Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Cumberland Plateau – A true treasure in the Eastern U.S.

The Cumberland Plateau is a deeply dissected plateau that uplifts more than 1000 feet above surrounding valley floors, and that stretches northeastward through northern Alabama and extreme NW Georgia, through Tennessee, and through much of eastern Kentucky. (See enclosed map showing the Cumberland Plateau in yellow). 

The Cumberland region consists of many spectacular cliffs, gorges (locals call them “gulfs”), rock outcroppings, caves, and waterfalls. In Tennessee, the Cumberland Plateau's western border is the Highland Rim east of the Nashville Basin, and its eastern edge is marked by Walden Ridge, which continues south into Alabama as Sand Mountain.  Walden Ridge and Sand Mountain are separated from the main portion of the Cumberland Plateau by the Sequatchie Valley, which extends into central Alabama under other valley names. The Cumberland Plateau is one of the most bio-diverse areas of the United States.  It contains some of the largest stretches of contiguous forest in the eastern U.S.  A great description of Tennessee's Cumberland Plateau can be found here.

We were swept by the sheer beauty of the Cumberlands, and gained a respect for the locals who have learned how to make a living in the Cumberlands' harsh conditions. One person's description of the tenacity it took, less than a century ago, to live in the Cumberlands is found in a book from the publishers of ORGANIC GARDENING magazine, called “Lasagna Gardening,” written by Patricia Lanza, whose grandmother mentored her in the Crossville, TN area.

In the introduction section of her book, Patricia wrote the following: “When I was a child, growing up in the Cumberland Mountains of eastern Tennessee, I would watch my widowed grandmother get ready to plant her garden. She would hitch the mule to an old plow and, throwing the reins over her shoulders, guide the plow up and down, making long straight rows. Grandmother was a small woman; the mule was big and the plow heavy. The soil was one part dirt to two parts rock. I can't imagine how hard it was to plow that garden, but watching her do it, made a lasting impression on me. It was there the seed was sown that would grow [me] into a gardener.”

Grant Miller is the founder of the intentional community in which we live, called the Village on Sewanee Creek. He caught the vision of this area about 10 years ago, purchased property, and began selling parcels to those who shared his vision. His “SewaneeCreek” website lured us to check out the area, and ultimately to purchase property here. We have never regretted the decision. In future posts, I will describe the area in more detail and shed a little more light on the Village that we live in, and how we interact in a way that enriches our lives so abundantly. Below are just a couple of photos taken by Grant within the boundaries of the Village.

View from Village at Sewanee Creek
Miller Falls

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