• Russell Hill

Just Keep Paddling Downstream

Day 5 of 5 discovering the Upper Cumberland

Our only dine-in experience of the week was at Bacaras Family Restaurant in Jamestown where it feels like time traveling back in time for supper with tons of extended family members. The building is a wooden repurposed old schoolhouse from the 1920s. Kurt, the master Chef trained in Europe, frequently came out from the kitchen to speak with the kids and ask if we were enjoying the food.  Thick-crusty homemade bread with honey butter, fresh salad, and soup accompany huge portions of American-German food. I recommend calling ahead for reservations since seating is limited.  No credit cards accepted so remember to bring cash or a check.

We went back to Pickett State Park to check out the Indian Rockhouse trail, Natural Bridge trail, and the Hazard Cave trail.  In a few hours, we clamored over and under the natural bridge,explored crevices in the cave, and wandered around waterfalls soaring over 50 foot  limestone cliffs.  So little time, so much to discover.

We didn’t have time to explore the various trails at nearby Pogue Creek Canyon Recreation Area but there’s always next time.

Our last main adventure was a kayaking and canoeing trip along the Caney River in Silver Point. Canoe the Caney rents equipment for self-guided GPS enabled trips including shuttling back and forth between the drop in and take out points on the river.  They couldn’t be nicer. 

 Between the six of us we had a double and single kayak and a sturdy canoe. Just right. Somehow, despite many switches between all of us and these watercraft, we didn’t tip over once!  When we first started, Rowan wasn’t content just to ride in the canoe and instead asked to swim.  I gently let the lower half of his body drag in the river while hanging onto his life jacket.  “OK, I’m done,” he said quickly and without hesitation. Brrr, the water is clear but cold. Better to ride than swim. He was quickly and easily convinced!  

We made the 9 mile float  trip in about 3 hours, likely only slightly faster than floating with the river current without ever paddling.  Turns out 9 miles is a long way for a kid to paddle in a one person kayak. So, dragging a kayak behind a canoe with a child clinging to the side can slow you down a bit. Too bad their paddle didn’t get more use.

We ended the night with take out pizza from World Foods in Cookeville at an outdoor picnic table adjacent to the historic Cookeville Train Depot. We love trying out independent artisan pizza places when we travel and World Foods knows pizza. Mmm, so good. I recommend the spinach artichoke pizza with added grilled chicken. The flavors, sauce, and crust all blended perfectly for a unique and tasty pie. 

After five days of packing in as much as we could, we realized how little we had seen and how much more was available.  Additional waterfalls lay a few minutes away, local restaurants with their own unique flavors, and live music venues were everywhere. We longed to extend our stay but our time was up. We could easily have spent another week and never tired of the people, places,and natural beauty that surrounded us. 

Put Upper Cumberland on the top of your list of places to visit. It’s like coming home even if you’ve never been here before. Its breathtaking and eye-popping natural beauty will impress and amaze. It will renew your spirits and prompt family togetherness. Its everything and more that you want with five days or vacation.

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