Underground Tour of Tennessee, Part II

There’s more to the ground around here than just what you can see on top of it.

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Welcome back to the view of our great state from the underground! As we mentioned in last week’s post, Tennessee is home to gorgeous above-ground features: lovely mountains, dense forests, majestic wildlife. Rivers, waterfalls and lakes abound, here. Sunrises and sunsets dazzle the eye.

But there’s more to the ground around here than just what you can see on top of it. Tennessee is home to a network of caves and caverns that play a very rich part in our great state’s history, from the time when only Native Americans wandered their vast, stony rooms to eras of war, when soldiers would take refuge in the protection of the hidden caves and use their resources, like bat guano for gunpowder and fresh water to drink.

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Read on to find out where you can descend into the earth for a glimpse of history and geological wonders!

Forbidden Caverns

Located in Sevierville, Forbidden Caverns is a great attraction to spice up your Smoky Mountain vacation (or, for us locals to spend a day trip exploring underground!) As all our amazing caves do, Forbidden Caverns is full of unique geological features and clear, underwater streams. They have a worthwhile presentation and light effects in the cave, as well as guides to augment your trip.

Racoon Mountain Caverns

Head southwest to Chattanooga, where Racoon Mountain boasts of the state’s most popular Wild Cave Tours! As the name suggests, these caves are anything but tame. Open to the public since 1931, Racoon Mountain Caverns are home to some incredible underground scenery, fantastic geological formations and fascinating fossils. It’s a great place for adventure and education.

Tours can be physically demanding, though; part of the cave is considered “wild,” with no artificial light installations. Those wanting to explore on a guided tour of this part of the cave will need sturdy shoes and clothes (that you don’t mind getting filthy), a helmet with headlamp and knee pads and gloves. Racoon Mountain tour guides provide the gear.

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Ruby Falls

A tourist favorite, Ruby Falls is just outside Chattanooga, below famous Lookout Mountain. It was discovered in 1930, and has been fascinating locals and tourists alike ever since. This is one of the few places on our list where you can check out a breathtaking, bird’s eye view of Chattanooga and see an incredible underground vista—all in the same attraction! The underground falls are worth seeing. They’re lit up with a dazzling light show.

Cherokee Caverns

Cherokee Caverns is located on Oak Ridge Highway in Knoxville, Tennessee. This family-friendly cave hosts year-round events, such as “Movie in the Cave.” Are you a Harry Potter fan? Just wait until you see it surrounded by stone walls, stalactites and the occasional bat! Talk about ambience! Be sure to bring a light jacket and blanket, though; the constant 58 degrees can feel a little chilly if you’re not up and moving around.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our blog tour of area caves! Honestly, the list we featured is not nearly all of the caves under our feet here in Tennessee; we have the most (known) caves of any of these United States! But many of the other caves require advanced skills to explore. It’s just one more thing that makes Tennessee special.

As always, if you’re interested in finding the right real estate for your needs above-ground, please visit DarleneReeves-Kline.com. We’d love to help.

Underground Tour of Tennessee, Part I

Tennessee has a lot going on beneath your feet!

As you might imagine, much of the day-to-day living in Tennessee takes place above the ground. Hiking, swimming and boating, disc golf, shopping, school and work … all this stuff happens with the sky up above, or at least a typical ceiling and roof.

But Tennessee, no stranger to wondrous natural phenomena, has a whole lot going underneath your feet, too! Read on to find out what lies beneath the surface:

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Tuckaleechee Caverns

Tuckaleechee Caverns, located in (well, under) Townsend, Tennessee, is only 45 minutes from Sevierville and less than 20 minutes from the famed Institute at Tremont, located inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Tagged as “The Greatest Site Under the Smokies,” these caverns are pretty popular.

Inside, you can see a chamber almost big enough to fit a football stadium, and the tallest subterranean waterfalls. The whole underground tour is about a mile and a quarter, round trip. With gorgeous cave formations and a rich history, Tuckaleechee Caverns is well worth the day-trip.

And, when you’re done touring the cave, you can go for a walk, bike and camp in the gorgeous Smokies!

Cumberland Caverns

Cumberland Caverns, a U.S. National Landmark, are located in middle Tennessee, about an hour and 40 minutes from Nashville. Your experience here could last for days, with everything from short explorations to overnight trips and even live, underground bluegrass concerts available! We think the bluegrass tickets are the best value; you get a day pass to tour the caves before watching the show.

Like most caves, the temperature is just under 60 degrees Fahrenheit, year-round, so it feels warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Constant temperatures also mean these cave attractions are open pretty much every day!

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The Lost Sea Adventure

The Lost Sea, located in Sweetwater, is America’s largest underground lake. Here, you can take a boat trip … underground! You can also take more traditional, walking tours in the caverns. These are worth the trip: some of the most rare cave formations can be found here, including 50% of the world’s known “cave flowers.”

If you’re hungry and still up for some adventure after your tour, there is food and a little bit of souvenir shopping available at the Lost Sea Adventure, as well as nature walks through the woods.

Appalachian Caverns

Way up in the northeast corner of Tennessee is Appalachian Caverns, in Blountville. Here, you can take guided tours of the caverns and kick around in the campground, gift shop and “gem mining” shop. This is a fantastic location for history: the Appalachian Caverns have been important to the residents of the area since the 675 A.D. In more recent eras, the bat dung found inside the caves played an important role in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars: it was a key ingredient for gunpowder!

Each of these amazing, underground natural wonders is an absolutely unique experience that can (and should!) be shared with the whole family. Formations like this are just one more reason that Tennessee is a great place to call home.

Check in next week to find out about  more famous Tennessee caves!

If you’re looking for real estate above ground, check out DarleneReeves-Kline.com. We’ll be happy to help.

Eclipse Madness (and Other Natural Phenomena)!

As locals know, Tennessee is no stranger to awe-inspiring natural events and features.

The total eclipse of the sun, visible at totality in many locations here in East Tennessee, is just three days away!

People from around the country are flocking to our area to view this once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon. We’re hoping for good weather to view the eclipse. If you’re planning to get a glimpse of the eclipse, please keep in mind that not all eclipse glasses are equal. Get NASA-approved lenses if you’re going to stare up into the sky on August 21!

Also, be aware that interstates and highways are going to be choked with traffic. Between out-of-town eclipse-chasers and locals trying to get the best view, there is an extremely high volume of vehicles expected to be out and about over the next several days. You don’t want to be stuck in a wreck instead of witnessing one of the most noteworthy scientific events of our time!

As locals know, Tennessee is no stranger to awe-inspiring natural events and features. To prove it, we’ve listed a few below.

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Synchronized Fireflies

Every summer, in a specific location in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a breed of fireflies get together for a unique light show. These little guys glow frenetically for several seconds before total darkness descends in the woods, almost like a firefly switch getting flicked off. Then they start back up again! You can witness the synchronized fireflies yourself, but you have to get on a waiting list. After all, if everybody went tramping around in the woods after these little glowy guys, they’d probably be crushed into extinction. Check out the Great Smoky Mountains National Park website to find out more.

Wildlife

Black bears, white-tailed deer, owls, skunks, coyote, turkey, bobcats and painters (mountain lions) … even though the great herds of buffalo and elk were moved on when people moved in generations ago, Tennessee is still home to an amazingly diverse roster of wildlife. Even in neighborhoods closer to urban areas, turkey, deer and even bear sightings aren’t at all unusual!

New Madrid Earthquakes

Reelfoot Lake, which stretches into Arkansas, Missouri and about as far into western Tennessee as you can get, is relatively young for a natural lake: only about 206 years old. The New Madrid quakes (named for a town on the Mississippi River that took the brunt of the damage) were the strongest quakes in recorded history east of the Rockies. Although it’s pretty to see now, the site of Reelfoot Lake was terrifying on the night of December 16, 1811, when the Reelfoot Rift gave a mighty heave!

Haints

With natural wonders like blinking fireflies, glowing foxfire, bobcat cries that sound like distressed women, and drifting, eerie fog, it’s no wonder our lovely valleys and ridges are fertile ground for ghost stories and superstitions. You can’t learn Tennessee history without hearing a ghost story or two! Click here to read more haint recollections.

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We hope you’ve enjoyed reading a little bit about the wonder of our lovely state! If you’re looking to settle here, check out DarleneReeves-Kline.com for current listings.

Back to School Time!

It may be the dog days, but there’s something else that makes August notable: Back to School!

It’s August already! It’s been a beautiful summer: at times hot and muggy, but we’ve had our fair share of crystal-clear, lovely weather, too. It may be the dog days, but there’s something else that makes August notable: Back to School! Kids and parents all over East Tennessee are gearing up to walk back through those lobby doors, heading to new classrooms, new desks and a new year of learning. Here are a few tips to make the transition from summer to school a little softer.

Snacks!

It’s amazing how far a good snack can go toward cheering a kid (or parent!) up, or just helping them wind down after a day of rules and work. Add a couple of fun snacks to lunches for a little midday boost, and have something healthy and yummy waiting for a just-off-the-bus treat. Here are a couple of ideas: pinch the middle of a baggie of grapes with a twisted pipe cleaner to make it look like a butterfly, or slather peanut butter on celery and stick on raisins for “ants on a log.” Then sneak a few bites for yourself!

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Downtime

Yeah, your older kids probably have a stack of homework already, but a little bit of quiet, unscheduled time (coinciding with the snack, probably!) can set the right tone for tackling those worksheets. Reading a book quietly, building with Legos, imaginative play, even just sitting and daydreaming: all these things help a kid’s brain release after school. Note: screen time, even though it can seem like relaxation time, actually overstimulates kids’ brains, making it more difficult for them to wind down.

Get Out!

Since they’re spending so much more of their days indoors, make sure kids have plenty of opportunity to get outside. Studies show it increases their learning capabilities, reduces stress and can even help them be healthier. Kick the kids out to the backyard during the school week, and go to the park on the weekends. It’s good for parents, too! And, luckily, we have the majestic Great Smoky Mountains practically in our backyard, so a Saturday day hike is a short trip away.

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Healthy Habits

It’s important for both parents and kids to get enough sleep and eat healthy meals during the school week. It can be stressful making sure backpacks and lunches are all packed up and ready to go, the kids aren’t wearing the same stained shirt they wore for the past two days, pick up and drop off happen on time, and a million other things don’t fall between the cracks! Give yourself a boost with healthy habits.

Kids at Home

Does little brother or sister still stay at home? You can do lots of fun things to prep them for the big day they get to go to school, too. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library will send free books to your home to help you jump-start your kids’ love of reading. Local libraries have reading programs and story hours that help you get out of the house and help your entertain kids, too.

Good luck with back to school time! Visit DarleneReeves-Kline.com for your East Tennessee realty needs.

Pickin’ in East Tennessee

People around here buy and sell anything from lamps to antique mason jars…

Rural East Tennesseans are no strangers to the “gettin’ it done” mentality. Only a few short generations ago, it took hours—even days, for those living way up in the hills—of arduous travel just to get to the nearest town of any size. So, if you needed farm implements, kitchen staples or even clothes, you made very certain you loaded up on all you could in that semi-annual trip to town.

As a result of living so remotely, people in East Tennessee made do with what they had. They learned to make just about everything with what was available: barrels, boats, furniture, homes, clothes, preserves … you name it, it could pretty much be conjured with some hard work and creativity. And, people didn’t throw away anything that had some kind of use left in it!

These days, of course, just about anything a body could need is a short drive into town or a decisive click of the computer mouse away. But that creative philosophy of life never quite left folks in this part of the world. One of the best results of this is a thriving flea market economy. People around here buy and sell anything from lamps to antique mason jars, and if you’re willing to spend the time hunting, you can find what you need. (Or what you didn’t even know you needed!) And, of course, the hunt is most of the fun!

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Some flea markets, like the Porter Flea in Nashville, are an annual event, worth the pilgrimage if you want to combine a vacation with a pickin’ trip. Others are closer to our neck of the woods, like the Centre Brick Indoor Flea Market in New Tazewell or the Green Acres Flea Market in Louisville (near the airport, just outside of Knoxville.)

If yard sales get your creative gears cranking, there are plenty of events in Tennessee for you. Every weekend in the summer, sometimes starting as early as Thursday morning, you can find yard sales. If it’s a big event you’re looking for, Tennessee has annual yard sale events that stretch for miles along our highways! A little bit west of here, in Fentress County, there is the annual 127 Corridor yard sale. This one’s coming up: August 3-6, 2017. It actually stretches from Addison, Michigan, to Chattanooga, Tennessee! Next spring, plan for the U.S. 11 Antique Alley and Yard Sale, which runs from Meridian, Missouri to Bristol, Virginia.

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Need a little inspiration for what to do with your newfound trash-to-treasure? Check out this article from Good Housekeeping. You can turn out-of-date end tables into a Lego brick paradise, colanders into planters, and jars and cans into anything from candle holders to terrariums. If something has “good bones,” you can find a fantastic use for it! And, really, nothing makes a house into a home more than the hand-made touch.

So, get pickin’! And, if you see a property you like while you’re out searching for antiques and up-cycle projects, visit DarleneReeves-Kline.com. We’ll be happy to help you find your East Tennessee home!

Millenials and Home-Buying

For many millenials, the American Dream has lost some of its luster.

The American Dream used to be all about owning your own house, where your family can be safe and sound with a white picket fence out front. But, for many millenials, the American Dream has lost some of its luster.

Millenials today (this group has a mushy definition: anyone born between 1977 and 2000, according to some) face a lot of challenges in the house-buying arena.

Bidding Wars

In some markets, competing with other, established homeowners for desirable homes is a losing battle: previous homeowners with good credit usually have more equity from a previous home and more money saved for a down payment, as well as an established financial history. On top of this, houses are getting very expensive around the nation! (Click here for an article about how this affects millenials.) In some areas of the country, such as urban California, houses are valued so high it’s almost impossible to win the bidding war. Sellers often make tens of thousands more dollars than the listing price!

Financial Burden

A major roadblock for millenials trying to buy a home is difficulty in getting home loans, which is in part due to another difficulty: high student loan debt. (We published an article here about financial assistance with buying a first home.) Many millenials feel they just can’t afford a house payment in addition to their other debts, or can’t afford to save for the down payment.

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Relief in Sight!

In East Tennessee, mortgage prices are often the same, or lower, than rent. Housing prices around here are so comfortable, it makes sense (if you’re planning to stay in the area for more than three years ) to invest in owning a home. And, especially in rural areas, it’s easy to get down payment assistance from government loan programs. Plus, when you make mortgage payments on time for more than three years, it’s just like putting money in an equity bank. When you’re ready to move, you can sell your home and roll over the equity into a down payment on a new house. (Or use the money for whatever you need it for.)

Don’t Forget the Dog!

Of course, buying a home is about more than just financial considerations. A home is an emotional and time commitment, too! What kind of lifestyle are you looking for? Millenials often have a different answer from Boomers, when it comes to lifestyle. For example, this article says that millenials are more influenced by their dog than any other reason when it comes to buying a home. Sure, extra space for the family is nice, as well as the idea of investing in real estate and being more fiscally responsible, but having a more stable place for the family pooch wins out over what we consider the more traditional reasons for buying a home.

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Home ownership might not make sense in other places, but here in East Tennessee, low home cost (and low cost of living,) options for down payment assistance and the chance to invest in your family’s future make buying a home a great option.

Whatever your reason is for house hunting in East Tennessee, check out DarleneReeves-Kline.com to get started.

Historic Appalachia: Resort Hot Spot!

Appalachia was the vacation spot of choice for droves of travelers in the late-19th and early-20th centuries.

Travel is so easy nowadays. All we have to do to get out of town is hop in the car, gas it up and drive down the interstate. Or, we can head to the McGee-Tyson Airport in Alcoa (just outside Knoxville) and hop on a two-hour flight to Florida for palm trees and sandy beaches. It wasn’t so long ago—less than two generations—that travel was very difficult, time-consuming and expensive! In that era of days-long train travel, the upper-middle-class of America came by the car-load (train car, that is) to Appalachia.

You read right: Appalachia was the vacation spot of choice for droves of travelers in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. Many leisure travelers lived inside cities, where industry was concentrated, so to get outside the brick-and-cobble jungle was a real treat for body and soul. In fact, during our country’s Industrial Revolution, medical doctors prescribed trips to the green, coal-smokeless hills of North Carolina and Tennessee on a regular basis. (That’s how the Vanderbilts ended up in Asheville: a trip for clean air away from railway smoke.)

The little towns of Dandridge, Morristown and Bean Station all had their tourist spots. Oh, they’d never give Dollywood a run for their money, but in their heyday the rural hot springs and bed-and-breakfasts did a pretty good business. Some of these places still retain a glint of their former allure. You can go there and walk, or sit awhile and see a glimpse of what it might have been like to enjoy the finest of rural American vacations at the turn of last century.

Dandridge

This gem of a town still retains its hardy brick buildings, some over a hundred and fifty years old. Although the TVA dammed the river nearby to flood most of the richest farmland, changing the landscape surrounding the town, many historic homes and businesses remain intact.

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Bean Station

Not much remains of the Tate House Springhouse resort these days; the 500-guest hotel was demolished years ago. There is still a lovely spring, though, and the pavilion is a local favorite spot for prom and wedding photo shoots. Its close proximity to the lake makes this a sweet little spot to stop by for a picnic.

Clinton

Part of the “White Lighting Trail,” this little town just outside Knoxville has a great, historic downtown ripe for strolling and enjoying a meal. Plus, if you like antiquing, this place holds some fabulous treasures.

Morristown

The General Longstreet Museum, Crockett Tavern Museum and Rose Center for the Arts all hold turn-of-last-century allure, giving a glimpse into the life and times of those who lived, loved and made a life in Morristown pre- and post-civil war.

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Modern vacation tastes often run to bright lights and rich foods, exciting rides and never-seen-before entertainment. We could take a page from vacationers of yore, who took a prescription for cleaner, Appalachian air and headed away from the overstimulating city for the noise of cicadas and crickets, the gentle breezes and distractions of a good game of lawn croquet.

Interested in owning your own little piece of history? Go to DarleneReeves-Kline.com to find properties for sale in lovely East Tennessee.