Southern Highlights: Grundy Lakes & Coke Ovens

Last week was spring break, so we found it to be the perfect time for a trip “home” to see family.  We were so blessed to spend the Easter holiday at my parents in Tennessee feasting and playing, while catching up with my siblings, nieces and nephews and of course our own married daughter.  It was a perfectly lovely time indeed!

I desperately tried to take a picture of all four of our kids, but it was an epic fail…..

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But, I’m OK with that because it truly shows how blessed that I am.

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And how my kids love each other & can still have fun together.

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My girls did cooperate for one quick photo …. just before the boiled egg battle commenced.

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There comes an age when hunting eggs is no longer the “in” thing to do!

Easter Sunday was memorable indeed and marked only the beginning of a near perfect week.

It’s sad, you can spend your teen & young adult years (as well as a few years between moves) in an area and never really know that area.  I can only blame myself for this as I spent more time rebelling against this small town than embracing this beautiful area in Tennessee.  I’m a city girl through and through, but I do love to go home now, and discover the hidden treasures of middle Tennessee that I avoided as a snotty teen.

Momma planned a day for the kids (well the two that didn’t have to work) and I to enjoy a little state park near their place.

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Located in Tracey City, Tennessee on the top of Sequatchie/Monteagle Mountain (part of the Cumberland Mountain range) is a sweet little state park that is a part of the South Cumberland Mountain park system.  Grundy Lakes is a unique little park perfect for an afternoon picnic, a little fishing, hiking, biking, swimming and strolling around soaking up a little history.

Bradley ready for his brike ride around the lakes at Grundy

Bradley ready for his bike ride around the lakes at Grundy

Over 100 years ago, the area that is now Grundy Lakes State Park was home to the Lone Rock Coke Ovens.  These 120 “beehive” ovens were built into the ground around 1883 which worked well for the community as Tracey City was a coal mining area.   It was also an area in ruin where coal had been burned into “Coke” a fuel that didn’t contain a lot of impurities and burned so hot it melted iron; one reason it was manufactured.

A few of the grown-over coke ovens

A few of the grown-over coke ovens

While coke ovens were a boost to the economy they eventually destroyed the communities and environment that made up the surrounding area.

In the 1930’s, during the height of the Great Depression in an effort to bring  jobs to what was a devastated coal mining community, the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) took control of the land, built the lakes, planted trees and shrubbery and turned the area into a recreation area that is still lovely today.

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Side of one of the ovens.... I loved the small water fall.  Most serene.

Side of one of the ovens…. I loved the small water fall. Most serene.

I appreciate when the restoration of the land was being completed, the history of the area was preserved as well.  Some of the coke ovens have been cleaned out and maintained for visitors to see the structures, while others are lined up in the woods for you to enjoy as you stroll about.

Madeline and Momma taking a break on their bike ride around the lakes ... yes, Madeline is turning cartwheels!

Madeline and Momma taking a break on their bike ride around the lakes … yes, Madeline is turning cartwheels!

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Madeline standing beside one of the original coke ovens…. there were originally 120 of these built in this area.

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A little more history of the present-day Grundy Lakes

A little more history of the present-day Grundy Lakes

As I mentioned, Grundy Lakes is a part of the South Cumberland Recreation area.  Within 20 miles of this little park is the Foster Falls recreation area (fabulous rock climbing and primitive camping), the beginning of the Fiery Gizzard Trail (hiking for the experienced hiker), & Savage Gulf State Natural area that hosts a bevy of outdoor recreation that can appeal to everyone in the family.  The exclusive University of the South is also on the mountain.  If you love architecture you have to stop for pictures and tour!

I love this area on the mountain as it is so peaceful and totally off the beaten path.  If you want adventure, history, and an opportunity to get away from it all, this is the perfect area for you!  Located of interstate 24 between Nashville and Chattanooga Taking the Monteagle/Tracey City exit at the top of Monteagle Mountain.

Coming into the Grundy Lakes park area

Entering into the Grundy Lakes park area

Happy Trails!

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2 thoughts on “Southern Highlights: Grundy Lakes & Coke Ovens

  1. Pingback: Southern Highlights: Foster Falls Small Wild Area | Fiddle Dee Dee

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