Have you ever had a moment where you're just dragging through your weekly routine and wanderlust smacks you right in the face? Maybe not that aggressively, but the desire to getaway comes on so strong that you just HAVE to go somewhere. While this seems to happen to me virtually every week, it was recently uncontrollable to the point that I had to just go.
This weekend getaway had to be somewhere relatively close to make the drive there and back worth venturing out. Living in Cincinnati, OH, while there are some hidden gems all around, I needed to go beyond the norm of local exploration. I did some distance assessment on Google Maps to find what I could get to in 5 hours or less, hoping to go beyond the bordering states. That's when Tennessee started to stick on my radar.
After settling on Tennessee as the destination, I went a little against the norm for planning. I wanted a few things from this trip: hiking, seclusion, relaxation, unique accommodations. "Gatlinburg!" you would think, right? But there's got to be more to Tennessee than Pigeon Forge and Dollywood. So, I took the unique accommodations desire and searched around on AirBnB and Glamping Hub (two absolute go-to sites for all my planning) and determined my Tennessee location based on what I found. Lo! The most adorable "glamping" style cabin appeared in my search and it was settled that I was venturing to Greeneville, TN.
Settled about halfway between Knoxville and Johnson City, Greeneville is your typical small town, middle of nowhere, American town. If you're not from a small town and you've never taken the time to explore a place like Greeneville, you are missing out. Have you ever heard the phrase "small town charm"? It's a real thing. With antique stores every few miles that look like they've been around for more than 50 years without a single update, gas stations that double as the social center for locals, and somewhere that appears to have a higher population of cows than people. These small towns are found all over America and each so unique in the charm they contain.
Back to the reason I ended up in Greeneville, the quaint loft in a mill. Yes, inside a good old fashioned gristmill. Loft at the Mill is a part of Nolinchuckey Bluffs Bed and Breakfast Cabins; a little under a 5 hour drive from Cincinnati, a unique accommodation, surrounding hiking, and seclusion in the woods, it was a match!
Upon arriving at Nolinchuckey Bluffs, I pulled up to Gramma's Cupboard, the main house and kitchen where you MUST have the home-cooked breakfast cooked up by Pam (the owner) and Debra. You'll miss out on some amazing food (you guys, the pancakes!) and great conversation if you skip out on this breakfast. Plus, you can hang with Nola, the beautiful rescue dog that sweetly greets each guest. Immediately greeted by Pam, she directed me down a questionable gravel path in the woods that would lead to the mill and home for the weekend. If you feel like you're driving somewhere you shouldn't be, you're most likely going the right way. The sun had gone down when I arrived, so it was hard to really make out the exterior, but stepping inside of the loft made all my glamping dreams come to life!
The detail that has been put into this loft did not go unnoticed. From the freshly baked cookies nestled in a basket on the antique dresser, the vintage odds and ends that line the shelf on the stairs, to the old schoolhouse chair that holds the perfectly folded towels keeping the 80-year old, red claw foot tub company. You can just tell this loft was created with passion and love. Now, I mentioned it as "glamping" above, so I want to clarify some things regarding that. Yes, you are in a loft cabin, but it is actually inside a gristmill and in the middle of the woods, so it may not keep some bugs and dirt out which will give it a slight camping feel. Don't get me wrong, the loft is extremely clean, but be aware the term "glamping" is basically luxury camping, and this loft is exactly that.
In the morning, I awoke early from the soft sunrise shining through the surrounding trees and settling directly on the comfortable queen sized bed next to the largest window in the loft. I stretched, smiled, and started running water for a bath. While the tub filled, I started the coffee pot. I brought along an assortment of snacks and drinks, and a bag of Coffee Emporium coffee (my favorite local Cincinnati coffee). While the sun started to come through more and more, I melted into the water of that bathtub, coffee in hand, Smokies playlist on. After, I wrapped myself in one of the robes that are hanging in the cabin for guest use, grabbed a cookie and my coffee, and went out to the rocking chairs on the back porch to jot a few notes in my Wayward Workbook before heading up to Gramma's Cupboard for breakfast and a day of hiking. Relaxation at its finest, folks!
I used the All Trails app to find hiking trails in the area. The first hike was Margarette Falls Trail, a 2.7 mile out and back trail. A nice, easy hike to start the day that lead to a gorgeous waterfall. I'm a sucker for waterfalls and will hike nearly any terrain to get to them. Luckily, there were only a few other people on the trail hiking out, but hiking back the traffic was starting to pick up quick. This is one of the most popular trails to hike in the area, so be aware of that and try to go out earlier rather than later to avoid the crowds.
Next was Rock Creek Falls Trail, a 4.9 mile out and back trail. This one was definitely more difficult than the first and was basically uphill the entire way. Again, it lead to some pretty waterfalls, so it's worth it!
The next day started just as the previous morning (I could get used to the ease of those cabin mornings), but a little more loose with plans; spend the day hiking part of the Appalachian Trail or toss plans out the window and drive south into Asheville, North Carolina? Road trip it was! Both options were 45 minutes-1 hour drive. On the way down towards Asheville, the drive along Blue Ridge Parkway did not disappoint. Definitely add driving the parkway to your Wanderlist! I'm sure there are a ton of must-stops along the parkway, but we just did one stop to hit Craggy Pinnacle Trail. It's a popular one, so expect a crowd here, but it offers a quick, easy hike for the return of some beautiful mountain views. The rest of the day was spent wandering aimlessly through Asheville, popping into every local store, exploring the coffee shops (Trade & Lore Coffee!), eating awesome tacos at White Duck Taco Shop, and mostly trying the beers and taking in all the prime people watching. At the end of the day, I was beyond pleased with choosing option B for the plan.
If I haven't convinced you yet to pack up a bag and head to Nolinchuckey Bluffs for The Loft at the Mill, check out this video done by www.soulofko.com.