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Blue Moon, Twin Falls, Happy Trails, and Good Food

Saturday night is not only a full moon, it is a blue moon. If you think that the Twin Falls are beautiful by day, you should see them under moonlight.


No one can tell the story better than Jennie Ivey, as published in the Sparta Expositor.

Twin Falls trails, Foglight Foodhouse, the power house at night.

By Jennie Ivey

Though these destinations don’t all have to be experienced in one trip, if you want to combine breathtaking hikes with a gourmet dinner and then top it off with one of the most surreal nighttime views ever—all in just a few hours–try this close-to-home adventure.

Set your GPS for 275 Powerhouse Road, Walling, TN, the address of Foglight Foodhouse. But when you get to the restaurant, drive on by. They don’t open until suppertime. Continue down curvy Powerhouse Road for a couple of miles. It dead ends—no surprise–at the Great Falls Dam power house, which you may hardly notice at first because you’re too busy gasping at the beauty of the falls.

If you don’t want to hike, park and enjoy the scenery. Marvel at the cliffs and waterfalls. Watch kayakers heave colorful boats onto their shoulders and make their way down the concrete steps that lead to the river.

But if a walk in the woods is what you’re after, you can choose from three trails that begin in this parking lot. The Caney Fork River Gorge Downstream Trail is a 1.6 mile (round-trip) “lollipop” trail that follows a steep bluff line bordering the river. On the opposite side of the parking lot is the trailhead for the Upstream Gorge Trail. It’s 0.5 miles (one way) and provides access to swimming spots such as the “Ice Hole” and the “Warm Hole.”

The third trail–Twin Falls Down River Trail–is a 1.6 mile (round trip) trek. Here, you’re hiking deep in the gorge, with a massive limestone wall on one side of you and the Caney Fork River on the other. In spring, wildflowers abound. The best thing about this trail? You’re pretty much never out of sight of a waterfall, none of which are “natural.” When the Great Falls Dam was built in 1916, it caused water from the Collins and Caney Fork rivers to form a reservoir. Some of the water from that reservoir feeds the powerhouse. But the water also seeps into underground caverns, leaks through the limestone and then spills into the Caney Fork River, creating dazzling cascades everywhere you look.

Now that you’re plenty hungry and thirsty, return to your car and head back up the road to the Foglight Foodhouse, which opens at 5:00 Tuesday through Saturday. (They’re closed Sunday and Monday.) The first thing you may notice as you pull into the gravel parking lot is that the covered entrance to the restaurant’s front door is actually a capsized boat. Check out the outdoor fire pit, where guests can hang out and enjoy some locally-brewed Calfkiller beer while waiting to be seated. Be sure to get a good look, just to the right of the building, at the 600-foot long railroad trestle that spans the Caney Fork River.

And then just stand still and take in the extraordinary aromas wafting through the air.
Owner and executive chef Edward Philpot, who, along with his two brothers, opened Foglight in 1997, calls the little restaurant tucked onto a high bluff overlooking the river “my lantern in the woods.” The brothers have gone their separate ways and a 5,000-square-foot building—complete with outdoor dining overlooking the river–has replaced the original ramshackle restaurant, located about a mile away. But the commitment to offering each Foglight guest a unique and outstanding dining experience remains the same as it was from the beginning.

“If you’re in a hurry for a meal,” Philpot likes to say, “you’ve come to the wrong restaurant.”

Visitors from far and near enjoy the Foglight’s eclectic menu of fresh seafood, foglight signhand-cut meats, pasta dishes, and classic Cajun cuisine. Wonderful appetizers and salads. And an ever-changing dessert menu. Coffee, tea and a variety of soft drinks are offered, as is an impressive selection of micro-brewed beer. Best deal of all? For a nominal corking fee, you can bring your own bottle of wine or spirits.

Not surprisingly, summer weekend evenings are the Foglight’s busiest time. Philpot admits that sometimes, when closing time comes and the last customer has departed, he and his staff like to meander out onto the railroad trestle just to soak in the silence and watch the moon reflect on the water. “We’re always exhausted,” he says with a laugh, “because we give 100% every night. We want to make dinner at the Foglight special for our guests every time they come.”

bluemoonIf you’re not quite ready to hit the road for home after this amazing meal, turn left out of the restaurant parking lot and head back down Powerhouse Road to where the day’s adventures began.

Stop when you spot the gigantic yellow glow. Is this something straight out of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”? Have space aliens landed in Walling to take a look at Twin Falls in the moonlight? Nope, it’s only the power house, impressive by day but mesmerizing at night. If you’re lucky–or foresighted—enough to have put folding chairs in your trunk, get them out and set them up on the paved pad just above the steps that lead to the river. Notice how the glowering power plant resembles a medieval castle, complete with moat and drawbridge. Relax and let the cool evening breeze blow across your face. Smell the damp earth. Listen to the roar of the falls.

It’s the perfect ending to a perfect day. Right here in White County, Tennessee.


Autumnal Equinox


First light, autumnal equinox.

Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year, winter solstice is the shortest. Halfway between the solstices lie the vernal (Spring) and Autumnal Equinoxes. Theoretically, there are equal hours of day and night during an equinox but actually they can vary slightly with a maximum of about seven minutes. Also note that the official demarcation is on the equator, so if you are above or below that line the window of time can widen.

You would think that winter solstice would imply both the latest sunrise and earliest sunset, but actually the latest sunrise takes place in January and the earliest sunset occurs around the first week of December yet solstice generally occurs on December 21 (yep, that day can vary too.)


Last light, autumnal equinox.

Regardless of assumptions, being close to the longest or shortest days (solstices), or halfway between those days (equinoxes) are noteworthy regardless of what hemisphere you live in and all have been celebrated since since humans started observing the pattern.  It is fun to stop at least four times a year and appreciate the basis for our calendar.  Take a note tomorrow of the point on the horizon where either the sun rises or sets. Return to that same spot around December 21, and you will be surprised how far along the horizon those events appear move.


Daybreak on Black Mountain, autumnal equinox.





Passover, or Good Friday?


Easter 2016 Full Moon at Yellow Bluff

Jews use a lunar calendar and Passover always occurs on the 15th day of the month of Nisan; the first full moon after vernal equinox.  Since our solar calendar has 12 months and the Hebrew calendar has 13 months; it is VERY rare that Good Friday actually falls on Passover.

Easter will always fall on a Sunday between March 22nd, and April 25th; within 7 days of a Full Moon. Specifically, the first full moon past the spring equinox.

Thus the Passover referenced with the crucifixion is an entirely different day than we celebrate today. That said, this picture is the full-moon that started the Easter calendar ticking for 2016. It was taken from Yellow Bluff in the Bridgestone Centennial Wilderness Area.

The Yellow Bluff Trail, and Poly’s Branch Trail are now open; they are not as rigorous as Virgin Falls and yield some fantastic overlooks into the Caney Fork River Gorge.  Polly’s Branch is on the left before you get to the Virgin Falls parking lot. To find the Yellow Bluff trail, pass the Virgin Falls parking lot and take the fork to the left. Go about a mile and you will see the Yellow Bluff parking area set back in the trees.

If you are looking for an outdoor activity outside of hunting Easter Eggs, any of these trails are highly recommended. Happy Easter and remember the real reason for the holiday.

Saturday December 12, 2015

Americana at it’s best; there are several treats available this Saturday, some of them FREE!!! Start your day by treating yourself to an all-you-can eat Country Ham Breakfast for only $8.00 for adults and $3.00 for children. In addition to country ham, bacon or sausage, eggs, potatoes, and multiple choices of gravy – – sometimes even red-eye and chocolate gravies are available. And, the best part is the proceeds go for a good cause; you are supporting a volunteer fire department. You will be surprised who shows up at these breakfasts; some of the best politickin opportunities of the year take place at these fund-raisers. 6:00 – 10:00 a.m. at the Cherry Creek Fire Department, 124 Montgomery Road, Sparta TN.

DSCN1377White county is also home to TWO Christmas Parades. The first is at 10:00 a.m. in Doyle Tennessee, the latter is at 4:00 pm in Sparta. The lineups are incredible, some floats will be in both parades; each venue has exclusive attractions. It is advisable to line-up along the roadside at least a half-hour in advance. Bring a sack and collect enough candy to keep your blood-sugar elevated through the rest of the year.

Lastly, this weekend is the peak of the largest meteor shower of the year; the Geminids meteor shower. I have seen over 60 shooting-stars per hour on some nights. The shower becomes prominent around 9:00pm and increases through the night with the best display about one hour before sunrise. Geminids are known for their long trains (trails), and is often the source of the best fireballs of any meteor shower during the year.  This year could be especially brilliant because the new moon also falls this weekend. The absence of moonlight makes even the most faint meteors visible. Lawn chairs, blankets, campfires and hot chocolate can make for an evening that you will never forget.





Liberty Square

FREE!   International Bluegrass Music Award winning event Saturday, October 14, 2017 in Sparta Tennessee. Seven continuous hours of music featuring Blake Williams & Friends, The Grascals, Larry Stephenson Band, and Flatt Lonesome. In addition, there is a classic car show and 140 vendor booths selling local crafts, foods, etc.  At 7:00 pm there is a fantastic fireworks show. The event starts at noon.  Set your GPS for 1 Bockman Way, Sparta TN.

Lester Flatt Liberty Square                       liberty square marquis                         Liberty_Square_7(1)                     Liberty Square (3)

Three FREE events in Sparta this weekend.

Free Music on the Square

(1) Free Bluegrass on the Square Friday night, this is the premier event for this season. Sparta has free bluegrass the third Friday of every Month through October.

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(2)Saturday DAY, May 16 join the Art and Ale Trail. Various artists and craftsman will be set up along the river and around the courthouse. In addition to Art, there will also be Ale; enjoy both.


(3)Saturday Night, Sock Hop and Cruise In on the Square. This event is a great piece of Americana that can only happen in small towns. The square will be cordoned off for everyone to enjoy. Free car show, free music and dancing.


What’s bugging you?

While most of the creatures around Cragrock are benign, there are a few to watch out for. This article deals with dangerous insects on the Cumberland Plateau and how to avoid them. Before you slather yourself in DDT, keep in mind that fewer than one percent of the insects on the earth are harmful to humans and the vast majority of insects that you will encounter while trekking around Sparta can’t even bite; those that do bite cause only temporary pain – – unless of course you are allergic. More important, many of the insects that you encounter are beneficial to the environment – – dangerous or not.

I have seen more Latrodectus mactans in the last two years than I have seen in all the previous years of my life combined. When I mention this to other aging outdoor enthusiasts, they agree. For some reason, the black widow spider is on the rise. Black widows like warm dark environments and from what I’ve seen, seem to have an affinity for the underside of metal objects. Black widow venom is a neurotoxin, it is rarely fatal but can cause extreme illness.

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Black Widow

In addition to black widows, we have brown recluse spiders in the area. If you do a web search for “brown recluse bite” keep in mind that the images that they show you are the worst-case-scenarios that they could find on the entire planet. I was bitten by a brown recluse and other than a little red swelling, experienced no ill effect. NINTY PERCENT of brown recluse bites go undetected. I sometimes wonder if we are doing more damage to ourselves by prophylactically treating our homes with copious amounts of chemicals trying to cure arachnophobia, than we would cause if we simply let the fangs land where they may.

Perhaps the most dangerous insect that I’ve personally encountered, may be as small as the period following this sentence, yet it can prove fatal and they are abundant in the southeast. Like spiders, they are arachnids; unlike spiders, you never feel their bite. For every poisonous spider that I’ve encountered, I’ve probably seen at least one-hundred of these eight-legged creatures – – they are that common.

During the weeks, months, and years following the bite of these insects people have been misdiagnosed with everything from Arthritis to Alzheimer’s Disease. Understand that ticks don’t have venom, but they carry a host of diseases and many go undiagnosed in humans. I was fortunate to be teaching at a research one university when I became ill from a tick bite. It was early in the 90s, lyme disease had been in the news enough, and I was outdoors enough, that every time I found an imbedded tick, I taped it inside my day-timer – – just-in-case. Six weeks following the removal of an embedded tick, I felt just like I had the flu, except I had no respiratory symptoms. With a fever of 101 for three days, I finally caved and went to the Vanderbilt Clinic after my spleen was so swollen that I had to sleep with a pillow under me to level my girth.

The doctor I visited had spent time as a missionary in Africa. When I described the symptoms, she was puzzled until I said “and by the way, I found this tick attached to me about six weeks ago”. Then I quickly added “but I never had a bulls-eye rash”. She asked if I had been in the proximity of Fairfield Glade near Crossville. When I said yes, she exclaimed “Human Granulocytic Ehrlichiosis, bend over”! After giving me a shot of doxycycline, she went on to explain that there had been an outbreak of HGE at Fairfield a few years before. Twenty-five percent of the residents of Fairfield had tested positive for HGE, and that there was even a statistical correlation of high golf scores, and incidence. She then added that the US was just learning what doctors practicing in Africa had known for years. Ticks can deliver a multitude of diseases, some are yet to be named, but most of them can be treated with doxycycline. She went on to tell me only a few lucky people have a reaction and get a rash from a tick bite; many of the others never seek treatment and let the spirochete wreak havoc. Eventually the spirochete can penetrate every organ of the body – – including the brain and heart. Later, people who have been labeled Alzheimer’s, arthritis, etc. pass on, never knowing that a tick had caused them decades of grief.

2014-04-16 15.56.37DEET, is the most popular tick repellent. Keep in mind that studies have shown the percentage of DEET must exceed 27% to repel some tick species. And, the most common cause of anaphylaxis in the United States is not from insect bites, it is from unsuspecting souls standing downwind of another person applying DEET. If that’s not enough to scare you away from DEET, DEET was implicated in Gulf War Syndrome.

I started this epistle recommending that you avoid putting pesticides on your skin. I will end it by stating that the most effective tick repellent that I have found contains permethrin. You don’t apply permethrin to your skin, you let it dry on outdoor wear and it remains effective for over a half-dozen washings. Not only does it repel ticks, it kills them. I have found a few dead ticks on my floor after I return from hours in the woods. What will the long-term effect of permethrin be on ME? I don’t know, but I can tell you what the short-term effect of a tick bite was and it wasn’t pleasant. Some studies indicate that one in four ticks carry diseases that can infect humans. As much as I enjoy the outdoors, I’ll risk the permethrin. I have pulled zero ticks out of my skin since I have been using this daisy-derived product. My favorite brand is made by Coleman.

And just when you thought it was safe to go back into the woods . . . . .


The Call of the Wild

2015-02-16 15.52.59What is it about inclement weather that amplifies the call of the wild? The forest takes on an entirely different ambiance during different hours of the day, seasons of the year, and varying weather. Today’s ice storm coated the mountain in a quarter inch of ice; it was like walking through a giant glass menagerie with the silence occasionally broken by the sound of crashing limbs and entire trees.

Don’t wait for “pretty” weather to take your favorite hike. You may find a splendor and solitude during rain, snow or sleet that you won’t otherwise get to experience – – there are no “bad” days in the forest.

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