The week before last, my family and I had a mountain getaway in Tennessee. We vacationed with lifelong friends that we usually do this with. We’ve been to Windrock before, but this time was different. This time, we stayed in our camper which is also a toy hauler.
I’ve never stayed in a camper before, so I tried to prepare it as best I could. I scoured Pinterest for all kinds of clever space saving ideas and how to pack lean. I’m happy to report it was actually pretty good. Secretly, I had been dreading it. So much so, that I drove separate so I could escape if needed.
Last November, my husband thought it would be a good idea to buy a toy hauler for us to save money from all the cabins we rent not to mention you have more freedom on where to stay. We travelled to Ohio to buy a used one that he wanted. I don’t know how long it’ll take to start saving money, but it is kinda cool to know we could pull it anywhere and stay where we want.
I never would’ve thought of myself as a camper, hell we live way out in the country with no neighbors, why would I want to stay right beside another camper? LOL! But we bought it anyway.
It reminded me somewhat of boating. Everyone, for the most part, is very friendly and willing to help you out. We found out first hand. The very first night, there was a thunderstorm and our canopy got destroyed. The next morning, we were trying to figure out what to do and our nearest neighbors came over to offer a hand. That lead to a friendship. (See the camper photo above with the canopy teetering on two ramps propped up on each other).
We rode our buggies together for a day and swapped stories and I got to meet a new friend who loves art and gardening and dogs, just like me. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get together with them again sometime. They’re relatively new to camping too, but have a bit more experience than us.
Just to throw in a little excitement into the mix, my husband had invited a young guy he works with to join us for our vacation… in our tiny camper mind you. I hadn’t met Aaron and I have to admit, I wasn’t thrilled to have to share this small space with my husband and kid let alone some stranger. He arrived Monday evening, we arrived Saturday night. (That’s Aaron on the far right end)
But Aaron turned out to be like a big brother to Asher and he was a good guest and great kid. I say kid because he is young enough to be my own son! He was polite and funny yet quiet. He was new to riding in the mountains and my son talked his ear off giving him tips. The guys have an intercom system in their helmets. By the time Aaron had to leave on Friday morning, I hugged him goodbye and he said “Bye Mom”. Yes, I bossed him around just like I do Asher. He’s welcome again anytime.
The mountains in eastern Tennessee are or maybe were full of coal. In fact, Windrock is owned by Coal Creek Mining. 74,000 acres of trails. They actually own over 112,000 acres in the area to this day I was told. They’ve never sold any. It was started I think in 1872 and Coal Creek Mining company is from England. They had the vision to see that the civil war was over and times were hard for a lot of people. They bought up land for next to nothing and a lot of it.
We found all kinds of small mines everywhere. All very old. I can’t imagine the work it was to drill into these mountains without heavy machinery back then. A lot of these coal mines have been caved in so people won’t enter and get hurt or worse.
We had a full weeks worth of fun. My son rode his 4 wheeler and we had our side by side, a Rzr, I call the buggy. We rode trails from the time we got up until dark and sometimes longer
Lessons were learned. I learned I do not like going to a laundromat. I thought since we were cramped and I probably packed too much anyway, I’d make a mid week run to the laundromat. Ugh. It sure made me appreciate my washer and dryer. Next time, I’ll pack more clothes.
I also learned to not pack so much food. We ate out a lot more than I had planned, which is fine by me. It was nice having breakfast in the camper though. One day I made bisquits and gravy with bacon, no eggs because I had used them all up the day before in a impromptu egg skillet with ham, cheese and tomatoes. A lot of hot dogs and marshmallows were eaten by the campfire at our friends cabin they rented. Our last night, burgers and chips in the camper. That little table top gas grill we bought a few years ago really has came in handy.
While out on the trails, we found 2 hidden painted rocks, which I thought was pretty cool. One, I brought home for a souvenir and the other we photographed and left there for someone else to find. Maybe next time I’ll hide my own painted rocks.
I’ve been asked if I take my paints when I travel. The truth is no. I know that there’s little time for painting let alone energy both physical or mental. I do take my iPad though and a sketchbook with pencils and pens. My iPad has a painting app that I’ve actually created digital paintings, so that’s fun when I have time. Usually, that sort of thing is for trips to the beach where there’s plenty of kick back and relax time.
As part of our adventures, we visited the town of Rocky Top, you know from the song? It was a tiny town on the interstate. We went there twice, there’s a trail that leads you there and they’re pretty atv friendly meaning you can drive your buggy or 4 wheeler on the roads with helmets.
We found a cute BBQ place called Coal Creek Smokehouse which had absolutely delicious smoked pulled pork. Plus, the service there was down home friendly and their jalapeno cornbread was awesome. I may have also gotten a piece of Butterfinger cake that was yummy as well, but we won’t talk about that. We went back to Rocky Top another day for Mexican food where I got a yummy strawberry margarita. It was called La Fiesta Mexican Restaurant. The food there was good, too. I think I gained 5 pounds on this trip!
Twice, we visited Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary. They have tours, which we didn’t take but would be good for a rainy day. They also have haunted tours, as the prison is reported haunted. My friend and her group investigated there privately and sadly turned up nothing. It’s still pretty spooky and cool looking.
Brushy Mountain State Pen has a restaurant, which was pretty good. The BBQ nachos were my favorite. I didn’t mind the moonshine tasting either. Blackberry was my favorite followed by butterscotch. Bottoms up!
Brushy Mountain is nestled in a beautiful valley with mountains all around. It was a hard knocks prison. The men had what were called hot beds, the beds never had a chance to cool off because they just rotated occupants. The prisoners had to mine the coal in the mountains 24/7. Not the kind of mountain getaway I want! Them either I’m guessing.
An abandoned train was also a destination on the trails. It was pretty cool and looked like it was out of a movie set. It was drove up to this spot and just left there. Do trains drive? I don’t know for sure. I haven’t dug up any information on it yet. Take a guess on which one is first class and which is coach.
Of course lots of beautiful waterfalls and creeks. Plenty of photo ops as everywhere you look was beautiful vistas and scenery. It was amazing to me how different it looked from the last time I was there which was after Christmas one year. I love seeing all of the green trees and wildflowers but winter has its own beauty, too. One nice thing about winter is you can see for miles past the naked trees.
I enjoyed our mountain getaway but I was glad to head home. Seven days of being tossed around like a rag doll in a buggy is enough for me. Besides, I always miss my animals and flowers when I’m gone in the summer.
Learn more about me on the ‘About’ page under the additional links menu. I’m an artist – a painter mostly and an avid gardener. I paint a variety of subjects including birds, koi fish, my gardens, ponds and flowers as well as anything having to do with nature especially trees and tropical scenes. I also enjoy painting abstracts and have started created more and more of them. My most favorite thing to try to achieve in my painting is is mystery and telling mystical stories.
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