Friday, September 14, 2012

Kentucky to Tennessee Via the Gap (Day 5-7)

Day 5 - From Original Road to Original Recipe

Old Wilderness Road
We decided to stay an extra day at our campground near Lake Cumberland in Kentucky and do another area tour as a day trip.  We're learning fast that it's a lot easier to drop the camper longer and spread out than it is to pack it up every morning.  First on our agenda was the Battle of Camp Wildcat in northern Laurel County near London.  The battle site just happens to be along the Wilderness Road, a principal route used by settlers for over 50 years to reach Kentucky from the East.  The road was blazed by none other than Daniel Boone, who headed up a small crew for the Transylvania Company from Fort Chiswell in Virginia in 1775.

Battle of Camp Wildcat
The Battle of Camp Wildcat on October 21, 1861,  part of the Kentucky Confederate Offensive,  is considered one of the very first Union Victories, and marked the second engagement of troops in the commonwealth. Alarmed at the Confederate offensive, Union forces were instructed to establish camp and block Wilderness Road. They were successful  in their task as Confederates withdrew that night and began a retreat to Cumberland Ford.  Although there would be exaggerated accounts of the number dead, official counts would show only 4 Union and 11 Confederate casualties, with a few dozen more wounded. This site is now part of the Daniel Boone National Forest.

Kitchen in Sanders Cafe Museum
As we continued our Civil War tour, we ran into some more recent history in Corbin Kentucky.  This is where Colonel Harland Sanders Pioneered his famous recipe that would become the world wide giant Kentucky Fried Chicken.  In 1930, when Sanders was operating a service station here, he began cooking for travelers who stopped for gas.  His idea of home cooking on the road was so well received that Kentucky Governor Ruby Laffoon made him an honorary Colonel in 1935. As the years passed he perfected his secret blend of herbs and spices and the basic technique that is still used today. While the KFC empire has grown by leaps and bounds since its humble beginnings, the original Sanders Cafe still stands in Corbin as a museum and KFC restaurant.

After a quick tasty treat in Corbin, we headed out to the Battle of Barbourville.  This was an earlier conflict before the Battle of Camp Wildcat, and considered the first Confederate Victory in Kentucky.  The battle on September 19, 1861 threw a scare into Union commanders, who then rushed troops to Kentucky to try to repel the Confederate Offensive, which stopped at the Battle of Camp Wildcat in October. This is a notable battle due to the fact it was the first to claim lives from both sides of the Civil War, 1 pro Union and about 7 Confederates.

Site of the First Log Cabin in KY.
Down the road from Barbourville a few miles off US 25E on highway 459 is the site of the first house in Kentucky.  Built by Dr. Thomas Walker, who led the first expedition through Cumberland Gap in 1750, the site is near the river in which he named Cumberland. A replica of the home stands today for visitors to enjoy and is supposedly on the same spot the original was built. Although the exact size of the original is disputed, Walkers journal indicates it was about 12 by 8 feet, however historians think it was 12 by 18 feet due to the way Pioneers measured buildings at the time. The state has done a good job of helping preserve the site and attract families with more than just the replica.  This park includes a basketball court, gift shop, horseshoes, miniature golf and picnic areas.

Cumberland Falls
To round out our day trip we circled back toward Lake Cumberland to see the famous Cumberland Falls. Sometimes called the Little Niagara, the Niagara of the South, or the Great Falls, this large waterfall on the Cumberland River was a beautiful way for us to wrap us this day. The falls are 68 feet high and 125 feet wide, with an average water flow of 3,600 cubic feet per second.  On nights with a full moon, Cumberland Falls is also famous for its elusive lunar rainbow, or moonbow, formed by the mist. This natural phenomenon is not visible anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere on a predictable schedule around a full moon.  The falls attract over 750,000 visitors a year with its beauty, moon or not.

Day 6 - Kentucky to Tennessee through the Gap

Cumberland Gap
Although the state parks we have parked our RV at have been nice, we really enjoyed our stay at Lake Cumberland RV Park.  The people there were great, and we got a lot of wonderful tips on RV life while there from the camp host.   But, as in all our travels, there comes a time to move on down the road, so hitched up our mobile motel and headed out for Cumberland Gap National Historic Park.  Covering almost 32 square miles in three states (Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia), the park commemorates a vital early phase in the westward movement.  It also played a key role in the American Civil War, as the Old Wilderness Road cutting through the Gap was a natural invasion route.  For the Confederates it led to Kentucky and for the Union it led to Northern sympathizers of East Tennessee along with an opportunity to cut rebel supply lines.

Pinnacle Peak
After a quick stop at the Visitors center, we headed toward Pinnacle Peak Overlook and ran into our next  major dilemma with the camper...can't get there.  Warning signs forbidding vehicles and trailers over 20 feet stopped us in our tracks, but obviously we weren't  the only ones that have had this issue.  At the same spot of the warnings the park service has built a parking lot with plenty of room to drop your camper and move on. It was well worth it too.  Moving up the road we ran into a little more Civil War history with a couple of small Forts, and some spectacular views. The Overlook at the end of the road gives you a great view of Pinnacle Peak, where you can see for miles into Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia that converge at the top of the peak.

Old Mill Inn in Cumberland Gap,TN
Coming back down the mountain I quipped that we shouldn't forget the camper.  Kathy and I both laughed, but as dorky as we are I could see us getting down the road a ways before realizing we had a lighter load than normal.  After our quick hook up, we headed back out to the highway, through the tunnel and sprang out into Tennessee on the other side for another quick stop in the town of Cumberland Gap.  Here we found the Old Mill Inn.  Built in the 1800's, this Inn was run by the Daniel Boone family for over 100 years and is the oldest Historical Building in the town.  A log cabin built in the 1700's was moved beside the Inn in the 1940's. It served as headquarters for the Tennessee Volunteers at one time. The Mill itself has served as a boarding house, art school, ice cream parlor, brothel, museum and even a church over the years.  Today it's a Bed and Breakfast.

Being so close to the state line, Kathy had me jog over into Virginia just to say we were there and then turn around back to Tennessee toward our final destination of the day, Sevierville.  Along the way we stopped at a road side overlook with more spectacular views, this time of Cherokee Lake.  We had a great trip to Sevierville, and looked forward to our stay at Fort Kautzky.  Well, not really a fort, but home to my Aunt Peggy and Uncle Dan, family I don't get to see nearly enough.  I'm glad to say that no one took pictures of Dan and I getting the RV backed into their back yard as I'm sure it was a bit comical.

Day 7 - Covered Bridge and Pigeon Forge

1875 Covered Bridge at Harrisburg, TN
This area of Tennessee is tourists dream.  Sitting right next to the Smokey Mountain National Park, the beauty is complimented by plenty of history and things to do.  However, catching up with family took priority for us this day, so we only ventured out for a few hours. Kathy found an historic covered bridge in the small community of Harrisburg, now part of Sevierville.  Built in 1875, it was fully restored in 1972 and was a great picture opportunity.  This hidden treasure is off highway 411 north of town about 5 miles, then east on TN-339.

The Old Mill, Pigeon Forge, TN
After the bridge we headed for Pigeon Forge, home of Dollywood and, at least during our visit, one heck of a car show.  The Pigeon Forge Rod Runs bring thousands of classic car, truck and motorcycle enthusiasts each year.  Needless to say I was extremely thankful we didn't have the camper in tow as we inched our way down the main road through town.  We did make a stop at the Old Mill, but decided to forgo the crowds and head back to the camper for more family time.  While not exactly our cup of tea, with the exception of the history of course,Pigeon Forge is sure to have something for every family member.  Lots of entertainment, fun parks and attractions add to the hundreds of thousands that visit this area each year.

After we returned Kathy caught up on her photos while I caught up with family.  It was another great day with anticipation of our next adventure into Smokey Mountain National Park.

In the meantime you can see all the latest pics on our Facebook photo album Kentucky to Tennessee HERE.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,
My name is Jane and I'm with Dwellable.
I was looking for blog posts about the Covered Bridge to share on our site and I came across your post...If you're open to it, shoot me an email at jane(at)dwellable(dot)com.
Hope to hear from you :)