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Summertime offers opportunities to explore local sights

Looking for a Short Get-Away?
Summer is here and many folks have already or will be taking a bit of time from their routine activities to get away from it all for awhile: a vacation in other words. Now, some people enjoy a long vacation, perhaps to some exotic place in the world. Others are content to take a week or more off and enjoy exploring some part of our great United States of America.

But I was thinking recently of another option: a few day or two-day trips of around 50 or 60 miles from Mountain City. There are a few trips that I want to mention in this column that I believe would be interesting and economical as well — especially with gasoline so expensive. At the time of this writing it is about $3.15 per gallon.
It has been awhile since I’ve been to Tweetsie Railroad. Tweetsie is located on Highway 321 between Boone and Blowing Rock in North Carolina. If my memory is correct, Tweetsie features a train ride, a huge Farris Wheel, shows, souvenirs and other things of interest. It is also wheel chair accessible. Wheel chairs may be rented for the occasion on a first come, first serve basis.

Bays Mountain Park, the largest city-owned park in Tennessee, is a great place to visit. Owned by the city of Kingsport, the park boasts a state of the art planetarium, a 44-acre lake, 38 miles of trails for hiking, running, sightseeing, exploration and mountain biking. Many animals can be viewed such as wolves, bobcats, raptors, and reptiles. It is a great place to visit.
Hey! Have you been to Andrew Johnson’s home and tailor shop in Greeneville, Tennessee? There are a lot of interesting things to see in regard to our 17th president. His tailor shop has been restored and enclosed to protect it from the elements. A tour of his home is very interesting in that there are many original items featured. Johnson was born in Raleigh, North Carolina but moved to Greeneville and opened a tailor shop. He participated in local politics and ultimately worked his way up to be President Abraham Lincoln’s vice president. Upon the death of Lincoln, Johnson became president. It is interesting to note that as a senator during the Civil War he remained in the senate. He was the only senator of the seceding states to do so.

If you haven’t been to the Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site located in Johnson City on the Erwin Highway, you have missed a great opportunity to learn some history and see some interesting things. It is one of 17 Tennessee Historical Commission State owned historic sites.

Of course no further than Elizabethton, there is a very interesting historic site. Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park features a reconstructed American Revolutionary War Fort Watauga, a visitor center with exhibits and the late-18th-century John and Landon Carter Mansion. Much historic information is available at the site.

I must mention a few of Johnson County’s places of interest. There is Backbone Rock where my family picnicked when I was a youngster. It is a great place for a family get-together. A hole was blasted through the rock to allow trains to haul timber from the area. Now Highway 133 goes through the tunnel. It has been billed as the “shortest tunnel in the world.” Johnson also has two fine museums: Johnson County Historical Society’s museum at the Welcome Center on South Shady Street in Mountain City and the Butler Museum in Butler off Highway 67. The Butler Museum features many items and pictures connected with Old Butler that was inundated by the waters of Watauga Lake.

Of course, those sites I have mentioned are only a few of the attractions that are only a few miles away from Mountain City. Maybe I’ll meet you at one of them.