Saturday, August 22, 2009


Today was the second time Gary Baker and Dr. Julian Ahler have invited me on a “road trip” with them, and I was honored. The two have been friends a long time and have made many trips over the years, usually on a Saturday when their wives are busy doing something else. There is no set plan, destination, or other agenda, but the goal is always to have a good time and see something different and interesting before returning home.

The first time I was asked to tag along there was a mission: find watermelons for the annual “Music and Melons”. The “Babahatchie Community Band” holds a concert each year around the middle of August, at the Riverfront Park in Harriman, Tennessee. The local band, many of whom were “in band” together back in high school, provides free music and watermelon for the enjoyment of local residents, and anyone wishing to attend!

Yes, it can get pretty hot some years, but just the sight of watermelons floating in tubs of ice-water can cool you right down. We found the watermelons at a nearby truck market, after having driven about a hundred miles out through the country. However, we didn’t care; it was just the enjoyable part of the whole process.

Today they asked me if I knew somewhere we could go, and I asked if they had ever been to Black Mountain, and neither had been there. I’ve posted about Black Mountain and/or the Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail before, so I knew what a surprise it would be for them.

All along the narrow road to the top of the mountain, we could see many varieties of wildflowers, and Dr. Ahler began naming them off. He’s a walking encyclopedia, and not just on the subject of wildflowers. Having been a doctor in the East Tennessee area for several years, he’s been on just about every road, trail, and path there is in the area. He keeps us entertained with his stories from the past. He seems to know who lived, lives, or wanted to live in houses and on farms up and down the highways and back roads. It’s really a hoot to hear the old stories and listen to him chuckle over his memories.

At the top, we start down the main trail to the rock outcrops and he continues educating us with flower and weed names. He even stops occasionally to point out the same flowers to see if we remember! There will be a test later,” he often teases!

We pass the old home places, marked only by the stone chimneys, and they marvel over the “spring house” and the large cavity carved in the spring’s bedrock, just the size of farmer’s milk can. Just think, it was less than a hundred years ago when the “spring house” was someone’s refrigerator!

We stood on top and surveyed the Grassy Cove valley below us! It was a beautiful day, low humidity, with lots of sunshine and big puffy white clouds against a deep blue sky. We tried to imagine how many eons of rain, wind, and ice it took to layer the sandstone with the pea-gravel, and carve out the many hydraulic holes, cracks, and brain cortex-like shapes in the huge rocks. It all made us feel very insignificant in the scheme of things.

Down along the face of one outcrop, (note the overhang in the background of the large photo) we thought about the days when this shelter protected Indians and settlers out on “long hunts” from cold winds, summer heat, and pouring rain. The temperature in the shade of these rocks was a good ten to fifteen degrees cooler than down in the valley. It made us think of the fall coming, and how much more we would be able to explore without the threat of bugs and snakes!

We’ll have to come back soon,” Dr. Ahler promised, “there’s a lot more to see!

God willing, we’ll all make the trip.


BRUNO said...

Yeah, ain't this low-humidity a treat for late-summer!

Wonder how much we'll "pay" for it this winter, though...???

Shrinky said...

There is nothing like getting back in tune with nature, is there (especially if it is shared in good company).

Your friend puts me in mind of my late mother in law, there wasn't a plant, shrub or tree she didn't know by it's Latin name. Every walk was an education with her. She was an amazing gardiner, not to mention a talented landscaper, in her youth.

She contributed to a study for Kew Gardens, and published a chapter about species of heather from it. It was a driving passion of hers. I think she and your friend would have had much in common.

PRH....... said...

Watch it crawling around on those rocks!!! A fellow could get hurt.

Mushy said...

Yes, I'm a little gun shy these days!

Elizabeth Bradley said...

Exploring is so much fun. Sounds like a great day.

FHB said...

That is a beautiful place. Thanks again for takin' me out there.