Old Mill Pigeon Forge

Old Mill Pigeon Forge
A couple get married by the Old Mill in Pigeon Forge Tennessee.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Random Eastern Tennessee Photos

Here are a last few random photos before I switch topics on the blog...  They have nothing in common, other than I took them while driving around the Great Smoky Mountains area.

Friday, May 19, 2017

"Bear in the Back Seat- Adventures of a Wildlife Ranger" by Kim DeLozier and Carolyn Jourdan

During our recent trip to the Gatlinburg area and the Great Smoky Mountains, I wanted to take a book with me relating to the park and the area to read.  There are some interesting ones...  some of which I have brought up here before (I mentioned another similar book by Ranger Dwight McCarter here). 

On this trip, I took Ranger Kim DeLozier and Carolyn Jourdan's fun and easy to read book, "Bear in the Back Seat: Adventures of a Wildlife Ranger in the Great in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park" with me.

Kim DeLozier is basically giving fun, interesting, and sometimes sad stories about his adventures, mostly relating to bears and other wild animals, as a Ranger in the Great Smoky Mountains.  Each chapter is a short, stand alone tale where Kim talks about a personal adventure that happened to him.  This is one of those great books that can be appreciated by anyone.  Very young readers will find the short chapters easy to read and appreciate.  The whole book has enough substance to make a veteran book reader feel like they are getting a lot for their money with this one too.

DeLozier really opens himself up here too.  He isn't trying to falsely write an account of a big, heroic ranger.  He is very honest about mistakes he makes.  He lets the reader know that there have been times in his career (early on) when he was more worried about how he would appear to people watching him than doing his job correctly.  In the back of the book he even (humbly) prints a list of things he learned while being a ranger.  He also talks about having to euthanize animals (for humane reasons, and for the safety of humans).  The author is open about his mistakes and his feelings- making him a very relatable person.

Ranger Kim also gives the reader a lot of great stories relating to skunks, squirrels, falcons, cows, wild hogs, and poachers... but the stars of the book are easily the bears.  Motherless cubs, elderly bears, and bears willing to do anything to get back to the Smokies once taken away are all main characters.

Kim's main reason, I believe, for writing this book is to educated people about bears in the park, and how to help protect them.  He stresses the importance of leaving them alone and not feeding them.  He explains very clearly that feeding the animals (and teaching them to feel comfortable around people) LITERALLY leads to death for wild animals.

"Bear in the Back Seat" is a great book about animals in the most visited National Park in America.  The stories are sweet and touching and they are written in a very personal way, by a Ranger we can all relate to.  This book gets my highest possible recommendation.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Old Mill Pottery House Cafe & Grille in Pigeon Forge Tennessee

We went to the Old Mill Pottery House and Café while we were in town.  In fact, we went a couple of times!

We loved stopping here last time we were in town, and we really wanted to get back.

The price is right and the food is perfect!  I would say that this is one of the tastier places to eat at in town, while also being very affordable.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Pigeon Forge Mill in Tennessee

Here are a few random photos from the Mill area in Pigeon Forge Tennessee. 

The gristmill has been around since before the Civil War, and it actually was used to help make clothes for soldiers!

Now it is a very happenin' area with several shops and restaurants nearby.  A very popular restaurant and gift shop are inside.

A wedding was going on the day we were there!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Alcatraz East- Pigeon Forge Tennessee

Easily one of the most unique, bizarre, and interesting museums I have visited in a LONG time is the Alcatraz East Crime Museum in Pigeon Forge Tennessee.  This museum was formerly located in Washington DC and was called the National Museum of Crime and Punishment while there.

This museum moved to the area late last year (just before the fires hit) and it seems to be going strong.  There was a good crowd there the day I visited.  Adult tickets were $25-$35 (general admission-VIP ticket) and kids tickets were as cheap as $15.  We did the general admission ticket, and we still killed over 2 hours here.

If you have spent much time in this area, you know that ticket prices for ANY attraction can be steep.  In my opinion, the ticket price for what you get here makes this a good value...  especially if you are fascinated with crime and its history.
There were several items that I wanted to see.  One thing that really impressed me was a relic relating to the Salem With Trials (if you've been by this blog before, you know about my interest in the event).  Well, Alcatraz East has a very cool item relating to trial judge Samuel Sewell.  This one item gives Alcatraz East a leg up on many witch related attractions actually IN the city of Salem.  If you have visited Salem, you know that authentic items relating to the trials are very rare to non-existent.

You may also remember that a little over a year ago, we visited Austin Texas, and I read the book, "A Sniper in the Tower" about the very tragic shooting that occurred at the University of Texas at Austin in 1966.  Well, the museum has a case of items relating to that event, including one of the shooter's rifles.

Another sad crime that I almost feel a bit of a personal connection to involved the Pizza Bomber case out of Erie Pennsylvania that occurred in 2003.  If you aren't familiar with that one, look it up.  It was a very strange one, with an absolutely tragic ending that baffled authorities for years.

In 2003, we lived in Cleveland, and we just happened to be in Erie a lot in the early 00s.  We would go see their minor league team, the SeaWolves a lot.  There were a couple of nice concert venues in town we would frequent too.  At that time, Erie was almost our second hometown... and this crime was so disturbing.

Anyway, I could go on and on about that.  But I did want to see the small case of items from that crime, including the collar bomb.

The museum also had a room devoted to 9/11 that showed a film, and contained many items relating to the attacks.

There is a great (and informative) display on the 4 presidential assassinations too.

There were many other displays and items that impressed me (there were entire sections on the old west, pirates, witch trials in Europe, etc).  I felt that each section was very impressive, and the museum prides itself on authentic relics.  Several of the staff I talked to during our visit boasted of the fact that 95% of the items displayed are authentic.

As far as museums go- having so many actual items is impressive.  Sure, there are a lot of sign and wall displays to read here, but they hit it out of the park on authenticity.

AND, being that this is the Crime Museum, there is something... well, dark about it all.  There are actual murder weapons here.  Heck, the place is full of items directly related to (and mostly involved in) famous crimes.

I talked to one staff person who mentioned that there has been some criticism, especially relating to certain items displayed at the museum.  That criticism I think is fair, but if you are putting down $25+ to visit the Crime Museum, you know what you are in for.  Still too, this IS a museum, and it is a museum that feels complete.

I haven't even mentioned some of the museum's most talked about items.

One area that could use some improvement here is the gift shop.  I wouldn't want to see shirts with actual items used in crimes on them.... but the gift shop was skimpy.  Most of the items sold were very generic, and you could get them somewhere else.

Anyway, I like this museum a lot and I think it is a great fit for Pigeon Forge.  I would LOVE to see more MUSEUM type attractions in the area (right now, there is just Alcatraz East and the Titanic Museum). 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Morristown Tennessee

In the 60s, Morristown Tennessee got the idea to build some overhead sidewalks above the main sidewalks in downtown.  If I understand correctly, this was done so people could still shop downtown after flooding, and it was also done to help the downtown businesses compete with the new indoor shopping mall that opened in that decade.

So, now there is a second level of sidewalks in downtown Morristown.

This is very different.  I don't think I have seen anything else like it.

The downtown area does have a very classic feel.  I love the fact that there are old, fading advertisements painted on the sides of buildings that are still very visible.  In general, this isn't uncommon, but I always appreciate seeing it.

There are several nice little shops here.  Not one or two, but enough to make this area worth a visit.  We enjoyed hanging out in a great little antique shop.

The area is attractive and nice, but there was some graffiti here and there.  Hopefully, locals will keep appreciating what they have down here, and make the most of it.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Crockett Tavern- Morristown, Tennessee

We drove by the Crockett Tavern Museum in Morristown Tennessee.  As you know, I have been on a big Davy Crockett kick for some time now, after our two trips to visit the Alamo over the last couple of years.  We visited Mr. Crockett's birth site not far from the Tavern too.

The Crockett Tavern Museum is, unfortunately only open seasonally, so it wasn't open when we stopped by.  That's OK though, I have an excuse to get back to this area again!

This is a cabin built to represent a tavern that Davy's dad established in 1794!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Rogersville Tennessee

After hanging out at the Hale Springs Inn in Rogersville, Tennessee, we took some time to walk around the town.

This is a very attractive small town, worthy of a day trip at some point....  but I kept thinking to myself that the town is a small community museum and a few more local shops away from REALLY popping.

We did briefly swing through Miss Bea's Perks and Pies.  We enjoyed a couple of muffins, and we really liked the vibe there.  You could tell the locals enjoyed it too, it was busy!

Here are a few photos of Rogersville......

Friday, May 5, 2017

Berry Springs Lodge- Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

So, we planned out a trip to spend some time near the Great Smoky Mountains, and its surrounding area.  We probably make it here a time or two each year, and it seems that we rarely stay in the same place as there are some interesting places to stay!

This time, we decided to give the #1 ranked Bed and Breakfast in Sevierville (currently, according to tripadvisor) a chance!

Berry Springs Lodge is actually right in Pigeon Forge, VERY close to Dollywood (I am guessing it is a mile or two away), but also still very secluded.

Berry Springs is part of the Select Registry group of B&B and inns, and we have had a LOT of success with the group lately (remember when I mentioned Rabbit Hill Inn in Vermont and Chanticleer Inn in Georgia?).  These guys seem to have a very high standard!

So, we arrived on a Thursday and we were able to check in early!  That was appreciated, and it was a huge plus!

We were given a tour of the place, and told about the lake, the property etc.  Canned drinks, hot tea and coffee were pretty much always available for the taking.  That's a pretty cool bonus anywhere!

What you might call a "main lobby area" simply looked so cozy.  There were several sitting areas near a TV and near a fireplace.  Stairs come down from a balcony area over looking this area.  It is very attractive, and has that perfect "lodge" feel.  I took a photo, but it really doesn't do justice to how pretty and comfortable it is here.  I love some of the little touches at Berry Springs.  A HUGE stuffed (as in toy stuffed animal, not taxidermy) moose head hangs on the wall.  A similar giant fish is over the fireplace!

Bears are a big deal in the Great Smoky Mountains, and Berry Springs has utilized bears in their décor.  On our bed when we arrived, were two small toy bears to keep us company for the stay!  Our room was so perfect.  There was a fireplace, regional magazines, and a great balcony we could relax on, over looking the mountains.  It was clean and well maintained.  Room service and turn down service were perfect each day too.

In the early afternoon and evenings, we enjoyed sitting in rocking chairs on the Lodge's back porch.  We could hear wild turkey and birds.  Bird feeder's attracted several winged critters.  A squirrel was a frequent visitor too, picking up seeds dropped by the birds.  We really enjoyed our time on this porch, as there are plenty of seats, and the view is amazing.  We took books to read, but just looking out at the land was so relaxing.

And the whole property had the same mellow vibe.  We walked down to the lake at Berry Springs, and it was a very nice way to start a morning.  It was a steep walk downhill, and staff recommended that we use a walking stick (I probably would use one next time) but a stick really wasn't necessary if you're careful.  Near the lake is a barn with a pool table and some other games.  A canoe is on the property that can be taken around the lake.  We skipped that this time (it was a chilly morning) but I will want to try that out next time.  We walking in a loop, going back to the Lodge by way of their main driveway, instead of walking back of the steep hill trail path.

When it comes to places like this, obviously breakfast is a big deal.

Well, Berry Springs Lodge did a great job on breakfast.  Juice, and fruit cups were available along with the main meal.  Of course, fresh coffee was always around too.

My wife has been on a big health kick lately, and Berry Springs prepared some healthy but tasty breakfasts for her.

I was OK with indulging in the delicious breakfasts offered, and I am so glad I did!  Check out the photos!  These were easily some of the best breakfasts I have ever had in my life.

We spent 3 nights here, and we made a point of spending a lot of time Saturday around Berry Springs Lodge just because we wanted to enjoy all the time at the place that we could.  It was just so relaxing!