Thursday, March 30, 2017

Old Mill Restaurant - Pigeon Forge

Sunset View of The Old Mill
Anchoring the Old Mill District in historic downtown Pigeon Forge is the Old Mill Restaurant and General Store. Many other craft stores and sidewalk cafes line the streets in the area that is designed for walking traffic. I toured the grist mill along the Little Pigeon River and found both flour and grits still in production there, meant for use in their restaurant and for sale for visitors to carry back home. Dinner in the Old Mill is like going back in time with the old-time wood and nostalgic decorum. My plate overflowed with mountain trout, sweet potato, green beans and Gulf shrimp. But I am so very glad that I tried their pecan pie with ice cream too. With no grits offered on their dinner menu, my next visit to the Old Mill will surely be for breakfast!

To view blog entires on Pigeon Forge click on Forest Recovery After Wildfire - Dixie Stampede - Black Fox Lodge
Gulf shrimp and Mountain trout Combo!

Friendly, family-style dining at Old Mill

Corn Meal bagged up and ready to go

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Forest Recovery After Wildfire In The Smoky Mountains

GSMNP Spokesperson Dana Soehn and I at Fighting Creek
Twin Creeks Science Center;
With Charred Ridge Top in Background
Having just returned from the Smokies to meet with park rangers at their Twin Creeks Science Center, a state of the art facility that opened in 2007 at a cost 4.5-million dollars, I can report that less than 1-percent of the park was burned. Park Spokesperson Dana Soehn shared information about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) like the fact that it this is the number one most visited National Park in the U.S. due to its location near the East Coast population centers. She also shared personal anecdotes from their historic fire last November, like how ridgetops were areas most likely to receive any severe burning.

When visiting with GSMNP fire ecologist Rob Klein is became clear that the area of the park that was burned, already has many scientific studies underway, giving them a solid baseline of data to compare pre-fire and post-fire environments. “We are using satellite imagery to measure the severity of effects on vegetation,” said Klein. “The speed of this fire left a mosaic pattern, and not a footprint of devastation. Our hemlock conservation areas study the wooly adelgid infestation and now we can add the affects of fire to the data. Other studies underway tracking the movement of black bears will now record how they respond when the forest recovers over time.”

Park Ranger Electro-shocking in Fighting Creek
Healthy Rainbow Trout in Recovering Ecosystem
Generally speaking, plants and wildlife evolved over time with fire as an integral part of the ecosystem, and should rebound naturally. Leon Downey with the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism spoke about how repeat customers make up 80-percent of their visitors. “Right after the fire we had so many of these folks reach out to help, it showed us how much they care for this area,” said Downey. “My message to them is if you still want to help with recovery after the fire, then simply come back and visit with us again.”

To view the feature story in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

To view past blog entries about Pigeon Forge click on Dixie Stampede - Black Fox Lodge - Old Mill Restaurant

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Black Fox Lodge - Pigeon Forge

Room View of Little Pigeon River
 and LeConte Conference Center
Brand New Lodging in Pigeon Forge
Main foyer in lodge nicely appointed!
Of course there are some old favorites when it comes to lodging in the Smokies, but I tried the brand new Black Fox Lodge in Pigeon Forge, named after an Indian chief in the area now called Sevier County.  Within walking distance of the convention center and jut a short drive form the Old Mill District, the Black Fox Lodge offers amenities that include gourmet continental breakfast, a swimming pool and room with a view of the Little Pigeon River. Their general manager Mike Sellge hails from the Lowcountry, and is a great resource for any questions during your visit to the Smoky Mountains.

Full Gourmet Breakfast Served Here
To view past blog entries from Pigeon Forge click on Forest Recovery After Wildfire - Dixie Stampede - Old Mill Restaurant

Monday, March 27, 2017

Dixie Stampede Supper Show - Pigeon Forge

Trick Riding was a big part of the Menu
Thank You M'am !!
The Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge re-opened in March, and it is worth noting that Dolly Parton used her celebrity status to raise awareness after the historic wildfire in November of 2016.
Live Music in a Saloon setting before the Main Show
 I joined the herd and went for dinner and a show at Dolly’s Dixie Stampede Restaurant, which features live music, a fixed-menu supper and a story about America played out in a rodeo ring. Audience participation between servings makes this a family friendly experience that will give you something to talk about long after you return home.
                                                                                                                                                    To view more about Pigeon Forge click on Forest Recovery After Wildfire - Black Fox Lodge - Old Mill Restaurant 

To view past blog entries from SEOPA click 2018 - 2015 - 2014 - 2013 - 2012 - 2009.

Diners look down into an indoor rodeo ring 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Augusta Canal Tour - National Heritage Area

Paddling is a popular pursuit on the Augusta Canal - Woof Woof!!
Revitalized Mills are a growing part of the canal tour
Kingfisher flying by - woosh!
Tourism is booming in Augusta these days, and going for a boat ride during an Augusta Canal Tour offers a close-up view of not only the old mill area, but the sprawling greenway and bike trail options. While the canal is not very wide, it is a wildlife magnet and I can report sightings of an otter, kingfisher, and turtle along with many kayakers on the water enjoying the gentle flow found in the Augusta Canal. I was surprised to learn that the technology revolution is now driving renovation at some of the old mills along the canal route, bringing economic revitalization.

To learn more about Augusta click on Forest Hills Golf - Frog Hollow Tavern - The Partridge Inn

Tour boats are low-rise to fit under the canal bridges!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Partridge Inn - Augusta

Partridge Inn has classic Southern looks
While there are many hotels options along the I-20 corridor at Augusta, I delved deeper in the downtown area to stay at the Partridge Inn, a historic facility situated on the highest point in town. Established in 1910 this facility has veranda and porches galore to warm the heart of those seeking southern comforts. Upgrades from a regular room include optional suites with a private balcony, and I can recommend a room that face towards the medical district for the best viewing after dark.

Roof Top bar overlooking downtown Augusta
Some rooms come with a private balcony!
The Partridge Inn is a full-service boutique hotel with shuttle van service, restaurant, rooftop bar and lots of historical documents on display. Hilton hotels purchased the property in 2015, making it a fine addition to their Curio collection, which only includes the kind of unique lodging that makes your visit that much more memorable. In room coffee, a snack bar in the lobby, and a full room service menu are always available. While there is no continental breakfast at the Partridge Inn, they offer a considerable breakfast buffet downstairs in the restaurant, and dining on the veranda along Walton’s Way is a must.

Dining on the veranda was awesome
My supper began with a serving of meatballs with spicy yogurt. A crisp outer texture was no surprise given the grill marks, while the inside was pink and soft. The main course of blackened salmon was served with stone ground grits and asparagus. My food was served hot and I was grateful since a light breeze was wafting through the historic magnolia trees near my table. All the service at Partridge Inn, from the front desk to the bar and grill, came with a dose of Southern hospitality.

To view more about Augusta click on Forest Hills Golf - Frog Hollow Tavern - Augusta Canal Tour

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Bobby Jones and Forest Hills - Golf in Augusta

Life Size portrait inside the Forest Hills clubhouse
The nationwide sporting world revolves around college basketball during the annual NCAA tournament known as March Madness. In early April a worldwide audience tunes in the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National.  The significance for Lowcountry residents is that a trip to visit Augusta and play golf there is just a short drive away, and of course the very next week the golf calendar heats up even more as the PGA Tour returns to Hilton Head. Playing at Forest Hills Golf Club connects the dots of golfing history since Bobby Jones won the 1930 Southeastern Open there on his way to completing the historic grand slam that year.

Memorial Plaque to Bobby Jones at No. 1 tee
By chance, my recent visit to play golf at Forest Hills took me right by the Augusta National grounds on Berckmans Road. Looking around the newly renovated pro shop and full service grill at Forest Hills, I learned that the course is owned by Augusta University and operates as a course that is open to the public. Memorabilia on display from 2010 and 2011 commemorates their back-to-back collegiate championships when Patrick Reed was a student. Reed is better known today as a solid PGAT Tour pro, and as the fiery American during international matches such as the Ryder Cup.
For an enjoyable round of golf - Tee it up at Forest Hills
A large plaque by the first tee, erected by the Georgia Historical Society, spells out in great detail how this course is forever tied to the Bobby Jones Grand Slam. Jones called his 13-shot victory on this Donald Ross designed course “the best-played tournament I ever played in my life.” After a straight drive on the first tee, my scorecard after 18 holes was more like an exact opposite of Jones’ magical play. However, I can report that the course is wide-open with lots of sloping topography, large longleaf pine trees and very little water in play. The course was easy to navigate, and lots of Augustans make Forest Hills the place for their Saturday golf plans.

To view this feature story in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

To view more about Augusta click on Partridge Inn - Frog Hollow Tavern - Augusta Canal Tour
Lots of topography on this course!

For past blog entries on 2016 travels click Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center - ACE Basin NERR - Abbeville - Seabrook Island - Rembert - Boykin - Kershaw County

For past blog entries on 2015 travels click  Little St. Simon's Island - SouthWest Florida - Alabama Black Belt - N.C. Brunswick Islands - Jensen Beach, Florida

For past blog entries on 2014 travels click on Barnsley Resort - Bald Head Island - Chicago - Fontana Village