X Marks the Spot

X Marks the Spot

October 1st, 2013 by Jennifer Bardoner in Getout Bestmonth

The birthplace of Davy Crockett.

The namesake of a now-defunct 1,350-year-old tree.

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For more information about Tennessee State Parks visit tnstateparks.com or connect via Facebook or Twitter. For a free brochure about Tennessee State Parks call 888-867-2757. To download the Pocket Ranger app and sign up for the Passport Challenge, which runs until Sept. 1, 2014, visit pocketranger.com.

The last seat of the Cherokee Nation before its relocation to Oklahoma.

The site of the largest group of Middle Woodland Native American mounds in the United States.

The home of the highest freefall waterfall east of the Mississippi River.

These are just some of the things that await visitors at Tennessee's 54 state parks. In an effort to promote the state's extensive park network-selected by industry officials as best in the nation in 2007, when the system was recognized with the Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management-Tennessee State Parks is launching a Passport Challenge. Ever been camping at Harrison Bay State Park? Or taken your mountain bike to Booker T. Washington State Park? Have you made the annual fall foliage trek to Fall Creek Falls? Then you're already essentially a Passport Challenge contender.

Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park

Participants, who need only download a free app called Pocket Ranger, earn points for each Tennessee State Park visited, with more remote areas gaining them more points than easily accessible ones. The first person to visit all 54 will win the grand prize of a $100 gift card to an outdoor retailer. The runner-up will receive a $50 gift card to an outdoor retailer, and the first 10 people to visit 10 individual state parks will be awarded Pocket Ranger gear. With a state park located within an hour's drive from just about anywhere in the state-four within an hour's drive of Chattanooga and twice as many just an extra hour away-your odds of snagging a prize are pretty good. That is, in addition to all the great hiking, biking, camping, swimming, hunting, fishing, educational and memory-making opportunities you'll be treated to no matter what.

So why not join the more than 25 million annual visitors to Tennessee State Parks? You just might be surprised at what you find in your own backyard. The Pocket Ranger app is not only the interface through which visitors record their visits, it also includes interactive information including related history, special events, available amenities, even advanced GPS and GIS mapping that allows visitors to track and record all trails, mark waypoints and find friends inside the park.

Need even more reasons to visit a TN State Park?

How about one of these special events happening in October?

Oct. 4: Norris Dam is hosting Pickin' in the Park featuring old-time bluegrass in the park's outdoor amphitheater. No admission cost. Call Ranger Mike Scott at 865-426-7461 to learn more. Travel time: 2 hours, 9 minutes

Oct. 18-20: Cove Lake is featuring the fourth annual Knappin and Primitive Skills Festival. Knapping is the shaping of fracture stones such as flint and chert into arrowheads, knives, etc. The free festival includes demonstrations on bow making, flint knapping, pottery, fire making and more. For more information call 423-566-9701. Travel time: 2 hours, 8 minutes

Oct. 26: Wild Foods Day is coming to Fall Creek Falls. Field trips will help visitors identify edible wild plants and there will be workshops on preparing wild meats and breads, culminating in a "wild" feast. For more information call 423-881-5298. Travel time: 1 hour, 19 minutes

Oct. 26-27: Red Clay State Park is hosting the annual Inter-Tribal Pow Wow that features traditional Native American dance, storytelling, living history demonstrations and more family-friendly activities. The festival is free but there is a $5 parking fee per vehicle. Call 423-478-0339 to learn more. Travel time: 44 minutes

Ongoing in October: Big Ridge State Park hosts Ghost House Hikes on Friday and Saturday nights, when rangers share spine-tingling stories from Big Ridge's past during a 1.2-mile hike. The hike is free but reservations and a personal flashlight are required. No one under age 6 admitted. Call 865-992-5523 to learn more or RSVP. Travel time: 2 hours, 16 minutes