Our next stop was the Land Between the Lakes in Kentucky and Tennessee. Bob always thought it would be a neat place to visit. It took us three days of traveling to get there. Enroute we stayed at a small campground near Old Fort, TN. We only stayed overnight, but it was right on a small river and was a great setting for camping. The next night we were in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart, just east of Nashville, and that made for an easy last day.
Land Between the Lakes used to be the Land Between the Rivers as this is the area between the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was created in 1933 to provide navigation, reduce flooding in the area and create hydroelectric power for the local communities in the Tennessee Valley. In order to accomplish this, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built huge dams on the northern end of the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers creating Kentucky Lake (Tennessee River) and Lake Barkley (Cumberland River). Most of the land between the two lakes was taken over by the U.S. Forest Service to create the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. There are campgrounds, hiking and backpacking trails, boating, nature centers (including a prairie for elk and bison), and historical sites.
We arrived at the Piney Campground on Saturday, April 28th, and went kayaking in Kentucky Lake that afternoon. There were several bays off the lake that we explored and saw countless turtles, both on shore and in the water. I don’t think we have ever seen that many turtles in one place before! The next day, we attended the church service in the campground and spent the rest of the day relaxing.
Most days we would run, walk, or bike in the morning, but the hills in the area made biking a bit of a challenge! One day we drove up the Woodland Trace, a road that runs through the center of the area. We visited the Golden Pond Visitor Center and Planetarium, then toured the Homeplace. The Homeplace is a 19th Century working farm with interpreters in period clothing performing daily chores on the farm. You get the impression that this area was mostly farmland and forests, but the Land Between the Lakes has a history of tin mines, ore furnaces and woodworking shops, as well as being a major area for shipping on the inland river system.
Some of the days were generally lazy days, spent enjoying the clear skies and doing some work around the campsite. We took advantage of the trail system in the park and hiked about twelve miles near the campground. One of the trails was the Artillery Trail, so named because it follows the route that General Grant took from his victory at Fort Henry to his positions opposing Fort Donelson. The trails are nice and well marked and there are maps that show routes, intersections and distances very well. It was a hot day and our legs were feeling the effects of the climbs that we had along the trail by the time we walked back into the campground.
We went back in history as we toured the battlefield of Fort Donelson. This was the site of the first major Union victory in the Civil War and the battle that essentially launched General U.S. Grant’s career. While the tactics were interesting, Bob found the leadership crisis that occurred among the Confederate commanders to be the most interesting aspect of the visit. The senior commander was Brig. Gen. John B. Floyd. Floyd was a wanted man in the North for alleged graft and secessionist activities when he was Secretary of War in the administration of President James Buchanan and was afraid of being captured. Consequently he turned over his command to Brig. Gen. Gideon J. Pillow andescaped to Confederate lines under the cover of darkness. Brig. Gen. Pillow said he would never surrender and so he turned over his command to Brig. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner before he escaped by boat. Brig. Gen. Buckner choose to honor his responsibility to his soldiers and when it was painfully obvious there was no hope of victory over Grant’s Union force, he surrendered to his West Point classmate.
After taking three days to travel to the Land Between the Lakes, the 210 mile drive to Scott Air Force Base was leisurely.
Scott AFB was a great location as a base for Bob’s trips to Pittsburgh and the Chicago area to do training workshops, to relax, and to tour the St. Louis area. The Base FAMCAMP was located on the edge of a grassy field near Scott Lake on the north end of the base. At first we thought we would have to drive to the airport at Lambert Field, but quickly discovered that there was a Metrolink station right at the edge of the base, so Bob could take the train. The Metrolink also made touring St. Louis very convenient.
We arrived on Sunday afternoon, May 6th and spent Sunday and Monday settling in, exploring the base facilities, and attended a health fair that included a personal health screening. Bob flew to Pittsburgh for his Corps of Engineers project on Tuesday. Pat took in the St. Louis Zoo and some other sights while Bob was gone.
The Outdoor Recreation Department at Scott AFB is one of the most active Outdoor Recreation Departments we have seen in our travels. Saturday they hosted a bus tour of local wineries as a Mother’s Day getaway. We traveled in two busses to the Augusta wine country and visited 6 wineries. Of course we sampled wines at most of them and brought back several bottles to enjoy later. It was a great way to see the area and make new friends.
The FAMCAMP was located near a fitness trail that went all the way around the runways and was convenient for a morning run or walk, and we took advantage of it most mornings.
Monday, we took our bikes on the Metrolink to Forest Park, the largest urban park in the United States. We rode our bikes around the Forest Park area, and toured the Missouri History Museum. Forest Park was the site of the 1904 World’s Fair, the first World’s Fair held in the United States. The History Museum had a special exhibit about it that was quite interesting. Our last stop of the day was the Fitz’s American Grill & Bottling Works which has some of the best Root Beer floats ever made!
The next day we took the Metrolink to downtown S. Louis and visited the Gateway Arch, took a short boat cruise, and visited the old Courthouse where the Dred Scott Trial was conducted. We also saw Union Station and the Busch Brewery. Bob was fascinated by Union Station and had to read every sign in the place. The Brewery was a great tour to see the behind the scenes view of brewing beer. Of course, the favorite stop on the tour was the free beer tasting at the end!
Bob was contacted by SkillPath Seminars to present a two-day workshop on Microsoft Project to a company in Itasca, IL, just west of O’Hare Airport and spent quite a bit of time this week preparing for that. We took advantage of the base medical clinic to get some blood work and other tests done in preparation of our annual medical checkups that we plan to do while in the Lansing area in early June.
The Outdoor Recreation Department had an overnight backpacking trip scheduled for the upcoming weekend. Bob had been looking for an opportunity like this and jumped at the chance. Twelve of us traveled to Bell Mountain, southwest of St. Louis. This was to be a relatively short hike, only 12 miles; however, the first day was all up hill. Over seven miles we climbed 1700 feet in elevation. About two miles short of the summit we stopped at a stream to fill all of our water containers as there was no other place along the route to get water. We got to the summit just before 5:00, so we had almost three hours to set up camp, make dinner and clean up before nightfall. What a great view! We could see for miles and miles. It had been hot all day with temperatures approaching 90 degrees. Fortunately we had a canopy of trees above us most of the day, giving us plenty of shade. There was a nice breeze at the summit so everything could dry out.
The next morning was beautiful! You could see the sun rising over the mountains in the distance. After a leisurely breakfast we broke camp and made our descent. It may have been all downhill, but that is often harder on the feet than climbing and the loose rock made for a careful descent.
Now we are on our way to Michigan!