Postcard from the W/E-It was a Wet One…

Woke to overcast skies on Saturday morning, it had rained all night. With John still sick after a week of sneezing and sniffling, I would be on my own for most of the weekend. I decided to beat round three (or was it four or five) of incoming storms and head out for an early run. Although the humidity was high, the temperature hovered around 60 F, conditions I find appealing for a good run.

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Threatening skies for an early morning run.

I don’t get the opportunity to run on my own much these days, John is often at my side (or usually ahead). While I enjoy his companionship and encouragement, if truth be known, I enjoy the occasional run alone. It is my time to let my mind go blank, dream or sort though things that maybe bothering me.  So Saturday’s run was a treat.

The run seemed effortless. I wound my way through the streets of the neighborhood and out to the new boardwalk along the river.  Before I knew it, my legs began to feel heavy.  I looked at my Garmin and realized I was near 4.0 miles. Where had the time gone?  Knowing I was not going to make 5.0 miles,  I stopped at 4 and walked the rest of the way home.  It was a very good run for me!

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Rain soaked entrance to our neighborhood. Everything is greening up nicely.

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Rain soaked iris from my garden.

After the run came a 3 hour grocery run (3 stores and lots of walking up and down the aisles), we were out of most of the essentials.  I came home to a bored and restless John, who offered to buy dinner if I would drive.  I said yes, of course.

We struggled per our usual routine of trying to agree on a restaurant, finally settling on a burger place (I shutter at the thought as I write this) called Stock Burger .  Not long after we left the house, we noticed the sky had an odd color with a series of heavy, unusual looking clouds.  The further northwest we traveled, the worse things appeared.

At first, a few rain drops fell, then a heavy rain started and suddenly the sky opened up and buckets and buckets splashed (crashed) down.  Next came the hail, big, loud pieces of ice pelting the heck out of the car.  I haven’t looked too closely but I am hoping for no noticeable damage. Finally the worst of the storm passed and the rain went from intense to heavy. We made it to the restaurant in one piece though a bit damp getting from the car to the front door.  The burger (and fries) I ordered negated every step I had run in the morning.

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I can’t believe I ordered, much less ate most of this.

I was hungry and dove into the burger. Got through most of it and the fries before my stomach started cramping.  I could not eat the rest.  I did manage to put away the vanilla cake donut with maple frosting and carmel drizzle below before the cramping turned into intense pain.  I thought for sure I had food poisoning but a couple of Tums and laying down eventually solved the problem.  By all accounts, eating this type of food is poison but sometimes it is hard to resist!  John had the same type of stomach cramps later in the night so we have marked Stock Burgers off our restaurant list.

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Duck Donuts are amazing….   Glad we do not live within quick driving distance of the store front.

The rain continued through Saturday night and all day Sunday.  Knoxville received a record 2″ of rain in 24 hours. We considered throwing life rafts out for our newly planted coleus, azaleas and dogwood but the sun should be out tomorrow to dry things out.

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Rain puddles in the garden

Sunday has been a lazy day.  A little bit of cooking, some laundry but mostly writing and resting.  Rainy days are good for that sort of thing. We found ourselves restless mid-afternoon and headed downtown for lunch (food seems to be a theme for the weekend).  Even with the rain, the Sunday crowd was out.

Comfort food at Sweet P’s hit the spot.  John had a andoula sausage sandwich and mac and cheese while I settled on pulled chicken (somewhat healthy) and mac and cheese (ouch).  We were home an hour later and back to relaxing mode.  All in all a needed restful weekend!

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Our favorite downtown dive!

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Shame on me for not having my toe nails painted but I have my rain shoes on and am ready for the puddles.

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Downtown Knoxville in the rain

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A Weekend Come and Gone

The weekend came and left too fast.  We started Saturday morning with a neighborhood run. John took off in a dash. It was warm and humid and I just wasn’t feeling it so I dragged my feet. We hit the usual spots,  the South Knoxville “strip,” Suttree Park and a lap or two around our neighborhood boulevard. I clinched my teeth through most of the run and stopped the second my Garmin hit 3.0 miles. As a result, I had to walk my tired self home another mile.  John was home before me with an additional mile run on his Garmin.  Sigh…

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New South Knoxville Riverwalk, just outside our neighborhood

After lunch John convinced me that I wanted get on my bicycle. I really don’t why I agreed as the run had been so painful.   We loaded the bikes on the car and drove to the downtown waterfront (about 2 miles from our house) to avoid bicycling the worst of the hills. As it turned out, the ride was great!  We rode a 12 mile out and back route on a branch of our local greenway system.  The minor aggravations that occur when not regularly on the bike (aching neck, torso and tush) did not happen for me. I contribute that to 8 weeks of daily planking and push ups.  YES!

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Looks like we are in jail but this is the view as we bicycled on the Alcoa Highway cantilevered greenway across the Tennessee River toward the UT Ag Campus and Cherokee Farm.  The fence protects all of us bicyclers and runners.

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Fence along the border between the University of Tennessee agricultural farms and the greenway.

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We had dinner al fresco, our first of the season. I was one tired girl barely mustering up a smile. 

We finished the day with a stroll downtown.  The Big Ears Festival was in progress and while we had no plans to stop in a music venue, we knew the crowd on the streets would be interesting.  We were not disappointed.  We parked on the outer edge of town and walked. We headed first to Market Square to watch the stilt walkers, street musicians and drifters.  The restaurants were full and diners poured out onto the outdoor patios to eat, drink and enjoy the warm spring evening.

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Downtown revelers

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Stilt walkers and musicians

We walked to the end of Gay Street and watched the sunset from the rail yard bridge.  We then circled around to the Old City and back to Gay Street.  We stopped at The Phoenix Pharmacy and Fountain for hand dipped ice cream smothered in gooey toppings and whipped cream and finally returned to the car, just a few minutes short of our two-hour free parking limit. Sometime before turning in for the night, I checked my Garmin, 20,451 steps for the day. Whew!

 

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Saturday night sunset

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Sunset reflected in the windows of renovated warehouses along the rail yard. 

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The Pheonix was busy!  

Rain was forecast for Sunday and it was a surprise to wake up and find that the area had experienced only light showers overnight. My legs were having nothing to do with running so we set out for a long walk, again on our local greenway system.  This time we headed in the opposite direction as Saturday, toward (and beyond) Ijams Nature Center.

The stretch of greenway, known as the Will Skelton Greenway is one of the prettier walks in the Knoxville system of walking/running/biking paths. We walked at a determined pace, a pace that was faster than my feet felt comfortable.  The steps and miles clicked by as we passed through the Nature Center and into the Wildlife Management Area.  Finally we were striding alongside the river.  Somewhere around the 3.5 mile point we decided to turn around.  Both of us were feeling the two days of effort.  We hit out front porch with 7.0 miles of walking, far further than planned but there is something about chasing steps with our Garmins.

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Bits of leaf green are visible on the trees along the greenway.  Spring is almost fully here. 

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Beaver dam along the Will Skelton Greenway. 

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A manged wildlife area lies on one side the this section of the Will Skelton Greenway, the Tennessee Rive is on the other.

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Tenneesee River from the greenway.  Will Skelton had this bench placed at this bend of the river in memory of his parents. 

We ended the day a few hundred steps short of 20,000.  We had fun being so active but I paid for the weekend warrior attitude with foot pain, top of the foot pain that is just now subsiding, a full 2 days later.  What is that about??!!

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Remodeling and the Arrival of Spring

It has been busy around here in a very deliberate sort of way.  Earlier this week, winter handed the baton over to spring but we hardly noticed,  the winter of 2016-2017 will be remembered as a mild one, at least by us.

We are in the middle of a remodel project on our main floor bath. Conversations about remodeling began last fall when we had plans drawn up to add a master suite, garage, storage and laundry room, some 1600 sq feet of space plus a deck (and retaining wall). We spent many nights dreaming and discussing but as we considered our age and the hit to our investments we realized an addition did not make good financial sense. Much to our contractor’s disappointment, we decided on a smaller project, a new main floor bath and linen closet.  Not as sexy as the big addition but the main floor bath serves its two masters as well as our casual guests.

And so we have begun the work in this tiny 25 sq foot space of a bath.  It has had one redo from its initial 1942 design, which was 25 years ago when John, a struggling and single father of two added tile to the shower, replaced the old linoleum with new and put in a new vanity. Flash forward to 2009 when I moved in and the walls were updated to pumpkin. Not a color I was particularly happy with but our differences on decorating are legendary (at least in this house) and John was doing the work. Besides, it didn’t look bad at the time. The cheap medicine cabinet was purchased during the repainting escapade to “hold the space” until we found the medicine cabinet we wanted. Obviously we never spent much time searching!!  After a while, one becomes blind to such issues.

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In the process of sprucing  up the old girl, our contractor stripped everything down to the studs. The old cast iron pipes, visible below, have been replaced. New studs have been nestled in amonst the old to level out the walls.  The rotting wood on the floor has been replaced, well actually the whole floor has been replaced and the old casement window is in the dumpster.

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After 25 days, progress is visible. We now have shiny, new (but covered up) copper pipes,  a beautiful new window and subway tile going up on the walls.  Not to be forgotten, a  thermostatically controlled heated marble floor has been installed. Estimated time of completion?   Oh, another 25 days or so….

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On another topic, we are heralding the arrival of spring, at least inside our house.  The streptocarpus, “Ladyslippers White Ice” below came home with me from a recent trip to a local greenhouse and has found a home near a sunny window in our living room.While the name reminds me of a throat infection, I find the flowers stunning and so far it has been a prolific bloomer.

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This little geranium was also a recent addition. The color is Light Salmon and I fell in love with it from afar as I was looking for Lily of the Valley at the local greenhouse. I am considering it (and 5-6 more of the same) for a large pot in the front garden.  The flower is a double bloomer and the color is so feminine and delicate but it is hard to get away from the traditional red geranium seen in pots all over Europe.

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.A couple of African Violets are blooming profusely including my favorite, the traditional deep purple.

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And we often have these large lilies in a vase somewhere around the house. Often in white but sometimes pink or yellow. The fragrance is very heady and can blanket the house.  The smell often makes me sneeze but John loves it.

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Giant Lily

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Double bloom African Violet

And lastly is this little guy.  Either he is confused about the season or we are.  Christmas Cactus blooms in late March-early April?

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Postcard from the W/E-Backpack #79

We went on a backpack this weekend.  By all accounts it was short and easy but we haven’t been on a backpack in almost 4 months so it felt like starting again.  Duane Simmons, my first backpacking partner went along for the exercise and social aspect.  His stories kept us entertained and laughing on the trail and in camp.

The hike began in the Elkmont are of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  We parked behind the campground (closed for the season) and amongst the cabins in Historic Elkmont. Historic Elkmont has an interesting history beginning with the Little River Logging Company then summer homes for the elite in Knoxville and surrounding areas.  After years of a tug of war between environmentalist and supporters of preservation, a compromise was reached.  This little piece of history and status update appeared in the Knoxville News Sentinel on January 27, 2017″

“Elkmont is one of the most popular destinations in the Great Smoky Mountains and offers a glimpse of life in the decades before the property became a national park.  Logging operations began harvesting timber from the area around 1880.  

The timber industry was eventually replaced by a resort town where people enjoyed the area’s natural beauty.  Vacationers bought property and built 74 cabins along the rivers and creeks as part of the Appalachian Club.   Elkmont’s resort community was comprised of three neighborhoods:  Daisy Town, Millionaire’s Row, and Society Hill.

When the Great Smoky Mountains became a reality, the National Park Service allowed owners to keep their cabins until the early 1990s.  Since then, the vacant buildings have crumbled.  Signs now warn people to keep out of the unstable structures.

In 2009, the National Park Service announced plans to preserve 19 of the cabins and tear down the remaining 55.  Of the 19 cabins spared, 17 are in Daisy Town where paved roads and parking lots allow visitors to drive directly to the site. “

While I initially worked with environmentalist to tear down the structures,  I am glad a glimpse of this history will be preserved. Elkmont is a different but important piece of park history.

But back to the backpack…  We hiked on the Cucumber Gap Trail which merged with Jakes Gap to Campsite #21, our destination for the night.  The trail is an easy walk and most places are wide enough for three across to walk comfortably. Because it was cold or more likely the last weekend in January, we had the campsite to ourselves, a rare pleasure in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Below are a smattering of pictures from the evening:

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John unloading gear into the tent. 

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Duane doing the same. 

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One of many rock walls remnants left over from cabins built in the park.  

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The sun seems to set early in the mountains.  In reality we loose visiblity as it slips below the taller peaks. 

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Winter starkness.

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We saw too many of these snags in the campground where people had obviously hacked away at living trees, most likely for wood.

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Being dead of winter when the number of backpackers are seriously reduced, we had no trouble finding wood for our evening fire. 

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Of all the people we hike and backpack with, no one can build a fire quite like Duane.  A one time Boy Scout and always a perfectionist, he has the “art of the fire” figured out. 

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A warm fire kept us comfy and talking for hours. 

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A glimpse of the Elkmont resort community restoration.

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A Southern Snow!

Yesterday I woke up to a real southern treat, SNOW! Significant snow by our standards,  an official 3″. With salt trucks running the roads on Friday and dire weather predictions all week, I was convinced the snow would turn north and miss us.  Afterall weather fronts often do funny things around our Great Smoky Mountains and as a result, the weather folks usually get it wrong. But they were dead on this time, yay for a good southern snow.

On the other hand, it is good not to be living in Blasdell, NY where 28″ of snow fell. According to the National Weather forecast, 65.4% of the country is currently covered in snow and ice. Brrrrrr!

I intended to be out running 1st thing Saturday morning, 4 miles was the plan.Over the past six weeks my running has really suffered; I went on two weekend trips, spent four snowy days in Quebec City (a later post) and family came in town for the holidays. However, a layer of ice lay below the snow and the temperature hovered around 18 degrees F, so I gave into the situation and took a 3.5 mile walk with my hubby. It was cold!!

Our destination was an out and back to  Ijams Nature Center , the 300 acre cornerstone to South Knoxville’s urban wilderness, a mecca for mountain bicyling, birders, hikers, canoers, SUP boarders, runners and photographers.  This amazing area is a quick 1.5 mile hike (or run) from the house!

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We walked the short .5 mile through our neighborhood and jumped on the Will Skelton Greenway.  The greenway begins in our neighborhood park  on the banks of the Tennessee River and continues along an inlet that branches off the river (above).  Each summer I swear I am going to rent a kayak and paddle through the inlet. 2017 is going to be my year to “get it done”!

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Bird houses were installed along the Will Skelton Greenway in 2016.  I think they are decorative only.  The boxes sit low enough for the curious to peak in on any given walk (not guilty yet).

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The wind was strong Friday night and appears to have prevented the light, fluffy snow from settling on the branches in the trees.  We were not the 1st walkers (or bicyclists) on the greenway, but not many had come before us.

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The water was lovely from the trail lookout in Ijams Nature Center. The inlet is is part of  the same inlet as the first photo, about a mile (probably less by water) east.  During the summer, the vegetation is heavy and the water is not as visible.

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Snowy bridge in Ijams Nature Center

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Winter wonderland

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The ice covering this pond was very superficial.  Like others before us, we did not venture onto the boardwalk for fear of slipping. John had a little incident earlier on another bridge but shhhhh, I didn’t tell you that!

Stay safe!

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On running and December…

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Holiday greenery on a crazy warm day after Christmas!

“Running is nothing more than a series of agruements between the part of your brain that wants to stop and the part that wants to keep going.”  -unknown

It’s over and finished, my first run in weeks. Three slow but happy miles, run by myself with lots of time to think about goals for 2017. Running hasn’t been a priority recently, I have replaced it with meetings, travel, errands and other time filling but lesser important tasks (well, travel always rates near the top of my priority list). As I have moved though these last weeks and months, I realized the little old lady in me is itching to get out.  I can feel her presence in my knees, movements and on the scale and I am just not ready.  So I am looking for some serious motivation to keep me going in the new year!

December has been a whirlwind!  We started the month in Chattanooga, TN with friends for a 2 hour dinner ride on the Tennessee Valley Railway.  We spend the night in the lovely historic Read House Inn in downtown Chattanooga.  Sunday morning was was rainy and cool so we defered exploring outside for another time.

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John and I in the lobby of the historic Read House in downtown Chattanooga. The hotel lobby was beautiful and the rooms quite nice.

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Our dining car on the Tennessee Valley Railway.

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The dining car was very festive, the food was pretty good and we would do this again.

From there we headed north to Canada to historic Quebec City. This is our second visit to this beautiful city and will likely not be our last but I will post more on that later.  We stayed on a gold floor in the fabulous Chateau Frontenec.  December is off season for the city so our beautiful hotel room came at an equally beautiful price.

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Lobby in the Chateau Frontenec, a Fairmont hotel.

We arrived on Sunday evening and woke to very cold and snowy Monday, 8″ of snow before the day came to an end. It finally felt like Christmas to us.  The food, snow and adventure were magical to us but our stay too short.

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Old City Quebec

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The Grand Chateau Frontenec

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Farmers/Christmas market at Marche du Vieux-Port.  I came home with way too many maple sugar products!

As festive as we felt the beginning of the month, we struggled on the lead up to Christmas.  John finally rallied and decorated the house, inside and out. We celebrated Christmas with John’s sons who were in for the holidays as well as a Christmas Day celebration with my sisters.

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We put our tree up and hung a few ornaments.  The tree looked a little more festive once we hung a few ornaments. 

 

 

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Do you believe in the paranormal…

Are you serious about the paranormal or a curious nonbeliever with a sense of adventure?  Last Saturday night, just prior to Halloween, when downtown Knoxville was filled with 100’s of ghosts and zombies and a flash mob may or may not have broken out in the Thriller zombie dance, we joined 20 others on a Haunted Knoxville Ghost Tour to learn about the Knoxville paranormal scene.While John and I maybe curious non believers we were open, even hopeful to the possibility that the spirits of Halloween might play hide and seek with the legends in our city.

Our Haunted Knoxville Ghost Tour was led by J-Adam Smith, a bonifide paranormal investigator who has appeared on Paranormal Television and has participated in a number of investigations in Knoxville and other parts of the country. He is a gregarious, animated and quite knowledgable on the topic of the paranormal in Knoxville.  He is also passionate about his topic.

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J-Adam’s briefcase filled with paranormal detection equipment

As per pre-arrival instructions, participants began to gather in the Market House Cafe on the northern corner of Knoxville’s famed Market Square around 7:15 PM.  J-Adam stood near a table with an open brief case filled with beeping and blinking gadgets, paranormal equipment we later learned.  He greeted each participant with a warm welcome and a Haunted Knoxville Ghost Tours lanyard. As we slipped the lanyards around our necks, we fell into the world of the paranormal for the next few hours.

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Ghost Tour lanyard and free entry into Scruffy City Music Hall

J-Adam began the adventure promptly at 7:30 PM, leading us to the alley behind Urban Outfitters, which we learned was the original site of the 2nd Presbyterian Church and graveyard. Those who wanted to participate in the hunt for ghosts or spirits were equipped with paranormal tools including ghost meters, hand held flash lights, EMF meters (electromagnetic field) and a spirit box. J-Adam explained the nuances of each tool.  I liked the lights and bleeps of the ghost meter so I took one of these. John, ever practical, decided to be an observer.

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Urban Outfitters Alley, the tour begins

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Ghost Meter!!

We quickly discovered that about 1/3 of our group not only knew all  the answers to J-Adam’s questions but were dead serious about the paranormal. As we moved from site to site, this group worked with the equipment, talked to the spirits and kept those of us on the fringes totally engaged. We stopped at sites of long gone funeral homes and graveyards (currently known as back alleys and empty spaces), The Bijou Theater (Lamar House), Knoxville Historial Society (ex-post office-federal court house) and the the 1st Presbyterian Church cemetary.  The history was fascinating, the spirit hunting was entertaining and we thought J-Adam Smith was a super guide. The tour lasted for 3 hours,  a value for the ticket price of  $30/per person.

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East Tennessee History Building once home to federal courts and post office.  According to J-Adam, it is also the site of possible ghost activity

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Our guide,  J-Adam Smith (seated), explaining the details on flashlight use in ghost hunting

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Tour participants on the hunt for spirits

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An empty lot on the corner of Church Avenue and Gay Street which, back in the 1800’s, was the site of a funeral home.  Do ghosts from the funeral home haunt here?  Just ask J-Adam why such a valuable piece of property sits mostly empty with a only a sculpture to occupy the space

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Looking for ghosts and spirits in the 1st Presbyterian Cemetery on State Street

So, did we see any ghosts or hear any spirits?  No, not unles you count a couple of fluttering flashlights and a possible “orb” on someone’s photo. But we learned something about history and the paranormal and we had a really great time and that was worth the time and money spent for the tour!

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1st Presyterian Church Cemetery

 

 

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