Head for the Hills

Trip Start Mar 07, 1997
Trip End Dec 25, 1998

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Flag of United States  , Tennessee
Friday, November 28, 1997

Go with me? If you don't like crowds but your conscience is nudging you to do some holiday shopping, I've got the answer. Let's slip away to the Cherokee National Forest and spend some time at Coker Creek.

Here we can shop at the Coker Creek Crafts Gallery's Open House, ride horseback through the forest, and pan for gold in the creek. There are waterfalls, panoramic views, and peace and quiet.

North of Ducktown and south of Tellico Plains, Coker Creek is site of the second gold rush in the eastern U. S. Mining was big in the 1830's, though the mother lode that still flecks the creek with gold has never been found.

Just off Highway 68 we'll find the prettiest gallery in the mountains. See the magenta and turquoise-trimmed building with the welcoming sculpture out front? "We came back from a trip to Mexico and I decided I wanted bright colors," says Kathleen Dalton. Husband Ken created the sculpture from things he found in the woods - a downed tree, some poplar bark, a burled knot that worked for the face.

Ken is a sculptor, woodcarver, and basket maker. This interesting couple has baskets on permanent display in five museums around the world; as far away as Toyko! In 1994, EuroDisney invited them to France to demonstrate basket-making and weaving techniques.

Inside the gallery you'll find the work of more than 30 artists. Baskets, pottery, beveled glass, toys, wood carvings, and sculpture deck the shelves for the Holiday Open House. Corner to corner are Kathleen's watercolors - mountains, flowers, landscapes, horses.

Kathleen started painting horses when Ken began leading the guided horseback rides at Coker Creek Village. Make your reservations in advance for trips through the forest; it's $16 for an hour, $30 for two.

Or maybe you'll want to spend the rest of the day panning for gold. Browse for antiques in the Old Country Store (more shopping!), and then fork out $5 for pan, shovel, and use of the creek. No gold guaranteed, but note that the winner of California's National Gold Panning Contest lives in the area.

There are rustic cabins for rent at the Village, but bring your own food. The restaurant isn't open this time of year. And don't miss Coker Creek Falls. The cascades drop over 1,000 feet in less than a mile. This is the way holiday shopping was meant to be done. See you there.

Coker Creek Village, Highway 68, Coker Creek, Tennessee
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