By Jerry and Carrie Penley


My wife Carrie and I write a weekly column for a local newspaper.  This is the same column we write, telling some history of our locale, giving families a place to go to picnic, see some places where history took place, and generally places to take a family and have a good time!  All or most of these trips can be taken in one days time and be back at home that night.

All of these trips originate in Kingsport, Tennessee, up in the northeast portion of the state.

We hope that you will enjoy reading about these areas and will take the trips when you are in our neighborhood!  Be sure and take your cameras with you!

We will try and update this column about once a month so keep in contact with us please!



"HOWDY" from the "old Ridgerunner" to all of you once again!

Hehehe! I cannot help but fall back into my intellectual "mountain speech� every once in awhile in my talking to you, the readers of this column. After all, my ancestors came into this area around the year 1770 and we have been solidly embedded here in these beautiful mountains ever since that time!

Over the years my wife and I have lived here, we have found out that most of the people who live here in these magnificent mountains take them for granted and never see the trees for the forest surrounding the trees! They never see the beautiful dandelions growing beside the road nor see the beautiful trilliums, both white and red, that are growing in the ditch or around a fence post.

Our objective is to get you to take our trips, see these beautiful things that surround us and to enjoy them as you travel on our "Day Trippin�".

Our next trip in this series is the

Blue Hole Falls Tour:

Location: Carter County, Tennessee, near Elizabethton

Starting Point: This tour starts at the centerpiece of Elizabethton's historic district, the Doe River Covered Bridge. The Bridge is known as "the Queen of the South." Built in 1882 at a cost of three thousand dollars, the predominately oak structure spans the river for 134 feet. During the flood of 1901, most of the structures in this area were washed away, including buildings, other bridges, and homes. This bridge stood the test and today is one of only two covered bridges that exist in East Tennessee, the other being in Greene County.

From the bridge, travel about 100 yards to the Soldier's Monument. This sixty-five-foot cement monument was built in 1912 as a memorial to the soldiers of Carter County in all wars from the Revolutionary War to 1912. The monument also includes a mention of Mary Patton, the lady who made the gunpowder that fought the Battle of King's Mountain. Mary Patton made her powder at a mill located on Powder Branch. Nearby at the courthouse is a boulder with a plaque commemorating the Watauga Old Fields, where the Watauga Association was formed. Turn left at the monument and travel until you hit U.S. 321. Turn right and go to the intersection with U.S. 19E. At this point, turn right and follow U.S. 321 and 19E for about 1.5 miles to just before the river bridge. To the left is a sign marked Siam. Follow the signs to Little Wilbur Dam, a distance of about six miles.

As you travel to Little Wilbur Dam, you will pass the community of Charity Hill. This was home to "the Old Red Fox," Daniel Ellis. He was a leader of Union forces that were responsible for railroad bridge burning in East Tennessee. He later took to the mountains after several of the bridge burners were caught and hanged by the Rebels. He became a "pilot" for Union sympathizers and led them either to Cumberland Gap or Knoxville. He is reported to have guided over four thousand men through Confederate lines. At one time, there was a standing five-thousand-dollar reward for his capture, but he was never caught. There is a book written by him in 1867 titled "Thrilling Adventures of Daniel Ellis, The Great Union Guide." He is buried in the family cemetery at Charity Hill.

You also pass through Siam, the home of Colonel Daniel Stover. Daniel Stover was married to President Andrew Johnson's daughter, Mary. President Johnson visited the Stover home often after his retirement and died in the home in 1875.

It is a little over two miles from Siam to Little Wilbur Dam. The lake is about 1.5 miles long and about 300 yards wide at its widest. The road follows the gorge for much of the way. Just after passing a picnic area on your left, you will see a sign for Old Horseshoe Bend Baptist Church. The church will be on the right. Continue on this road up the ridge to Watauga Dam visitor center and observation point. There is a nice waterfall coming down the mountain side, visible behind the trees at the picnic area at Little Wilbur.

Retrace your steps back to Siam and continue straight ahead onto Blue Springs Road. It is about three miles to the intersection with Tn. 91. If you turn left, it will take you back to Elizabethton and if you turn right, it goes to Shady Valley. Turn right and travel about eight miles towards Shady Valley to Panhandle Road on your left.

Directions: Travel 10.6 miles northeast of Elizabethton, Tennessee, on Tn. 91. Turn left onto Panhandle Road up Holston Mountain. Parking lot is one mile on the left from where you turned off. The paved road will change to a dirt road just before you get to the parking lot. Follow the trail down as it winds its way through a small laurel thicket to the creek, then turn left down the creek. The falls will be on the right. The first falls will be the small falls, and just a few more yards downstream will be the large falls.

Trail Length: 100 yards and easy. Time is about 10 minutes hiking.

Rating: Very good. A beauty rating of 7. 60 feet range. A cascade type.

Comments: This falls is very secluded and very beautiful when there is a medium amount of water flowing in the stream. The large falls are about sixty feet high and very narrow. It cascades down into a deep pool surrounded by large rocks. The deep pool reflects the blue skies filtering down through the canopy of hardwood trees, hence the name. The Blue Hole is one of the area's favorite swimming holes during hot weather.

Added Attractions: #1: A nice little side trip is to continue on up the mountain for 4.5 miles and turn right for one mile to the fire tower on Holston Mountain, which is normally open to the public.

There is a problem developing at the falls, though. It seems that there is quite a bit of trash being left here from people who do not know how to clean up after themselves. A lot of beer cans and plastic are here and if you happen to come here, please pick up one or two items and bring it out for disposal, whether you took any in or not.

End of Trip.

As you take these trips and if you happen to see an old man, or a woman along the side of the road using their cameras, Stop and say Hello!

It may be the Old Ridgerunner or his wife or daughter doing their thing.

End of Trip