Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Quick Trip

Hey everyone. Friday morning, I left home about 6:30 AM without even unloading a bisque kiln that had cooled 24 hours. I picked up my brother Norris and headed South to walk in the footsteps of our ancestors, follow the path of Daniel Boone, visit with a couple of my favorite potters, and get to know some new ones.

 We drove down I-75 until we got to Corbin,Ky then we made a hard left turn into history and headed down 25E and the Cumberland Gap. In 1769, Daniel Boone blazed the Wilderness Road the main migration trail from North Carolina, Virginia, and points North and East.It followed trails of the Native Americans and the Buffalo.  It led to the Cumberland Gap that allows north/south passage through the mountains into Kentucky. About 1800 my 3rd great grandfather Joseph Allen walked that path to the Cumberland Gap, turned left down the Powell Valley and established our family in Tennessee. After the Civil War, my maternal grandfather James Stone ( whom I got my first name from) walked the same route from Virginia but turned right into the Cumberland Gap and settled in Kentucky. 25E is a great road with the exception of slowing down for small towns, it is scenic and uncrowded.  4 lanes of 60 mph (maybe a little better) and a slightly shorter way to get into N.C.

At Pineville, Ky. we stopped at THE NARROWS of the Cumberland river where Daniel Boone had survived an Indian ambush. It is what is known as a water gap, a spot where a river flows through a mountain and wears away the earth to make a flatter more passable route. (Harper's Ferry another water gap) It is a beautiful spot to visit if you don't have arrows raining down on you. A short hike and we headed on down the road to Cumberland Gap National Park.

Dam at the Narrows

 Just before you get to the park, you go through a tunnel that is 4000 ft long that actually runs under the gap. There is a nice visitor center with very friendly rangers and a Southern Highland Craft Guild gift shop. We saw some gorgeous work including a nice display of pots by Sarah Wells Rowland of Village Potters in Asheville. A couple of tips from the ranger and we were off to climb the trail to the saddle of the gap where you stand on the very spot that made migration possible. As we got out of the car we saw rhree big wild turkey foraging on the hillside.Always a nice way to start a hike.

 Even for an old guy carrying too much weight, it is less than a mile each way and only has a couple of hundred feet of climbing. ( the whole point of being in a gap) It was a nice trail and it felt good to get out of the car and get a good stretch. We were glad to be going up the trail before it got too hot It is also approximately where the three states of Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky meet. You look back down the Wilderness Road into Virginia, downhill to the north is Ky. and downhill to the south is Tn. We were standing in the actual footsteps of our ancestors, Daniel Boone, and Dr, Thomas Walker.

Monument at the Saddle of the Gap
One of the Locals
A short drive to the Pinnacle overlook on top of the mountain and you can see where the Union gun emplacements were located during the civil war. There were 9000 Union troops there who retreated from The Confederate General Zollicrofter, blowing up their munitions behind them as they left. 
From the Pinnacle


After a very nice visit at the park, we headed down the road toward Morristown Tn. and I-81. We did find that this is not the route to take if you expect fine country dining. About 2pm we gave up on a good lunch and got some chicken strips from the hot case at the Marathon station. They were just as yummy as you would expect. On the upside, there are nice views of the river and of Douglas Lake. Just not a lot of food choices. You might want to keep your tank full too.

By 4pm we were ensconced in the Motel 6 in Johnson City Tn. It was a Motel 6 but it was clean, the room was big enough for two beds and a couple of comfortable chairs, and the folks were nice. No free breakfast but all the coffee you want and a comfortable place to sit. Quiet but surrounded by choices of places to eat or pick up needed items. I got to bed early and woke up too early but that;s life on the road. We watched the AM news drank coffee and went to breakfast. We took our time packing then headed down I-26 toward North Carolina. Make a left at Unicoi, stay on 107 when it crossed the state line it becomes 227. Keep going and you go up and down mountains, past streams and pine trees. Past sawmills and machines that could move mountains. It was a beautiful trip on a good road with light traffic.

 Our destination was the SODA CHICKS AND CHET pottery sale. Several years ago I spent a week in a Gay Smith workshop. I was awed by her skills and the beauty of her pottery.Every year she, Kent McLaughlin, Suze Lindsey and a couple of guests have a Labor Day sale.Every year she sends me a postcard and every year I promise myself I will go. Then I get busy and don't make it.This year, Dan Finnegan from Fredricksburg, Va. was one of the guest potters. I met Dan about 3 years ago when he hosted the British Slipware Potters Doug Fitch and Hannah McAndrew tour. He is a very nice, very fun guy with mad crazy potter skills that he learned apprenticing with Ray Finch in England. No better pedigree anywhere. Between the two of them, I decided this was the year to go. I'm so glad we went. We got there about 10 for the opening and I had some time to catch up with Gay and Dan before the crowds got there.The last thing you want to do at a show is suck up the artists time when they need to be greeting other customers so I made a couple of purchases and we were on our way before long.

Dan Finnegan

Gay Smith

This Kent (Chet) McLaughlin bowl followed me home.

New mug from Dan


We made our way to Kingsport Tn. and on into Lee County Va. picking up the route of the Wilderness Rd as we went. It was another beautiful drive with pretty light traffic and good roads.There were a few more towns and lunch choices on this route.

Where Blondie has wanted to be since I got home.


  1. What a great way to spend a holiday weekend!

  2. Good trip! My parents were drawn to the Cumberland Gap area and we went there often when I was a kid, so beautiful..... Gods country as my dad would say:)

  3. What a great trip story, and full of great potters too! I need to drive those hills, cause many of my ancestors came through those gaps. What a life they must have had. Wonder if any were potters... Barb Rogers

  4. Thanks Michelle. Tracey, unfortunately by the time the settlers got to God's country he was no longer there. I was a very nice trip Barb. One thing we noticed was there wasn't much litter because you were 30 miles from fast food most of the time. Beautiful country,

  5. Oh I need to see some of that countryside you passed by, I am impressed here in Georgia mountains that there is a lack of litter and graffiti which California seems full of.


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