Day Trips with Nancy Williams

I can’t remember exactly how I met Nancy Canestrari Williams, but I believe it was thru my good friend, Michele King. I was honored to be co-chair when Michele was chair of the Washington County Foundation, Ballad Health. Nancy and Michele are both delights and I wish I could spend more time with each of them.

This is a repeat of a post Nancy did for me last fall. The post last fall was Nancy’s second guest blog post for me. If you missed the first one, here’s a link:  https://asweservewithsignificance.com/2020/07/28/welcome-to-nancy-williams-guest-blogger/

Today’s guest blog post is really a continuation of my blog a couple of weeks ago that had ideas for day trips from Johnson City.  But even if you don’t live near here, you’ll want to read on.

Nancy Canestrari Williams is a Christian wife, mom, and author as well as a writer/communications professional representing Lightbourne Creative. She has more than 40 years’ experience in public relations, advertising, marketing, employee communications, writing, and photography for national and regional firms, including FedEx and other Fortune 500 industries. She has a master’s degree in journalism and also served as an adjunct instructor at a Christian college for a decade, teaching PR strategies and practices to the next generation of professionals. She and her husband, Mark, are active members at Westminster Presbyterian Church and have two grown children, Elizabeth and Alex. In 2019, Williams published her first book, A Crocus in the Desert, as a devotional book to help women experiencing infertility.

Nancy, thank you!

Mark and Nancy Williams, DuPont State Recreational Forest, southwest of Hendersonville, NC.  Photo by Randolph Williams 

“Fun Stuff” in the Tri-Cities area—

We are so blessed to live in the epicenter of a magnificent landscape, full of extraordinary beauty, music, fun folks, mountain scenery, clean lakes, and wildlife. As we emerge from a doldrums year of COVID restrictions, we have even more options for recreational activities. Here are some of my favorites—enjoy!

Hiking in Tennessee:

Go to appalachiantreks.blogspot.com written by Mark Peacock for a complete list of great places for hikes. Also, Johnny Molloy has published a great series of books on nearby hikes and waterfalls—look at Mahoney’s store downstairs or on Amazon.com.

Laurel Falls—Also called Laurel Fork Falls…accessible from two directions on the Appalachian Trail at Hampton: from off 67/321 just beyond Laurel/Swimming Pool Streets; and from another direction, Dennis Cove Trailhead in Dennis Cove. Great place to dip feet in the large pool of cold water; just don’t go climbing up above the falls or dive off them. https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/cherokee/recreation/hiking/recarea/?recid=35016&actid=50

Roan Mountain Bald—Easy, paved hike from Carver’s Gap to wide-open views of NC and TN at 6,000+ feet. Best hike in the area. Rhododendron gardens nearby are beautiful when blooming in June (annual festival in the town of Roan Mountain during that month). Easy hike is available along creek in Roan Mountain State Park. https://www.romanticasheville.com/roan.htm

Rock Creek Falls—A little more challenging hike, but easy to access from Erwin; plan to pay a couple of dollars in cash for parking at the campground/park. Public swimming (very cold) at the campground base. Hike to the falls is a bit longer than indicated…but the waterfall at top is a nice reward. https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/cherokee/recarea/?recid=34978

Rocky Fork State Park—Newest state park, still under development, but nice hikes up main road along Rocky Fork Creek or to Burgess Falls. Go to Clinchfield Drugs in downtown Erwin afterward for an ice cream cone at the old-fashioned diner counter. https://tnstateparks.com/parks/rocky-fork; https://www.facebook.com/clinchfielddrugco/

Appalachian Trail—Lots of options (including Roan Bald) for day hikes along the trail. Check out the handicapped section up above Stoney Creek on the way to Shady Valley off Hwy 91 at Cross Mountain Road for an easy stretch with nice views (stop by the Blue Hole on the way). Go up to Beauty Spot just above Erwin for another easy trek, or take the gravel road tour (Beauty Spot Gap Road) between 395 and 107. There is also a nice, flat hike around Watauga Lake, starting next to the Shook Branch Swimming area. Every AT section has its own beauty and challenges! https://appalachiantrail.org

Gentry Creek Falls—A challenging hike because you have to cross the creek 16 times each way…wear creek shoes in higher water, steppingstones are more visible in lower water times. Falls are quite lovely. https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/tennessee/gentry-creek-falls–4

More Tennessee activities:

Kingsport—Lots of things to do there! Take a hike in Laurel Run State Park on the back side of Bay’s Mountain. Warrior’s Path State Park has picnic areas and boating (canoes, paddle boats, kayaks). Kingsport’s Greenbelt path is a good biking trail through the city. And the indoor carousel of hand-carved animals is always a hit with kids! https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/tennessee/laurel-run; https://tnstateparks.com/parks/warriors-path; https://www.kingsportgreenbelt.com; https://arts.kingsporttn.gov/kingsport-carousel/

George L. Carter Model Train Museum—Open Saturdays at ETSU; lots of amazing model trains on view. Check ahead for scheduling during 2021. https://www.etsu.edu/railroad/

Winged Deer Park in JC—Frisbee golf course, free lakeside concerts, team sports events, small log cabin exhibit. https://www.johnsoncitytn.org/residents/parks_and_facilities/residents/winged_deer_park.php

Tweetsie Trail—A rails-to-trails project, connecting Johnson City and Elizabethton along the old Tweetsie Railroad. Great for biking (you can rent them in Johnson City), walking, jogging. http://www.tweetsietrail.com

Rocky Mount—Historic site of first state capitol of the state of Franklin; admission charge ($8 adults, $5 kids). Tour guides are in period costume. Look for announcements about battle reenactments here and other outdoor activities for COVID days. https://rockymountmuseum.com

Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge—Tourist attractions like Dollywood, WonderWorks, and Ripley’s Aquarium, plus many more, are re-opening; lots of shopping, craft shops, souvenirs, and good food, too, nearby. https://www.gatlinburg.com; https://www.mypigeonforge.com

Great Smoky Mountains—Can’t say enough good about hiking in the Smokies…or going through Cades Cove (bike it when the loop is closed to motorized traffic)…taking a horseback ride through the woods…or camping there…my “happy place” as a child. Explore it to find your favorite spot! https://www.nps.gov/grsm/index.htm

Virginia activities:

Grayson Highlands State Park—Scenery like the moors of England, several places to hike, nice open views, wild ponies all around to watch and photograph, small museum. Park admission is $7 per car on weekdays, $10 on weekends. About two hours’ drive from JC. https://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/grayson-highlands

Virginia Creeper Trail—Rent a bike in Damascus plus the bus ride up to the top of Whitetop Mountain drop-off to take the 17-mile downhill trail back to Damascus. Take a backpack picnic…pretty creek alongside. From JC, take Highway 133 through Shady Valley so you can drive through Backbone Rock arch on the way to Damascus (park and take the stairs to climb up on it if you wish, but it’s a bit scary at the top). https://www.vacreepertrail.org

Abingdon—Go into the lobby of the Martha Washington Inn to see the elegance of this antebellum inn; have lunch or dinner there if possible. There are lots of good dining options in Abingdon, plus antique shopping and house museum tours. Check out what’s playing at the Barter Theatre (still currently using the Moonlite Theatre drive-in) for now and in the future. http://www.themartha.com; https://visitabingdonvirginia.com; https://bartertheatre.com

The Carter Family Fold—This world-renowned venue, located in Hiltons, Va., hosts topnotch bluegrass and “olde tyme” performers in the historic family barn belonging to the renowned Carter family. Currently, performances are still on hold, but watch the website for when the Saturday evening schedule resumes. Great place to enjoy live music, snack on popcorn, and join local cloggers on the cement floor in front of the stage. Check out the museum/cabin, too. http://www.carterfamilyfold.org

North Carolina activities:

Blue Ridge Parkway—Lots of places to visit here! Linville Falls (short walk to two big waterfalls), Julian Price Park (rent canoes to paddle on lake), and two arts/crafts museums (near Asheville and at Cone Manor). Take a picnic for roadside views. Lots of hikes here, including several in the Julian Price area and Moses Cone area. Parkway is super busy during peak leaf season. Check website for closings: https://www.blueridgeparkway.org

Asheville—Shop downtown at the whimsical boutiques, Topp’s Shoes, and Mast General Store. Good dining spots all over the place. Good deals at the Outlets Mall just off I-26 at Brevard Road. Stop by the Well-Bred Bakery and Café in Weaverville, for carryout, coming or going from Asheville. https://www.exploreasheville.com/iconic-asheville/downtown/; https://www.shopashevilleoutlets.com; https://www.wellbredbakery.com

DuPont State Recreational Forest—Between Hendersonville and Brevard. Fantastic waterfalls, where “The Hunger Games” was filmed. Afterward, stroll through downtown Hendersonville for shops and restaurants. https://www.dupontforest.com; https://www.mastgeneralstore.com/cms/index.cfm/history/hendersonville/

Brevard—Tourist town known for its white squirrels…keep an eye out, and you’ll eventually see one. Great stopping point on your way to and from the area waterfalls, many in Transylvania County. https://www.brevardnc.org; https://www.visitnc.com/story/GK96/land-of-waterfalls-250-cascades-near-brevard

Apple farms—Visit apple farms in the fall to buy pumpkins and apples. https://www.romanticasheville.com/apple_farm_orchard.htm

Copyright, September 29, 2020 and May 27, 2021 by Nancy Canestrari Williams and Rebecca Henderson.