Cookville, TN

The campground

June found us needing a couple of weeks to recover from all the Memorial Day fun. We have friends with boats and so that week ends up being quite a party and it was our first week of extended camping. I would share that a week in a popup is a good limit.

A year or so ago we met the owner of a brewery at a tap takeover. It was in a pour your own tap house that’s located in an old rail car at the Chattanooga Choo Choo. The name of the tap house is American Draft. Since this post is about our trip to Cookville. I don’t want to down the rabbit hole here talking about Chattanooga. Let’s just say the Choo Choo and surrounding area have become more than a tourist attraction. It’s a fun, happening local hangout with a myriad of entertainment, food and beverage opportunities. Do yourself a favor and visit.

Anyway, we met Manny and his wife. They are super nice people and they shared the story of there journey to owning a brewery. First, let me say that the beer was very good. Manny is a craftsman. He told us how they had built the brewery without going into debt. They would save for what they needed and then add it to the brewery. Their kids worked at the brewery, learning the business and he would have something to leave them and they would not have debt.

We thought this was a great story. We love people and we love good stories so we were hooked. We had to take a trip to visit this brewery. We actually did this during their annual Oktoberfest and we were hooked. This is another story for another post but it’s the background to explain why we choose this destination. Cookville as it turns out is home to more than one really good brewery.

We were not able to find a good camping spot in Cookville proper so we stayed in a tiny town, of less than 3,000 people, about 20 minutes away named Monterey. We found a super nice campground, Belle Ridge Retreat.

Belle Ridge is a super clean well maintained campground. It has a laundry, camp store, lake (swimming & fishing), scenic views, hiking and ATV trails. The campground rents the ATV’s. This campground has many positives. A good mix of paved and gravel campsites that can accommodate big A-class RV’s. They also have large tent sites carved out of the woods like rooms in a house so you don’t really see the people next to you. There is one negative to this campground that is also a positive. It sits just off interstate 40. This make is great to run over to Crossville or Cookville but you can hear some interstate noise at your campsite. Still the campground is one of the nicest and cleanest I’ve ever camped in.

I thought we took more pics of the campground, lake and trails but I’m not finding them. After a we set up we just chilled by the campfire. Saturday found us up early and heading for a hike. We use a lot of apps for outdoor activities and we will share them with you. One of them is All Trails. It’s a great app for finding hikes around you. Pictures, difficultly levels, distance and user comments are all great for choosing the right hike for the day.

The Hike

We settled on the Window Cliffs. This is a beautiful hike that I would call moderate. The trail is mostly wide and well travelled. However there are multiple river crossings that I would label as semi-treacherous. I did take a hard fall on one of them. The crossings have cables to assist you. The water level was low when we were there but the rocks are slippery.

Since this was June in Tennessee it was also very humid so I recommend a pack with a bladder, plenty of water and some form of energy like protein bars or other hiking snacks. With all the river crossing you need to consider your footwear. I kind of wish I had opted for my hiking sandals instead of my boots. It would have saved the need to take my boots off about 6 times. Also, the trail didn’t really demand the boot except for the length. I have had Plantar fasciitis and I have to be careful to have great footwear. I have since found hiking sandals that are made for foot issues. I recommend sandals for this hike.

Once you get near the end you will be faced with a climb toward the actual Window Cliffs. It’s not overly strenuous. The Window Cliffs are a line of flat topped rocks protruding from the forest and the point of a ridge. They offer near 360 degree views and you have to step or jump from one to the next. Some you climb down one and up the next.

I should note that Cathy is a little afraid of heights and these bothered her so I didn’t get any shots of us together very far out on the Cliffs. I had to explore those on my own. This brings me to another app I enjoy. Ramblr. This app is great for tracking your hikes, drives, paddles etc. It offers data and maps during your journey to help you gage your progress. You can take pictures from the app and it drops pins on the course for you and others to view. You can follow people and be followed by people

Breweries & Food

After a long day of hiking we needed refreshment of both the solid and liquid formats. So off to Cookville we went. A local recommended World Foods. A hole in the wall with a large craft beer selection and amazing pizza.

Now enlivened with fuel for our bodies we headed to another recommendation made by locals. Ralph’s Donut Shop. So what is recommended is that you buy your donuts and walk across the street to Hix Farm Brewery. This is a hole in the wall brewery with a very nice outdoor area. They have live music, but not while we were there.

We would rate the beer here as pretty good overall. At the time it was a new brewery. As is usually the case they tend to improve over time. As you can see the outdoor area is perfect, especially around dusk. From Hix Farm we travelled about 10 minutes to Jig Head Brewing Company. This is the brewery owned by our new friend Manny. They are in an old industrial building and have done a nice job building it out. Most of the emphasis has been building out the outdoor area and it’s really nice with covered and uncovered seating. UPDATE: They are now a Harvest Host.

We love the Manny and his wife. They are fabulous hosts and the brewery is so much fun. You may find food trucks present, a special brew on tap or a band playing. The atmosphere is terrific. I have not had a bad beer at Jig Head and I love, love, love the Rio Fortuna.

Sunday as usual is departure day for these short weekend trips and we decided to get an early start and check out a big lake and campground on our way home. We often fit time in to explore campgrounds around us. Center Hill Lake is a 18,220 acre lake in Tennessee with nine marinas and 3 state parks. We opted for lunch at Hurricane Marina Blue Water Grille. The views from the restaurant are gorgeous and the marina is huge. If you want to see big houseboats this is the place. The food is very good here and we were glad we chose it.

And another adventure ends….till next time.

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