Piney River Pocket Wilderness near Spring City, Tennessee has just a tiny number of trails and even fewer roads (the main one of which is closed now). But it is a glorious place for swimming holes. The clear, cool Cumberland water is delightful in a Tennessee summer, and unlike certain other places, it never gets crowded.
While there are swimming holes further back that are so obscure you can swim nude, you don’t even have to walk far from the parking lot to get in the water. Near the park’s picnic area there are a series of clear pools for splashing about in.
But even the beaten path in Piney River isn’t that beaten. Even on Labor Day, Yvonne and I just saw a few families visiting.
I’m no expert on fish. Fishing and/or ichthyology will probably be something for another episode. For now though I’ll just say that I love the fish in wild Tennessee pools as they’re among the few woodland creatures that actually enjoy a human presence.
This was my first time visiting with Yvonne. When I visit with Dad, we usually go on the Cumberland Trail, as in our book, with any swimming as an afterthought.
With the Yvonne and me this time, the Cumberland Trail was an afterthought. We didn’t reach any of its more impressive scenery, but rather walked to a tiny rockhouse, kissed, contemplated our surroundings, looked at what appeared to be a whole community of centipedes under the same rock overhang and then headed back, not even getting as far as the first stream crossing the CTC website lists before jumping back in the water. Streams just call to Yvonne and me.
We have the paper company Bowater, founded by the Englishman Bowater to thank for the Pocket Wildernesses, now part of the state park system. His company created privately owned parks out of forests he did not want to use. Bowater area trails and features usually have a flair for the dramatic: tall bridges and long and steep flights of stairs.The Twin Rocks, with its steep stairs protected by a cage was one such feature, although it’s closed now and the trail to the rocks is poorly maintained.
Imagine a clear stream. Tall boulders to sun on and sit on like a mermaid. Fish nibbling at your legs. Larger fish swim by, with dull colored bodies but flashes of color on their fins. Pools deep enough to tread water and other, shallower spots to just sit and soak.
The Lilly Bluff area is most famous as a destination for rock climbers. But for me and my family, no summer would be complete without a swim there, hanging out on a slanting boulder, then splitting up with Dad doing his plant survey along the banks and the rest of us exploring the river by swimming it. There are plenty of trails to get warmed up with and as stated above the rock climbing will get you nice and hot to enjoy some natural Tennessee water.
The area is pretty well known, indeed it even has restrooms. But if you feel like it’s hard finding a spot to yourself, keep moving along the bank and you’ll find your own boulder.
Hiking with my Dad on a mountain really shows me the difference between the two of us.
Dad’s can walk all the way to the rocky summit of a mountain able too see for miles and miles but instead he narrows in on a tiny flower, examining it to get its precise name in English and Latin. I love hearing him give the name but instantly forget. It’s rock harlequin, by the way (Corydalis sempervivrens).
Afraid of heights but curious about growing things, his bald head full of their names from falling apart books, he looks at a whole world of life others ignore, while Mom and I stare off into the distance, looking out at what everyone else comes for. But I do know, thanks to Dad, how to look for tiny blueberries on which I can snack.
I joined Mom and Dad on the hike up Rattlesnake Mountain in New Hampshire.
Rattlesnake Mountain is not tall or difficult to climb by the standards of New Hampshire peaks, but it is steep. The view from the top is typical Appalachian rolling hills covered in green trees rather than the more cliffy mountains at Franconia Notch. For some people the wind turbines visible on a nearby mountain may ruin the view, but for me they just make it distinctive. I consider it a good mountain if you’re in the area and want a short trip.