Front Porch Blog

Choose Your Own [Historical] Adventure: An Appalachian Travel Guide

By Rachel Ellen Simon — Editorial Communications Intern, Fall 2013
A graduate student in Appalachian Studies, Rachel was a frequent contributor to The Appalachian Voice and worked as our Editorial Communications intern for Fall 2013.

From left to right: The Lost Sea; Burke's Gardens; Pocahontas Exhibition Mine.

From L to R: The Lost Sea of Sweetwater, Tenn.; Burke’s Gardens; Pocahontas Exhibition Mine.

When my editor first asked me to compile a list of “Historical Hidden Treasures,” I imagined my words guiding readers to ancient, geological wonders; down fossil-riddled hiking trails through former sea basins; deep into old growth forests squirming with endemic salamanders and a host of yet-undiscovered species. My brave readers would venture into the unknown to chart the unseen, name the unnamed, describe the unsung – all while practicing “leave no trace” trail ethics!

Ultimately, however, Appalachia’s more recent history proved so fascinating that only two of my original “ancient geological wonders” made the cut – The Lost Sea in Tennessee, and Burke’s Gardens in Virginia. The final list of Historical Hidden Treasures provides, I hope, an exciting, affordable and thought-provoking winter travel guide, accessible to families and wannabe explorers alike.

The featured sites cover a wide variety of subjects that figure prominently throughout Appalachian history, including music, coal mining, African-American and Native American heritage, the Revolutionary War, pioneer lifestyles, ancient civilizations, and more.

So, my dear, intrepid reader, I hope you find something to your liking amongst this compilation of historical hidden treasures – something worthy of at least a day trip or a weekend getaway, if not an epic poem.


  • North Carolina: Junaluska Memorial Site | Fort Defiance
  • Virginia: Pocahontas Exhibition Coal Mine | African American Cultural Center | Burke’s Gardens
  • Tennessee: Lost Sea/Craighead Caverns | Oak Ridge
  • West Virginia: Grave Creek Mound | Pearl S. Buck Birthplace
  • Kentucky: U.S. 23 Country Music Highway Museum | Magoffin County Pioneer Village





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