Journal of 100 Miles

Celebrating the communities and culture along the 100 miles of the Natchez Trace Parkway in Tennessee.

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Happy Trails – Journal of 100 Miles Vol. 4

Our latest journey off the Natchez Trace took place, and in what better fashion, on horseback!  We explore a picturesque area of Fly, TN and a stone’s throw from the Natchez Trace riding trail that actually covers a total of 25 miles for a good day’s ride. Our 90 minute ride was enough to see some pretty land and hear amusing stories.  Read  Happy Trails in Southern Exposure Magazine.

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It’s the Mule’s time to shine.  Known as the Mule Capital of the World, Columbia, TN sees thousands of onlookers and participants in their signature event each spring.  They can be called such things as a hinny or  john or mollie, but in the end, they are all bred to become one in the same – the Mule.

Kicking off the event was the Wagon Train starting from Leiper’s Fork and following the Old Tennessee Trail down to Columbia.

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Trace of Light – Photographer Mike Serkownek

Living a few miles off the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mt. Pleasant, TN is Mike Serkownek, businessman turned photographer. Having traveled to many parts of the country to capture beautiful landscapes through his camera, he claims, “The best places you do your best work seem to be close to home.” With the convenience of neighboring the Trace, he will often go back and find a different look to each setting depending on the time of year. Serkownek is intrigued by his discoveries and the mystery of whether he’ll find something he’s been looking for or fall upon that moment, “When it just happens to become a great picture,” the photographer says.

A lover of nature and supporter of environmental preservation, Serkownek’s photos have appeared numerous times on the cover of Tennessee Conservationist Magazine.  His keen eye for composition and play on light can turn simple elements like water, the sun, moon and leaves into a compelling work of beauty. Patience and observation allows him to find those moments that, captured on one particular day, will inevitably change with the season or simply by a rainy day.  A mere ripple in the water changes with the wind.  A winter fog reveals a river that will glow with the spring blossoms.  His work is a reminder of how nature in itself gives a photographer plenty of choices for fine details. Favorite spots for Mike to work include Fall Hollow, Water Valley and Metal Ford.

Emerging from Serkownek’s work is a heightened awareness of his surroundings.  His daughter, Rachel, points out by saying, “You see things I don’t see.” A talent also appreciated by wife Sandra and youngest daughter, Sara.

Serkownek strives for a “picture with a story in it; one that moves you somehow. “  He will attest, “There are two pictures in one:  the photographer’s and the viewer’s.”

Mike is a mostly self-taught photographer who has been featured in numerous publications, galleries and festivals.  He teaches classes and workshops in his home and on site in digital photography basics, composition, exposure and printing.  To experience nature, wildlife and rural life at it’s best among light, visit Mike Serkownek at

December 2009

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Meriwether Lewis Remembered

Commemorates 200th Anniversary of Lewis’ Death

It will be an affair to remember as hundreds will gather to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the death of Meriwether Lewis of the exploration duo Lewis and Clark. A true American hero whose death remains a mystery, Lewis will finally receive a much deserved official memorial service on Wednesday, October 7, 2009 at 2:30pm.

At the end of the winding lane off milepost 385.9 on the Natchez Trace Parkway in Hohenwald, is the peaceful setting of Lewis’ gravesite and memorial where the event will take place honoring the man who sacrificed for his country and for his achievements and contributions to our nation.  Among those joining the event will be family descendants of both Lewis and Clark, government officials, tribal chiefs, representatives from Monticello, re-enactors from the Lewis and Clark Expedition bicentennial and people from across the country along with a moving performance from the 101st Airborne Infantry Band and a drum and fife corps.

Following this historical event are weekend festivities in the surrounding area of Hohenwald which include the town’s Oktober Heritage Festival (Oct. 9-10), a performance at the Strand Theatre (Oct. 9, 10, 16, 17) bringing to life the story of Meriwether Lewis and a festive time at Amber Falls Winery with their Meriwether Lewis commemorative wine release along with entertainment through the weekend.

What a great time to experience Hohenwald!  For more information

October 2009

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Tommy Thompson – Plein Air Artist

There are winding roads neighboring the Natchez Trace Parkway where Tommy Thompson can be found capturing his surroundings.  “I always want to know what’s around the bend,” he says, as he loves to discover new places with his wife, Marie.  For this plein air artist, around the bend is a few more miles of the unknown and endless possibilities.  When finding that perfect spot, where sunlight dances on the fields, he’ll pull out his easel and, like a poet putting words to paper, brush paint to canvas of a peaceful landscape and unsuspecting subjects.

Thompson’s impressionistic style with a play on light and color creates a tranquil display of a rural environment along with elements that “give life” to his art.  Horses and children are among his specialty. “With both you have to stay with them long enough for them to get accustomed to you, when they finally get quiet and move away from you, you can get a natural painting.”

The former architectural and commercial illustrator turned painter has been featured in numerous publications and solo exhibitions throughout the south and has studied under top painters like Kevin McPherson, Roger Dale Brown and Jason Saunders.  A labor of love, to be a painter, he will declare, “You have to work at it every day, never stop painting.”

Inspired by the Tennessee’s hillsides, his work here includes Dream Acres, Hillside Horses and Southern Light.  Left, Tommy paints with equine friend Sedona.  This picture was published in the Winter 2008 issue of Horses in Art Magazine.

To inquire about Tommy Thompson artwork, please visit and tell them sent you.

August 2009

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The Dragonfly Emporium

The dragonfly is a luminous creature of change and a messenger of life’s beauty, a reminder of the importance of making every minute special and to not limit ourselves.  It is also the inspiration behind the Dragonfly Emporium, a unique café housed in a small cottage, circa 1938, that sits on Second Avenue in Collinwood.

Owner David Harrison, grew up under the influence of an entrepreneurial father in the grocery business in West Tennessee. With years of retail experience, he took his knowledge to the bustling town of Atlanta, GA.  After spending a decade in the metropolitan area working in the restaurant business, he learned to enjoy the culture and the crowds, but knew it was time to make a change.

Family ties drew Harrison to Collinwood where his parents had bought his great-grandmothers house.  When fire overtook the home a few years ago, Harrison made a permanent move to help design and build a new home for them.   While looking for other work, he came across a job to renovate an old house, and noticing the “For Sale” sign, decided to make an offer on what appeared to be a promising venture.  In conversations with community members about what type of business might be needed, Harrison determined the town called for something new and different.  Marrying his knowledge of retail and a genuine knack for working with the public, Harrison came up with the perfect emporium experience, featuring locally created arts & crafts, antiques, gift items and a fun and inviting coffee lounge.

The atmosphere is definitely one of a cozy and eclectic ambiance.  A small front porch with a bistro table welcomes you as you enter.  On occasion, local artists will be creating their work out there.   Inside is a comfortable café surrounded by adjoining rooms that house the unique gifts and antiques while Big Band music plays overhead creating a hip and nostalgic vibe and very original environment.  David has made a successful attempt at creating a great brand – the name coming from serendipitous moments where the dragonfly would keep appearing – where people are proud to say, “I got this at the Dragonfly.”

The proprietor has a wonderful philosophy when it comes to owning a business, as he states, “To give people the best you can give them because they deserve it, there’s no reason not to give the best you can offer.”  Harrison speaks highly of the support and cooperation among the town of Collinwood and hopes he can contribute to building the town as a destination for travelers, as well as, a great place to shop for local folks.

Even more interesting, Harrison’s conviction on life, “Don’t put the good china in the cabinet, use it all the time and enjoy it.”  Just as the Dragonfly Emporium makes every minute special for visitors.

July 2009

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Bonnie Blue Farm

A warm Natchez breeze gently rustles the leaves, as a field of goats grace the landscape below.  Stoically poised amongst the peaceful flock lies Mya, one of three Great Pyrenees who watches over Bonnie Blue Farm.  Amongst her, are Nubian and Saanens, goats and kids, frolicking full of delight in a field warmed and nourished by the summer sun. All of this peace is entrusted to the wise beyond her two years, Mya.  There is something heartwarming about this sweet farm scene, as well as the couple who owns and runs it.

Jim and Gayle Tanner are the proud owners of Bonnie Blue Farm (, located in Waynesboro, Tennessee.  As you make your way through the establishment, the grassy green scenery is scattered with rustic wood buildings built by the couple.  A combination of hard work and knowledge helped established the farm three years ago, and most recently the fruits of their labor has yielded a 28 foot deep underground cheese-aging cave, that boasts 1,000 square feet, currently the only one in Tennessee.  The goats provide the milk and then the Tanners begin the age-old process of making cheese.  The cave is used to allow the cheese to cure, build, and ripen the flavor and texture that goat cheese is highly regarded for.

Although the farm is relatively new, Gayle has been in the cheese making industry since the early 1970’s and studied at the renowned Culinary Institute of Nappa Valley, California.  Goat cheese is healthier and more easily digestible, making it a tasty choice, and a health savvy alternative to dairy based cheeses.  The Tanners sell the farmstead cheese at local farmers’ markets as well as directly from the farm.  When asking Jim why it is important or even necessary to buy locally produced cheese, Jim says, “You know where it comes from, when buying cheese in stores you don’t always know that.  A lot of times it comes from a long ways away and it’s not fresh.”

After enjoying a piece of Bonnie Blue’s goat cheese, you too will see the difference in freshness and smile as kids play in the sunny field while Mya tirelessly looks on.  There is something simple and romantic about the relationship between land, animal, and person, all of which is explored and utilized right near you and me. Who knows, you might even see Mya catching an afternoon nap under the cool shade of a tree.

June 2009

By Rebecca Marquis