"We're going to run our secret play. I call it the Annexation of Puerto Rico."
It'll make sense later.
The day dawned a gorgeous crimson red with splashes of deep purple and bright orange. Small furry woodland creatures began to rustle in their lairs at the start of another beautiful summer day. I, however, was asleep. Screw dawn, I was tired.
Rode I-26 down from Johnson City to Erwin, TN and went up Rock Creek Road (Hwy. 395). It was really early in the morning and where we've been having stupid amounts of humidity you could see the water vapor in wooded areas. This wasn't fog, per se, but the long lost cousin twice removed.
I tried to get some pictures from the top of Rock Creek but the foliage again proved the bane of my ambitions. Oh well, just trust that I say it's pretty. The intention was to go down and get pictures of Spivey Gap as well but I knew the trees would be just as thick down there. Spivey Gap is Hwy. 19W that runs over to Burnsville. You go up an incredibly twisty road, much tighter than Deal's Gap, and wind up running along side a river in a semi-river valley.
Instead, I rode down 352/81 out of Erwin and hooked right onto 352 a.k.a. Devil's Fork Road towards Hot Springs, NC.
North Carolina? This is an East TN report.
Oh yeah, I don't know if you've caught it on the BBC World Service yet but Tennessee recently annexed Hot Springs. There wasn't much of a fight or anything because Hot Springs is where people go when Asheville gets too uptight, and since Asheville is pretty much a hippie town (generally speaking), the annexation was met with little alarm.
Devil's Fork Road turns into Hwy. 212 when it crosses the state line and is probably one of the best kept secrets around. You're treated to views like this...
at the cost of having to dodge hundreds of these along side the road. Wasn't that bad really.
Once in Hot Springs there are several options. You can run Hwy. 25/70 to Newport, TN or branch off halfway onto 107 and connect back to Greeneville, TN. Or from the store you can cross the bridge, hang the first left onto River Road, and run up alongside the river. This is what I did. It's pavement for 4 miles or so before it turns to gravel for about 3. After this it's pavement again when you get to Paint Rock. Best I can tell it's just this giant rock alongside the river and the Native Americans used to use it as a meeting place.
French Broad River
There is a small "trail" that goes to the top of Paint Rock. Being the old rock climber I am I figured I'd have a go. It wasn't exactly class 5 climbing but some energy was exerted.
In the end though the view was much better.
The next several photos are from Paint Creek Recreation Area that runs from Hot Springs up to Hwy. 70 via Lower Paint Creek Road and Rollins Chapel Road. It's a single lane road with turn outs every so often but during the week it's almost deserted. You follow the creek the entire way and there are swimming holes just about everywhere along with camp sites and facilities.
Riding up Hwy. 70 into Greeneville you cross over the Nolichucky River. This is one of the bigger rivers in the area and means "River of Death" or something in Cherokee because of the strong currents. Swimming is not advised. You get to see this though.
That's the most water I've ever seen rolling off that spillway.
Greeneville was the home of President Andrew Johnson and in the historic district (take 70 to 321 business) you can tour his home. It's also the location of Cannonball Church. Called Cumberland Presbyterian Church it was under fire during the Civil War and actually received damage.
Look to the right of the doorframe.
See it yet?
Uber close up.
Took backroads up to my old school, Tusculum College, before turning onto 107. Ran 107 all the way along the Nolichucky until it intersects with Hwy. 81. Followed 81 on into Jonesborough, site of the International Story Telling Festival (one of the 1000 places to see before you die US edition), Chester Inn, and a really cool historic district. No pictures along the highway because the humidity was so high there was a horrible haze but without question some of the best views are found along 107 and 351 (runs from 107 to 70 behind Greeneville).