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, hand-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.”
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.