Elizabeth A.S. Brooke

Crafting, traveling and everything in between.

Johnson City, Tenn.

My trip to Johnson City, Tenn., was a quick one. I did not get to visit Pal’s, as I had hoped. By the time I got to the hotel, settled in, and found where I needed to be the next morning, I didn’t have any light left for wandering around.

I spent most of my time up and down State of Franklin Road. This area of Tennessee used to be called State of Franklin in the last 1700s.

Johnson City is much larger than I expected it to be. The population is more than 60,000. There are lots of big box stores, so if you like shopping you’ll feel right at home. The area also has lots of trails and outdoor activities. Asheville and Boone, N.C., are just over an hour away. That means Pisgah National Forest, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the AT are all nearby.

Some of the places I would recommend visiting are Warriors’ Path State Park, Historic Jonesborough, which is Tennessee’s oldest town, and the International Storytelling Center, where the National Storytelling Festival is held every year. If I make it out that way again, I wouldn’t want to miss them. Chris has always wanted to visit Warriors’ Path. He couldn’t come with me on this last trip.

Suggestions for things to do in Johnson City, Tenn.

Last week I asked Facebook friends of things I should see and do while in Johnson City, Tenn. I am planning a trip there in a few weeks and was wondering what I shouldn’t miss.

Besides warnings about zealous traffic cops, one friend suggested Pal’s for hotdogs and fries. I’m hoping to get a few more ideas before I head there in a few weeks.

Natural Tunnel State Park

Our final romping around the state on Memorial Day Weekend ended at Natural Tunnel State Park. You can read about our other hikes here.

The park is located near the Virginia-Tennessee border and we stopped in Kingsport, Tenn., on our way home for supper.

Next to Fairy Stone State Park, this may be one of my favorite Virginia parks for camping. We didn’t camp here, but I wish we had. The campsites were nice and the trails and views were great.

The park is also building new cabins that should be open soon. If they’re anything like a cabin we saw from the trail, they’re huge and beautiful!

On the trails we saw a woodpecker (maybe a hairy or downy) and heard many other types of birds. We hoped to see grouse, but could only hear what we thought was one. A sign in the park said grouse sound like drumming.

We also found what might be an orchid. It’s the small plant with two oval leaves in the middle:

(All photos by E.A. Seagraves or Christopher Brooke. Do not use without permission.)

Most of the trails are short and there’s one that is 2.8 miles. We walked most of the trails, walking around the valley’s ridges to get better looks at the trains and valley below:

There’s a train track that runs through the park and is still used to haul coal. Visitors frequently take photos of trains coming through the tunnel. You can either snap pictures from above or below in the valley.

You can get to the valley by walking a short (0.25 mile), steep trail or taking a chair lift. At the bottom is a boardwalk that runs along the train tracks and a creek.

Chris tried to take pictures of what might have been cave swallows, but wasn’t successful.

We also had a surprise while waiting for the swallows and another train to take pictures — a snake! It must have fallen from the rock wall above or was dropped by a bird. You can kind of see what might be gore on the snake’s head here:

All I know is the snake wasn’t there when I looked in that spot a few seconds before and I found it after hearing a thump. I felt like I was going to have a heart attack or pass out. Can you imagine what it would be like if a snake fell on you?
I know next time I’ll take an umbrella with me. : )

A friend who looked at the photo of the snake believes it was a harmless garter snake, but it was pretty angry when we found it. Another friend said she’d be angry too if she were dropped several hundred feet. Yeah, I suppose so.

Here’s some more photos:

This is called “The Carter Cabin.” It’s in the valley below and sits beside the creek on the other side from the tracks.

A shot of another, shorter tunnel trains travel through.

Here’s a sign posted on the boardwalk explaining the history and use of the Natural Tunnel.

I’m not sure what this little fella is, but he’s cute, right?

I tried to get a picture of the train coming through Natural Tunnel, but didn’t get a clear shot. So this picture of the train going through the smaller tunnel will have to do.

I think this lizard looks pregnant. On our way up the first trail we saw at least 3 of these lizards.

Chris took a picture of this pretty view of The Wilderness Road Blockhouse.

Here’s some history on the Blockhouse.

This is a garden behind the Blockhouse. Chris said it reminded him of the gardens around Colonial Williamsburg, Va.

Moses H. Cone and Julian Price Memorial Parks

Chris and I recently spent a few days in Gatlinburg, Tenn. A few Saturdays ago, we headed out down the Blue Ridge Parkway, a 469 driving trail that winds through the mountains and valleys of the North Carolina and Virginia mountains.

The sun shone brightly for our leisure trip down the parkway and autumn leaf colors were just beginning to show among the light and dark green foliage.

We like to drive down the parkway, which has posted speed limits of 45 mph, and stop at various locations along the way.

The first two stops we made were at Moses H. Cone Memorial Park and Julian Price Memorial Park. Both are located adjacent to each aother near Blowing Rock, N.C.
The Moses H. Cone Memorial Park is 3,500 acres featuring 25 miles of trails and Flat Top Manor, a 20-room, 13,000 square foot mansion built in 1901 by Moses Cone. Moses Cone was a textile entrepreneur, conservationist and philanthropist.
The home now houses the Parkway Craft Center, which sells handmade crafts by regional artists. Visitors can walk, bike or ride horses on eight different trails around the estate.

We didn’t have time to walk around the trails, but from the porch of the home, you could a small lake with and a trail that loops around it. The view was gorgeous with the sunlight sparkling on a small lake. Some visitors did take advantage fo the trails, including one small group that brought their horses for a stroll.

Many people had stopped at the home to look at the various crafts, which ranged from jewelry to fabric dolls. My favorite was the computer elves — female creatures made of fabric with wildly colored hair and clothing that will sit on top of your computer monitor and help you with all your computer falfunctions.

Visitors are limited to the front of the home and to the first floor. I would have loved to seen what the rest of the house looked like, but it’s not open to the public.

From the estate, we traveled a few miles to a picnic area at the Julian Price Memorial Park. We ate sandwich and chips we had packed from home beside a small stream. Many people were enjoying picnics too and many families played frisbee or ball with children and dogs.

The Julian Price Memorial Park is adjacent to the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park and features 4,300 acres and a small lake.

Recreational activities include hiking, fishing, canoeing, camping and guided walks and evening campfire programs.

We didn’t get to enough any of the recreational activities at either site, but we’d love to. These are one of the many places we decided we want to go back and visit.

Next stops were Mount Mitchell and Linville Caverns. I’ll write about those in a future post!