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Published: October 21st 2015
While I haven't officially stretched yet, I am back home as I write this. I can say that this was honestly the best way to spend the past 2 weeks for me - renewing friendships, seeing new parts of the country, getting away from the humdrum of home. I find that getting away from home makes you appreciate it that much more when you come back, and I think I do.
Like good friends do, Kristy and Zach let me sleep as late as I wanted this morning, which wasn't all that late. I got to see both of them before they left for work, and we planned to do lunch in Cumberland Gap, TN. My morning mainly consisted of getting all my pictures uploaded and checking mileage and times between the places I wanted to go today; that didn't take nearly as long as it could on some days, since the only places on my list were home, lunch, and Pinnacle Overlook in the Cumberland Gap National Park. I didn't have as much time as I thought I would, but that seems to be a recurring theme for this trip. I realized I had really just enough time to
get to the Overlook and then to the lunch place by the time we had agreed to meet up.
Cumberland Gap National Park is gorgeous from any angle. To get to the Pinnacle Overlook, you can walk, bike, or drive. Since I was short on time, I opted for the last option. Even though it was only 5 miles to the top from the entrance, it still took about 12 minutes to get there. The road was winding, and the views that you got on the way - either directly in front of you thanks to the tree canopy, or out over the edge and into the valley below - were just as distracting as some of those views out in Wyoming or South Dakota. I was the only car on the roads at all while I was going up. At the top, there was a parking lot, and 4 other cars were there. The walking path to the Pinnacle Overlook is clearly marked, and it only takes about 3 minutes to get there. On the way, you have to cross the border form Kentucky into Virginia, which they've conveniently marked on the path for you. At the Overlook
itself, well, that's what you do: look out over the valley below. You can see the town of Cumberland Gap, as well as Lincoln Memorial University, where Kristy works. And then you can see further out, definitely into Tennessee and Kentucky (you're already in Virginia at this point), and probably as far as North Carolina. Words, as usual, cannot do the views justice, so just take a look at the pictures and/or go see it for yourself.
On the way to Cumberland Gap, TN, you have to pass through a tunnel, and once you exit the tunnel, the town is immediately on your left (though you have to take a right-side exit and then go back across the road). There's not a whole lot there. A few older-looking houses, some cute little cafes, antique shops, etc. It's a day-trip kinda place. There are tons of walking paths, both up top and down below; and I'm sure they meet in the middle somewhere, too. At the very edge of town, on the Tennessee-Virginia border, is the carcass of an Iron Furnace. It's got a nice wooden walkway leading up to it, but it is off into the woods. It takes
less the 2 minutes to get there. There's a little iron gate on the big Iron Furnace, so you can't get inside. Like you would want to get inside, anyway.
Our lunch was at the Gap Creek Coffeehouse, which had seating indoors and out. We opted for indoors, due to the wind. The food was delicious. I had a turkey melt, and their sauce is apparently a secret. The lady told us it has horseradish in it, but she would have to kill us if she revealed anything else. It was a good lunch, and we talked mostly about the future, which I suppose is appropriate on "Back to the Future Day." Before we said our good-byes, Zach took a picture of Kristy and me, and then we all went our separate ways - them to work, me back to Athens, GA.
I took the scenic route back home - and really, it's quicker than interstates. Back through the national forests and various small towns, into North Carolina and northern Georgia, with their rolling hills and other distractions to drivers. But I made it back safely without having to make any stops. The clothes are all unpacked and
ready to be washed, the car has been unloaded, the "souvenirs" have been accounted for, and now I get to spend the evening getting back into the routine of Athens, GA. But it'll be a welcome routine, at least for a week or two.
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