A little-known Tennessee treasure becomes a spectacular weekend vacation

Let me show you how much I adore the great state of Tennessee.

Last weekend I was introduced to a gem usually foregone by most tourists.

My husband’s grandmother owns a lake house perched in the Appalachians, nestled between the “cities” of Madisonville (population 4,636) and Tellico Plains (population 941).


Madisonville and Tellico Plains, TN
These two small towns neighbor the sprawling Cherokee National Forest along the Appalachian Mountains.


Blake and I arrived by airplane into Knoxville, rented a car, and began the trek an hour southwest to Grandma’s lodge. (Meanwhile we enjoyed the cooler, drier air compared to our native, suffocating Florida heat.)

I was stricken by the rolling hills leading to the mountains. Nearly every road (except for major highways) resembled the following photo I snapped:

Roads of Tennessee
No complaints here.

After Grandma and her husband Hank warmly welcomed us into their home, we were provided with a savory, simmering meal of shrimp scampi.

By the way, the view from Grandma’s isn’t too shabby, either.


Table by the lake, please. My compliments to the chef (Grandma).


On Saturday, Blake and I enjoyed a lovely breakfast along the lake (fluffy pancakes prepared by Chef Grandma), then we headed out to Tellico Plains to experience a Tennessee cuisine favorite, a loaded foot-long hot dog.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover the majesty of a hot dog when it is topped with chili, coleslaw, and mustard. I normally don’t care for all of these items separately, and I sampled it to appease my husband. Good call, Blake.

Ma’am, I’ll take another.


Tellico Beach Drive-In in the Appalachian Mountains



After lunch we took a dip in the Bald River Falls. Wading through the freezing waters along the breathtaking site was my personal favorite part of the trip. Oh, and it’s absolutely free of charge.


Bald River Falls, TN


After the Falls, we took an impromptu trip through Confederate-era Coker Creek and a dirt road to the sylvan North Carolina border.


Driving on a hidden road through the Appalachians from Tennessee to North Carolina.



On Sunday we were called to Catholic Mass at a cozy and brilliant church, St. Joseph the Worker in Madisonville. The priest was hilarious and the congregation boisterously canted along with all of the hymns.



After Mass, we ventured to the Craighead Caverns, an underground hideaway used by Cherokee natives as a meeting place. The caves were later re-discovered by European Americans in the 1820s. The caverns also boast the second-largest underground lake in the world, dubbed the “Lost Sea.”



At 6’3″, Blake is a bit too tall for some of the cavern ceilings.


The Lost Sea near Sweetwater, TN. An underground lake.

Underground river pouring into the Lost Sea. Sweetwater, TN.


Later that night, after an apple pork tenderloin dinner prepared by Grandma, we joined friends at the peak of the mountain for a delicious view of the Appalachians. About a dozen hummingbirds were also gathering at the feeders.




A panoramic view of the mountain top from North Carolina to Tennessee.


Hummingbirds hover and feed on the mountain top, before heading south for winter.



Monday morning we headed home to Florida!


The weekend was a grand adventure. I simply cannot wait to return and explore the historical sites from the Civil War and prohibition. If you have any places for me to add to my next trip, drop a comment!



Until next time, Volunteers!