Gracehill Bed and Breakfast was lucky enough to be chosen to host The Red Chair, for a couple of days, during a cross country trip Red is doing staying at hundreds of B&B’s across America. What are The Red Chair Travels? His own website and blog does a better job describing it than I can! The following is an account of Red’s stay while being hosted at six different bed and breakfasts, December 2013, here in the Great Smoky Mountains.
Red showed up in Townsend (TN) on a windy, blustery day when weather was pounding the east coast with snow and rain. He retired early his first night after having had a hearty dinner at Berry Springs Lodge in Pigeon Forge. Red was the first guest up the next morning. We chatted while I prepared breakfast, and he was patiently waiting on the other guests when they surfaced at 9:00. He enjoyed lively conversation along with popovers with honey butter (no jam for this guy), caramelized pears pistachio, and chicken crepes mornay with a fresh orange cranberry relish. He had seconds on OJ and decaf coffee. He said he was so excited about staying at Gracehill and visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that he needed to watch his caffeine intake for the next couple of days. I did learn he was not keen on sitting too close to the fire. Good thing I had put him in the only bedroom without a fireplace!
Wouldn’t have wanted to spark any bad dreams! We hung around after breakfast for several hours doing this and that waiting for the weather to clear. It didn’t, so we took off around 3:30, picked up another friend, and the three of us visited the most popular attraction in the most visited National Park in the United States, Cades Cove. It is a pioneer settlement, an 11 mile one way loop drive ringed in by mountains. Of course, Red had to hop out of the car each time he saw a different animal- white tailed deer, turkeys, but no bears today. He was quite the attraction himself as several dozen kids and parents wanted to make his acquaintance. After being disappointed that Berry Springs didn’t really have a nude beach, he decided to go skinny dipping in one stream we had to drive through as water was a little high from all the rain. He met us on the other side, chilled of course, so I cranked up the heat. We skipped the hike I had planned to Abrams Falls as he was just warming up, but we did stop at several of the old homesteads. Back to Gracehill Bed and Breakfast in time for sunset, the big attraction here at the highest house in the county. Red chatted up our guests this morning, but stuck to coffee himself claiming he had to watch his figure this time of year. With all the Christmas celebrations, he had packed on a few pounds. Off today for a stop at Sweet Berries Bed and Breakfast on the Tail of the Dragon, 318 curves in 11.2 miles. But that is their story to tell. Maybe it’s a good thing he did skip breakfast. I’ll pack a Dramamine for him!
Hugs and Kisses, Red, mizkathleen @Gracehill Bed and Breakfast.
So, what does the Elkmont area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Malaysian jungle have in common? Synchronous fireflies, that’s what! Currently there are 2000+ species of fireflies in the world, and I am fortunate enough to live in one of two areas of the world that have these phenomena once a year in early June. Depending on winter weather, it can be from mid May to mid June, so check before making lodging reservations. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park will list the dates at this link. Synchronous fireflies, also known as lightning bugs, blink in unison or in waves. You’re sitting there in complete darkness and they all blink on and off at the same time. At times it is like a wave of light moving across a clearing. This is called phase synchronization or spontaneous order. I know I’d like to glow and have a little spontaneous order in my office, but I’m afraid I just don’t have the right genes along with the other 1998+ species.
Much varies between these firefly beetles. Some blink, some don’t. Some fly, some don’t. The color of their bioluminescence ranges from yellow to orange to red to green. Usually it is the male blinking to attract females during mating season, but then you have those femme fatales that blink the pattern of another species to attract unsuspecting males for the ultimate act of cannibalism. This link at wikipedia has a great article on them and much has been written locally, particularly from The Daily Times. Their last article was Sunday, May 26, 2013.
So, how do you see them? In years past, you just drove your car up to the Elkmont Campground area and hiked back on some old weed covered gravel roads. That’s what my mom and I did. However it became so popular that you now have to catch a shuttle from the Sugarlands Visitor Center outside of Gatlinburg. Wait time and lines got long enough that the National Park now allows shuttles from the Townsend area too, and you buy your ticket ahead of time.
Don Alexander at the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center (865-448-8838) says, sales open up May 1st each year at 10AM and tickets are a $1.00. This year they sold out in 45 minutes. It’s not often you can experience something magical for a buck. The ultimate cheap date, and you get to sit on a blanket in the dark! They run two shuttles a night from Townsend that hold 18 passengers each for a week to ten days. If you don’t use your $1.00 ticket, which really is a placeholder, your credit card is charged $10.00 for each unused ticket.
These shuttle buses from the Cades Cove Heritage Tours cost a lot more than $18.00 a night to run and this year they were underwritten by, who else, Townsend’s Firefly Café and the Blount Partnership! You catch the bus at their restaurant location, 7967 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway, Townsend, TN 37882, (865-738-3507) between 6:30PM and 7:00PM. The buses return to the same location around 11:30PM each night. Have dinner at the Firefly before you catch the shuttle.
Deborah Lee, owner of the Firefly Café, has been a restaurant owner in Townsend for years. Her new location, now in its second year, gets an A+ for décor, service and food. My favorite is the Elkmont Burger, and they have the best French fries in town. Deborah says, “I called it the Firefly Café because I absolutely love the synchronous fireflies of the Smokies, and that they generate their light from within.” I’m off to create a little spontaneous order. Not! mizkathleen@ Gracehill Bed and Breakfast
This is one blog where the photos can do all the talking. I think the Smoky Mountains Pottery Festival, held at the Townsend TN Visitor Center, is my favorite of the 26 area festivals each year. The colors, the glazes, the shapes & styles all just knock your socks off. Only takes an hour to walk through & parking is close. Plan on spending a bit of money, although it was reasonably priced. The date is Sat June 2nd. Blessings, mizkathleen@Gracehill B&B
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A comprehensive list of events was posted in the Daily Times and online at www.smokymountains.org. The emphasis was the history of the area, and mountain music was predominant. Mom and I attended Friday afternoon’s, “Music of the Mountains” by Great Smoky Mountains National Park Park Ranger Lisa Free. It was a combination of lecture on the oral traditions of passing music down or along, playing various instruments and some singing and foot tapping! Instruments were made out of just about anything and there was a definite bias about which sex could play what instrument. For instance, a 150 years ago you normally would not see a
woman playing the fiddle or banjo as Ranger Free and Visitor Center’s Manager of Partnership Events, Jeanie Hilten, are doing in this photograph. They would have been considered “loose”! I knew Townsend was a hot bed of emancipated women!
In addition to all of the events listed above, Steve Fillmore of Miss Lily’s Cafe and the Lily Barn decided to test the waters to see if there would be interest in holding an annual craft beer festival in Townsend. National beer sales are in decline overall, but craft beer sales are on the upswing as interest grows. The event was held on Saturday at Laurel Valley Restaurant and Golf Course and was a sold out. Attendee’s were effusive in their praise! Blessings, mizkathleen@ Gracehill Bed and Breakfast
The Cades Cove Preservation Association is celebrating their 10th anniversary with a day long celebration at the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center in Townsend, TN, on Saturday October 22nd, from 10am to 4pm. The featured speaker is Dwight McCarter, a retired ranger from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Mountain Folk Reunion and Mountain Gap are providing the music. There will be door prizes every hour, horse and buggy rides, and old time toy demonstrations and games for the kids. You can get your photo taken with Cades Cove pioneers. For more information, contact Stephen Weber at email@example.com .
The mission of the Cades Cove Preservation Association (CCPA) is to help preserve the heritage of Cades Cove located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The majority of the members are descendants of the Cove and many were born and lived there as children. There are others, like Kathy and Dave Rudd, who have joined out of a love for the Cove. Non-natives, such as the Rudds, Kathy says, as she agreed to be interviewed, have been warmly embraced by those who have deep roots in the community. It’s an enjoyable group of those who work to preserve both their history and some of the early history of our nation.
Members participate in several events throughout the year to educate the public on the Cove’s history and share their experiences and memories of living there. Some members have published books. In addition to monthly meetings, they also have several ongoing projects during the year, such as maintaining the cemeteries, clearing trails to old home sites, etc. One project, in the summer of 2010, was cleaning up the Caughron barn that was destroyed by winds late last year to salvage the materials for the Park to use in restoring the other buildings of the Cove.
In Maryville, is the Thompson Brown House that houses many Cove artifacts and is staffed by CCPA members. My nephew and I stopped there recently and were warmly greeted by a volunteer who gave Kane a behind the scenes tour. Currently older descendants of the Cove are being interviewed, videotaped and recorded as a way to preserve their stories. My hat is off to those volunteering their time.
PS, I read one of Dwight McCarter’s books, Lost, several years ago. Since then I have never hiked without a whistle. Furthermore, my guests hike with whistles. Period. If you are too macho to wear a whistle, I send you to Pigeon Forge to shop instead of giving you an overview and map of trails in the Park. After a day in Pigeon Forge, you will happily wear a whistle. Over time, I have populated the entire eastern seaboard with at least a gross of Wal-Mart whistles that my guests have taken home in their glove boxes, dreaming of orange and yellow leaves against the blue skies, rivers and mountains of the Smokies. Blessings, mizkathleen@ Gracehill Bed and Breakfast
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A year ago I wrote about the Gatlinburg Scottish Festival held in Gatlinburg. For many reasons including space, they moved this year to Maryville College, re-branded themselves as the Smoky Mountain Highland Games, and there is no looking back. Attendance last year was between 2,500-2,700; celebrating this year, for the 30th annual time, the Maryville, TN inaugural event had over 6,000 in attendance.
The Daily Times, our local paper, certainly gave it a whopping amount of space. Their calendar of events, headline and side stories may have helped create interest, but certainly the additional space and 2 to 3 times the tent space helped. Of course, what better place than Maryville College, home of the “Fighting Scots?” One person was overheard saying it was redundant to call a Scot a Fighting Scot!
This year’s honored guest was Lord Hugh Montgomerie, a chieftain of his clan and heir to his father the 18th Earl of Eglinton and 6th Earl of Winton! Finding out more about your own clan is an important part of the festival but you certainly, don’t have to be Scottish to partake of the festivities. Food: Scottish eggs, meat pies and haggis to name a few of the traditional offerings, were almost as popular as the beer tent. For the activities, it really helps to go with the Times pre-printed schedule. Friday kicked off with the Knoxville Pipes and Drums parade and a reception at the Clayton Center. Saturday 8am-8pm and Sunday 8:30pm to 5pm was nonstop competitive events, music, shopping and demonstrations. mizkathleen@ Gracehill Bed and Breakfast
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