Won’t You Take Me to Monkeytown?

Rhea County Court House, Dayton, TN

Find adventure crossing an ocean or crossing the street.

That’s the tagline of this blog. And words to live by. Often, when we think of travel, we think of the big, epic, bucket-list trips, but that’s a mistake! Don’t put travel and adventure on hold until you have the time or money for that. Just go somewhere. Anywhere.

That’s how I found myself in Dayton, Tennessee.

Three days into a post-holiday food and Netflix binge I decided I needed to get out. A day hike, a quick overnighter, something. I call Susan, who lives in Tennessee, to meet me at Fall Creek Falls State Park to chase some waterfalls.

Since it’s about a two and half hour drive from home, I look for a hotel nearby. Closest Holiday Inn is in Dayton, Tn., population 10,000ish. I book the room and discover that the Laurel-Snow Pocket Wilderness Trail is located on the outskirts of town. Another day hike won’t hurt. It may even make a dent in my holiday indulgences. Seriously, my diet has most closely resembled that of Buddy the Elf since Thanksgiving.

At 256 feet, Fall Creek Falls is the highest free-fall waterfall east of the Mississippi.

Fall Creek Falls, Spencer, Tn

A short trail from the parking lot leads down to the base of the waterfall and due to the recent cold snap, it’s a frozen wonderland. Icicles hang off rocks along the trail and frost glistens on the boulders in the gorge. Really pretty. But that’s not all…..

The park is also home to Piney Falls, Cane Creek Falls, and Cane Creek Cascades. And two super-cool suspension bridges! We had a great day exploring. First time for me at this park and I’ll definitely return.

Saying our goodbyes, I head over to Dayton for the night.

Driving through the quaint, historic downtown area, I stop by the courthouse.

Much ado has been made about this courthouse on the drive in and I want to see what’s up. Well, I’ll tell you what’s up. Dayton is the home of the Scopes Trial, formally known as The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes but you may know it as the Scopes Monkey Trial.

You know, where they tried a substitute teacher for teaching human evolution in science class. Upon further investigation, Mr. Scopes agreed to be tried, the whole thing was essentially a publicity stunt to increase tourism to the town. Clarence Darrow reluctantly agreed to represent Scopes, he was worried that the trial would become a circus….no lie….he used those words. Fascinating stuff. Read more about the Monkey Trial here.

The next morning, after the usual trailhead confusion (if you go here don’t put Laurel Falls in your GPS), our hike begins.

Within a quarter of a mile, we (my friend Lesa drove up) come across an abandoned mine. It’s not closed off, although I’m sure it’s frowned upon to explore, we go in. Spiderwebs cling to the ceiling. With the dew frozen on them, they glisten like leftover holiday ornaments. I don’t know how far you can go….there doesn’t seem to be anything blocking access….but fifteen feet is probably enough and we’ve got a waterfall to get to.

This hike is amazing, it may be my favorite of the year. The first 1.5 miles is fairly flat and hugs the boulder-strewn Richland Creek, passing blue holes, the abandoned coal mine, a reservoir, and countless waterfalls. The trail veers to the right where, at some point in time, there was a fifty-foot bridge over the creek. The bridge was slated to be replaced in 2017. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t.

No worries, some enterprising outdoorsmen or women have constructed a bridge of sorts with three or four logs to make the crossing. Trekking through gorges and house-sized boulders will eventually land you at the base of the majestic 85 foot Laurel Falls.

Laurel Falls, Pocket Wilderness, Dayton TN

I like to end a hike with a summit beer, which is funny since I rarely summit anything, but let’s not split hairs.

We head to the Monkeytown Brewing Company to care of both the beer and some lunch. I’m not proud to tell you that it took until we’d ordered our food for me to connect the dots on the name. Monkeytown is a pretty cool name regardless of a famous, or would that be infamous, trial.

With epic OPI-like names ala Pink Beery Smoothie and Cuckoo for Coco-Nuts, I settle on the I Like My Cookies With a Little Kareem which is a Milk Stout made with Oreo cookies. I know, it sounds gross, but at the server’s urging I try it and it’s delish.

Great food, good beer, and service all hit the spot and it’s time to head home. Another fun trip to a random spot is in the books.

Growler, Monkeytown Brewing Co., Dayton TN

So, what are you waiting for? Don’t let time, money, and/or distance stop you from your next adventure. It’s right there waiting for you; I bet it’s not even that far from where standing right now!