The last time we traveled around Tennessee, we spent 5 weeks going from east to west, stayed at five wonderful state parks, and enjoyed Thanksgiving in Nashville. This time, the weather was much colder and we only spent 10 days traveling from north to south, with two stops at the top and bottom of the state.
First up was Warriors’ Path State Park. Located off I-81 not far from the Virginia/Tennesse border, this was the perfect layover stop for us. We only stayed three nights and that was more than enough time to explore the park and hiking trails.
Despite the sunny looking photos, the weather was not on its best behavior during our stay. On the day we arrived, it had been raining for hours and half of our site was underwater. Fortunately, it was not the half where we parked.
That night, the rain stopped and the temps dropped into the low 30s. The next few days were cold but sunny and we took a nice walk around the campground and along the water’s edge one afternoon. The river was pretty and if it had been warmer we might have considered a paddle.
The weather got progressively colder as the week went on, and by Friday night it was forecasted to dip down below freezing. I unhooked our water hose from both the Airstream and the water spigot, but lazily did not drain it all the way and the next morning it was frozen solid. Not a big deal since we had water in the tank, but kind of a rookie mistake. It was almost like I didn’t believe it was actually going to get that cold!
Despite the cold, we bundled up on Saturday and set out to hike some of the trails in the park. By combining the Devil’s Backbone and Fall Creek Loop we managed to make a lollipop-shaped route that clocked in at a little more than five miles. Devil’s Backbone climbed steeply to the top of a ridge overlooking the river below. Our hiking habit has been lacking the past few weeks and it felt really good to climb up some hills.
Our next stop on the north to south Tennessee route was Chester Frost Park about 30 minutes outside of Chattanooga. I had looked at their website a few days prior but found their reservation system confusing so elected not to make a reservation. I figured arriving on a Sunday in November would mean plenty of open sites. Except that was not the case and instead the campground was about 3/4 full.
We didn’t have a problem getting a site though and elected to pay the extra 1.50/per night for a water view. It wasn’t the best of the waterfront sites and the reservoir is low at this time of year, so we had more marsh than water in front of us. Not a big deal since it was freezing cold for most of the week and as a result, we didn’t even consider sitting outside.
When I say freezing cold, I am not exaggerating. On Wednesday night it got down to 17! What the what is going on Tennessee? This time I had properly drained and stored the water hose so it did not freeze. In fact, we ended up filling the water tank and leaving our hose unattached for the rest of the week. The next day, it never got warmer than the mid-30s and then below freezing every night after that, so we figured using the tank was easier than unhooking and hooking the hose every night and morning.
We do okay inside the Airstream when it’s cold outside. If we’re plugged into power we use a combination of our electric space heater and furnace to stay warm. The space heater is tiny, but so is our home, and it does a fairly good job of keeping us warm. However, when it gets down below freezing at night we like to keep the furnace set around 54 so it comes on and prevents our pipes from freezing. So far that method has always worked for us.
The biggest downside of the cold weather is being cooped up inside. For the most part, we stay inside and work during the day anyway, but when we can’t open the door or any windows it feels so much more confined. In search of fresh air, we bundled up every afternoon for a walk around the park. Chester Frost does not have any hiking trails, but it’s a big park with several different areas so you can get in a good long walk just by strolling around the campground loops or over to the beach.
We found it strange and somewhat disappointing that despite the size of the park, and the multiple areas connected by roads, there were very few walking or bike paths. So if you want to walk from the campground to the beach, you had no choice but to walk on the very narrow road with cars whizzing past (no one observes the 20 mph limit). For such a large park it seemed like a massive oversight and gave the impression that cars were the priority over pedestrians or bikers.
Originally, we had planned to leave on Wednesday, spend the hours after checkout parked at the beach to finish up work, and then drive more over the next few days. But with the cold coming and no way to avoid it (we simply could not drive far enough), we decided to stay put for the rest of the week. Overall, it was not the most exciting week, and as I am writing this I realize that Chester Frost Park was a bit of disappointment. But then again, it is November and things always feel kind of gloomy at this time of year.
The highlight of our week was the trip we took into Chattanooga. I wish we had more time (and daylight) to explore the city. Instead, we spent a few hours tasting beers at Oddstory Brewing and eating burgers at the Tremont Tavern. Both were excellent and we had a nice conversation with another couple at the brewery about RVing and all things travel. They, along with the bartender, recommend the Tremont as the best place to get burgers in town. It was an excellent recommendation and we both enjoyed our burgers and sides. The extra crispy tater tots were exceptional.
Earlier that day I had gone to the laundromat and ended up chatting with an older gentleman about our RV lifestyle. I have been to countless laundromats around the country and very rarely do I have a full-on conversation with anyone. In fact, in most laundromats, people go out of their way to not even make eye contact. When I got home I told Tim about it and remarked that it was a sign we were for sure in the south (also, the kid at Publix called me ma’am twice). So while we didn’t get to see much of Tennesse this time around, we did get to experience the warmth and hospitality graciously on display from the people who live here. Maybe next time we can visit at a better time of year so we don’t get caught in a November arctic blast!