By Mike Steely
After some 50 years of wandering around the Southeast I’ve visited many, many places that interested me or my wife. We’ve been in every Tennessee State Park except one, in many parks in the region’s states and many National Parks.
Sometimes the things you remember the most are not in parks at all. Those odd or unusual places stick with you in your memory and I’ve had the pleasure of saving many of those in photos and in thoughts.
Baby Falls near Tellico Plains
Take Baby Falls south of Tellico Plains for instance, so named because it is just a few yards from the much larger and higher Bald River Falls. Baby Falls begins as the winding river through the narrow hills and suddenly dumps water, and kayakers into the deep pool below. Visitors will crowd the banks to watch the spirited little boat riders shoot off into the air at the top of the swift balls and plunge over their heads into the swirling liquid below. There’s a parking lot developed there with a bathroom, designed with those visitors and those brave kayakers in mind.
Both falls are located along the Tellico River at the foot of the mountain, just beyond the ranger station. Just follow the signs.
If you saw “Fried Green Tomatoes” you’d immediately feel at home in Juliette, Georgia. The little town is just a few miles off I-75 south of Atlanta and was used as the town in the film. The restaurant is yet called “The Whistle Stop Café” and, yes, you can get those tasty fried tomatoes.
The little roadside town has other shops during the tourist season but a popular place is behind the restaurant at the barbecue pits. If you recall the movie that’s where the cook served up the evidence of a missing man and the deputy looking for him ate it up. Literally.
Juliette is located on Highway 23— and you might want to also visit High Falls a bit further south to see several falls, a campground, and much more. You’ll find them both on the internet.
Foamhenge has moved
For several years a foam reproduction of Stonehenge, in full size, sat atop a hill near Natural Bridge State Park in Centreville, Va. It was a popular free roadside stop for many travelers visiting the nearby park but in 2016 the state park expanded and said the authentic reproduction of the British landmark was not appropriate.
The creator has moved the entire pillar complex to Cox Farms in Fairfax, Va., just a few miles from Dulles Airport. If you never stopped by when it was in Southwest Virginia you missed out because the complex looked exactly like the pre-historic site.
Mary Todd Lincoln Home
The childhood home of President Abraham Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, is the first historic home of a First Lady to be restored in the nation. The 14 room home contains many original furnishings and was visited many times by the president. Located at 578 West Main Street the historic home is worth a visit by anyone visiting Lexington, Ky.
Mary Todd was a granddaughter of Levi Todd, one of the founders of the Kentucky city.
Ave Maria Grotto
Called “Jerusalem in Miniature” this four acre site in Cullman, Alabama, has more than 125 miniature reproductions of famous buildings from around the world. Created by the late Brother Joseph Zoetti you can walk through the site and view the beautiful landscaping, the little buildings and churches, and imagine how the priest took care in his faithful work.
The grotto is free to the public and located at 1600 St. Bernard Drive, SE, in Cullman.
Blowing Rock, North Carolina
This North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountain tourist town is a favorite during the summer months when visitors flock there for the cooler weather. The “blowing rock” juts out from the peak there and is said to be the site where a Native American lover jumped off and was blown back up to the arms of his beloved.
Blowing Rock is said to be the “oldest attraction in the state” and is the home of the famous “Tweetsie Railroad.”