations, a few vendors, sheep shearing and Border collie sheep-herding, the Townsend Elementary School held a marketplace of vendors selling their wares. Fish Lady and Friends Gallery also had exhibits and a Friday evening reception.
The Border collie sheep-herding was amazing. This is not your neighborhood dog chasing a flock of geese! While the handler gave commands by blowing on a whistle, man’s best friend did exactly what his owner wanted him to do quietly and swiftly. That pooch had those sheep weaving around posts, hither and yon, and right into the pen. We were told that each dog reacts to the sound of his owner/handler blowing on their whistle not necessarily to someone else, like their spouse blowing on their whistle to their dog.
As much as I enjoyed the Border collie’s working, I have to say the sheep shearing was my favorite. You just have to wonder if that sheep felt like I do getting a pedicure cause it kind of just laid back like a blob with it’s eyes shut most of the time. You come at most four legged creatures with a buzzing razor and it is not going to be a pretty sight so either Dean Fritz of Murfreesboro, TN really is at the top of his game or sheep really like “getting a load off their backs”!
You could watch folks spinning the wool into yarn, weaving, and all manner of “fiber” crafts. Sue Mason of Maryville was kind enough to give me written directions for getting the fleece, wool shorn from the sheep, to the ball of yarn stage. It’s a time consuming process and gives me a new respect for woolen garments whether they be knitted, crochet or woven. Blessings, mizkathleen@ Gracehill
In 2008, shortly after the economy tanked, again, I was trying to think of an activity I could do with my nephew, age five, that was on the cheap. Decided to take him to Sam Houston Schoolhouse and Museum. While there, I found an out of print copy of the Blount County Historic Tour Guide that became our map on a three-year long odyssey. It shows 30+ stops depicting the history of Blount County. I have lived here for 25 years and had only been to four places on the list. Kane had been to the Little River Railroad Museum in Townsend with me two years earlier.
Sometimes it was more the journey than the destination. I used the word “map” loosely. The brochure designer had his heart in the right spot, but the dots showing the buildings could be off by a block or two or …. One day, with no address other than Big Springs Road, we tried to find the “Old Stone House”, the oldest house in the county, built in the late 1700’s. Never did locate it that day. Called the Visitor Center. They gave me some tips. Didn’t work out on the second try. Called the Historical Society. He made a call, and gave me some pointers. Nope. When we spent a morning at the Thompson Brown House getting a behind-the-scenes tour by a wonderfully accommodating woman, she gave me directions. She did a lot of hand waving to no effect. I am actually rather good at following a map, so after stopping at a gas station for further advice, and still coming up short, I did a U turn in the middle of the road and hopped out to talk to a Department of Transportation worker cutting grass on the right of way. He was clueless until I said this home had been in three states and a territory, North Carolina, the Lost State of Franklin, territory South of the River Ohio and our own lovely State of Tennessee. Bingo! “EVERYONE knows where THAT place is!” My suggestion is, when we pull out of the recession, maybe by 2020, the county pops for a marker.
I took Kane’s picture at each place but one. The Mead Haven/Cox House in Friendsville, had three very big dogs in the yard which was posted with some kind of electric doggie fence sign. I would open the car door, the dogs would stand up. I’d shut the car door, they sat down. Open the car door; put foot on ground, they advanced 50 feet. “Kane buddy,” I said, “time for your photo.” He shook his head. His momma didn’t raise no dummy. I bought a big piece of black foam core board and glued on the brochure and all our photos. Twenty-nine photos of Kane, and one of three very big dogs. We took the last tour today, Alcoa Aluminum Plant and the fountain they built for their workers in Springbrook Park. Actually talked about and saw the whole concept of a planned unit development. Many of the four-room houses are still standing with the original slate roofs from 80 years ago.
I am a list person, and while it was wonderful to finish our journey before Kane enters college and I start collecting Medicare, it’s kind of sad. Where do we go from here? History tour of Knoxville? Washington D.C.? The pyramids? Scratch the pyramids. We came back to our Smoky Mountain Bed and Breakfast and practiced making potato pancakes with stir fried apples. We listened to the news about Egypt and Libya while he grated potatoes and stirred the apples in the pan. For eight years old, he has an amazing grasp of world events and a memory like a steel trap. Wonder who learned more? Maybe the question should be, who will remember more! mizkathleen@ GracehillRead More
Before Mom and I moved to Tennessee 25 years ago, we left Illinois in a motor home with a motorcycle and scooter hanging off the front and back. My goal was to see every national park in the United States, and Canada from Victoria to St. John’s, Newfoundland. We were able to do that, over the course of 17 months, and even better, was the decision to settle in Townsend, TN just outside the Cades Cove Loop Road entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Of all the beautiful places on the North American continent, there is nowhere I would rather live.
I have been in the tourist/hospitality industry ever since, with the last 10 years as the owner/operator of Gracehill Bed and Breakfast. During that time, I have sent and given directions to thousands of people looking for the Cove. Furthermore, if you only have two nights, one full day in the Smokies, I say a drive around Cades Cove with a little hiking on its many trails, needs to be at the top of the list.
The Great Smokies is the most visited National Park in the U.S. and Cades Cove the most visited “attraction” in it. It is a pioneer settlement from the late 1800’s, early 1900’s, in a bowl depression surrounded by lofty mountains. (Think spacious skies and purple mountain majesties…) It’s filled with log cabins, churches, cemeteries, a gristmill and my favorite, the barns.
It helps to know some things about the Cove. It features a newly paved 11-mile, single lane, one-way loop road. It opens at sunrise, closes at dark, and those are the two times you will see the most wildlife. If you are the type to take home a pic of every deer, pull over so the car behind you can pass. It is closed to vehicular traffic on Saturday and Wednesday mornings till 10am, May through September, for bicycle and foot traffic. You can rent bikes at the entrance or bring your own. In the winter or early spring, with no stops, the drive can take an hour and 15 minutes. Weekends in the summer plan on a couple of hours. In October, arrive very early and preferably during the week. I’ll pack you a picnic breakfast to go. Bring your camera and tripod for the mist rising off the water shots. A Saturday afternoon in October, could take four hours. Make sure you have enough gas. The last gas station at the Townsend entrance is the Marathon at the KOA Campground. If you make it out of the Cove on fumes, you can just about coast the nine miles back into Townsend. The only tricky spot is the stop sign at the “Wye.” I tried coasting once. Was probably a little irritating to the driver behind me, but what the heck, I was in pursuit of empirical knowledge!
There are two gravel roads that bisect the Cove going in both directions. If you start going through sugar withdrawal, hang a left on Sparks or Hyatt Lane and it will shorten the trip. A little more than half way around, by the Cable Mill, is a visitor center and restroom facilities. The last 1/3 of the drive is more heavily wooded, but my favorite. Everything is closer to the road and most of the barns are there.
Books have been written about Cades Cove and the history of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, many of them here on the library table. You can Google Cades Cove and come up with 100s of articles from many different perspectives. The Park puts out a good brochure with numbered stops. You can pick it up at the entrance for $1, or I have multiple copies here, if you want to read it before you go. My intent was to write an article on the Cades Cove Preservation Association, with a little history of the Cove first. Hmmm. Next installment another day. Blessings, mizkathleen@ GracehillRead More
For the fourth year in a row, the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center had a Blue Ribbon Country Fair on the same weekend as Old Timers Day in Cades Cove, the Nawger Nob Arts and Crafts Show, and the Fall Festival at the Townsend Visitor Center. Saying it is an action packed weekend is an understatement! Just about everyone in our small town is volunteering (or attending) somewhere, and it is tough choosing when they are on both Friends of the Library (food booth at the Fall Festival), Hearts and Hands Scholarship Fund, (Fall Festival), or the Guild at the Heritage Center (Country Fair) etc. etc.
Since September 1st, I have been steady every day with guests; I emptied out today for a few days, in time to get my act together for OCTOBER. The leaves are still green, but today we got some much needed rain and the temps dropped dramatically. I am sitting here with the doors open listening to the rain considering putting on a pair of socks! Life is good. The fall display is up and I have been blessed with business and blue ribbons.
Last year in preparation for the Fair, I worked on my blueberry almond pound cake for the entire year. Must have made it 20 times, 20 different ways. Won 3rd place. This year I waited till three days before the Fair, and started searching on the web for a perfect perfectly plain pound cake. Eccch! Wednesday morning, I made Paula Deen’s and served it to guests. Wednesday night, I made an orange cream cheese pound cake from the Joy of Baking, but was the only one still up to taste it warm out of the oven. Thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Six hours later I was up and made another one for breakfast, reportedly Elvis Presley’s favorite from the Epicurious.com website. I tasted it warm and thought it was the perfect plain pound cake. Had my guests taste all three and it was evenly divided between Elvis’s and the orange. (Dear Paula, you can’t win them all…) On my way into town, I had the neighbors try them and all the folks at the Sunshine Chiropractic office. At room temp, hands down, the orange cream cheese won the vote. It’s a good thing I ran it by a few people because I probably would have gone with Elvis’s, thinking plain would be better this time around. What makes his recipe unusual is it contains whip cream and you put it in a cold oven, then turn it on!
At any rate, I made another orange pound cake Friday morning for the Fair. We had a funeral Saturday morning, and the bake sale at the Fall Festival, so four pound cakes went the way of the gooney bird! We won win a blue ribbon, thank you, Joy of Baking. Don’t know if they are related to Joy of Cooking or not; that has always been my recipe bible. Click here for the link to the recipe. We also won a blue ribbon for my mom’s apricot bread. Again I made three loaves in two days, changing the recipe each time while Mom and I bickered back and forth. Her pumpkin pie recipe got a 2nd place finish. I am not much for pumpkin pie, but after winning a ribbon guess we better make it this year at Thanksgiving! I did mess around with that recipe also, tried to attach some cut out pastry leaves to the sides of the crust and added pecans to the bottom of the crust. The leaves sank and the pecans floated to the surface! Blessings, mizkathleen @ Gracehill Bed and BreakfastRead More
When is food less about what we put in our mouths and more about a work of art? In a third world country there is no doubt about the answer, but here in the States, for some people, the answer is harder to discern. It’s not only how we present our food, but increasingly, where we buy it and where they bought it! (Think egg recall…) My mom, one of the world’s best cooks, can take a pot off the stove and plunk it on the table. God bless her, she did it for three meals a day for 25 years, and I am proof that we never went hungry. I, on the other hand, think first about what flowers I can pick from the garden, what china they go with, then what food would look good on that china! I’m glad I have the luxury of being able to think that way.
As the world becomes more and more aware of the origins of our food, I’m happy to say at age 11, Jake Molina, the nephew of my friend and Gracehill Wizard Extraordinaire, Julie, has started raising chickens. We are the grateful recipients of the product thereof! Jake’s mom Dawn says, “I don’t know if ours could be called free range chickens because they are not always free to range. We have lots of coyotes and neighborhood dogs that want to eat them. They have their big yard to roam and scratch in, but we only let them range when we are outside. They definitely could be called cage free though!” Beside the Americaunas, Jake also has Buff Orpington, Rhode Island Reds, Silver Laced Wyandottes and Golden Comets. They hope to get some Black Copper Marans that are prized by French chefs. Ooh la la! (Americanized version. My sister the French major says they would say, Oh la la la!)
In little ways, with our herb garden, veggies, and fruit we pick locally, we are trying to bring fresher food to the table. You all know my love affair with blueberries. I’m lucky the three couples who checked in a few days ago for four nights liked them also. I made a new recipe, Blueberry Cream Cheese French Toast in a 9X13 pan which I posted on my recipe page with a photo. This year we’ve put about a 100# in the freezer, but will continue using fresh for another couple of weeks. In the past two weeks, my five attempts to make a decent blueberry cobbler have been dismal. It’s nice that I have wonderful friends, who tell me otherwise, but alas, they are lying through their teeth, and I am moving on to try other things… blessings, mizkathleen@ Gracehill Bed and BreakfastRead More