Autumnal adventuring ahead

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This article was written by our newest correspondent, Megan Sadler.

It’s time to say goodbye to summer as autumn welcomes sweater weather and a cozy nostalgia that warms the soul. 

It’s the season of county fairs, pumpkins, and the smell of wood crackling in a fire. It’s that delightful time of year when it’s still warm enough for a t-shirt in the day, yet cool enough at night to break out your favorite jacket and turn off the AC. Last but certainly not least, it’s time to enjoy the traditional bounties of the harvest, get ready for trick-or-treats and prepare for Thanksgiving dinner.

Here’s our guide to making the most of the season with some of the unique fare and fun that only East Tennessee can offer….

FALL FOLIAGE

Beautiful fall views don’t require a long drive or even a trip to Gatlinburg. Several locations offer incredible looks at the colors of the season without leaving Knoxville’s city limits. Sharp’s Ridge Veterans Memorial Park and Ijams Nature Preserve both offer incredible views and outdoor activities including day hikes and mountain biking trails, while House Moutain in Knox County also provides an ideal day hike for foliage spotters. Knoxville City Parks website offers details about all the parks, where to find them, and what’s allowed on their website. 

If a major hike with mountain views is on your fall to-do list, a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a short drive away. Fortunately, fall fans need not take a guess about when the color show will reach its peak. The National Park Service offers many live cameras showing scenes from some of the best viewing points around the park. The Farmer’s Almanac predicts Tennessee will see peak fall colors beginning October 12.    

For the ultimate mountain top experience, hikers can stay the night in primitive cabins and get a view of the park from upon high at Mt. Leconte. Although the hike to reach the top is considered a challenging one, visitors may get a chance to encounter a pack llama delivering supplies and enjoy a stay with one of the best mountain views for miles around. Anyone interested in staying at Leconte Lodge must make a reservation on the location’s website.  
 

FALL ACTIVITIES

Pack up the whole family and head to Corryton for a corn maze, hayrides, and more. Oakes Farms boasts a massive nine-acre maze that features a unique work of art that can only be seen from the air. The farm also has a pumpkin patch where the family can choose the most gorgeous gourd suited to jack-o-lantern carving. Visitors can find all the information they need and purchase tickets via the Oakes Farms website. 

Once the family has worked up an appetite while navigating corn mazes and carving pumpkins, head over to The Cutting Edge Classroom where kids and parents alike can learn the trick to cooking up seasonal treats. Virtual and in-person classes are available to anyone looking to spruce up their cooking skills ahead of the year’s biggest feast. 

For those looking to slow down, Blackberry Farm in Walland offers a unique yoga experience. A three-day yoga retreat at the resort is available for anyone who is best able to find their zen surrounded by the colorful autumn foliage of the Smoky Mountains. The retreat is set for September 27-30. Booking information is available online.  

FALL TREATS 
 

Knoxville bars and breweries are prepared to keep their guests cozy with unique beverages that can help get the party started. These concoctions only stick around for this special time of year. Gypsy Circus Cidery is offering a new cider for fall. Brewers recommend tasting the Jack Tales Roasted Pumpkin Cider now, then the Apple Butter Drifter will be released on Nov. 5.

No time to bake? No problem. Buttermilk Sky Pie Shop has the goods. Their seasonal treats include caramel turtle pie and pumpkin spice thumbprint cookies. Plus, they offer the “Cloud 9,” a mini pie with a scoop of ice cream on top. Check out the shop’s full menu on their website. 

FALL SCARES 

If you find tricks more appealing than treats, these scary locations are calling your name. 

Learn about Knoxville’s haunted past by taking a Ghost Tour around the city. The “hands-on paranormal adventure” is not meant for the faint of heart. According to the official website, participants will have an opportunity to utilize ghost hunting tools and learn from history and paranormal experts along the way. 

Only the bravest Halloween aficionados will have what it takes to visit Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary’s paranormal investigation tour. Located about an hour from Knoxville in Petros, visitors can take a standard tour for a few hours, or the bravest visitors can stay the night.  

 According to legends, visitors have experienced physical phenomena at the prison including being touched, scratched, and growled at.  

The location at Brushy Mountain has a long history. According to historians, it was a coal mine following the end of the Civil War. Housing prisoners became its main priority in the 1960s when it was officially named a maximum-security prison. More information about the prison’s history, most infamous inmates, and tours is available on the Brushy Mountain website

Megan Sadler can be reached at news@hardknoxwire.com.

Published on Sept. 23, 2021.