Travelers who’d like to combine the bustle of Nashville with the polar opposite of bustle ought to consider a visit to Edgar Evins State Park. Located west of Cookeville and about an hour fromdowntown Nashville, the state park offers condo-style “cabins”, camping, a marina with a restaurant, swimming, hiking and a whole lot of restful seclusion.
The park, founded in 1975, encompasses 6,000 acres on the shores of Center Hill Lake. It’s a popular spot for birdwatching with three species of owls, bald eagles and the rare Cerulean Warbler in the summertime. About 11 miles of trails include the new Hillside Storybook Trail designed for early readers. Fishermen can try for three species of bass, crappie, walleye, catfish and trout in the 18,000-acre Center Hill Lake. Rangers make regular presentations on camping and fishing and offer regular sunset cruises on a pontoon boat.
My husband and I stayed there recently in one of the cabin units overlooking the swimming pool. The lodging is no five-star hotel, but it was clean and comfortable. It was too hot to hike, so we floated in the pool and read in the shade beside it. We cooked dinner one evening (the cabin provides a full kitchen, and there are grills and a picnic shelter behind the cabins) and found a meat-and-three diner, the Rose Garden, not far away on the second night. We rescued two box turtles from the roads through the park, saw wild turkeys strut across a field and a raccoon slip into the woods, and sat quietly while several deer grazed nearby in the evening. We watched the sun set over Center Hill Lake, turning it rose, then silver as the light waned.
When you’re ready to lay your novel aside and venture out, there are interesting options nearby. The Joe L. Evins Appalachian Center for Craft, a part of Tennessee Tech University, is an exit away off Interstate 40. Also located around Cookeville are other state parks to visit: Rock Island, Burgess Falls and Cummins Falls. And the aforementioned Nashville with its boot scootin’ and shopping and dining opportunities, is just an hour west.
For more about Edgar Evins State Park and all of Tennessee’s parks, go to tnstateparks.com/about/find-a-park.