I have been home from Tennessee for a couple of weeks, and have been reflecting on my experiences leading up to the event and while there. I also wanted to spend time reviewing photos for the best ones to share with you. As I tend to do, this will be part travelogue, part event summary!
|Beautiful native flora at a Banner Elk restaurant.|
My parents and I met up in Tennessee earlier in the week so we could get a family vacation in prior to the event. And first, I need to start with a neat story of synchronicity:
My parents and I live about a 10-hour drive from each other. I was coming from Pittsburgh (7 hours from Roan Mountain), and they were coming from coastal North Carolina (6 hours from Roan Mountain). We were going to meet up at the State Park, and the plan was I'd get the keys to the cabin and they'd meet me there. They knew I was aiming to arrive by ~3pm, but you never know with traffic how long it'll take.
|Rolling down a TN road.|
As I was driving down Rt. 19 and turned right onto State Hwy 143 (the road the park office is on), I voice-texted my parents my location while I still had a little bit of signal. They replied: "Right behind you!" I looked in my rear-view mirror, and there they were!
You see: to get to the cabins, eventually, all of us would end up on Rt. 19 and have to turn onto the State Park's road. I turned right, and they turned left, since we came from opposite directions, and yet somehow, by the grace of God, we ended up literally arriving together!
You can't ask to start a week together better than that! I love synchronicities like that!
Anyway, onto the rest of this post:
If you've never been to the Roan Mountain State Park, I highly recommend it! The cabins are nicer than some hotel rooms I've been in, and the staff are all very nice. They come fully stocked with everything you'd need, save for food, beverages, and your personal toiletries (though, like hotel rooms, they do provide bars of soap, but no shampoo, conditioner or moisturizer). There is a grocery store in the town of Roan Mountain, and then a larger shopping area (Walmart, etc.) in nearby Elizabethton, so you can get anything you may need for your stay.
|Hauntingly beautiful picnic area in the middle of a forest of giant rhododendrons - Roan Mountain.|
The mountains of Eastern Tennessee provide a gorgeous, peaceful setting. While the summer days are hot and humid, and there is no AC in the cabins, at night it cools down enough that if you open the windows and turn on the ceiling fan, you can get comfortable fairly quickly. I was situated in a bed in the loft, giving my parents the first-floor queen bed, so it was a little warmer up there. This was quickly remedied by the small desktop fan I'd brought with me. The cabins have full electric in every room, and also heaters should you choose to stay in the cooler times of year. They are rentable year-round and have large wood stoves to use for heating in the main great room of each cabin, and the bedrooms and bathroom have small wall heaters for individualized comfort.
The cabins have free wifi that mostly works (as they say); it'll go down during storms, but only for a little while, then come back up. I found it more reliable this year than last year. They also installed a Verizon cell tower repeater up by the park office, so if you needed to make a call that wasn't local (there are phones in the cabin for local calls), you could do so by driving to the park office (which is only a 1/4 mile from the cabins).
|Huge rock outcropping at Grandfather Mountain|
There is plenty of nature to be seen in the area: deer, birds, various chipmunks and squirrels, butterflies/moths, fish, and evidence (but no sightings) of bears! There were even baby birds in a nest on our cabin's porch! While there, we enjoyed a lot of small hikes on Grandfather Mountain and Roan Mountain, explored nearby towns (Blowing Rock and Banner Elk, to name two), and visited the Rhododendron Gardens and the Miller Farmstead up on Roan Mountain. We also explored nearby Elizabethton, TN, which is a town kind of reminiscent of the 1950s-1960s, including piped-in music of that era and vintage car shows on weekends. Elizabethton also has Carter Mansion, the oldest standing frame house in Tennessee.
|The largest amethyst I have ever seen! |
This is in the museum at Grandfather Mountain.
|The Miller Farmstead, Roan Mountain|
In short, the Gathering was a success! It was about the same size as last year's, which is nice because there was time over the course of the weekend to meet each attendee and get to know them a little bit.
On Friday night, we had a cookout and meet and greet. These were included in the ticket price, and the food was great! Thank you, Cat Young, for your hospitality!
After we ate, Cat Young and Chris Wingerd told some legends of local Bigfoot sightings in the area, and then Chris led a hike up on the mountain to go find him. 👣 No luck there, but I understand the hike was a bit spooky at times. :)
|cozy outdoor fireplace|
|Tess Hughes led a meditation class.|
While you would think the natural setting and gently babbling brook would lend to a peaceful meditation, actually, the point of the class was to teach us how to meditate despite distractions! I loved this take on teaching meditation, and through her exercises (she distracted us with phone calls, conversations, etc.), I feel like I learned a lot.
|Our hostess, Cat Young.|
|Nothing like a creek walk selfie!|
After the creek walk, there was a yoga class presented by Debbie Hart. I did not stay for this, as I hadn't gotten a lot of sleep the night before due to all the excitement, and wanted to rest and shower before heading back to Cat's house for the speaking part of the event.
|Cool rocks from the creek.|
|Carolyn LeCrone's tent and the start of a charity blanket.|
Next up was me. I spoke about how communication is important to human beings, and yet we are capable of making a thorough mess of it sometimes. In my own life, I've discovered that by employing certain listening, intuitive, and mindset skills, I have finally found my own voice, and this has both improved relationships and allowed me to branch out creatively.
|My tent and items I've made.|
|My tent and Dana Wingerd speaking.|
Debbie Hart told us her incredible story of having a sleeping stroke—typically fatal—and being so convinced that she was going to be fine that she was just...fine. You really have to hear it from her, but it's a story of faith, determination, and not confining herself to others' expectations of her medical condition and how it's "supposed" to be for stroke patients. If you ever get to hear her speak about this, please take that opportunity and hear her speak. It'll give you chills!
|Many hands made short work of a charity blanket.|
During breaks from the speakers, our host, Cat Young, announced that she'd hoped we'd all make a blanket together to be raffled off to benefit a women's shelter. That bidding is just about done, and it looks like she has raised about $150 for a local women's shelter!
|Hiking trail on Grandfather Mountain|
|I guess this is the Elk of Banner Elk?|
After all the speakers were done, we headed to Sorrento's Italian Bistro for the party! The food was great: salad, pizza, and chicken parmigiana with penne marinara, which was all included in the ticket price for the event. After dinner, we took a walk through Banner Elk to the Red Door Candy Store before some people stayed for
a spirit investigation at an undisclosed location. I am not a paranormal investigator like many of the attendees, so my parents and I headed back to Roan Mountain and chilled in our cabin, instead. Have I mentioned how grateful I am for this time spent with my family?
|Carter Mansion, Elizabethton, TN|
|Top of Grandfather Mountain|
And then...that was it! We finished the blanket, packed our stuff, ate some leftovers for lunch, hugged and kissed and said "see you next year" and just like that, it was over! It seemed to go by too fast.
|Soldiers' memorial, Elizabethton, TN|
My parents and I spent the remainder of Sunday exploring Roan Mountain on both the TN and NC sides, ending up for dinner in Banner Elk at a nice steakhouse, Stonewalls.
After over a week in TN, my parents and I packed up each of our cars and said goodbye to each other for our respective long trips back to our homes. By that point, I'd missed my husband a lot and couldn't wait to get home, but it was bittersweet saying goodbye to my folks, too.
|Stonewalls - a steakhouse in Banner Elk, NC|
The trip was restorative and eye-opening, for me. I learned a lot about myself and where I came from on that trip, and had much to reflect on about that. Travel is good for the soul; it breaks us out of our daily routines and allows us the latitude to not only try different things, but the change of scenery can prompt a shift within ourselves, as well. I've been experiencing that shift within myself, and know there are more good things coming from it. :)
I hope you enjoyed this summary of my trip to Tennessee and the Gathering. Lots of good things are coming from it, not only for me, but for others, too. I'm really proud of everyone who attended and worked together to benefit survivors of domestic abuse, for instance. And I know there were a lot of eyes opened to how we can improve our lives and ourselves if given half the chance.
Drop me a line and let me know if you have any questions or comments about the Gathering or any part of this post! I hope you are having an amazing summer, too—let me know if you're taking any cool vacation trips! 💛🐝
|Goodbye, TN. Til next time!|