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I’ve never been much of a “gun person.” It’s not that I dislike guns, I’ve just never needed them, much less had to depend on one for survival. But because guns have played such an important part in American History, and in particular, the history of Northeast Tennessee, I decided to give it a shot.

I mean, imagine Daniel Boone without his “Tick-Licker.” Or Davy Crockett without “Ol Betsy.”

The fact is: guns played a crucial part in the exploration and settlement of virtually every part of America.

So I decided to get in touch with my pioneer side, and that ambition led me to The Shooter’s Edge, just off the Bristol Highway in Piney Flats, Tennessee. It’s the area’s only full-service, indoor public shooting range.

The first thing that struck me about this place is how big it is: 21,000 square feet, with 15 shooting booths and automated targeting systems for sending and retrieving targets. You can shoot any firearm you’ve got (with the exception of muzzle loader and 50 caliber BMG), just bring your gun and ammunition and they’ll set you up with your own shooting bay. Or, if you don’t have any guns of your own (or just want to get some practice for you and your family), you can rent the gun of your choice (for a small fee).

Being the novice that I am, my instructor took extra care to make me feel comfortable and answer all the questions I had. But this place isn’t just for beginners. Plenty of expert hunters and military people were there trying out different guns in their own arsenal.

I don’t have to tell you how good I did with my “target practice” (it wasn’t good). But I will say that I never imagined I’d have as much fun as I did.

So whether you’re a beginner who needs hands-on instruction, or an experienced marksman looking to hone your skills, The Shooters Edge is your kind of place. For gun rentals, hours, and more information, visit their website here.

Well, it’s not actually one of the “Seven Wonders.”

As a matter of fact, this wonder is one of only TWO on Earth. And the strange thing is: you’ve probably never heard of it.

Located in the southern part of Hawkins County (near Rogersville), Ebbing and Flowing Spring is one of only two springs in the world to exhibit tidal characteristics with a predictable regularity.

What does that mean?

Well, as its name implies, the spring goes from a gentle trickle to a flood of more than 500 gallons per minute. And it does it every 2 hours and 47 minutes. Unlike thermal springs that produce warm water, the temperature of Ebbing and Flowing Spring maintains a constant 34° Fahrenheit year-round. Read the rest of this entry »

If you’re like me, you probably have a hard time getting excited about rain.

Personally, I always thought mountain adventure was best enjoyed on sunny days. But then I talked to Dooley Tombras, the North American Champion of Canoe Slalom racing. According to Dooley, precipitation means big adventure. That’s because when rain rolls around, great whitewater isn’t far behind.

And when Dooley—who hails from Knoxville, Tennessee—is looking for rivers to paddle, he doesn’t have to look very far.

“East Tennessee is one of the best places in the country for whitewater,” he says. “You’re right in the middle of a 200-mile radius of world-class rivers. And whether you’re a beginner or expert, it’s got what you want.”

Those are pretty strong words, coming from a former national champion of down-river racing, and a member of the US Freestyle team in 2007 (he got 6th place in the World Championships that year). So it’s pretty safe to assume Dooley knows what he’s talking about.

“Rain means more water. And more water means faster water, bigger waves, and more excitement. And for a big watershed rivers, like the Nolichucky and Watauga, it doesn’t take much rain to make great whitewater.”

Read the rest of this entry »

An avid fly fisherman for the past 50 years, Mike Adams has fished some of the best rivers and streams an outdoorsman could ask for. He’s weathered the most relentless elements and traversed the most difficult terrain on the continent—all on his quest to find the best fly fishing in the country.

And strangely enough, that’s what brings him to Northeast Tennessee.

“I spent 18 years living (and fishing) out in Wyoming and Arizona,” he says. “And then, everyone out there started talking about Tennessee water.”

So he did what any hardcore fisherman would do. He packed up his belongings and moved to the Tri-Cities.

Read the rest of this entry »

One of my favorite things about Northeast Tennessee is having FOUR distinct seasons. Summers are hot. Fall is beautiful. And winter is cold and snowy.

At least it is on top of Roan Mountain! In fact, “the Roan”, as it’s called, gets more yearly natural snowfall than anywhere else in the region.

Read the rest of this entry »

Traveling along I-26 (near the Tennessee-North Carolina border), visitors will notice a couple of exits for Erwin, Tennessee. It may be small, but for hiking, mountain biking, history, and sightseeing enthusiasts, it’s worth taking notice.

That’s because Erwin, which sits on the edge of the Cherokee National Forest (as well as the Appalachian Trail), has carved its own niche into Appalachian culture as a place where mile-high peaks, lush valleys, majestic waterfalls, and a fascinating history coexist in peaceful harmony.

Now, anyone who’s ever spent time outdoors in Erwin can probably tell you about Unaka Mountain, Beauty Spot, or Pleasant Garden, and their seemingly endless views of bordering mountain ranges. You’ll probably hear about how they can “stand in one spot and see into five states” or how the fall foliage drapes the mountainsides in brilliant hues of red, orange, and yellow. They’ll tell you about Laurel Falls, Red Fork Falls, Rock Creek Falls, Buckeye Falls, Spivey Falls, or any number of countless waterfalls that slither down the mountains creating unforgettable fishing spots and swimming holes.

The view from Beauty Spot

But if you have trouble understanding the passion in their voice, or the elation in their eyes, then you probably ought to visit Erwin and see for yourself.
For anyone who loves fishing, mountain biking, whitewater rafting, or simply enjoying a relaxing Sunday drive through the mountains, Erwin has a plethora of outdoor opportunities. There are small-town shops, main-street eateries, and all the southern hospitality you’d expect in a Northeast Tennessee town. But in Erwin, you’re wonderfully secluded by towering mountains in almost every direction.

But if you spend any time in Erwin, you’re guaranteed to meet some friendly folks, or as we call them around here, “good people.”

People who are no strangers to some good stories.

First off, the name “Erwin” comes from a spelling error. It was originally named “Ervin,” in honor of the fellow who donated 15 acres for the Unicoi County seat. But post office officials made an error in recording the name, and it was never corrected!

But the most famous story surrounding Erwin is about a crazed elephant whose life ended in 1916 at the local rail yard, in front of 2,500 people! Now, I’m not going to tell the whole story here (because there are conflicting reports of how and why it happened). But this much is true, even if some people aren’t proud of the story, it’s a fascinating part of the town’s legacy.

And just like the view from the top of Unaka Mountain, or the bottom of Red Fork Falls, it’s unforgettable.

And that’s what Erwin deserves.