Stop and feel the past: a two hour drive Cleveland, Tennessee

I felt it before I saw it.

A poignant pull, a place of both warmth and tragedy, beauty and bewilderment. 

The Blue Hole Spring at Red Clay State Historical Park was clearly a spiritual and important place and I could sense this as I walked down the nature trail, past the Cherokee farmstead, council house, and sleeping huts depicting life as it may have been for the Native Americans who lived in this part of southeast Tennessee in the early 1800s.  This was the Eastern Council Ground for the Cherokee Nation before the Trail of Tears Removal. 

The stunning sapphire spring there pumps 400,000 gallons of water downstream daily and standing by its side, you can feel its power.  The Blue Hole Spring is believed to have been the source of water for the councils of 1832 – 1837. The nearby marker explains, “The Cherokee believe there is another world under this, and it is like ours in everything- animals, plants, and people – save the seasons are different. The streams that come from the mountains are the trails by which we reach this underworld, and the springs at their heads are the doorways by which we enter it.” While you can dip your feet in the creek, the spring pool is off limits to anyone except the Cherokee who visit twice a year. This warning perhaps made it all the more tempting to just dive into the cool clear water, and beyond.  

The park is less than two hours northeast of Alpharetta, a must-see (and feel) stop as you head to the charming town of Cleveland, Tennessee for a summer weekend road trip. 

An entrepreneurial spirit and hometown pride runs deep here; nearly every shopkeeper and business owner I met has roots in the community and is invested in its health and growth.

At Free2Fly downtown, Hailey Johnston explained how their ministry program is helping women in transition enter the workforce. Their training provides young mothers with job experience, sustainable skills, and economic support that equips her for stability in the future. The boutique sells beautiful products with a purpose. 

My home base was the Inn on the Greenway, a bed and breakfast in an unassuming neighborhood next to the new paved non-motorized path to explore on bikes or by foot. The owners have lovingly renovated the five bedroom inn themselves, with crisp and friendly touches.

Dine:

Café Roma – Family owned, gathering place for everyone who’s anyone with the head chef/owner Dylan Burrelson making the rounds to say hello. 

Bald Headed Bistro -Meat-heavy, but well-rounded with smoked brisket, ribeye and chicken schnitzel, a gorgeous bread basket and Executive chef/partner Wesley True (formerly of The Optimist in West Midtown) at the helm. 

The Press -Light dinner with nearly 50 wines available by the taste, glass or bottle.

Mash ’n Hops  – Hundreds of craft and draught beers

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Explore:

Museum Center at 5ive Points -Chosen as an official stop on Tennessee Music Pathways for its Red Back Hymnal Exhibit. The Museum Store is filled with local art.

Morris Vineyard & Winery -Beautiful views, pick your own fruit and taste award-winning wines from the family-owned winery.

Bliss  Luxury Day Spa and Salon  -Newly renovated with fluffy robes and all the big-city amenities with a small town friendliness.  Massage, facials, hair and nails, infrared sauna, outdoor pool.