Some time in the 1930s, Harold Roitman, my grandfather, Grampie as I called him when he was still alive, came all the way from Boston to visit this dam. My Chinese roommate in college knew about it. To them it was a symbol of progress, understood by both to be an unambiguous good movement forward, providing electricity to people who didn’t previously have it.
We can debate what progress is now, a debate I’m honestly not in the mood for now. Right now, I and others just want to look at and listen to the sheer volume of water spilling over the dam right now after all the recent rain.
On a short winter day sometimes you just want to escape from town (Oak Ridge Tennessee) and climb a gravel path, up and down hills through woods and fields, looking down from above at Melton Hill Lake. If so, Gallaher Bend Greenway may be the one for you. At least you won’t get lost. It’s just one path the whole way and, due to study of the surrounding area, you can’t leave it. The trail is a gravel road, but closed to traffic starting at Clark Center Park. The 4.5 mile route is not flat at all though but quite hilly, making for good exercise if you’re running.
The trail’s highlight is the open field area shown above, from which you can look down at Melton Hill Lake below, bright blue on a clear day amid the gray of winter.
With big places to go like Great Smoky Mountains and the Cumberlands nearby, places like Gallaher Bend Greenway may feel too mundane for me to share, but there’s a place for simple trips as well as long ones. I look forward to a year full of enjoying many different trails: showy and understated, long and short near to me and a ways away, and you can look forward to reading about the full range of them here.
Zoo Knoxville through its promotions is considering this its 70th anniversary. That’s a little debatable, even by its own website. The News Sentinel, a local paper did, in 1948 launch an effort to start a zoo, which included various animals starting with an alligator, although the zoo’s own website dates the “modern zoo” to 1971.
That modern zoo, however was not the same as the present one. I know because I have been coming at different times throughout my life. The zoo has recently added playgrounds to make itself more exciting to children and sometimes even they’re related to exhibits, like monkey bars near gibbons.
The zoo is more or less divided by continent now as far as its major areas. Asia Trek is the zoo’s new showcase exhibit, showing off tigers …
And red pandas who did not feel like posing for me, even though those racoon-like critters are a distinctive feature of the zoo. Don’t expect them to be bear sized.
Elsewhere the zoo boasts exotic beasts like giraffes and rhinos along with local favorites like otters.
On the way from Oak Ridge, TN in a recent trip north, I passed this landmark: the grand guitar in Bristol Tennessee.
“I’ve always thought, why would anyone stop at a square building that looked like every other building?” Joe Morrell, creator of the Grand Guitar.
It’s on the National Register of Historic Places. Key word there is “historic.” The building stands, a chipping ruin with broken strings and a parking lot covered in grass, even though the building only dates back to 1983.
Once an elaborate museum with a recording studio, it now joins probably many other buildings meant to advertise something no longer there, but so distinctive that it has to stay up. That Roadside America link above gives an excellent history of this rather random landmark.
Simply put, it means buildings that look like things that they aren’t, usually things that the building is trying to sell or, in the case of a museum, like the one above, be about.
I’ve covered one other such building in my day job as a staff reporter for The Oak Ridger: the 1931 airplane filling station in Powell, now a barber shop and recently restored to its shiny glory. People sometimes think it had or has the ability to fly. It can’t. And even if it could the lack of a windshield is a problem.
There are some things that straddle the line between mimetic architecture. Statues of course are always meant to resemble something but sometimes they can also be ads if they’re near a commercial building.
As frequent visitors to this blog (all three of you, but thanks!) might note, I use every opportunity to shamelessly plug my book “Wildly Strolling Along: Father-Son Nature Adventures on Tennessee’s Cumberland Trail” (available now on Amazon!). I’m shameless.
While it’s not at all about Bristol or the grand guitar, it does go into detail about another specimen of crazy roadside architecture that stands in Caryville Tennessee: George the Dragon. He’s a mascot for a fireworks store that burned down years ago.
I hope all these crazy architectural ads stay up and I hope you enjoy them. Share any examples you know in the comments!
We romanticize it. We make shows like “Dukes of Hazard” and films and songs like “Thunder Road.” I’ve heard old timers telling campfire tales of their liquor running adventures. We also ridicule it. We show cartoon hicks running around with bottles that show off strings of xs that later generations associate more with porn.
Nowadays in places like Gatlinburg, “moonshine” just means “unaged wiskey for tourists.” They have tasting rooms for flavored ‘shines. I’m not complaining. It’s a distinctive experience and I hope it’s more than just a fad. It makes Gatlinburg different from every other Ripley’s developed collection of roadside attractions.
For more on this issue, you can read what some people in the industry have to say here.
Even in the 1950s, long after prohibition, rural sheriffs considered it a serious matter to enforce liquor taxes. And moonshiners hid in under cover of forest in the mountains.
During my 2012 hikes that inspired my book “Wildly Strolling Along” I remember seeing what might have been distilling-related ruins in Prentice Cooper State Forest near Chattanooga, probably related to the black market liquor industry.
Later on in the trail’s Soddy section, a hiking companion described a rusty truck we passed as a “hoopee,” a moonshine running truck.
The book includes a short sidebar on Moonshine, which actually was at the request of my grandmother.
But I’m no archaeologist. I can’t recognize an illicit whisky operation from any other truck stuck in the woods or collection of pipes and barrel ribs that could just be for water for all my suburban mind knows. And I certainly can’t sort everything out by when it was from.
Given, I even confused a coke oven for a mine entrance in the book, and that was involving the legal coal industry, I can’t think of how bad I’d bee at identifying illegal stuff.
Mariah Prescott a trail builder for the recently opened Richie Hollow Trail recently told The Chattanooga Times Free Press about her wish for signs to highlight some of Prentice Cooper State Forest’s moonshine ruins.
Is it at all worthwhile to remember mere profit-seeking criminals? Especially when there is still an unpopular war on drugs, just different drugs?
I think so. If we can get past marketing gimmicks, silly caricatures and the like and dive into actual history, we’ll have a fuller picture of the past, the present and the future. History isn’t just about battles. Sometimes it’s about booze.
Ijams Nature Center in South Knoxville is not a zoo, per se. The center features a quarry swimming area, boat rentals, trails along the river, a challenge course and outdoor movies.
But if you’re visiting Ijams, you will see some local animals for free at the main visitors’ center. Turtles and fish swim in tanks inside. Outside you’ll find a few birds in enclosures. Among them is Zoe.
Zoe is a turkey vulture, which is a kind of vulture, not a kind of turkey. You can find out more about them on the Cornell Ornithology Lab’s excellent page. Unlike black vultures, who have dark grey heads, turkey vultures have pinkish heads, kind of like turkeys.
Vultures are underrated, to say the least. But I enjoy spotting them both up close and soaring overhead. I would rather live in a world of vultures than one of rotting carcasses everywhere.
While birds of prey specialize in sight, turkey vultures have a keen sense of smell, which they use to spot their (to us) smelly meals.
They have standards though, even if you can’t call them food snobs by our standards. They prefer more recently dead critters to longer rotting ones. Also, they refuse to eat skunks’ scent glands.
Since this is a family time of the year, it’s worth noting that like many birds, turkey vultures feed their children, by throwing-up. They also defend their children … by throwing-up. And in both cases, it’s vomited carrion. Ok, so they’re gross. But it’s striking they’re two bird households, with both parents feeding their young.
Zoe’s a little tamer than her high flying brothers and sisters, as you can see in this picture, although she’s not a bird you can pet or hold without experience. She’s usually behind glass. Say hi to her the next time you stop by.
Both my Dad and I write about turkey vultures and a few other birds, along with other family relations among animals, plants and each other in our book, “Wildly Strolling Along.”
People get so focused on straight in front of them or below to avoid tripping on roots that they often forget to look up, especially if it’s not at a mountain.
This weekend is a crowded time at the park. But I encourage you to get out and enjoy the colors and if you enjoy them, the crowds. I again did not have time for a long walk, but rather revisited a short one.
As I have written before, the Cateract Falls Trail is an easy, flat hike close to the Sugarland Visitors Center.