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Breaks Park Geological Trail ...

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I very much enjoyed your tour through Richlands at night - awesome. But GO - OSU Buckeyes! ...

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Thanks for the attention you shed on small town Va. ...

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A nighttime walk through a small Appalachian downtown. ...

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Here is a picture of Effie Smith, along with some of her poetry about The Breaks area. ...

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Fall colors are finally creeping into the mountains in some scattered areas. I was surprised to see so much color along this backroad in Tazewell County, Virginia. The temperature has been unseasonally high lately but we did get a couple days of rain. Every year I am surprised at how quickly the fall foliage comes and goes. Although it is a very brief amount of time the landscape is so full of color, it sure leaves a lasting impression in your mind. - Shane ...

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We are just a hair early for the fall foliage. It has also been pretty dry so that has held it up a bit too. Another couple of weeks should reveal some beautiful colors lining the mountainsides. I always stop by this overlook when traveling between Big Stone Gap and Norton, Virginia. The view is beautiful year round but, beyond that, it gives me a few precious moments of peace and clarity - some days that is a victory in itself. - Shane ...

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“I never knew a sweeter look
Of Nature ever wearing,
I never saw her more sublime,
With more grand awesome bearing
Than when among Big Sandy’s “Breaks”
October last upon
That long-to-be-remembered day
I spent with her alone.”
-Effie Waller Smith excerpt from “Among the “Breaks” of Big Sandy River”

These words by African-American Appalachian poet Effie Waller Smith greatly echo her beliefs about the wonders of our mountains and more specifically the land that is now The Breaks Park on the Virginia-Kentucky border. Smith was born in 1872 and raised on a farm in Chloe Creek, KY just outside of Pikeville. Her parents, Frank Waller and Sibbie (Ratliff) Waller were former slaves who had became prominent African-Americans in Eastern KY. They believed in raising their children in a God-fearing, educational home as 3 out of their 4 children attended the Kentucky State Normal School for Colored Persons in Frankfort, Kentucky, which is now Kentucky State University. Smith became a teacher and poet and moved several times in and out of the state. She uses her life experiences to compare life in Appalachia to what she calls “city life,” a major theme in her poetry.

A lot of Smith’s life is unknown, but she went through many life situations that helped blend her poetry into a wonderful collection told from a proud African-American Appalachian. Her last publication, a sonnet “Autumn Winds“, appeared in 1917 in the prestigious Harper’s magazine. She passed away in 1960, most of the last 40 years of her life is unknown. Two historic markers in Pikeville, KY honor Smith and her Appalachian heritage. I highly suggest you research and purchase the vast collection of poems by Effie Waller Smith as I did. Explore our Appalachian beauty through her eyes, along with many other topics such as ambition, bliss, grief, religion, friendship, love, and patriotism. ~Jason

“ I shall take time on mornings still and cool
To seek the freshness dim of wood and pool,
Where, calmed and hallowed by great Nature’s peace,
My life from its hot cares shall find release“
-Effie Waller Smith excerpt from “Preperation”
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ALBERT PERRY DAY (B - 28 DEC 1867 • Buchanan, VA; D - 5 NOV 1915 • Pea Patch, VA) was my great-grandfather - my father told me some stories about what a character he was - one of their neighbors had stolen grandpa's baby pigs...so he waited until they were full grown and nice and plump, and he stole them back then butchered immediately!!! There was also another neighbor that had his eye on Great-Grandma, LAURA BELL JEWELL (B -04 JUL 1872 • Buchanan, VA; D -31 JUL 1940 • Pea Patch, VA), when he knew grandpa & most the kids were out in the fields, this crazy guy would yell obscenities and beg her to come out. One day grandpa was waiting for him...and he fled with a bottom full of salt rock from grandpa's shotgun! ...

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Some of my fondest childhood memories involve playing in the river. We would catch crawdads, jump off small cliffs, skip rocks, or ride a coal truck innertube down the swift current. Before we would leave, Mom would let us bath in the river to clean up. Back then, I remember that Joy was a universal cleaner so we would use the dish detergeant to wash our hair and as soap (we used it that way at home too and also as laundry detergent). We would pass around a bottle of Joy and scrub ourselves clean in the cool flowing river.

Most of my life I've lived where a river was accessible, and now my property has river frontage that we heavily use. I still do the exact same things as I did when I was a boy, except I've replaced innertubes with kayaks and replaced Joy with environmental friendly soap and shampoo. Yes, as you can see from the picture below I still bathe in the river pretty often during summer months. People seem to get a pretty big kick out of it, but I find the cool water refreshing and exhilarating (as you can see by my expression).

Besides the river, I often take natural showers during a good storm. The rain water has such a clean, cool, feel that's hard to explain. It took a few times, but my daughter, Ayla, has bought into natural bathing and sometimes requests it instead of a shower in the house. I never feel better or more refreshed than after a good storm shower. Have you ever bathed outdoors? -Jason
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I just saw a nice video you posted about Morristown and its overhead downtown sidewalks. I have a question about the first line of the article ... "despite a small portion of the city bleeding into Jefferson County". I wasn't aware of this... where does that bleed-over occur? ...

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Soup beans, soup beans good for your heart...

Today was a beautiful fall day to visit The Breaks Interstate Park between Haysi, VA and Elkhorn City, KY. As usual, we had to stop by the Rhododendron Restaurant and enjoy a big bowl of beans with a view. The beautiful scenery and wildlife was definitely good for my heart. We will be doing more posts very soon about The Breaks and surronding areas, but for now, enjoy this picture of my beans and the mountains. -Jason

As a reminder, you can purchase TAP apparel, like the hat in the picture, at our website. Thanks for your continued support.

www.appalachianproject.org/shopping/
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This beautiful scene was captured recently near Haysi, VA. The rail cars seem to disappear around the foggy bend into the early morning sunshine. As a disclosure, we at TAP discourage being on railroad property as it is both dangerous and illegal. ...

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As many of our regular followers know, I try whole heartedly to raise my daughter with traditional mountain values and knowledge. I do not, though, deprive her of any modern pleasantries or girly things. I try my best to balance things in a way that reflects not only mountain savy, but 6 year old hipness as well. This weekend consisted of going to a drive-in movie, getting her nails done, and a dance party Saturday night. You can only imagine my delight when I asked her what she wanted to do today and she says "let's go fishing Dad".

We never buy bait or use artificial lures. Instead, we catch our own bait, which generally consists of crawdads and hellgrammites. She is getting much more comfortable catching the bait and loves to boast when she does. I'm still a little protective and won't let her bait her own hook yet. I'm sure its partly because of the hooks I've dug out of my fingers over the years.

As you can see by the pictures Ayla is already a great fisherman. This was one of two nice smallies that she caught, and I came up a bit short with this tiny bass. I'm still working on her humbleness, though, as I spent the rest of the evening being reminded that she beat me... again. -Jason
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Driving through a town shows the physical side of a community. Living in the community reveals the emotional and spiritual being of the community. Having lived in Appalachia most of my life but well traveled reveals to me that our style of living is 20 to 40 years behind many other places and will remain that way, ...

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My daughter Ayla and I decided to take a short walk in the woods near our house this evening and stumbled upon this good size snake skin. From a distance I thought it was an actual snake so I cautiously approached it before seeing it was just a shed skin. We carried it back home to exam it and Ayla (6 years old) quickly chimed in to tell me the word "moulting" is a better term than "shedding".

Snakes shed their skin numerous times per year as they grow. New skin forms under their current skin and when it is fully formed the old skin is shed, usually in one piece. As you can see by the photos the details of the skin are very visible. I'm not by any means an expert on reptiles, but I believe this was a black snake, which are very common in this area. Measuring in at 40", the skin was nearly as tall as Ayla. Have you ever ran across a snake skin? -Jason
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Thank you SO much for the drive through at Washington College Academy, It really touched my heart to see the place again. Washington College was founded by my 4th great grandfather, Reverend Samuel Doak. I last visited the school in 1974. I am so sad to see what has become of it, and to hear the atrocities that have happened there. I had a couple of conversations with the former president, Dr. Robert Orr, about reviving the school. Those conversations ended in disappointment. It seems it would be quite a challenge. I would love to rekindle "The light in the Wilderness" I emailed you. ...

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We don't always get to say this but I am happy to report that the State Street area of Bristol, TN/VA, is a real success story in Appalachia. Just a few short years ago, the downtown Bristol area looked pretty grim with numerous empty buildings in a slowly declining condition. A lot of energy, money, work, and patience went into revitalizing the area and it is now on a real upswing.

The local music scene is alive and well along with several diverse dining and shopping options. Bristol is known as the "Birthplace of Country Music" due to the locally recorded music event known as the "Bristol Sessions" that occurred back in 1927. Little did the folks who participated during those two weeks of recordings know that their contributions would lead to such a lasting impact on the music industry. These days the Birthplace of Country Music Museum pays tribute to the Bristol Sessions by telling the story of how it all unfolded and its ongoing legacy.

The downtown area of Bristol is never more thriving than it is annually in September when the Rhythm & Roots Reunion music festival takes over the downtown area. This weekend will mark the 17th year for the festival and it has exploded in growth since its inception. The festival features well over 100 artists of various genres performing in 20 different locations throughout the downtown area beginning on Friday and extending into Sunday. You can check out their website for more information at www.birthplaceofcountrymusic.org/festival/buy-tickets/

In the interest of full disclosure, I currently work with the Birthplace of Country Music organization (unaffiliated with my work here at TAP) that puts on the Rhythm & Roots Reunion festival. It has given me a unique inside view of the massive amount of work that goes into putting together such a large-scale event. The days leading up to it are filled with a frenzy of activity and preparation that goes on virtually around the clock. I had no inkling of all the work that has to be done from security to vendor management to crowd control, etc. In the past, I just showed up and enjoyed the event and, if things go as planned, that is what thousands of people just like me will do again this year. If you haven't been before, I would highly recommend checking it out - if you are a music lover it is a must-see experience. - Shane Simmons

Who has been to the Rhythm & Roots Reunion before or plan on going this year? I would love to hear from you in the comments.
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Morristown is the county seat of Hamblen County in Tennessee despite a small portion of the city bleeding into Jefferson County. With a population nearing 30,000, Morristown is larger than most places we cover and is chock-full of history. Having said that, in the interest of your time and attention we narrowed this particular video to showing the impressive courthouse and the main downtown street.

I was particularly curious to see the downtown area as one of our TAP followers mentioned a very unique feature along Main Street. Main Street consists of approximately one square mile of area and developed as the intersection of two railroad lines. A major flood hit nearby Turkey Creek back in 1962 which did a massive amount of damage to the downtown area buildings. In the aftermath of the flood, the decision was made to build an overhead sidewalk to add some appeal and character to the downtown. It was designed to be a "Skymart" which would essentially become a "second street" overhead while providing a measure of shelter from the weather for folks walking below.

It would take a few years and a combined cost of $7 million to complete but it was finally finished in 1967. The hope was that this "second floor" would revitalize the already struggling downtown to attract new business and foot traffic. Despite the hype and hope, the reality of the "Skymart" shopping district was a flop. The development couldn't compete with the changing consumer tendency to prefer shopping malls.

More recently, the city has added a wheelchair accessible ramp and has spruced the area up in an attempt to resuscitate it. As you can see in the video, the sidewalk is extremely unique and appealing to passersby. The growing desire for downtown shopping plays into the area's favor so hopefully it will see additional new life. You would have to search far and wide to find a more interesting downtown area so the possibility for growth is quite possible, it'd be great to see the investment finally pay off. I encourage an in-person visit to check this area out, the rest of historic Morristown is icing on the cake. - Shane Simmons
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