Sunday, April 12, 2015

Wild Rocky Fork

Lots of activity out at Rocky Fork as it is being transformed into a state park. As you enter the park, you'll see many survey stakes and orange flagging tape lining the entrance road indicating changes are afoot. While final plans for Tennessee's newest state park are still being worked out, access improvements are underway. Here is a recent Johnson City Press article on the upcoming 'First Annual Hikers’ Jamboree' on May 2nd. At the end of the article is a rendering of the proposed entry way to Rocky Fork. See the park's Facebook page for more information.

I'm certainly glad the property wasn't developed into a gated residential community or some other private development -- which was feared when the timber company owning the 10,000 acre parcel placed it up for sale. Eventually the Conservation Fund and the Federal Government stepped in. Still I do wonder how Rocky Fork will change going forward. According to the Conservation Fund, "preliminary plans include an access road, ranger station, primitive campground, picnic areas and trails, in addition to interpretive efforts to share the historic Revolutionary War-era battles site." The JCP article referenced above says the new park will allow for "hiking, biking, running, walking, horseback riding and possibly two-wheeled motorized recreational vehicles." That sounds good, but put me down as a 'no' vote against the use of any two or four wheel motorized recreational vehicles. I already had my run-in with an atv out there.

While I have every hope that the new park will be thoughtfully designed with efforts taken to keep Rocky Fork as wild and pristine as possible, I did think, as I was walking along, it will never be as wild as it is today.

Directions: Take the Flag Pond exit off of I-26 (exit #50), at the stop sign turn left onto Upper Higgins Creek Road. Drive ½ mile, till you reach Rt. 23, turn right and travel 2 ¼ mi. through Flag Pond, then turn left on Rocky Fork Road. Enjoy the views of the tumbling creek. After ¾ mile, you will see a gravel pull-off to the left. Park here (out of the way of the gate) to continue exploring the 10,000 acre Rocky Fork on foot. Trail map here.

Friday, April 10, 2015


Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken.
--Frank Herbert (1920-1986) American author.

Above: Rocky Fork after a spring rain.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

spring work

Spring work is going on with joyful enthusiasm. 
― John Muir (1838-1914) Naturalist and Conservationist.

Above: An early white trillium blooming in Rocky Fork.

Friday, April 3, 2015

spring has returned

Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems. 
--Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) Bohemian-Austrian poet and novelist. 

Such a fun, unusual spring wildflower, with such a fun name... Dutchman's Breeches.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

spring embrace

Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love! 
--Sitting Bull (1831-1890)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

precious gift

The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.
--Thich Nhat Hanh (b.1926) Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, teacher and author.

Friday, March 20, 2015


We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.  
--Jawaharial Nehru (1889-1964) Prime Minister of India.

Above: On the Pinnacle Mountain Trail in Unicoi County, TN.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


May brooks and trees and singing hills join in the chorus too,
and every gentle wind that blows send happiness to you.

--Irish Blessing

Sunday, March 15, 2015

life's rough places

Courage and cheerfulness will not only carry you over the rough places in life, but will enable you to bring comfort and help to the weak-hearted and will console you in the sad hours. 
--William Osler (1849-1919) Canadian Physician.

On the Appalachian Trail near Laurel Falls you'll discover numerous cut-throughs made for the old Laurel Fork Railway. Standard gauged rails were used to haul timber out of this remote area to a Hampton, TN sawmill from 1912-27. This area was dedicated the Pond Mountain Wilderness in 1986. The term 'wilderness' is defined by the Wilderness Act of 1964 as “an area where the earth and community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain" and "an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions."

Friday, March 13, 2015


Love is the big booming beat which covers up the noise of hate. 
--Margaret Cho (b.1968) American Comedian.

I love the sound of a waterfall in spring when the water roars with full force. This is Laurel Fork Falls outside of Hampton, TN, a 55-foot beauty and one of the most popular hikes in our region. Click here for directions and information. Listen to the roar in this short video:

Thursday, March 12, 2015


The difference between try and triumph is a little umph.
--Author Unknown.

This past October, a new bridge was completed on the Appalachian Trail leading to Laurel Fork Falls from Dennis Cove Road. The new "Koonford Bridge" is in the same location as the older, narrow bridge in the Laurel Fork Gorge. Though considerably wider, I'm glad they kept the handrails on just one side, just like the older bridge. This wasn't just a replacement project -- in order to accommodate the new, wider bridge, volunteers had to first widen and raise the stone support piers. Here is a link to a series of videos showing the dedicated volunteers who made this happen. The new bridge is very impressive both in its scale and craftsmanship. Sixty-six feet in length, it took about two months to complete.

Some of you might remember that back in January of 1998 the central section of the old bridge was washed away in a flood and quickly replaced by a crew of volunteers.  That 'quick fix' held up really well for 16 years.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

measuring health

When you have worn out your shoes, the strength of the shoe leather has passed into the fiber of your body. I measure your health by the number of shoes and hats and clothes you have worn out.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American writer and philosopher. 

Above: This section of the Appalachian Trail near Laurel Falls follows the old Laurel Fork Railway which operated from 1912 to 1927.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Remembering Fred Craddock

"If you're wanting me to give a name to the way you feel I would say that you are searching for God. I know you're not surprised by that word because the whole human race is searching for God. It is the one common quest we all have. With some people it comes, it goes, it rises and falls, it haunts the edges of their minds all the time. With some it's as quiet a quest as a monastery, but with others, like a clap of thunder, dramatic and loud and cataclysmic. But for all of us it's the same; sometimes clear, sometimes very vague and ill defined, but even so, it's there.... 

If you are asking me how to find peace of mind, I would say to you: Let God find you. After all you're not the only one searching. You're searching for God, that's true, but God is searching for you. That is also true. 

When our parents, Adam and Eve, left the garden of Eden, God whispered in their ear, 'I will come for you.' They didn't understand that as a promise; they thought it was a threat and so they ran. And they've been running ever since, hiding in the midst of tears, hiding under running laughter, hiding in shopping sprees, hiding in travel, hiding in the upward spiral of strength and power, hiding in bad relationships. Sometimes even hiding in churches. ... Let God find you. ... 

[T]he life you seek is not in knowing but in being known, not in seeking but in being sought, not in finding but in being found."

--Dr. Fred Craddock (1928-2015) Minister, Professor and Author (From his sermon, "Seek and You Shall be Found").


I never met him. Never attended his church in Georgia, but I've been profoundly influenced by his work. Hardly a week goes by that a story or a lesson from him isn't called to mind. When I go for long drives, I often will listen to a sermon or two of his. Dr. Fred Craddock has influenced two generations of Christian ministers with his work and writings, and will no doubt continue to do so for years to come. His books on preaching remain required reading in seminaries. He didn't fill stadiums or have prime time TV specials or meetings with heads of state. He didn't lead a mega church or a worldwide movement. He preached. He taught. He wrote. Though only 5'5", he was a giant. The power of his influence was in his quiet example, his humble living, his serious scholarship and in his powerful stories. His sermons were profound and simple, eloquent and folksy, hilarious and touching. You'd be hard pressed to find any sermon of his that followed the typical 'three point' sermon. No, he respected his audience and his craft more than that. His sermons pulled you in, and made you wrestle with faith and scripture. His most effective method was to tell stories. Funny stories, serious stories, sometimes strange stories. People will forget the bullet points, but tell them a story and now your message has a handle that people can grab hold of and carry with them.  You didn't get a lot of 'The five steps to effective ministry or to a successful marriage or to find happiness.'  The advice and admonition were there, but he didn't brow beat or bible thump. It wasn't a laundry list of imperatives, oughts, musts and shoulds. Weaving scripture and story, Craddock led his listener to the edge of conclusion, but didn't force it. He trusted that his listener would reflect, wrestle and make application, and that in that space, the Holy Spirit would work and speak and intercede.

Here's a sermon of his from back in 1986, "Though One Rise from the Dead." (Luke 16:19-31)

The next video is a good demonstration of how he could take a seemingly boring list of names from scripture (Romans 16) and bring it to life.

Here's another one, delivered late in his life in 2011, in which he gives advice on sharing one's faith, "Tell It".

Here's one even more recent, a reflection on "The God of Hope."

Finally, here's a wonderful article written about Dr. Craddock soon after his retirement from full time preaching in October of 2011.

Rest in peace, Dr. Craddock. You will be missed.

Photo Above: The Appalachian Trail on Roan Mountain after a snow.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

mountain remedy

Accidents in the mountains are less common than in the lowlands, and these mountain mansions are decent, delightful, even divine, places to die in, compared with the doleful chambers of civilization. Few places in this world are more dangerous than home. Fear not, therefore, to try the mountain-passes. They will kill care, save you from deadly apathy, set you free, and call forth every faculty into vigorous, enthusiastic action. Even the sick should try these so-called dangerous passes, because for every unfortunate they kill, they cure a thousand.  
–John Muir (1838-1914) Naturalist and Conservationist.

Above: The view from Roan Mountain.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

go forward

It is for us to pray not for tasks equal to our powers, but for powers equal to our tasks, to go forward with a great desire forever beating at the door of our hearts as we travel toward our distant goal. 
--Helen Keller (1880-1968) American Author who was blind and deaf.

Above: A tree stretches out over the Watauga River at Sycamore Shoals State Park in Elizabethton, TN.