A Surprise Return Visit to a Beloved Place—Cumberland Mountain State Park

As we approached Nana’s farm, our AirBnB central to six impressive Tennessee waterfalls, we got an unexpected surprise.

We passed by a beloved place—Cumberland Mountain State Park. This place was special to us because we were last there to celebrate Christmas in 2015. That Christmas was our first Christmas together in Tennessee. We had gone away with my family for our first married Christmas in 2014, but we wanted to make a memory with just the two of us the following year in our home state. We had decided we wanted to stay in a cozy vintage cabin with a wood-burning fireplace that year—and we loved every second of it. We have another blog about that trip.

A Grandmother’s Love and Becoming Nana

One of the special highlights of that visit is that we were getting home from hiking in time to wish my 92-year-old grandmother a Merry Christmas over the phone. My grandmother has since gone to Heaven and we both really miss her. When we passed the sign for this state park, I knew I wanted to go back to the park during our current visit, even though that wasn’t on our original itinerary.

I also marveled as I thought about how much had happened in my own life since that Christmas 2014 call. The most related event was that I became a grandmother myself a month after that call. That milestone was significant in itself because although I had always dreamed of having my own family, I didn’t meet my husband until I was 41, so I never had any children of my own. By the time of this adventure, I had three small grandchildren!

One of the reasons why we picked Nana’s farm to stay—other than the central location and the gorgeous views, was because of its name. My grandchildren call me Nana—and that was the name that I picked for them to call me.

Another reason this name was special is because my own grandmother had a farm and going to see her farm was something that we did every summer as I was growing up. I was looking forward to staying in a place that was both reminiscent of special memories gone by. I was also excited about having some wonderful daytime adventures and returning each evening to an inspirational place.

Nana’s Farm

When we arrived to Nana’s farm, I was immediately delighted with all the relics that reminded me of my own grandmother’s house. Glass and ceramic cat figurines reminded me both of the treasures my grandma had and the kittens she had for us to play with. Nana’s farm even had a series of plates featuring large tabby cats, reminding us of our own beloved tabby, Clive, who muses at clivethecat.com.

Whenever I check into a new AirBNB, I always look not only for sentimental things like the items I described above, but I also look for special signs that tell me God is with me. In addition to cats, there was a bluebird in nest in the wreath. Bluebirds have been one of my special God signs for years. They first helped take me from being “blue” in the concrete jungle of Chicago to living in the natural beauty of Tennessee. I didn’t know at the time when I started seeing signs that bluebirds are the Tennessee state bird. When I met my husband, I told him all about the many instances of bluebird signs. So, at my first birthday that we celebrated together, he got me flowers with two bluebirds in a nest. That gift was a clear sign to me that he wanted to make a lifelong nest with me. I’m so grateful. For all these reasons, seeing the bluebird on a wreath was special to me, and it helped me know this was going to be a special trip.

There was also a special God sign that said, “May the God of peace be with you.” This phrase was significant to me because I had a little anxiety about the 9-mile hike in one day with elevation. I had been training for a month by doing a little over three miles each day, but I had never gone nine. The nine miler was one of Seth’s favorite places, and I wanted to be able to make it there with him.

Somehow, that sign comforted me and helped me sleep.

The far and away best thing about Nana’s farm was the view of the valley. We enjoyed sunsets there and early morning views when we read our Bibles and prayed while where we were looking down on the clouds. even though we hung out at the cabin the first day when we checked in, we had added a stop to our agenda, so we couldn’t linger too long

We believe the truth found in Psalm16:11, which says: You make know to me the path of life; you fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Because we wanted Him to fill our vacation with His presence, we set out to the path He led us to first—Cumberland Mountain State Park—and the adventure did not disappoint.

New Adventures at Cumberland Mountain State Park

We started out on a path to the path. It was more crowded and “pedestrian,” paved in concrete. This path walks around a lake, where you see paddleboarders and kayakers having fun on a calm lake. Then, about a mile down, you get to a trail in the woods. For us, this is where the adventure begins. We often take pictures of our starting points, and the friendly “trail signs”.

As soon as I breathe in the air, and set one foot in front of another, I feel a peace and serenity return to my soul. We walked on the fairly flat trail, but we see amazing beauty of mossy huge rock formations. During our previous walk here nearly five years ago, we had gotten under these rock formations to have a respite from getting wet; today we just got under them to relive those memories, and to feel the cooler breezes. As we walk, we talk, and begin to unwind. I love seeing the tapestry of green trees, bushes, and even dead fallen trees in the water, spectacularly and uniquely lit with radiance as the sun comes through, creating a beautiful scene.

Then we walk into more impressive rock formations. One of them looked like it could be a face. I first saw a face of a large bird then we pass through a large rock cooling tunnel decorated by mountain laurel. Then, we walk through a much smaller tunnel that you almost have to squeeze through at one point. Seeing all these features were so amazing to us because the trail was completely different than the first time we hiked it. It was raining so much that that we really had to watch our footing and we couldn’t focus on the beauty surrounding us.

A highlight of this park for most visitors is the suspension bridge. The first time we were there the water seemed almost as high as the bridge. This time the water was much lower down. We took a break after we crossed the bridge before we hiked another 2.5 miles back. It was fun to watch people cross it and play the same bouncing games we did.

After we were done with the hike, we had gone about 5.5 miles. We were hot and tired! However, I had seen a waterfall in a brochure, and we didn’t see that the last time we were there. We were on a waterfall tour, so we had to go see it! We grabbed a cool drink and a snack to refuel. We have kind of started a tradition of stopping and having a brief picnic in a lovely place after a hike to really relish in our accomplishment. We thought it was just a few steps down to the waterfall, and Seth had already taken off his boots to give his feet some relief. So, he set down the rock steps in flipflops. Well the rocks were kind of large and it was more than a few steps. We recommend keeping your hiking boots on for this adventure! But the waterfall was oh, so worth it! It was actually a waterfall made by a dam, but it was still powerful and beautiful to behold.

It was at this stop that we realized we now had hiked six miles. And, we had five more days ahead of us on our six-day waterfall adventure to celebrate our six years of marriage. We decided that we would hold up a finger for each of our days to celebrate each year.

During the trip, we also looked over and remembered what we did on each anniversary. Our marriage and adventures just keep getting better and better!

Historical Records

Keeping records are fun! You never know who might read about you! It was once prophesied that my grandchildren would read my prayers. I certainly hope so! At Cumberland State Park, we read about Alvin York, a World War I hero from the Cumberland Plateau area. You can watch the movie Sergeant York to learn more about why he was a hero there. But I didn’t know that he was the superintendent of the building of the park, which included construction of the dam, various facility buildings which are now banquet halls and a restaurant, as well as the cabins and surrounding homesteads. During the Great Depression in the 1930s, the CCC (the Civilian Conservationist Core) built many of the structures at Tennessee State Parks. The CCC jobs were voluntary for unmarried, unemployed men. Now, 90 years later, we are still enjoying the work of their hands. The entire town around Cumberland Mountain State Park has architecture that matches the stonework that these men used.

I couldn’t help but think how much better the world would be if people out of work today would build things for generations to come. How much better to be productive and to create something long lasting so that someone like me might both enjoy the grounds and create special memories for a lifetime.

A Special Place built Long Ago Forever in My Heart

How special it was that as my grandmother was coming of age in the 1930s, as this place that would bless visitors nearly 100 years after it was built. This memorable place that we, in 2015, had the most meaningful call with my grandmother when she was 92. I’ll never forget that call because it was the last Christmas call or visit that we shared. Her health declined and she passed away December 15, 2016. But the memory of that Cumberland Mountain State Parke call to her and the hike in a deluge that proceeded it—as well as our surprise revisit to this beloved place—will remain in my heart for the rest of my life.

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