Going underground for the day in Tennessee, visiting in Oklahoma
One hundred fifty feet underground in the Craighead Cavern near Sweetwater, TN.
A school of trout in the four acre lake swims alongside the glass bottom boat.
We’re in Knoxville, TN., visiting family and spending a couple days touring the area including a working dairy farm and a huge cavern that boasts a huge underground lake.
The Lost Sea Adventure starts with a guided three-quarter mile walk, almost in the dark, along a cavern that’s about 150 feet below the surface. During the walk guides talked about the cavern’s history, that included stories of Native Americans, Civil War soldiers and bones from a prehistoric jaguar, which also left its tracks. The Cherokees used the cavern as a meeting place and soldiers mined salt peter for gun powder during the war between the states.
An interesting part of the cavern was a story about a 13-year-old boy who was unable to convince family and friends that he located the lake in 1905, long before it was officially found.
After walking the downward leading trail, the cavern opened into a huge room and the world’s second largest underground lake. We boarded a boat powered by an electric trolling motor and rode around the lake, which is also home to a school of lake trout. The fish were stocked in the lake and are fed daily.
On a day when temperatures were approaching 90 degrees above ground, it was jacket weather in the cavern with a constant 59 degree year-round temperature.
The Lost Sea Adventure in the Craighead Caverns, is located near Sweetwater, TN.
Below the Kentucky Dam at the Land Between the Lakes recreation area near Paducah, KY.
A fisherman catching bait below the Kentucky Dam.
Also located in the Sweetwater area is the Sweetwater Valley Farm is primarily a dairy farm that has developed a very popular cheese business. Tours of the dairy farm are available, giving visitors the opportunity to watch the milking process and learn how they convert milk to cheese. We bought a half dozen small bricks of cheese, all in different varieties.
We drove deeper into Cherokee country to Tellico Plains and drove on the Cherohala Skyway to the Bald River Falls. This 100 foot waterfall is located near the highway and can be viewed and photographed from the highway.
From Knoxville, we drove the RV west on I-40, en route to our next destination, near Tulsa, OK. Passing through Nashville and heading north to Paducah, KY., we recalled driving through here three years ago just days after a tragic flood hit the country music capital.
In Paducah, Martha toured the National Quilt Museum, which featured quilts made during the Civil War and a display of Japanese made quilts. We drove back into downtown later in the day and revisited the flood wall murals and drove along the banks of the Ohio River before having dinner. The following day we visited for the first time the Land Between the Lakes park, about 20 miles west of Paducah. This recreation area was created by building dams over the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers. We checked out a couple campgrounds along the waterfront in hopes of returning some day.
The Bald River Falls along the Cherohala Skyway south of Knoxville, TN.
A working oil field pumping unit on the grounds of a campground in Enid, OK.
The Will Rogers Birthplace near Oologah, OK.
After Paducah, we headed northwest with plans to cross the Mississippi near Wicklifte but found the bridge was closed to big trucks and RV traffic. A couple weeks later, we read in a newspaper account where the bridge was blown up in preparation for the construction of a new bridge across the river to Cairo, Ill. We drove almost 80 miles out of our way and had to backtrack along northern Tennessee to join I-40 west of Memphis and head to Little Rock where we camped about 10 miles west of the city, en route to Oologah and Enid OK., to visit more family.
In Oologah, birthplace of Will Rogers, one of Oklahoma’s favorite sons, we parked the RV at the Rogers family home on picturesque Lake Oologah.
A couple of humming birds sparring around a feeder in Oologah, OK>
Later in Enid, which is located west of Tulsa, we were surprised that our campground had a working oil pumping unit within the facility.
NEXT: Heading for the Texas Hill Country
Paducah: A pleasant surprise
The Lewis and Clark monument at Paducah, Kentucky.
It is only 136 miles north from Nashville to Paducah, Ky., on I-24. Most of the way the RV rattles and bangs, letting us know the road is rough. The interstate highway system in some states is nothing more than an endless stretch of potholes and patches.
The daily driving goal of 200 miles falls far short, again. It’s a tough life, this RV traveling.
The recently retired Hughes’s, however, are not on a schedule. In a newly purchased used 40-foot RV, we are traveling across country and taking this trip one pothole at a time, and today it’s one Paducah, two Paducah’s, three Paducah’s four.
Paducah is on the agenda because of quilts. First grade class lesson plans were spread across the kitchen table for 14 years before the other half of this traveling team retired. Now it’s quilt pieces.
Attendance at a national quilt show here in April was cancelled because of a fishing trip, probably to Mosquito Lagoon in east central Florida, so here we are in Paducah, doing penance.
What does a town accomplish in its lifetime to become the home of the National Quilt Museum? The Hughes who quilts, not the fishing Hughes (not that there’s anything wrong with men who quilt), will answer that question.
From Martha’s Journal: The museum was established by co-founders Bill and Meredith Schroeder in 1991 and is devoted to quilts and quilt makers. The museum is currently exhibiting about 300 quilts which are comprised mostly of donated quilts by the founders, quilt show and contest award winners donated by members of the American Quilters Society. Experiencing this display of quilts was like a kid in a candy store. There were so many kinds of quilts both antique and modern. I haven’t come up with one kind of quilt I enjoy the most but an exhibit that really caught my eye was painted pictures of people on fabric that had later been stitched creating a perfect photo image.
It’s likely the Hughes will be here next spring for the National Quilt Show.
Paducah, surprisingly, in addition to the quilting museum, has much to offer visitors.
The Lower town area, referring to the historical development along the Ohio River and within walking distance of the museum, features many antiques and collectibles shops and a variety of locally owned restaurants. One block from the museum along the Ohio River is a series of flood wall murals depicting Paducah’s history, including its connection to the Lewis & Clark expedition.
Another surprising moment was finding a “Doe’s Eat Place” restaurant near the waterfront. Some 30 years ago, a neighbor from Mississippi bragged about a little known steak house in Greenville, Miss. Since it was on a route frequently traveled to the Midwest to visit family, a stop was made at “Doe’sEat Place.” Stops have been made there a dozen or more times since.
Thinking “Doe’s” is an indiscreet place in a small Mississippi town, imagine my surprise one morning when President Bill Clinton, on a jog around Washington was shown on national television wearing a “Doe’s Eat Place” teeshirt.
Paducah, incidentally, was founded by the Clark portion of Lewis & Clark and is the first of many towns visited in coming months that will have a connection to the famed explorers.
Next: Visiting Lincoln at home in Illinois