By Laura Hill
Ah, wilderness! The rustle of autumn leaves, the gentle drip of a canoe paddle breaking the water, the mellow sunlight … the spiders in your sleeping bag, the campfire smoke in your eyes, the bears in your imagination.
If the idea of camping in the great outdoors this fall is appealing, but the reality of roughing it is a little, well, rough, discover a back-to-nature alternative without the hassle.
Tennessee state parks, among the country’s finest, offer more than well-equipped campsites – in many parks, you can enjoy all the beauty and recreational and educational facilities available to campers, as well as the comfort of a bed, an indoor bathroom and even a buffet dinner.
Cabins in the Woods
“There’s no place prettier than the Cumberland Plateau in the fall,” says Fall Creek Falls Park Manager Jim Hall. “We’ve got hardwood forests up here so the colors are magnificent, and folks enjoy the cool temperatures and the crisp blue skies.”
Fall Creek Falls in Pikeville offers 20 cabins overlooking a lake surrounded by forest, and another 10 cabins in the woods. All feature full kitchens, fireplaces, porches and two or more bedrooms. Guests can enjoy golf, tennis, hiking, bicycling –“something for Mom and Dad and the kids, too,” Hall says.
If even the idea of rustling up a meal sounds too demanding, consider a stay in or a meal-time visit to the park’s 114-room inn, where a full-service restaurant features menu items and three buffet meals a day.
“If you don’t even want to bring food, just bring yourself and we’ll feed you,” Hall quips.
One caveat. At Fall Creek Falls, as at most other Tennessee state parks, rooms and campsites fill up quickly. Think months ahead when making reservations.
Yearning for Yurts
If you yearn for something a bit more adventurous, but still with ample creature comforts, consider whitewater rafting and an overnight yurt stay.
Yurt? Fun to say and a fun way to camp. Yurts are modeled after the portable homes used by nomadic tribes in Mongolia for more than 2,000 years. The Ocoee Yurt Co. in Ducktown offers modern, hi-tech versions that are domed, tent-like structures, airy in feel and set on sturdy decks among trees.
The yurts “offer an experience close to nature, with all the comforts of home,” says the company. Among those comforts: a queen-size bed, futon, refrigerator, freezer and microwave, coffeemaker and a grill/griddle, not to mention air conditioning and a fireplace.
Rent an RV
And there’s still another way to “get wild” this fall. You can always take your campsite with you. If you’ve ever wondered what camping in a recreational vehicle is all about, why not try it out? Cruise America has offices in Knoxville, Nashville and Memphis, where you can rent an RV.
If you think “trailer park” when you hear those letters, check out the Caney Creek RV Resort on Watts Bar Lake in Harriman. This new facility offers 158 paved campsites with electricity, year-round water and sewer connections, cable, Internet and TV hookups, and picnic tables. Also provided: a family and children’s pool, rental boats, bicycles and golf carts, recreational trails, a playground, convenience store, and bath and laundry facilities. Hardly counts as roughing it, does it?
Ready to Book a Getaway?
Tennessee state park cabins and inns: (866) 836-6757. Reservations for many of the facilities can be booked online; be sure to check individual parks for specials and packages.
Ocoee Yurt Co.: (352) 694-3220. You’ll find reservation forms, as well as links to nearby Ocoee River whitewater rafting sites. Rates for yurt rentals range from $95 nightly to $540 for seven nights.
Cruise America: (800) 671-8042. Visit their website for information on renting recreational vehicle.