Erwin and Unicoi: Small on Size Big on Adventure

Back porch of one of the modern cabins on the property.

Tucked away in the Blue Ridge mountains of Northeast Tennessee lies the small town known as Erwin, Tennessee.  Its county name, Unicoi, shared with its nearby neighbor, the Town of Unicoi, is derived from an old Native American word meaning “hazy” or “fog draped.” The adventure and fun that awaits in this small mountain community far exceeds its size.

Recently, my family and I enjoyed several active afternoons hiking, fishing and rafting in Erwin and Unicoi. We also enjoyed down home cooking and toured a local artisan’s pottery shop.  An afternoon can be full in this lovely community, but if you enjoy both the outdoors and the feel of a small town all rolled into one weekend, why not consider a stay in Erwin, Tennessee?

To begin your weekend with great accommodations, consider booking a cabin through Mountain River Guides. They offer lodging for all group sizes and needs. If you are looking for modern lodging, consider the cabin featured on Tiny House Nation or a Tiny House on Wheels. They also have several recently remodeled and tastefully decorated lodges. If you have a large group and want a more rustic camp experience, they offer a cabin with bedding for up to 47 people. The Crockett Cabin has electricity but no running water. A nearby bathhouse provides for your needs and a communal kitchen is shared by everyone for your convenience. For more information on lodging, visit Mountain River Guides.

Our tour guides, Chris and Dave, were absolutely perfect.

While you are booking your lodging, be sure to make reservations for your outdoor adventures. Mountain River Guides and USA Raft offer numerous rafting, caving and fishing opportunities. Our family of five went fishing on the Nolichucky River and had a great time. Our tour guides, Chris and Dave, were absolutely perfect. They supplied us with everything we needed, offered instruction on the proper use of the gear before we left, and continued the training and guidance while on the water.  Whether you catch a fish or not, the views you catch will more than make up for it!  You will not be disappointed spending time on the Nolichucky with Mountain River Guides and USA Raft – check out this rafting adventure.

Opportunities for outdoor adventure in Erwin continue on land. Erwin’s location in the Cherokee National Forest makes it a great location for hiking, camping and sightseeing.  If photography is your hobby, the aptly named Beauty Spot located along the Unaka mountain range will not disappoint.

As a homeschooling mom, I was also excited about the opportunity to tour Stegall’s Pottery & Crafts Gallery. Nancy and Alan Stegall happily offer a tour of their facility to see the “day-to-day” production of their pottery. I had previously met  Nancy and Alan after stumbling in from an afternoon of window shopping and was immediately impressed with the beauty of their pottery.

Advertised as “functional pottery,” they offer handmade items that are both useful and beautiful. My two older children and I enjoyed a wonderful morning with these local artisans as they shared their story and their passion for pottery.  While stationed in  the U.S. Air Force in Hawaii, Alan and Nancy first developed a love for working with clay and pursued that love until Alan’s retirement allowed for he and Nancy to continue creating beautiful and functional pottery right here in their Tennessee home.

Alan and Nancy walked us through the entire process demonstrating that not only do they create and design the pottery, but also many of the tools they use to craft the pottery. On our visit, Alan and Nancy were actually in between craft shows and were restocking for the next show, but they graciously described the process and demonstrated much of the equipment needed to craft the pottery.  Alan shared with me that early in the making of their grandparent coffee cups, they began to get numerous requests for the various names for grandparents. To date they have over 60 different labels for their coffee cups from the southern “mamaw,” to “Oma,” “GG” and so forth.  As I learned about what it took to make my beautiful “mama” coffee cup, I was impressed by how much work was involved.  Despite the amount of time and attention to detail, their pottery is still quite affordable.  While in Erwin be sure to stop in and get yourself a beautiful and functional work of art at Stegall’s Pottery and allow time to tour the facility.  It is fascinating.

This is your momma’s Southern cooking at its finest.

After a day of shopping, hiking, or rafting the Nolichucky, be certain you will have worked up an enormous appetite!  Next door to Erwin in the Town of Unicoi, Whistle Stop Deli & Catering will take care of that enormous appetite with an enormous lunch! The kids and I stopped here after the pottery tour and, wow, were we impressed. My children have food allergies, and I was thankful to discover they could eat the daily special of Pan Fried Chicken along with two sides and a dinner roll.  This is your mama’s Southern cooking at its finest. We enjoyed sides of clearly homemade macaroni and cheese, the freshest green beans, and mashed potatoes. Perhaps we should’ve had this meal on the day of the hike instead of the pottery tour.  I splurged and let my kids have a tea and, again, the size was enormous!  They were happy, but bedtime came a little later that night. I was too full for dessert, but be sure, I picked up a slice of carrot cake to take home.  It was equally enormous and delicious!

A visit to Erwin and the Town of Unicoi in Northeast Tennessee is a great way to enjoy this beautiful region.  If you enjoy outdoor adventure, relaxing scenery, hand crafted gifts and down home food, then look no further than the lovely small town communities of Erwin and Unicoi.

For more information on Erwin, the Town of Unicoi and other areas of  Unicoi County, visit www.unicoicounty.org.


Written by: Amanda Bowers of VeraVise WOW Travel