Get Away to the Mountains
Whether you're partial to the foothills of the Great Smokies in Tennessee, the stunning terrain in southern Kentucky, or the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, pack your walking shoes, grab the film, and go. You won't be sorry. Explore on foot, on horseback, or by rail, but don't pass up these delightful discoveries.
Make your first stop in the town of Ponca, and let your spirits soar with a hot-air balloon ride ($245 per person). Trip guide Mike Mills at the Buffalo Outdoor Center takes his silky sensations out in the early mornings. (Make reservations at least a day in advance.)
When it's time to eat, head to Jasper and the Ozark Cafe, a fixture in the area since 1909. They make a fine country-fried steak for lunch. Their fried cheesecake ($3.99), wrapped in a tortilla and fried to a crisp, is so good it defies logic.
This area claims galleries such as the Old Carriage House in Jasper. The red, barn-like structure sits off State 7 and features the creations of owner-artist Rebecca Holden and local craftspeople. Wind chimes, old-fashioned toys, handmade jewelry, leaves and flowers fashioned from copper, and pottery stock the shelves.
Though families love the spacious amenities provided at Cedar Crest Lodge, couples desiring less room to roam find a tasteful alternative at the Arkansas House Bed & Breakfast in downtown Jasper. Modest antique furniture, comfortable beds, and inexpensive rates ($59-$89 a night) make this small-town gem a sweet choice.
Moments spent here, as in most of the Ozarks, promise a window seat to something wonderful in fall.
Now part of the National Park Service, the former coal mine and tipple (the building where different types of coal were separated and then dropped into railcars for transport) were built in 1937. You can walk among replicas of the town's buildings and hear oral histories in the school, church, and homes describing life in the camps. Don't miss climbing the hill and walking across the bridge on the coal tipple; the view of the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River can't be beat. Chat with the park ranger on duty, and grab a sandwich and chips from the snack bar before you hear that whistle blowing one more time. Enjoy the pastoral view from the tracks; even at the end of the line in Stearns, the real world seems far away.
This mountain resort glows with English countryside decor. The estate rooms and cottage suites welcome warmly with antiques and bedding that threatens to swallow you and never spit you out. There are worse things.
Take advantage of as many ways as you can to enjoy the brilliant changing leaves on this 4,200-acre patch of pastoral perfection. Get some exercise on one of the six hiking trails, which connect to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park trails.The guide on the nature walk identifies plants and points out the statue-still deer nearby.
Just save room for the food. You'll get three gourmet meals a day at Blackberry Farm, and chef John Fleer promises you won't go away hungry. You'll find the Angus beef is tender enough to forgo a knife, and don't try to resist the desserts--no one can. Just enjoy the repast. Let the nice staff prepare a fire in your fireplace, and then sink into your enormous feather bed. Folks, it just doesn't get any better than this, especially in the fall.