May 3, 2015 (by Angela)
What does one do on a sunny Saturday when temps are to be in the low 70s? One gets out and about rather than staying inside because excuses of too hot, too cold, too wet, etc. disappear. This is the reason Jim and I ventured out yesterday to explore the area in which we are now living. As we sat at the end of the campground entrance in our 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid, we had no set agenda, but a decision to turn left or right had to be made; this decision was left to Jim, and he chose to turn left toward Pickwick Dam. That worked for me since it was a few minutes after 11:00, and there is a restaurant in that direction I wanted to try.
Our first stop was The Outpost, the restaurant we had passed many times but at which we had not yet stopped; it is also one of the eateries recommended to us by the owners of our campground. The décor reminds me of many of the places one might stop in East Tennessee, but once one gets past the first dining room, the place opens to a series of various levels of dining space that, in stages, leads to the open air deck where the walls and ceilings are the trees of the forest to the rear. The Outpost is much more than a restaurant. It is a bakery, a bait and tackle shop, a grocery store, a deli, a crafts store, an outside adventure – complete with a small zip line. It is simply an experience – all focused on a mission of helping others rather than simply on profit for an individual, family, or corporation. The staff is actually paid a living wage, so there is no need to tip, but any tips left go toward their mission project.
After a filling and interesting lunch stop, we decided to explore the area around Pickwick Lake, which was created by the TVA dam by the same name and built upon the Tennessee River as it returns to Tennessee after a brief dip into Alabama. Just north of the dam, we took a road to the left and began to explore. This first jaunt took us past individual homes and housing developments built upon the hills and bluffs overlooking the dam and the lake; the vast majority of these places were gated and locked. I’m sure the homes, several of which were for sale, must cost a million dollars or more. We were only able to get small glimpses of the lake below.
Leaving the higher area, in both elevation of land and value of homes, we continued to venture down various roads, hoping that we would be able to get close to the lake. Eventually, we found our way down to a day-use area and then a reservation-only campground located along the edge of the lake.
Encouraged by this find, we continued our adventure and found another area where the homes were much more varied in size, style, and expense of being built, but yet each still had gorgeous lake views with lake access.
It was about this time that I realized that all the tea I drank for lunch was telling me it was time to go potty, but we were way back in the boondocks of southwestern Tennessee. I told Jim of my need, but after 10 years with the man, I know that such statements do not register the imminent need; thus, I suggested going back to the campground since it had bathrooms. That went right over his head. Instead, he pointed to the map on our GPS and said we’d go this way and watch for a place to stop. I thought, “We’ve been driving for close to an hour and a half and the only bathrooms we’d seen since leaving The Outpost were the ones at the campground.” I said nothing at the moment. After 30 minutes of going down dead-end roads, I suggested again we go back to the campground, and my bladder and I are very thankful he did so.
Bladder emptying emergency over, we were once again exploring. It was not long before we found ourselves not only out of sight of the lake but also out of paved road, though they were all marked as county roads on the GPS. There was one road Jim attempted, and we were not far down the road when we agreed traveling it was not a good idea due to ruts washed out from heavy rains.
One gravel road looked decent enough, so we decided to go ahead and drive it toward the lake. Logging is a huge industry in this area of Tennessee, and we found that trucks used this route regularly for logging of pine trees in the area. Then, the road began its descent, which is expected if one wants to reach the lake. As the road narrowed and wound down, we passed a spring. It was after this we began to face several places where the stream formed by the flow of spring water snaked across the road. A couple of these were deep enough to offer pause, but we drove on only to find ourselves unable to access the lake. We face three choices: turn left, turn right, or turn around and go back. Jim turned right, and soon we saw that our low-seated car could not handle that route to another lake campground about which we had been told.
At this point, we decided that we had no choice but to return the way we came, which meant crossing all of the water hazards again. There was one in particular that I had no desire to go over again in the car, but like it or not, we were basically off-roading in a Ford Fusion Hybrid despite the fact that we were driving on county roads. When we crossed the stream about which I was concerned, I hoped and prayed that the bump, which was harder going up than down, had not damaged something under the car. Jim felt confident it was just a “love pat” and nothing about which to worry. We only saw one vehicle on this “off-roading” county road, and we ate that truck’s dust all the way out. At least we had a chance of being pulled out if we got stuck in any of the water crossings.
Jim and I made it back all in one piece, and it was a beautiful day for an adventure. If, however, you ever decide to travel the county roads of southwestern Tennessee, be sure you are prepared for an off-roading adventure just in case. I think we’ll drive the truck the next time we go exploring in the back country. Also, if you have time to visit The Outpost while near Pickwick Dam, please do so.