The Lord Is My Shepherd

One of the most beautiful and well known passages in God’s Word is the 23rd Psalm written by King David as a young shepherd boy about His loving Shepherd – The Lord God. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even when I walk in the valley of darkness, I will fear no evil for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff -they comfort me. You set a table before me in the presence of my adversaries; You anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows. May only goodness and kindness pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever and ever.The psalm brings comfort, provides hope and offers the peaceful outlook required to walk through the sometimes difficult stages of our lives. It is also the foundation for which Billie Karen Walker bases her life. She finds motivation in these words.“Yes, it’s great therapy and my peace and walk with God,” she said, “being a shepherd to these precious lambs and sheep.”From a child, Billie Karen had always been drawn to how God used and inspired writings using the analogy of the sheep for His children. She always wanted to get a hands on experience as a good shepherd to be like Jesus and know these beloved animals.It started in a simple way with the acreage behind the home she shares with her husband, Paul. The back room of the home, overlooking this additional land, is a place for Bible study and visual enjoyment of the outdoors by Billie Karen, “It seemed so empty – it needed animals”, she reflected.As she thought about what kind of animal, she remembered the Sheep farm of friends, Bryan and Mia Sage Beason, they passed daily coming home. She gave them a call asking if possible to come by to pet and love on one of the gentle creatures. It was a touch that reminded her of that childhood calling.Billie Karen also visited another shepherd, Kristen Svensen, of Foggy Knob Farm, who spent many hours sharing knowledge about the lambs and sheep. Discovering that the bottle fed ones required extra love and care, she reflected on that acreage behind her home and how beautiful their presence would be in the green pastures. “May I care for these lambs and other sheep on my land”, she asked Brian and Mia Sage Beason. With resounding approval and support to get started from them, Bille Karen Walker the Shepherd was born.She was instantly in love with the lambs and sheep, sharing her vision with her family and close friends. A vision supported daily by husband, Paul; daughter, Halie Anna Duncan and her husband, Nathan; father, Bill Grady; friends, Leslie, Macy and Meadow and her amazing neighbors.It is the perfect home, just the sight of them grazing and playing about in the field brings peace. It is exactly as the words the song of David says: The Lord is my Shepherd. Billie Karen is able to bring them to her green pastures, lovingly care for them for the pleasure and goodness that is experienced by all who encounter these gentle lambs and sheep. Granting opportunities for photography, visiting churches and allowing some 4H students to visit has created a ministry for showing the love of God to all creatures.“Jesus sees us as His sheep and lambs. We need love and gentle guidance, He is our Shepherd, caring for our needs, showing us ways to give to others and to be used for a greater purpose.” said Billie Karen, “I just love the opportunity to love, and show support to other people and the sheep, I am truly blessed to have this chance and share these sheep and lambs with others. I have been so surprised that from children to the oldest of my friends have never had the opportunity to hold and love a lamb. Many have said they were excited to hold a lamb – that’s the way Jesus sees all of us. As Isaiah 40:11 says: “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart…” Thank you Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God!”

Continue Reading →

She Said Yes to the Dress

Choosing the engagement ring is a significant event for any man, his nerves are centerstage awaiting the moment to shout… “She said Yes”. But those famous words have been forever replaced in popularity by “She said Yes to the Dress”. Of course, there is a moment of spotlight for the groom to be as he takes a knee to propose, but with a swiftness equal to a raging river it shifts to the choosing of a bridal gown.Boy meets Girl, they go on a date, they decide to be friends. Sounds like an ending, however, it was the first chapter in the love story for Dawn Tunby and Matt Isbell. The first attempt to date ended with a friendship and as the story goes, Matt received a phone call from Dawn while he was on a date with another and unexpected to his gentleman personality, he answered. Theymet for coffee and the rest is love story history. So, in the true fashion of a love story, they met again, fell in love and she said yes. But let’s get back to saying “yes to the dress”.In the south, it is well known the scheduled appointment with a bridal shop is the start of the wedding to do list. The deeply rooted tradition and often humorous adventure that is the planning of a southern wedding is enjoyed worldwide every Saturday night on the Knoxville based television channel, TLC. The popular show, Say Yes to the Dress-Atlanta premiered in 2010 and is filmed at Bridals by Lori in Sandy Springs, Georgia.On a hot July day the family & friends of Dawn, the bride to be, arrived at Bridals by Lori for the “Say Yes to the Dress” moment. It is an overwhelming adventure to shop for a wedding dress, but doing it on the setof TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress-Atlanta show doubles, triples the experience. Bridals by Lori combines southern hospitality with vast experience to provide each and every bride an exceptional memory. The 25,000 square foot, three story space is home to the largest full service bridal salon in the nation showcasing well-known designers and private label merchandise. For this bride, her wedding story includes the very ones who made that phrase popular. On the walkway stage of Bridals By Lori in Sandy Springs, Georgia, she said yes to the dress. An elegant Allure Couture bridal gown, with custom veil and all the tears needed for award winning memories. The combination of a magical love story and wedding planning granted a memorable moment as two became one. Surrounded by the beauty of an outdoor venue, family and friends, and priceless memories what started with “Yes”, finaled with “I Do”. Watch “Say Yes to the Dress on TLC.

Continue Reading →

Place of Good Abode the History of Memphis

Native Americans were drawn to the bluffs overlooking the river of what is known as Memphis, building their settlements on the Fourth Chickasaw Bluff which protected them from flooding by the mighty river that also provided easy transportation.It was Hernando DeSoto that arrived in 1541 with his army to explore the lower half of the river, setting up camp near the site of Memphis, claiming the land for Spain. That land would change ownership many times over the next 200 years, claimed by France, England and Spain, before the United States of America got involved.In 1796, Tennessee became the 16th state admitted to the Union, and the Chickasaw Indians sold the land to the U.S. government more than 20 years later. It was during that time that future president Andrew Jackson, John Overton and James Winchester decided to join the government to incorporate the town. They further named the place Memphis, a “place of good abode.”Memphis became the largest inland cotton market in the world, but the city’s location and its reliance on slave labor would prove to be a volatile mix in the near future. The Battle of Memphis, a 90-minute fight resulted in the Confederate flag flying over the city being replaced with a United States flag. The Union Army would establish the area as a hospital post which proved beneficial, helping the city rebound after the war.During the yellow fever epidemic of 1873 it all changed as people passed in catastrophic numbers. The epidemic returned years later to nearly wipe out the entire population. Those who were healthy enough to travel, fled the city. Memphis was bankrupt and forced to surrender its charter. Around 1879 when Memphis was just a state taxing district, a wealthy businessman named Robert Church, Sr. began buying up land, primarily on Beale Street. He built Church Park which is still named in his honor on Beale Street.Time passed and the city welcomed the 20th Century, hoping to leave the negatives of previous century behind. It had been plagued with disease, crime and poverty. Anything you needed that might be illegal continued to be available, mostly on Beale Street. But it was also the home to many music clubs that enticed cotton field workers to enjoy good times on the weekends. It would be their “chantings” that would become “blues,” a priceless American musical art form.Another interesting invention that came out of Memphis was the modern supermarket. Local businessman Clarence Saunders opened the first self service grocery store, Piggly Wiggly. It was a huge success, with stores opening across the county, making him a millionaire. He spent the money by building a 22-room, pink marble mansion which along with his company and money would be forfeited when he lost it all. The City of Memphis is the current owner. The mansion dubbed the “Pink Palace” is a museum, planetarium and theater.Then like the bang of the yellow fever, the Depression surged into town. Just like the rest of the country there was no avoiding the disastrous effects of the time. The cotton market and industrious companies of the city would bring relief as America entered World War II. The gift was appreciated and reciprocated as Memphis would inspire the most famous aircraft of the war- Memphis Belle, the first B-17 bomber.In the last months of 1942, American morale needed a boost and the editor of a Memphis paper learned that one of the airplanes doing battle in Europe was named for a local woman, Margaret Polk, by her pilot sweetheart, Robert Morgan. From then on news about the Memphis Belle’s victories appeared regularly. As one of the first airplanes to completeits overseas missions and the star of a War Department documentary, the Memphis Belle and its crew were selected for a stateside tour. The second stop, after Washington, D.C., was Memphis, where the young couple would be reunited. The love story ended shortly after the war, but not the love for the Memphis Belle. It remains on display today in Memphis.Fame would be completely redefined in the 1950s. A young man from the Memphis housing projects starting hanging out on Beale Street, standing in the doorways of the clubs to listen and learn, and taking those lessons and talent to Sam Phillips’ Sun Studio, located a few miles east of Beale Street, to record “That’s All Right Mama”. It was history in the making and the start of what would bring international attention to Memphis, Tennessee. Ladies and Gentleman, Elvis Presley entered the building. The King of Rock and Roll would pass in 1977 at his Whitehaven neighborhood home, Graceland. In 1982, the grounds and home were opened to visitors. Graceland is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, welcoming more that 600,000 visitors each year.Beale Street surged as a tourist destination in the 1990s assisted greatly by the international festival, Memphis in May, a month long celebration that brings countless visitors to enjoy the world- famous Beale Street Music Festival, World Championship Barbeque Contest and a host of events honoring an international location. This year, in celebration of the Bicentennial, Memphis is honoring all things Memphis.The addition of professional sporting franchises gained more attention for the city. In 2000, the Memphis Redbirds, an affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball, and the Memphis Grizzlies an NBA team, came to town.It’s a city with an incredible past, a story that is timeless and richly impacted American History. From the discovery by early Native Americans followed by an influx of European explorers, from the Civil War to the centerstage of Civil Rights, from historical music flowing from Beale Street to innovation in medicine, Memphis is A Place of Good Abode.

Continue Reading →

On a Hallowed Hill in Tennessee

Many people across Tennessee, and beyond, recognize the first line of the University of Tennessee Alma Mater. The Hill, as it is commonly known, is enshrined in the hearts and memories of thousands of Tennesseans. Few people, however, are familiar with the rich history surrounding this iconic landmark. Ten amazing facts about, The Hill, should enrich your understanding of the Hallowed Hill, and the University of Tennessee.Thank Thomas Jefferson for The HillPresent day Knoxville began as a Fort, established by James White in 1786. When President George Washington appointed William Blount, Governor of the Southwest Territory, Blount came to White’s Fort and named it the Territorial Capital. White sold much of the land he owned and from it, Knoxville was formed with 64 lots.About the same time, Samuel Carrick, a young Presbyterian minister came to the fledgling settlement, intent on establishing a college and a Presbyterian church. The college came first. It was established in 1794 and was named Blount College, in honor of Governor William Blount. The college was located at the corner of Clinch and Gay where The Tennessee Theater now stands. It was the twenty fourth permanent institution of higher education in the United States and the first that was not church related.From the outset, Blount College teetered on insolvency. It attracted few students and only conferred one degree in a 13 year period.In 1807 the name was changed to East Tennessee College, thinking that might help attract more students. It did not.August 17, 1809, proved to be a fateful day. Samuel Carrick, the President of the school, and it’s only instructor, suddenly died. The Trustees developed a lottery scheme to keep the school open. They wrote to Thomas Jefferson seeking his support for their lottery.Jefferson opposed the idea but offered advice which would shape the future of the institution. He counseled the trustees to purchase land outside the city, which would provide sufficient space to erect several buildings around a grassy square, and thus form an academic village. The trustees could not focus on land. They were concerned with survival. The lack of finances forced the closing of the college for the ensuing 11 years.Barbara HillIn 1820, East Tennessee College reopened. Remembering Jefferson’s advice, plans were made to relocate outside the city limits. In 1826 the trustees purchased “Barbara Hill,” for the new campus. The Hill was named in honor of the daughter of Governor William Blount. The 40 acre parcel of land was purchased for $600. It was located between the river and the Western Road. The views from atop The Hill were breathtaking in every direction. The site soon began to be referred to by locals as “College Hill.” In 1828, the first building was erected. When construction began, the workers dug into a cemetery that no one remembered existing on The Hill. The first structure was built of stone and brick, with an observatory and belfry. The ten room building would become known as Old College. It would be the landmark by which the university would be identified for the next 91 years.Fort ByingtonIn 1861 cannons thundered at Fort Sumter, South Carolina, marking the beginning of the Civil War. Within six months, the Confederate army took possession of Knoxville and The Hill. In time the Confederate forces abandoned Knoxville to be a part of a major battle shaping up around Chattanooga. When the Confederates left, Major General Ambrose Burnside led Union forces into the city. He immediately began to build fortresses all around Knoxville.The Hill was designated as Fort Byington. Having won a major victory at Chattanooga, the Confederate army turned its attention back to Knoxville. General James Longstreet laid siege to the city, November 23, 1863 and lobbed cannon fire at Fort Byington and other Union fortifications. Six days later he launched an ill-fated infantry attack on Fort Sanders. The Union forces had dug deep trenches around Fort Sanders. The Confederates failed to realize how deep the trenches were. Once in, they could not get out. The Battle of Knoxville lasted 20 minutes. Eight hundred and thirteen Confederate soldiers lay dead in the trenches. The Union army lost only thirteen men. Longstreet withdrew to join Lee’s Army in Virginia. Knoxville remained firmly in Union hands. In time, the war ended.100 Elm TreesThe Civil War left The Hill in shambles. Every tree on the campus had been cut for firewood. Deep trenches had been carved into The Hill. Longstreet’s cannons had taken their toll. Buildings had been heavily damaged. The Hill was left desolate and all but destroyed.When the war began, Thomas Humes was rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Knoxville. He was a staunch Union supporter. When the war concluded Humes was named President of East Tennessee University, and given the daunting task of rebuilding the University and its campus. Because he was a known Union supporter, he was looked on with favor when he requested government funds to repair the damage left in the wake of the war. Subsequently, a United State Senate committee noted that East Tennessee University was deserving of funds to repair the campus since it was the “only education institution of known loyalty in any of the seceding States.” A bill was passed providing $18,500 to help repair the war damage.At the same time, Yale University donated 100 elm trees to the University to be planted on The Hill as part of the reconstruction. Those trees remained until the 1950’s when they were destroyed by Dutch elm disease.Orange and WhiteWith war now passed, the fortunes of East Tennessee University turned. In 1879 the institution was designated as The University of Tennessee. Ten years later, students directed their attention to the task of selecting school colors. In those days, UT was a military school. Male students wore uniforms that were blue and white. At the same time, the baseball team was clad in red and black. Charles Moore, president of the Athletic Association, looked at The Hill and saw daisies growing profusely. He reasoned that the school colors should be derived from The Hill and the flowers that grew there. Moore decided that for the upcoming field day, he would dress in orange and white, the color of the daisies on The Hill. Soon, more and more students wore orange and white to athletic events. A vote was taken in 1892 to officially select school colors for the University of Tennessee. The students chose orange and white by a narrow margin.Ayres HallIn 1904, Dr. Brown Ayres became President of the University of Tennessee. He assumed leadership of an institution that was deeply in debt. The buildings were antiquated and overcrowded. Heretofore State funding had been virtually non-existent. It was vital that change, if the University was to thrive. Around 1917 he approached the State Legislature with the idea of erecting a great academic hall on The Hill. Uncharacteristically, the State appropriated the needed funds. In May, 1918 a Chicago firm of architects were employed to design the building. When it was announced that Old College would need to be demolished for construction to proceed on the new structure, an uproar ensued. The trustees were bombarded with angry letters from alumni. Finally, the trustees agreed to attempt to move Old College if the Alumni Association would raise the needed $15,000. In truth the 91`year old, 10 room building was no longer needed. Neither did it possess any architectural beauty. Only $2,000 of the $15,000 needed to move the building was contributed and Old College was taken down. Blanche Bingham, a sophomore from Bell Buckle, Tennessee laid the first brick in the new structure, November 26, 1919. The building was completed, and dedicated June 6, 1921. The new academic hall cost $690,500 which is a little over eight million dollars in today’s currency. Dr. Brown Ayers, who had conceived the new building and guided it into being died before the building was completed. President Harcourt Morgan, who succeeded Ayres as President, recommended the building be named to honor Ayres. The Board of Trustees agreed and the new building which crowned The Hill became Ayres Hall.Ayres or Ayers?One interesting bit of trivia related to The Hill surrounds the plaque attached to the Cumberland Street entrance. Chicago Ornamental Iron Works was commissioned to design a plaque for the new building. It was to contain a raised likeness of Old College and of Dr. Ayers. Also listed were several names connected to the construction of the new edifice. Several changes were made in the original design submitted by the Chicago firm, but at last President Morgan approved the final design. However, when the plaque was delivered, Dr. Brown Ayres name was spelled “Ayers.” It is unknown why the University did not insist the error be corrected, but the plaque was attached to the building entrance and has remained there for 98 years. The name of the man in whose honor the building was named is misspelled.Play BallWhile the preservation efforts for Old College were in full swing, a competing fund raising effort began. Several influential people in Knoxville felt the University needed an athletic field. Col. W.S. Shields was President of Knoxville’s City Bank. As well, he was a member of the University Board of Trustees and also a member of the Building Committee for Ayres Hall. While the Alumni Association was trying to raise funds to preserve Old College, Shields led in a campaign to create an athletic field. The goal for the athletic field was $35,000. The money was raised in one week. Shields contributed $23,000. When Old College was demolished, 15,000 cubic yards of dirt was graded from the top of The Hill to make way for Ayres Hall. This dirt was moved to the proposed site of the new athletic field. In April, 1921, faculty, staff, and students spread the dirt from atop The Hill to create Shields-Watkins field.The field was named to honor the principle benefactor and his wife. The field is now surrounded by Neyland Stadium, the fifth largest college stadium in the Nation.The CheckerboardRobert Neyland became Tennessee’s football coach in 1926. Shields-Watkins field was 5 years old. Bleachers had been installed on the west side of the field that could seat 3,200. Neyland immediately noticed something. There is a checkerboard design in the tower of Ayres Hall. In those days, the tower was clearly visible from the football field. When his team had the ball, headed toward the north end zone, Neyland would encourage them to “Run to the checkerboard!” He also urged them to “Charge the checkerboard!” Doug Dickey became the coach of the Volunteer team in 1964 and decided that the design in Ayres Hall would become the design in the Neyland Stadium end zones. Now, when the team is headed in either direction, they can, “Run to the checkerboard!” The checkerboard design is also visible at the end lines of the basketball court in Thompson Bowling Arena. The design has also been incorporated into the exterior of the new Student Union Building.The ClocksOld College was demolished after 91 years of use. In 2008, Ayers Hall had been in use for 87 years. No thought was given to its removal, but it was in desperate need to repair and updating. In that year a twenty-three million dollar renovation project began. It was completed in 2011. The renovation maintained the building’s grand architectural design and added one noticeable feature to the exterior of the building. The original design envisioned clocks in the tower of Ayres Hall. They were not installed due to a lack of funds. Now, almost one hundred years later, the clocks are in place. Their addition enhances the beauty of Ayers Hall.It is hoped this brief glimpse into the always fascinating history of the University of Tennessee, will deepen your appreciation for the University, and the Hallowed Hill on which it stands where “The stately walls of Old U.T. rise glorious to the sight.”

Continue Reading →

Madelyn & Chad

It all started with a photo shoot in Charleston, Madelyn was hired to model and Chad was a wedding cinematographer. They met on a warm day in the low country, flirted throughout the photo shoot and thus was the beginning of a beautiful friendship that evolved into a timeless love story. As is true for all great love novels,the stars of the script are the bride and groom, however, for this story it gets much bigger with Joe and Kathleen Atkins of JOPHOTO.The co-stars were the reason the couple met, their first thought for photographing the wedding and after the engaged couple visited the Atkins home, it was the perfect setting for their love to be displayed. Chad and Madelyn were looking for wedding venues, Joe and Kathleen had just purchased a home on the lake with the intent of hosting small weddings and the stars aligned to make a magical moment.The day of their wedding was an absolute dream. It was warm and sunny with the most amazing orange and purple sunset. As Chad and Madelyn Cunningham were saying their vows, the sun dipped over the mountains and the sky began turning the most gorgeous pastel colors. A day of intentional honesty in expressing the couple with a reflection of all the people they love. “This day was more than we ever imagined, and we are so thankful to our family, friends, and everyone who was a part of the best days of our lives”, reflected Madelyn, “Our photographs were taken by the couple who introduced us, hosted at their beautiful home, we will never forget this day.”

Continue Reading →

Brittany & Brett

It was love at first sight or at least it was love when they finally met! Brett Hawkins and Brittany Wheeler had lived less than a mile from each other for five years before meeting while working together briefly in the last few months of college. It may of taken time to actually be introduced, but they have made up for every minute of it since that moment. Officially becoming a couple on March 8, 2018 while visiting Asheville, NC, getting engaged on December 26, 2018 atop Anakeesta in Gatlinburg and married on March 9, 2019 in the bride’s hometown and place they first met, Johnson City.
Brett followed the traditional rites of passage by asking his soon to be bride’s family blessing on the union. The engagement ring is perfected and centered by a diamond from the wedding ring of the bride’s grandmother. The wedding planning was seamless and fully designed by the bride, Brittany and her mother. A beautiful day with family and friends, each detail carefully aligned with their personalities, joining the families of Wes and Kim Wheeler with Tony and Elaine Hawkins. A day of love, union and beauty in an unmatched setting of elegance.
Taking place at The Gallery, the gorgeous chandeliers and large fireplace are focal points of this exceptional venue, along with hardwood floors, exposed brick and windows overlooking downtown Johnson City with spectacular sunset views. Candles and rose pedals filled the space, a special touch of the couple for the enjoyment of all and captured in timeless photography by JOPHOTO. Followed by a fun-filled honeymoon to Disney World and Clearwater, Florida, the couple now resides in Knoxville. Congratulations Brett and Brittany.

Continue Reading →

Chelsea & Drew

It’s not the typical love story for the mother of a boy to set up a blind date, but that is the case of how Drew Bowlin met Chelsea Harris, his mother set them up on a date. Turned out that Chelsea’s University of Tennessee cheerleading coach, Joy had watch Drew grow up and when the time came for him to propose, his mom and Joy would assist in making it extra special.

That particular day, Joy was out of town and spent the day issuing orders to her assistant coach, Chelsea. It was an exhausting and stressful day being made better by a planned date with Drew later than evening. That was until the insisted text from Joy sent Chelsea to Neyland Stadium with Mascot Smokey to search for something. Through many twists and turns they finally found what they were looking for and Chelsea found Drew standing in the middle of the field with a heart made of pom poms. Unable to move and breathless, Chelsea looked up to the Jumbotron seeing a picture with the text…Will you Marry Me?

The engagement photos show the story of merging of two worlds, Drew Bowlin,former minor league pitcher for San Francisco Giants and Chelsea Lee Harris, former UT Cheerleader. He pitched his loved which she secured with a glove.

On Saturday, December 9, 2017 at Castleton Farms in Loudon, the two became one and forever will be known as Drew and Chelsea Bowlin. The holiday themed wedding was captured in photography by Melanie Fritz, with personal touches of floral arrangements done by family members. Cascading poinsettias highlighted the six tier wedding cake, perfectly matching the decor of a spectacular day. The perfect venue with
all the right details for a blessed and beautiful union.

No matter where baseball takes Drew, his favorite cheerleader Chelsea will at his side.

Continue Reading →

The Best of East Tennessee

Camping in Tennessee is a time-honored tradition, to take in the natural beauty of our Smoky Mountains and the changing leaves in the fall that would leave Vermont jealous. When you live in the city, however, it can be hard to know which camping spots are best for a family trip, an overnight or just a quick hike through the woods. Here’s a quick list of the best places to enjoy nature whenever you feel the need to get out there, but not too far from home.

One of the most popular campsites in East Tennessee is called Cades Cove. Located just 11 miles from Townsend, the campground is open year-round with check-in starting at 11 am. Not only is it beautiful and populated with Tennessee wildlife such as white-tailed deer, black bears, coyotes and turkeys, it also has a great historical value to Tennessee. The Native American Cherokee tribe used to hunt at Cades Cove, and the settlers of the area left behind the most varied historical buildings concentrated in the Smoky Mountains! Offering everything from RV camping spots to tents, you can rough it however you feel comfortable.

Also in Townsend is the Little River Campground. Recently under new management, the park boasts fishing, camping, a newly redesigned bathhouse, as well as WiFi and mature trees. With day passes from $15, the Little River is the perfect little spot in the Smokies.

Hidden in Tellico, meanwhile, is a place called Indian Boundary. Considered the Crown Jewel of Cherokee forest, Indian Boundary is an 87-spot campground that boasts a variety of activities like swimming, fishing, biking and wildlife observation. Only open from April to November, it costs $10 a night to stay at any standard electricity-supplied space.

One of my favorite spots in Crossville is called Deer Run RV Resort. Open year-round with a $10 refundable gate fee,

Deer Run RV Resort is gorgeous no matter the weather. With an enormous lake for fishing, swimming and waterboarding, a pool, as well as access to a communal shower and activities planned by staff throughout the day, Deer Run RV Resort is a great place to bring the family. And you don’t need an RV, either – they offer places for tent camping as well as cabins. There are limited hiking trails, but this is a place to sit and enjoy yourself by the water.

Other family-friendly parks include the Norris Dam State Park that offers several lengths of hiking trails, several pull-ins and nearby attractions like the Museum of Appalachia. Not including the $5 non-refundable reservation fee, the campground at Norris Dam costs between $15-$27 a night depending on where you stay. This park does include a laundromat, so you can stay long after the first socks get muddy. If you prefer climbing over hiking, The Obed Lilypad on the Cumberland Plateau is a climber’s paradise and inexpensive at $5 a night. Though it sits on private land, the Obed Lilypad is open to all those who want to tackle Tennessee’s rocky top.

If you want a splashing good time, Tennessee has plenty of waterfalls, creeks and bends to keep you cool in our famously humid summers. Down in Hiwassee, the Gee Creek Campground in Hiwassee/Ocoee State Scenic River State Park offers a cool swim, a fishing area and even rafting. It is a primitive campground, however, catering to tent users. Depending on how many people are in your party, campsites can be anywhere from $30-$80 a night. If you want something water-related that’s a little more exciting,

Nolichucky Gorge on the Nolichucky River near the Tri-cities has the answer. Offering tubing, swimming and its signature whitewater rafting in late spring, Nolichucky Gorge can either be relaxing or exciting depending on what you’re looking for. Nolichucky Gorge also offers places for RVs and offers cabins if you want the outdoors to stay out. If you’re only looking to stay for the day, it’s $4 per person, and if you want an overnight, prices range from $11.50 a person (kids for $5) to $219 a night for the deluxe family cabin that sleeps 14.

But maybe a relaxing day trip isn’t what you want in a camping experience. Maybe you’re looking for a classic, overnight, backpacking, roughing it experience worthy of stories by the fire both in and outside the house. Given our proximity to the Appalachian Trail, you’re in luck. With over 50 miles of trails, Frozen Head State Park in the Cumberland Mountain offers 10 backcountry sites for backpackers and adventurers. The rates are between $8 and $35 a night. They ask that no one hikes a trail at night, due to the obvious risks involved. For night hiking, the Big South Fork National Park, also on the Cumberland Plateau, offers trails ranging from 11-55 miles for all levels of backpackers. A backcountry permit is required, however, and can be obtained for $5 depending on how many people will be traveling together. Open year-round, the park has no entrance fees.

No matter what your skill, or what you want out of your camping experience, there’s a park for you. Whether you’re an experienced backpacker or an RV owner hoping to enjoy the outdoors, there’s a park for you. Whether you want to whitewater raft or take a tubing cruise, there’s a park for you. Take advantage of the beautiful outdoors of Tennessee. The fantastic natural scenery is waiting.

Continue Reading →

Kaitlyn & Andrew

For Kaitlyn Parrish, when something feels meant to be, it’s probably because it is. When she met her husband, Andrew, they both knew immediately it was destiny. She saw him and felt an instant connection without even realizing that, from across the way, he was experiencing the same feeling. They began dating in high school and never looked back.

One aspect of her special day where Kaitlyn did not trust her initial instincts was regarding her wedding dress. She grew up saying she would never wear her mother’s dress. When the time finally came for her to walk down the aisle, however, she couldn’t imagine wearing anything else. Sally Harmon at White Lace & Promises worked wonders, updating the dress to a more modern style with an elegant scooped back. According to Kaitlyn, “You can’t put a price on the sentimental value of the dress.”

When it came to selecting a wedding venue, the choice was easy. Kaitlyn had already been following Dancing Bear on social media because she was a fan of their Appalachian Bistro. When she saw a picture of their outdoor cathedral and showed it to Andrew, they immediately knew it was the place. Dancing Bear coordinated rentals, provided seasonal catering, made vendor recommendations…they even created a custom cocktail for the event called the Perfectly “Paired” Mule.

While the venue and vendors all did a fantastic job, it was the cherished memories that truly made the day special. In addition to reusing her mother’s wedding dress, Kaitlyn was able to use her grandfather’s impeccably restored 1931 Model A Rumble Seat Coupe as their “getaway car.” And years from now, as they celebrate significant anniversaries, they will have bottles of wine to enjoy with heartfelt messages from friends and family shared on their special day.

Continue Reading →