JUNE 9, 2017
Getting to the trailhead was an adventure in itself. My oldest daughter agreed to drive north with us and take us to Burnt Mill Bridge the next morning. Making a plan and not knowing the weather, we opted to search the route to the trailhead from home for a dry spot to overnight. I wanted to start off dry and well rested. The closest place we found of interest was the little town of Caryville, TN just off I-75. It had a Hampton Inn (as my husband is loyal to Hampton properties) and was close to a state park (ie. had potential for a prehike adventure.)
We didn’t expect to happen upon a historical site at a Hampton Inn. Who would? As we wound around the long driveway entrance we noticed the farm equipment labeled as from the tv series, Roots. In the lobby, we spotted a jacket in a frame. Curious, I read the brochure explaining the history of Mr. Hack Ayers – complete with vivid stories of religion, moonshine, shootouts and family. While getting tea we pretty much ran into an older tall man who later my daughter realized was the man in the portrait on our hotel wall. Sure enough in the morning, there, greeting everyone in the breakfast room, was Mr. Hack Ayers himself. I’m not sure I’ve been to a Hampton Inn with such pride in their roots.
For dinner we consulted TripAdvisor and, once again, we weren’t disappointed with their suggestion. Rickard Ridge BBQ, a restaurant on the grounds of the Cove Lake State Park, had the perfect menu for hikers anticipating dehydrated fare for the days to come. We enjoyed burgers on the porch overlooking the lake as the sun was setting and afterward walked down to the lake.