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Archive for tennessee

Total Eclipse in the Park

By Linda Tancs

A total eclipse of the sun will sweep across the United States for three hours today beginning around noon. This is the first total solar eclipse to affect the continental U.S. since 1979, and 20 of Tennessee’s state parks fall in the “path of totality.” One of those is Frozen Head State Park, where you’ll get 34 seconds to view this singular event. Named for a 3,324-foot peak in the Cumberland Mountains (the top of which is often shrouded in ice or snow in the winter months), the park provides 50 miles of backpacking and day-hiking trails with extensive wildlife viewing opportunities. The state park system is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year.

Place of a Thousand Drips

By Linda Tancs

Named for a roaring mountain stream, Roaring Fork is one of the larger and faster flowing mountain streams in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Located in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, its namesake motor nature trail is a scenic loop over five miles long, offering rushing mountain streams, a scenic overlook with glimpses of old-growth forest, a number of well-preserved log cabins, grist mills and other historic buildings and, at this time of year, spectacular fall foliage. Two of the most popular waterfalls in the Smokies are located here: Rainbow Falls and Grotto Falls. Their smaller cousin is no less popular, though. Known as Place of a Thousand Drips, it is, as the name implies, a low-flow fall driven by wet weather. Located at the end of the trail, you can observe its streams (weather permitting) cascading through dozens of crevices and tiny pathways.

Old Hickory’s Homestead

By Linda Tancs

U.S. President Andrew Jackson (you know, the one on the 20 dollar bill) gained the nickname Old Hickory as a result of his toughness on the battlefield during the War of 1812, a battle that ultimately won him the White House.  Following the presidency, he retired to his much loved estate in Tennessee, The Hermitage.  The main house, considered one of the best preserved early presidential homes, is a Greek Revival brick mansion, chock-full of original furnishings, including very scenic and stunning wallpaper depicting the tale of Homer’s Odyssey.  The pastoral surroundings are punctuated with a small herd of Belted Galloways (sometimes referred to as the Oreo-cookie cow due to its appearance).  In the southeast corner of the garden you’ll find the tomb of the president and his beloved wife, Rachel.  Visited by millions annually, the property is located just miles outside downtown Nashville.

The Birthplace of Country Music

By Linda Tancs

Imagine being able to step into the shoes of some of the first families of country music and record your own rendition of the songs that launched their careers.  You can do that at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum.  Located at the junction between Bristol, Tennessee, and Bristol, Virginia, it’s officially recognized by Congress as the birthplace of country music.  The museum’s mission is to preserve and promote the 1927 recording sessions of legends like Jimmie Rogers and the Carter family, an event that Johnny Cash hailed as a seminal event in country music history.  Even the Library of Congress has ranked the “Bristol Sessions” as one of the 50 most significant events in the history of recorded music.   A special exhibition honoring the Carters runs through 28 February.

An American Story

By Linda Tancs

Memphis, Tennessee, the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll, has another jewel in its crown:  the National Civil Rights Museum.  Chronicling the history and development of the civil rights movement, it begins with a multi-sensory exhibition concerning the slave trade.  And it includes other poignant displays surrounding every historical milestone in the battle for equal rights, featuring in many instances the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (whose birth is celebrated in the United States on the third Monday of January each year as a national holiday).  The museum is housed at The Lorraine Motel, site of Dr. King’s assassination on April 4, 1968.  Today marks the museum’s annual King Holiday Celebration.

Beneath the Elms

By Linda Tancs

In Memphis, Tennessee, you’ll find a historic cemetery, bird sanctuary and arboretum all in one place:  Elmwood Cemetery.  Some of the 80-acre property’s 1500 trees at this level two Tennessee State Arboretum date to the cemetery’s founding in 1852.  Beneath the grounds’ ancient elms, oaks and magnolias rest those responsible for creating the city’s history, including war veterans and public servants.  One of the first rural garden cemeteries in the South (characterized by a park-like setting, sweeping vistas, shady knolls, ancient trees and monuments), structures like the dramatic Entry Bridge and Phillips Cottage (the only known example of Victorian Carpenter Gothic architecture in Memphis) are on the National Register of Historic Places.  Docent-led tours as well as car audio tours are available.

America’s Most Visited National Park

By Linda Tancs

There are lots of reasons to visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Hikers love the 800 miles of maintained trails. There’s also fishing, camping, picnicking and auto touring. And, oh, the bears–1,500 live in the park; that’s nearly two per square mile. You can view them handily from Cades Cove, one of the most popular destinations in the Great Smokies for wildlife viewing. The Great Smoky Mountains are also known as the “Wildflower National Park,” boasting over 1,500 varieties and year-round blooms. You might think that, given its popularity, the biggest population of vertebrates in the park is the human variety. Not so. Thirty species of salamander roam the park at elevations up to 3,000 feet. That’s why they call it the “Salamander Capital of the World.” , The tallest mountains in the Appalachian chain, the Smokies host five forest types giving way to enviable biological diversity–and human history. No wonder it’s America’s most visited national park. Located in the east Tennessee region and straddling the border with North Carolina, you can easily access the park via Gatlinburg.

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