Southern Highlights: Foster Falls Small Wild Area

At last the steady, warm temperatures of spring have arrived!  I don’t know about you, but when the weather is nice, it is so difficult to keep me indoors.

Recently we were able to take a trip home to Dad and Mom’s house in Tennessee.  My parents live in an amazingly beautiful area in the Cumberland Mountain region and we love to take advantage of gorgeous days; looking for fun and adventure whenever we are in town.  This last trip found us venturing off to Foster Falls Small Wild Area for a little hiking.  Foster Falls is in Marion County, about a 40 minutes drive west of Chattanooga.  It is a part of the South Cumberland State Park area which also includes Grundy Lakes and the old coke ovens we visited last spring. 

Foster Falls1

Foster Falls is not a new area to us at all as we have camped (mostly primitive camping) there several times over the years and my kids frequent the area when they are with their grands.  While the camping is nice, Foster Falls is well-known for its hiking, especially its climbing, and of course a gorgeous 60 ft water fall.

View from the overlook

View from the overlook

Foster Falls6

Rushing water leading to the falls

Rushing water leading to the falls

Hiking around the falls is available for all levels, from the casual to the endurance hiker.  We enjoy the trail down to the base of the falls, which is not difficult, but can be rocky as well as slippery if there has been a lot of rain.  It’s about a 15-20 minute hike down to the falls.

We were casual hikers, just out to enjoy the spring weather on the day that we visited Foster Falls

We were casual hikers, just out to enjoy the spring weather on the day that we visited Foster Falls

Foster Falls Bridge

Bridge leading to the base of the falls after the 15 minute hike down

Glimpse of the falls through the trees

Glimpse of the falls through the trees

At the base there are other trails as well as a deep pool that is so cold even in the summer!

Normally the pool is emerald green, but the southern spring rains had the pool looking a little murkey.

Normally the pool is emerald-green, but the southern spring rains had the pool looking a little murky.

Longer hikes include trails that eventually lead you to the portion of South Cumberland State Park known as the Fiery Gizzard trail (12.5 miles one way) and is a very popular trail to hike!

View across the South Cumberland Mountain area  from the top of Foster Falls

View across the South Cumberland Mountain area from the top of Foster Falls

The trail leading to the Fiery Gizzard goes along the side of this creek

The trail leading to the Fiery Gizzard goes along the side of this creek

Climbing is the same way.  My kids did a little free-climbing while we were there, but we have brought gear before for attempting some serious climbing!  The area is actually known to be a prime destination for serious climbers in the Southeast!

Free Climbing at Foster Falls

Free Climbing at Foster Falls2

Pack a picnic, bring plenty of water, and plan to spend the day if you come out.  There is much for you to enjoy!  Foster Falls is dog friendly and you will encounter many along the trails.  Leashes are a must, and remember to bring baggies to clean up after your pet.

Our sweet little Corgi enjoyed her outdoor adventure ... except for the mud.

Our sweet little Corgi enjoyed her outdoor adventure … except for the mud.

If you don’t camp, lodging is available in both Kimball, Tennessee down in the valley, and in Monteagle , Tennessee on the top of the mountain near the main entrance to South Cumberland State Park. Plan for several days to soak up nature and history all around the roughly 25,000 acres that comprise this state park system.

Foster Falls is so peaceful and gorgeous

Foster Falls is so peaceful and gorgeous

Inquiring minds want to know:  What do you like to do when the season begins to change and warm up?

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…..


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


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


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


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.


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.




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!


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


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!


Real Estate Love: Tim McGraw & Faith Hill’s Franklin Estate

I am a huge country music fan and even more so of country sweethearts Tim McGraw and Faith Hill.  
I love their exquisite taste and style, so when I learned they were selling one of their residences in the Nashville area, I had to check it out!
Listed at $20 million (pocket change, right?), part of this beautiful estate once belonged to Hank Williams Senior, so there is much history there.
With four residences on the property from a main house to a caretakers apartment in the stables, this place has so much to offer.  Check out these gorgeous pictures.
(**All pictures are from
The interior of this house was used in the video Tim & Faith did for their duet “I Need You” while it was being remodeled.
Don’t you just love the exposed wood wall?  SO rustic, yet elegant!

Check out those gorgeous hard-wood floors!

I love that their decorating choices didn’t take away from the style of the house.  Such a calm color scheme.  It is most definitely an escape from the hustle and bustle of a busy schedule.

Sitting out on this porch with a cup of tea would be most relaxing indeed.

According to real estate blog Zillow, the parcel of land that is being sold is 753 acres!

A guest house perhaps?

Looks like there is plenty of space for a kitchen garden!

I totally could see myself living here, but alas, I’m a little short of funds for this gorgeous home!
What do you think of Tim & Faith’s style?

Celebrating Cornbread & Lodge Cast Iron Giveaway

In South Pittsburg, Tennessee, a little town of 3000, cornbread is a big deal.  I know this from experience as I graduated high school right across the street from Lodge Manufacturing.

{You might have heard of them; they make cast iron skillets.}
Founded in 1896, Lodge is one of the United States oldest cookware companies.  Most off of their products are made right in that little town of South Pittsburg.  Nothing like buying local & American made!
Photo from Martha White via Facbook
Each year, for the last sixteen years, that little own of 3000 expands to over 25,000 as people from all over the Southeast come in to experience a little of that small town, made-in-the-USA goodness through the annual National Cornbread Festival.
Sponsored by Lodge and Martha White (also an American owned and operated company), the National Cornbread Festival has been featured in Southern Living, Taste of Home, The Food Network, PBS, and assorted newspapers all over the country.  The crafts, entertainment, food, and carnival are just a part of the fun, but the real focus of the festival  is the National Cornbread cook-off!
Hopeful competitors from all over the US send in recipes from which 100 are taste tested and ten are chosen for the actual live cook-off during festival weekend.
While watching the cook-off live is not as exciting as scripted television, it is quite interesting to watch these cooks prepare their recipes and send them off to be judged right before your eyes.

I like reality, not a scripted version, so I guess that’s why this appeals to me so much!

This year one of the judges was from our own blogging community, Christy Jordan from Southern Plate
Christy is just as warm and real in person as she is on her blog. 
Based on the description of some of the recipes entered in the cook-off this year, I would have gladly traded places with her, but only for tasting purposes.  I just saw the ingredients and smelled them baking, I couldn’t imagine having to taste them and pick a winner!  

I was amazed at the creative flavors that filled the cornmeal based dishes; peaches & cream sweet, Mediterranean, Caribbean, Mexican, Greek, Cajun and down-home dumplin’s.  
{It’s not your grandmother’s cornbread!}
Watching the competition was inspiring. Each contestant had to provide their ingredients and mixing pieces.  I like that; they can have what they are used to using at home on hand for competition which is sure to add a sense of comfort.  The only “requirements” of the cook-off are each recipe must contain at least one cup of Martha White (is there another brand?) cornmeal and must be cooked in Lodge cookware.  There were some well seasoned pieces on that stage.

When it was all said and done, Melanie McCoy from Knoxville, Tennessee placed first with her Sweet Cornbread Shrimp Cakes with Mango Salsa.
National Cornbread via Facebook 
You can find all of the recipes on The National Cornbread Facebook page.  They should be on the website soon as well.
When you have had your fill of cornbread, buttermilk chugging contests, live entertainment, and crafts, you can venture outside the boundaries of the festival for more fun.  For the last several years, Sister’s on the Fly have set up camp just behind the festival.  They are glamour camping at it most girly and so much fun to visit with.

And if you have traveled with the man in your life, there is plenty for him to do as well.  The classic car show “drive-in” at the historic Dixie Freeze will keep him occupied for hours.

The National Cornbread festival is held the last full weekend of April every year in gorgeous South Pittsburg, Tennessee (just 30 minutes West of CHattanooga).  Mark your calendar now for next year!
And now for the giveaway!
While at the festival this weekend, I brought back a couple of items for me, and to share.  

First is a National Cornbread Festival cookbook containing all of the winning recipes from the last 15 years of the festival, as well as some of the 4-H & celebrity cook-off winners.  
Second, I have a 6-inch Lodge cast iron skillet to giveaway and finally, Martha White cornbread and muffin mix.

You can earn up to three entries:

1) Leave a comment on my blog telling me how you like your cornbread, or the most creative thing you have made in your cast iron cookware.

2) Like Southern Table on Facebook and leave a separate comment telling me that you did so.

3) Become a follower of Our Southern Table and also, let me know in a comment that you have.
I will leave the giveaway up through Saturday, 5 May.