Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Big Ridge State Park, 2-18-2024: a Walk Down Memory Lane (published 2-20-2024; article #456)


Greetings, to all national and international readers! To national readers, did you enjoy Presidents' Day, yesterday? George Washington, the first President of the United States, was born, on February 22, 1732. Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President, was born, on February 12, 1809. The celebration of their birthdays, close together, in February, was combined into Presidents' Day, in 1971, by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established more three-day weekends, for American workers.

Mrs. Appalachian Irishman didn't have to work, in her teaching profession, but she did work, by helping me, with chores, in the house and garage. She also helped detail our 2012 Sentra, after I'd returned, from a nearby car wash. At 4:30 PM, having endured a 30 minute wait, in the lobby, she had a six-month dental cleaning. The dentist's office doesn't need to overbook patients.

On Presidents' Day, ironically, a door-to-door campaigner visited. She was taking a political survey and advocating for Nikki Haley. She asked which candidate will get my vote, in the upcoming Presidential election. I assured her that the current President will not garner my vote, certainly. The former President, who has too much baggage, will not. Nikki Haley could win my vote, but polls don't seem to indicate that she has a chance, in the primary election, against the former President. I am frustrated, not undecided. I'll vote for myself, if I have to do so. As the article, of 1/26/2024, concluded, “Where is the truly Christian constitutional conservative, who can get my vote, in the next presidential election? Could someone please stand up!”

Don't you wish that a candidate, a true states person, in the tradition of Presidents Washington and Lincoln, would run for office? With apology for these personal and political sidetracks, let's walk down memory lane!


On Sunday afternoon, my 2006 Frontier and I went to Big Ridge State Park, in Union County, Tennessee. I didn't take time, for a long hike, but I enjoyed a walk down memory lane, remembering my childhood, in Appalachia. (This article is the 28th entry, under the topic section “Appalachia - Northeast Tennessee,” and the 63rd, under the “hiking” topic section.)

Earlier this month, a young man, Jonah, with whom I've become acquainted recently, had told me that his brother and he planned to participate in an eleven-mile trail race, at the park. The race, hosted by the Knoxville Track Club, started, at 2 PM. I'd told Jonah that I planned to meet his brother and him, to talk a while and to encourage them, before the race started. I'd arrived about 20 minutes early. I looked for Jonah. He wasn't there. I, however, did enjoy watching several runners gather, at the starting line. The signal was given, and off they ran! Jonah and his brother must have changed their plans.

Update, 2/23/2024, Friday: Earlier today, I saw Jonah. His brother and he were there! He was looking for me. They were in the group of runners, who started on a grassy area, near the starting line. Previously, I had walked to that area, but the two men weren't there yet. Jonah told me that his brother and he finished the race. We both regretted that we'd missed each other.

Big Ridge State Park

Big Ridge State Park is a nice park, with magnificent scenery and several good trails. From the house, the shortest route (on Highway 33 north, to a left turn, onto Highway 61) is about 35 minutes. Nearing the park, on Highway 61, the road curves and winds up and down several hills. That's why I don't often hike, at Big Ridge State Park. The road is so curvy, at a couple of turns, that the rear end of my truck met the front end, as we turned! Hiking Big Ridge State Park is encouraged, just be aware of the curvy road that takes you there, if you drive in, from the east! From the house, a longer route, driving Highway 441 north, to Norris, then turning east, onto Highway 61, is less curvy, but it's about an extra 15-minute drive. You reach the park, driving from the west, and avoid the hairpin curves.

Opening and enlarging the “Park Map Brochure,” in a web browser, identifies the Norris Lake area, camping and boating areas, fishing, swimming, the hiking trails, and several other features. About fifteen miles, in eleven trails, which range from easy to rugged, provide good hiking options. Old cemeteries and remnants of old home sites are along some trails. Three, of the 50, campsites are for backwoods camping (with no water or electric hook ups).

A replica of the Norton Gristmill, once used for milling corn, is in the park. The original mill was built in 1825 and operated until 1930, three years before TVA started construction, on the nearby Norris Dam. A photograph of the gristmill, at a distance, is included, in the next section.

A Walk Down Memory Lane

I've been keeping a hiking log, since 4/23/2000. The hike, on Sunday afternoon, was my 244th, in total. It was only my fifth, at Big Ridge State Park. The four previous hikes were on 11/12/2005 (alone), 7/26/2008 (when my wife and our niece, age 20, at the time, joined me), 10/4/2008 (when my wife, our niece, our niece's female friend, and I overnight camped), and 1/5/2012.

I didn't realize, at the time, that I'd not hiked, at Big Ridge State Park, in just over twelve years! During the hike, in January, 2012, I'd found the cabin, which I'd recalled, from my childhood years. I photographed it. I also saw and photographed the deer that were grazing, nearby.

I didn't see any deer, on this hike, but I did find, again, the cabin, in which I'd stayed, back in the late 1960s. I'd taken the photograph, below, at 2:55 PM. The view looks southwest.

The cafetorium, in the distance, is being remodeled. Several cabins are behind me, and several are to the right (north) of and behind the cafetorium. During my grade school years -- in the late 1960s, or possibly in the early 1970s, before 1974 -- a group of us young'uns, boys and girls, from the West View Baptist Church, in Rogersville, Tennessee, attended a church camp, at this location.

I recalled fond memories, of that experience. Several godly adult counselors and the director oversaw our activities, which included meals, devotionals, singing, arts and crafts, skits, sports, and swimming. In an evening devotional, around a camp fire, we sang “Pass It On.” I'd not heard or sung the song before. A choral version is “Pass it On (It Only Takes a Spark), on Frederick Lau (YouTube), 11/12/2018. We sang a capella. The young boy that I was and the older man that I am now were and are inspired, by the deep meaning of the lyrics.

A minute later, I turned around and took the photograph, below. The view looks northeast.

The closest cabin, centered in the image, is the one, in which eight of us boys stayed, back in our grade school days. Several other cabins and a bathhouse are nearby. The cabins are being renovated. I smelled fresh paint. The doors and window screens were not replaced yet.

Shall we walk inside that cabin? Let's do! Walk along with me, as Appalachian Irishman - Podcasts (YouTube) presents the third episode, under the “Appalachian Heritage” section, titled “Big Ridge State Park, 2-18-2024: a Walk Down Memory Lane (published 2-19-2024; episode 26).” Near the end, of the three-minute and thirty second video, I point out the bunk, where I'd slept. Competition for the cleanest cabin motivated us boys, to pull weeds and sweep grass and dirt, off the entrance steps! I remember it well.

After a fairly brief trek, I took the following two photographs, at 3:17 PM. The first image, facing northwest, shows a walking path sign, with trail directions and distances, the parking area, and my 2006 Frontier.

This was my new, ol' truck's first venture, into the park. He enjoyed the day, despite the hairpin curves.

The next photograph, looking southeast, shows, at a distance, the replica of the Norton Gristmill (mentioned in the previous section). After taking the photograph, I crossed the field, to the mill and walked inside.

I wondered what it was like, when the mill was still in operation, a hundred years ago. I imagined farmers, in their bib overalls, swapping tales, knives, and family stories. Several probably spit tobacco.


My truck and I may decide to take the longer route, to return to Big Ridge State Park! There are still trails to explore! I wonder if Mrs. Appalachian Irishman, our niece, any other family, or any friends will want to join us. An overnight backwoods camping experience would even be nice.

The lyrics, in verse two, of the song “Pass It On,” are:

What a wondrous time is spring,
When all the trees are budding.
The birds begin to sing;
The flowers start their blooming.
That's how it is with God's love,
Once you've experienced it.
You want to sing; it's fresh like spring;
You want to pass it on.

Signs of early spring are noticeable. The freshness of spring is coming. I hope, dear reader, that you know the freshness of God's love! I do. If you don't, then I want to pass it on! Please use the “Contact Form,” to email me, if you would like me to pass it on, to you.

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