Wildflowers, Waterfalls, and Wine: A Spacious Skies Belle Ridge Getaway

Two weeks into my wildflower adventure on the Follow The Flowers trail designed by Spacious Skies Campground, I have not been disappointed.

I might have been a little too ambitious planning a trip from Texas to Maine and back in one summer, but Spacious Skies made it so easy. I started the planning process last November for each campground’s area to determine how long I wanted to stay, see, and do. My favorite places are off-the-beaten-path, which synchronize with the Spacious Skies campgrounds perfectly. They seem to be located near, but not in, places with a visit.

A wooden building with a green roof is surrounded by trees and wildflowers. A bear statue, another animal statue, and a winged statue are situated next to the building on brick pathways.

Planning vacation road trips sometimes takes as long as the trip, but I personally love the planning process. Once my four-page color-coordinated excel worksheet was 90% full of itinerary must-see places and dates of when and where I wanted to be, we started reserving campgrounds. Each campground is located not only in iconic places for the local state’s beauty, plus perfectly situated to follow wildflowers as they bloom.

For the past 15 years, I have been a birder and spend a lot of money, time and energy towards this fabulous hobby of learning about the birds I meet. I have never really paid much attention to the plants around me, but have many friends who are naturalists, and have always admired their ability to name each flower we passed.

However, during the past few years my eyes have deteriorated, and I struggle to see and spot the birds I love. So, I decided that wildflowers don’t move, or hide behind high trees, and are much easier to see – especially the detail of the flower’s beauty and began the idea of joining my friends.

When I learned about the Spacious Skies Follow the Flower trail, I decided to start a new hobby and join my friends in their love for wildflowers. This was just what I needed to kick-start this new endeavor. By the time I’ve reached Maine in July, I should have seen the best wildflowers of each state, some very rare and protected. And where there are wildflowers, there are insects which attract birds, so I not only see beautiful flowers, but a lot of beautiful birds also. I will have met amazing people who share my love of nature and seen secret off-the-beaten-path places that only the locals may know about.

With my camper in tow and Tipper panting out the backseat window we head for Spacious Skies Belle Ridge in Monterey, Tennessee. Located in the Upper Cumberland region near a small mountain town called Monterey, I found an abundance of spring wildflowers and migrating birds heading South, maybe as far as South America. Some of the most beautiful flowers are at the Rock Pond Beach, a natural underground spring-fed pond surrounded by gigantic boulders except for a small sandy beach. Tipper and I strolled down to the pond late one afternoon and caught many woodpeckers knocking on trees. The next day, I bought a Tennessee Wildflower pamphlet and my project that night while snuggled comfortably in our little camper was matching my photos to the flowers in the book, and sometimes an internet search, and give them a name.

In a forested area, a tree branch adorned with clusters of light purple bell-shaped wildflowers sways gently in the breeze.
A close-up view of a patch of purple wildflowers and green foliage growing on the ground, reminiscent of the serenity found near cascading waterfalls.
A cluster of white wildflowers grows among green leaves and scattered dry leaves on the ground in a wooded area.

I recently read a very long quote from John Muir that I will summarize. He remarked that people should never go hiking, but instead saunter through nature. Not just see the larger picture of the forest, prairie, river, or canyon, but slow down and take time to look closely at the trees, flowers, stones, and the many little creatures that live there.

This is the difference between seeing nature and experiencing nature. Sauntering is perfect for hunting wildflowers, and before this new quest to add knowledge about wildflowers to my hobbies, I may never have noticed the colorful beauty near my feet.

My first stop on the Follow the Flowers route was wonderful and now I’m hooked. Wanting to take my trip home with me not only in the form of guidebooks, brochures, and photos, I received permission from the staff at Spacious Skies Belle Ridge to pinch a few flowers to press inside the guidebooks. These little dried wildflowers will take me back to these trails long after I leave this mountain paradise. And much lighter to carry home than rocks or seashells.

A small, rocky stream leads to a large pond surrounded by green grass and trees. The water in the pond is calm and light green, while wildflowers dot the landscape, adding bursts of color.

Tip: A perfect day trip from Belle Ridge starts at the Lural Mountain Bakery in Monterey for oatmeal cookies or scones, then head to Burgess Falls State Park for a nice easy hike along the river ending at a spectacular waterfall and end the day with a meal paired with a Tennessee wine at the Del Monico Vineyard – I had the pulled pork nachos with Whistle Stop wine – delicious.

Ann Bush

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