Backroads Blog

Highway 64 Eagle
15th February 2017




The Bald Eagle has always been my favorite raptor. In a previous blog post, I stated that I had never seen one until we visited Shiloh Battlefield and saw the resident pair, Hiram and Julia, (and Scarlet). I never dreamed I would see one closer to home, in middle Tennessee.

We travel Highway 64 West all the way to Savannah, Tn. to the turnoff to Shiloh, but we live a little over two hours in the other direction, on hwy. 64 East. We had heard rumors for a year of eagle sightings in our area but had never seen one.
Then one Sunday morning in October of 2016, we were about a mile from our house, headed to church. My husband braked and pulled over to turn around. Conversation was, "what are you doing?", "I'm turning around, there's an eagle in the road", Me, "yea, right".
Sure enough, there was an eagle dining on road kill. As we turned around, he flew to a power pole across the highway and posed for a few photos. Needless to say I was thrilled. We talked about "my eagle" for weeks.



This was enough to keep me for a while, but we never saw him again. Then, shortly after New Years 2017 it came a short snow storm and my husband went to the store before thing got too bad. He came back and burst through the door, "get your camera, lets go". The eagle is just down the highway. YES! our second sighting. This one was feasting on road kill also, flew back and forth across the highway, stopping traffic. She (I think after comparing her photo with the earlier one) landed in an oak tree and sat there for a long time, watching over her breakfast.



In the last few weeks we have seen the pair at a local Fish Hatchery just behind our house. They circle and look for the dead fish cleaned out of the runways. There are several lakes in our area and also the Elk River. I am thrilled that I can now look out my window and actually expect to see a Bald Eagle!
Road Trip to Shiloh
16th March 2016



We've been waiting for a couple of days off to travel to Shiloh Military Park to see the eagles. That opportunity happened the first weekend in March. We left home early Friday morning for Savannah,TN. stopped for breakfast in Lawrenceburg, and arrived about mid morning.


The military history and preservation at Shiloh is incredible. When we made the trip last summer it was all about the Civil War history and it was a nostalgic and a learning experience.




But this trip was all about the EAGLES! Sadly, the famous pair, Hiram and Julia, were missing a member. Julia, the female, had not been seen for a couple of weeks. That was sad, but we did get to see Hiram. As we approached the nesting tree the first trip around, a gentleman with a camera was standing in the road and motioning for us to hurry, and pointing into the tree. The new female, Scarlet, aka Spotted tail was sitting on a limb in the tree. Before long Hiram flew in and went into the nest and began to arrange things. According to the photographers that visit daily, Ms. Scarlet doesn't do a lot of housekeeping, unlike Julia, who was always busy.








There were still no eggs in the nest yet but there have been several reports of mating between the pair, and we did catch a glimpse of one the first day. (The cables on the side of tree are going to the nest cam the park service has above the nest.)





We managed a few shots of the pair before they took off, Jimmie really gets serious when he sees wildlife!





After the eagles left we drove around by the river to the Indian Mounds where the eagles are frequently seen. The mounds and their history are interesting, standing watch over the Tennessee River, they are a sobering sight.





An added treat, we caught a tug boat pushing a barge down the river!





Later that afternoon we went back to the nesting tree and met some wonderful people.
The dedicated photographers who spend a lot of time and put a lot of effort into keeping track of the Shiloh Eagles behavior and nesting, as well as taking and sharing their awesome photos. We left before dusk and ate at a unique little restaurant in Savannah called Molly Mondays, catfish buffet, delicious! End of day one.

DAY TWO.Up early and breakfast in Adamsville, home of famed Buford Pusser.
Arriving at the tree, we met up again with two couples, wonderful photographers. Ronald and Faye Armour and David and Sandra Mayes. No sightings yet so we drove to the river again. When we made it to the tree, the ladies had gone to the Indian mounds to check for activity, with a promise to call their husbands if they saw anything.
Before long a call came in, Hiram headed your way!! He was grasping a large stick in his feet! Hiram dropped the stick in the nest and quickly flew away. (Not the best shot but, oh well).




We had to leave around lunch time but I will say this was a trip I will never forget, just being able to see the great Bald Eagle for the first time was a thrill. Wonderful company and beautiful birds, what more could we ask for? Incredible memories.






Birds of Prey...

The Bears and the Bucks
13th January 2016
It's a New Year! Happy 2016. As usual I have failed to post as often as I should.
This year I'm not making any promises or resolutions. I guess I will get around to posting sooner or later.

I'm going to combine our fall trip in October and our short trip on New Years to Cades Cove and just hit the highlights of each. October was beautiful as usual in the Smokies with lots of autumn foliage. We usually see lots of bucks in the cove getting ready for the rut, but fall 2015 was all about the bears! No disappointments there. With so many spring cubs and a shortage of acorns, bears were very active eating the walnut crop and getting ready for winter.
The rangers did a fantastic job roping off some of the trees where feeding was taking place, but they were also generous to give those lucky enough to park off the road a chance to stay a safe distance and still get photos.

The spring cubs had grown since we were there in May but they were still adorable. A mama and two cubs fed by the road not to far from the entrance every day we were there. One afternoon late we were there shooting and another female approached. Everyone wondered what would happen, but all went well. After a while a huge male came up the horse pasture on the opposite side of the road. Everyone was tense. The lady ranger said, "I've never seen anything like this". I may have to send everyone to their cars...No worries, he ate walnuts on the opposite side of the road and all was peaceful. October 2015 and the bears were an experience I will always remember.






New Years 2016

We usually try to take a quick trip to the cove on New Years to wind down from the holidays.
This year we drove up on New Years day and came back on Jan. 2. Unfortunately I ended up with a stomach bug the morning we left but we still had a good time. The frosty morning on Sparks Lane was beautiful and we saw lots of bucks winding down from the rut.

There were four or five whitetails in the first field each day. Word was they were there every day for several weeks. The highlight of the trip was on the second day when we ran into a buck affectionately named YOYO beside the turn to the Primitive Baptist church. He fed by the road and everyone had opportunity to "shoot" him until he finally wandered off into the woods.



A short but memorable trip..hope to get back in March or April for the wildflowers!!
Spring Cubs
03rd June 2015
It was really hard seeing everyone posting adorable photos of black bear spring cubs in Cades Cove. There was an over abundance of new cubs this year due to an abundance of mast last fall, according to reports. We finally managed an over night trip the first of May, it wasn't near long enough but it was the best we could do.

We were blessed to see a total of 16 (I think) mamas and babies over the two days. Some were too far away for photos, or the bear jams were hindering us getting there in time. The first day we didn't get to the cove until almost lunch time. We headed down Sparks Land and saw a few cars pulled over. There was a huge mama bear feeding just across a small branch of water. The onlookers informed us there were three cubs up a tree. We never saw the cubs, but got a few shots of mama. Two very nice ranger came along and watched with us, they were very helpful.



Day two we barely missed several sightings, then we came upon a mama with one baby, surrounded by people. We went on past and pulled off the road and were getting out of the car when she came through the woods and walked in front of us. A large crowd was following her and we pulled on out again. As we rounded a curve, OH MY GOSH! Mama and baby were on a tree limb over the road. Lucky enough to get a pull over again! We watched and snapped photos as mama went up and down the tree, teaching baby how to climb. Another ranger directing traffic, he was also very nice. Mama finally went down and left baby and began to eat a little ways from the tree. Baby missed her and began to scream at the top of his lungs. Mama came back to the base of the tree and tried to coax him down. She ended up going back up after him and they wandered off into the woods. It was an experience I will never forget.





Exploring Cades Cove
16th February 2015
We've started a new blog dedicated to Cades Cove, our favorite place in the Smokies.
It's a work in progress, but we intend to post lots of interesting facts about the Cove, plus some of our most memorable adventures and photos. You can visit it here:

Exploring Cades Cove

Smoky Mountain Autumn 2014
11th February 2015
My, I'm way behind(again). I have a hard time keeping up with my blog and news posts. Our autumn trip to the Smokies in October was another memorable trip. We saw lots of big bucks, bears, and elk (in Cherokee). One young bear just past the visitor center in Cades Cove posed for us as we drove by. The most memorable moment was on Friday night before we came home. We had driven into Pigeon Forge to meet friends at Cracker Barrel. Coming back down Little River Road after dark, all of a sudden a mother bear lunged from a ditch and into the road, immediately followed by two cubs. My husband slammed on the brakes and we just knew there was no way to miss them. Mother crossed the road but we weren't sure where the cubs were, under the truck maybe? We were afraid to move for fear of running over them. Then mama bear crossed back across the road. My husband said, roll down your window and shoot the camera with flash and see if you can see them. I heard rustling and noise and realized it was a baby climbing the tree beside the truck. One quick flash and I got him, of course the photo was horrible. Then it occurred to me, Mama came back for her babies. Didn't take long to roll the window up. Still not knowing where the other cub, or mama was,we sat there until a truck came up behind us and we moved forward very slowly with flashers on. Not feeling a thud, we began to move away. My heart was racing, it all happened so fast. Just goes to show, you never know when and where wildlife will cross the road. Be Cautious! The photo below is the bear we saw past the visitor center.

Backyard Happenings
16th April 2014
With springtime beginning, and then a cold freezing night last night, I wondered how all my backyard birds would fair, especially the two hummingbirds that have been feeding for a couple of weeks. Not to worry, they were there at the feeder bright and early. I love to watch the feeders early every morning from the kitchen to see if a new visitor shows up in addition to the usual cardinals, finches,bluebirds and now the red-winged blackbirds.

The Eastern bluebirds are my favorite, they have been nesting in our boxes for a few years now. This morning the male watched from the feeder as the female landed below in the yard. no sooner had she landed than a mockingbird swooped down and flogged her. She held her on and came back immediately. As I watched her turn her head from side to side, I saw what had her attention. A big juicy worm, worth fighting for. A couple of tugs and she has him out of the ground and in her beak, headed for the house.






We have had a variety of woodpecker in the backyard, Red-bellied, downy, hairy, and even an occasional Pileated. Two years ago I began seeing several Norther Flickers in the back. This morning I heard a loud pecking in the front yard. When I looked out a Flicker was working away on the bottom of a tree trunk. She is still feeding around the tree so hopefully they will be nesting there this season. The temperature is recovering nicely and SPRING HAS FINALLY SPRUNG!


Wounded in Battle
17th February 2014
I have been fortunate enough to see many different species of wild birds at our backyard feeders, but there is one beautiful bird I had only seen in pictures. The Cedar Waxwings come through, usually in a large group and clean up a holly or other fruit bush.
Yesterday, while having coffee with friends at Burger King, we saw a large group of birds attacking the holly bushes in the parking area. I said, "I wonder if those are Cedar Waxwings", I really would like to see one. My camera was in the car but I hadn't brought my telephoto lens, only a smaller one. My husband went out to take a look and came back with a report. Yes! it was the waxwings.



His phone rang and while he was outside talking, I saw him waving something outside the window and motioning me to come out. When I got outside with my camera, he had an injured waxwing in one hand and still having his phone conversation. The beautiful bird had been hurt and had holly berries stuck to the wound in his chest. Being a Vet-Tech, Jimmie said, I need you to help me, you're going to remove the berries while I hold the bird. (You have to be extremely careful when holding a bird, injured or not).



I gently pulled the berries away and the wound didn't look too bad. He gently put the bird down under a bush, it sat there a few seconds, and then, to our amazement, he flew away!
I did get a few photos, I would rather have had a pic of an uninjured bird, but I was surprised how beautiful the waxwing really is. I did a little playing around in Photo Shop with the last photo, and "healed" his wound, not the best job but, I GOT TO SEE A REAL LIVE CEDAR WAXWING!. Hope he's going to be ok.

Smoky Mountains October 2013
24th October 2013
We arrived in Townsend, Tn. on Monday, October 14th with the park closed because of the government shutdown. We spent the afternoon visiting the Little River Railroad museum and the Heritage Center in Townsend. On Tuesday morning we had our usual breakfast at the Carriage House restaurant and then headed to Cherokee, NC and traveled on the Blue Ridge Parkway to view the fall colors. They were awesome. We went just a little past Waterrock Knob. We arrived back in Cherokee just in time to see the elk come into the field at the Mountain Farm Museum.




When we got back to our motel we found out Cades Cove would be opening Wednesday morning. Good news !!!!! We spent most of Wednesday in the cove, saw big bucks, and seven bear total for the trip. Drove to Roaring Fork and the Emert's Covered Bridge Wednesday afternoon. Rain showers for Thursday, but we were fortunate to be able to travel between showers, to the cove first then back to Cherokee to visit the Lufty Baptist Church and see the elk again. Enjoyed the beautiful pull offs along Newfound Gap. Spent Friday and Saturday morning in Cades Cove and then headed home. It's always sad for me to leave the mountains but it was a very good vacation. Lots of wildlife and nature pics. Busy making them available for purchase on our Fine Art America Artist website. http://donna-marr.artistwebsites.com?affiliateid=A119653
Can't wait till next year!

Moonlight in the Smokies
14th August 2013
I would love to be in Cades Cove after the sun has set and all the traffic is gone. Who knows what one might see after the "light are out". Since I can't manage that, I have been playing with some old photos, trying different processing methods and adding things. The Super Moon we had a few months ago was the perfect opportunity to try my hand at night photos and I will say it didn't turn out as well as I hoped but I did managed to get a few shots that were "ok".. I created a moonlit mood with the Tipton cabin and added the super moon. I also gave the John Oliver cabin a night time theme with the moonlight reflecting off the rail fence. Can't you just imagine the old lantern that was casting a warm glow through the window?

Photography PrintsSell Art Online

Doorknobs and Rusty Hinges
16th July 2013


As the months of summer slowly pass away, I look back over the past year and remember my disappointment of not being able to take a trip to the Smokies last fall, my favorite time of year. It seems like it's been forever, but we have had some wonderful opportunities to travel the local back roads and check out some of the places and things I love best. Our favorite pastime is exploring old abandoned houses and reliving the memories from childhood and discovering the stories behind these forgotten treasures. Things left behind are forgotten and no longer used, but the memories will last forever, and serve as a reminder to cherish our family heritage.

Being a family history researcher a few years back, we know a little of the history behind a lot of the local families and old home places. One old log cabin has been around since the 1800's and one of my great, great, great...aunts married into the family that originally lived there. It's amazing how long some of the old buildings can stand, with a little love and care.
Another old house holds fond memories of a dear lady who died at 100 yrs of age and lived in the same house all her life. It's almost gone now, fallen in from neglect, bu the staircase still stand, a reminder of a long life lived by a wonderful lady.
So many reminders left behind, like an old dishpan, mason jars, old doorknob, trash to some, but treasure to those who appreciate the memories.
We had the privilege to visit and old school house last weekend. History says the last classes were held there in 1929, but the building still stands, complete with the old bell tower. I closed my eyes and it seemed I could still hear that bell ringing across the hills and hollers.
I am thankful for the opportunities and the memories a trip down a country back road can reward me with.

I've created a photo gallery on my Fine Art America site dedicated to the memories.. It's called Doorknobs and Rusty Hinges. It is a work in progress but you are welcome to visit it at http://donna-marr.artistwebsites.com/
The photos below are just a sample of some of the treasures we've found this summer on the backroads of Tennessee.


Photography PrintsArt Prints



Art PrintsArt Prints

Midnight Train Through Milner's Switch
19th February 2013



It's surprising how much history can be found in our own back door. A sudden interest in trains and old train depots a few weeks ago started me thinking and I remembered things my mom and dad said years ago when I was young. I remembered them telling about walking the railroad when they were first married (walking was their only means of transportation for a while). They would walk from Elora, Tn. which is just a few miles from where we now live, to Flintville, Tn. and sometimes on to Kelso, just a few miles down the track. Each small town had a train depot.

I recalled them talking about Milner's switch, near Elora, and a railroad trestle. Then I remembered a story that was popular when my husband and I were in high school. THE FLINTVILLE LIGHT!

Story was, a railroad worker was killed one night on the tracks and on a dark night a bright light would appear on the tracks. It was seen by many from Flintville village to Milner's switch. The light would procede down the track and come close to those watching, then just disappear. No explanation was ever found for the mysterious light.

The tracks are gone now, but not the memories. Now and again we still hear someone mention "the light".

Sometimes memory takes me back in time and I like to visit the places my parents talked about, it seem to make me feel closer to them now that they are no longer here. While out "prowling" a couple weeks ago, we drove just up the road to Elora and discovered there is still a Milner's Switch road. The road came to a dead end on a lovely little farm and a kind man named Mr. Dennison was out cutting bushes. We asked him about the "switch" and where the train used to be. He said "your car is sittin' where the depot and track use to be. WOW! right under my nose all these years.

Not much left now, an old barn and tennant house that sat beside the tracks and a pile of old railroad ties. Mr. Dennison pointed out the old trail where the trestle use to be. It brought back lots of memories of my mom and dad and how life must have been for them. We shouldn't let old memories die, we need to go back and remember every now and then.




The first photo at the top of page is my rendition of how it may have been on a dark night on the railroad. A little merging of photos and some "additions" here and there.

As we were leaving down the driveway I told my husband, I hope when springtime comes we can come back late one afternoon and walk down the trail where the train trestle use to be. Who knows, we just might see the "light". His reply to me was...



http://youtu.be/-WeYObr4W2Y
Lonesome Train Whistle
31st January 2013
On a cold and cloudy January afternoon we drove to the small city of Cowan,TN. We've passed through many times but never stopped at the old depot to see the trains. As we were investigating and taking photos a train whistle blasted through the quiet afternoon. A CSX freight train was approaching and the lights beamed through the afternoon mist. We watched as it slowly made it's way down the track toward the base of the mountain. I think I fell in love with trains that day when I heard that "lonesome whistle blow".



Located at the foot of the Cumberland Mountains on the CSX mainline,the Depot building, which now houses a railroad museum,was built in 1904 along the NC&StL Railway. (Nashville,Chattanooga & St. Louis) and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.



A restored steam locomotive engine sits beside the old railroad depot. A red caboose can be seen on the tracks behind the engine..Notice the "cow catcher" attached to the front of the engine. A cow catcher is a device attached to the front of a train to clear obstacles from the track. Other restored cars include NC&STL diesel locomotives and a GE switch engine. The little city of Cowan is definately not small on history.







Photography Prints

Face in the Forest
18th October 2012
On our first day in the Smokies this fall, I was taking pictures of the autumn foliage behind the Primitive Baptist church in Cades Cove. As I focused on a solitary limb with colorful leaves, I saw a face staring back at me. I thought, ok, it's just my imagination. I took three different photos and it was still there. A crowd gathered and everyone saw the face. Comments were, " that gives me cold chills", "It looks like Jesus with a crown of thorns", My thoughts were, it's my guardian angel. If you enlarge the photo, the face is not there. I promised the small crowd that gathered that I would post the photo. Some things are not meant for everyone to see. Make what you will out of it, a shadow, a reflection, a spirit. It's not intended for a debate, I just know that I still feel goosebumps when I remember.



The Big Cats
31st May 2012
We visited the Chattanooga Zoo for the first time on Memorial Day. Enjoyed seeing new animals we had never seen. Everyone was very nice and took the time to stop and chat with us. It was a great experience, can't wait to visit again. My favorite was the Jaguar, my fist time to see this magnificent big cat. Also enjoyed the Bobcats, one of my favorites, local to our area of middle Tn. We ended up with some awesome photos of the Jaguar, and a few new species to add to our Exotics collection.
http://www.zazzle.com/tnbackroads/gifts?cg=196697673916740693


Jaguar Portrait Print Bobcat Spotlight Portrait

A New Adventure
23rd May 2012
Tennessee Backroads Photography has joined Fineart America! We are adding some of our best photos from the Smoky Mountains as well as local backroads photos, and a few Amish images. I've also included a Fractal gallery to show a selection of the fractals i've created. Fractals are a new venture that I find fascinating. I've also used fractal designs in a new Zazzle store called Frilly Fractals. http://www.zazzle.com/frillyfractals
Below is just a sample of our artwork. Hope you enjoy and visit often!



Art Prints

Shakerag Hollow
01st May 2012



Well,it's been a while since I updated! It's been a busy spring, haven't had a chance to visit the Smokies, so we went to a nearby spot, Sewanee mountain in Franklin Co. Tn. We hiked a short way on the trails in Shakerag Hollow and found a few things blooming that we normally see in the Smokies. A very unusual growth on a juvenile oak tree left us scratching out heads and wondering. My husband decided it was a fungus so I did a little research. I found that it is a Wool Sower Gall. The Wool Sower Gall is produced by a tiny parasitic wasp.The grubs live inside these galls. They look like fuzzy white balls with red splotches. The mountain laural was blooming this past Sunday, April 29th. We've missed it in the mountains the last few years, so I enjoyed seeing it. Nothing compares to the Smokies but we do have some beautiful local trails available. Check my Shakerag gallery to see a few of the photos we took.


Wool Sower Gall
Smoky Mountain Wildflowers
28th February 2012

Bird Foot Violet print




Spring time is fast approaching in the Smokies and with it comes a variety of beautiful and delicate wildflowers. If you've never been to the mountains in the spring you don't know what you're missing! From March through October if you look closley you will find a different varitey every month. The beautiful bunch of Bird-foot Violets above was in bloom on the Foothills Parkway. Their bright lavender color adds a promise of spring. Sometimes called Crow Foot violets, they are named for the leaf which resembles a bird foot. Just one example of the many springtime treasures found in the "land of blue smoke".
Check our Wildflower and Spring 2009 sections by clicking the gallery tab for more beautiful wildflowers from the Smoky Mountains and Tennessee Backroads!
John Oliver Cabin
25th January 2012
The John Oliver cabin in Cades Cove is one of the oldest preserved structures in the Smokies. John and Lucretia Oliver were among the first settlers and lived a rough life the first few years trying to clear the land. The only roads into the cove were Indian trails and it was said the family would have starved that first winter if not for the Indians. Despite the hardships the Olivers made it and what a beautiful view they had of the Cove!

John Oliver Homestead printSpringtime at the John Oliver Cabin print

Smoky Mountain Reflections
21st January 2012
Well, we are already three weeks into a new year. I've decided to do things a little differently for a while in my blog section of the site. I'm going to be posting mini facts and tidbits about the Smoky Mountains and things pertaining to the many buildings, wildlife and wildflowers. The land of Blue Smoke holds a special place in our hearts and we've enjoyed visiting and photographing it's many treasure.

Smoky Mountain Reflections print



Smoky Mountain Reflections
A rustic view through the window of a mountain cabin reflects memories from the past. A portion of the old chimney is shown along the outside wall with a reflected view of the interior of the kitchen. Several out buildings and barns surround the house giving a glimpse into the way of mountain farm life in the Appalachians. This pioneer cabin is located at the Mountain Farm Museum in the Smoky Mountains just outside Cherokee, NC. Built by John Davis, this cabin is just one of many historic buildings preserved by the park for future generations to enjoy.

Tennessee Backroads Photography