Van Life, Tiny Homes & Handgliding: An American Road Trip (Photo Essay)
Writer/Photographer Parker Hilton & his fiancee share their gorgeous, nature-hewn trip to Tennessee & Northern Georgia...
It’s time we face the facts—us New Yorkers all live a very different existence than our fellow Americans. We have cities and beaches un-paralleled by the other, our fellow Americans. We bask in the glory of New England's history and dependably comforting architecture. Although there may be a wealth of contentment to be found in our little North Eastern nook, something is often left to be desired. Our thronged metropolises and pulsing oceanfronts are beautiful, yes, but space is often something our Instagram obsessed populace craves at the end of the day.
We gawk at the wide open spaces of the western frontier and the endless expanses of Oregon’s rain forests and Nevada’s deserts only to bump into our neighbor on the L and scoff disapprovingly at our own congestion.
Any semblance of a pressure release valve is often placed begrudgingly on the back burner as our wanderlust bows to tomorrows morning meeting. It’s a depressing realization but a factual one, disappearing out into the farthest corners of Alaska’s Adak islands is unreasonable when work beckons on Monday.
Feeling the full grip of meetings, tax season, and general adult-ing, myself and my fiancé, Jenelle Kappe, we’re in the thick of a very similar bind. We needed to get away, we dreamt about open spaces and solitude, but we couldn’t find the time. That is, until the little chirp of wanderlust became unbearable and we pulled the trigger on a stinger mission to the interior American south east.
We had ten days to spare, just long enough to see what all the buzz was about in Tennessee and northern Georgia. A region underestimated for its beauty, history, and adventure possibility. Allow me to help you plan based on our experiences:
This Tiny Home encampment in northern Georgia is run by two of the greatest hosts a road weary tramp could imagine. Joe and Brian have been running the show here for a few years and are constantly working to improve. They already have an amazing communal bonfire pit and a hot tub overlooking the Tennessee-Georgia border. The tiny homes are everything you want them to be and glow in a fortitude of pinterest-able glory each night as the southern sun sinks low.
Pat’s Place - A Greasy Spoon in GA
As you’re leaving Live-A-Little, stop here for a bite. Allow me to introduce you to Pat’s place. You’re right Dorthy, you’re not in Kansas anymore. The menu is about as simple as you could imagine. The eggs are greasy and the chicken is fried. It’s exactly what you’d expect and a very good way to set the pace for your adventure.
Pura Vida - Healthy Greens in Chatanooga
Are you wandering the streets of Chattanooga craving something green and not deep fried? This is your spot. Get something organic in your system and remind your body what fresh tastes like.
Cloudland Canyon Hike
Just south of Chattanooga, locals claim you can see four waterfalls within an hour. We got three and have zero complaints. Prepare to climb some stairs and brace yourself for some very unrepresented instagrammable beauty.
Lookout Mountain Hang Gliding
Ever been gliding? Talk to Brian at Live-A-Little and he’ll tell you the most sidesplittingly hilarious and jaw dropping tales of soaring over the South African jungles. He’ll then point you in the direction of this place, a short drive down the road from your tiny home. For a very low fee you’ll find yourself thousands of feet above your new favorite destination and you’ll grin a grin that only the warmth of the south can stir up.
The Walnut Street Bridge
A beautiful introduction to this southern gem. Galavant across this walking bridge as you contemplate the pivotal nature this city played in the revolutionary war, specifically the battle of missionary ridge. Enjoy the worlds largest walking bridge and plan your day in this lovely little burg.
Yes, it’s touristy as all hell and the carseats are kitschy and uncomfortable but the bar-b-que is that good. Be a tourist for half an hour and eat some damn good hog.
The Blue Ridge Parkway
Every inch of this road in any season you can catch it is exactly what you need at any given point. This goldmine of seclusion and 35mph road force a slower mindset, a refreshed perspective, and a much needed meditative breath.
I could write pages about how much I appreciate this 400+ mile stretch of road but I’ll opt to let the photos speak for me. You want this. You want this bad. Get out there and grab it.
"My brother, where do you intend to go tonight?
I heard that you missed your connecting flight,
To the Blue Ridge Mountains, over near Tennessee"
*BONUS* Bluegrass Night at the Station Inn
If you’re like us and you roll into Nashville on a Sunday night with minimal plans do yourself a favor and get to the Station Inn. Doors open promptly at 7:30pm and the line should be wrapping around the block by then. Go in and listen to the old timers as they pluck some tunes while you eat shitty nachos and drink whatever beer is on tap.
Soak in the ambiance and let the music take hold because I promise you by 9:30, there will not be an inch of standing room in the house and the most face-meltingly incredible bluegrass you’ve ever heard will be surging threw your ears.
As the night goes on the young guns come in and pick up instruments as the older players bow out. All of the players sit at eye level and all the spectators sit in those flimsy plastic chairs from 6th grade lunch we all know and love. The talent only gets more intense and your conversations will slow to a complete pause. This is worth your time.
Keen to continue on your journey of internet wanderlust? Check out the New Library Photo Guide to London
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Big ups' to Parker and Jenelle for sharing their travels with us! <3
Parker is a photographer, writer, traveler and adventurer based out of NJ and wherever his van, Scarlet, takes him and, his fiancee Jenelle, and his pup, Emma.