By Don Hazel
There are three great events coming up in January that I highly recommend. If you like nature, the outdoors, birds, animals, learning new things, then these events are for you. If you like free stuff, these events are for you. If you want to do something new and different, then listen up.
Event #1. The Tennessee Crane Festival. Each year tens of thousands of sandhill cranes migrate through or winter in Tennessee at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge, not far from Dayton. You probably have heard these birds, with 6 foot wing spans, fly overhead – now you can see thousands of them. Often you can also see whooping cranes, bald eagles, golden eagles and more.
According to the website ( www.tncranefestival.org.), “There will be guides with spotting scopes at the refuge to help visitors view the cranes and other wildlife, speakers, workshops, films and children’s activities at the Birchwood Elementary School and special Native American presentations at the nearby Cherokee Removal Memorial Park.”
This year’s festival happens Jan. 19 and 20, and it is free. It is a fun day and not far from here. Last year people came from 42 states and 7 countries to the Tennessee Crane Festival. Since you only live 1 hour and 20 minutes away, you should kick yourself if you don’t go. Take binoculars if you have them.
Event #2. The 23rd annual Wilderness Wildlife Week in Pigeon Forge happens this year, Jan. 12 through 19. I try to remind folks in this column every year about this event because it is so fantastic.
There are multiple free presentations on photography, fishing, animal rehab, gardening, hogs, bears, elk, bird feeding, carving, history and every other outdoor subject you can imagine. There will be live eagles, owls, llamas, possums, Knoxville Zoo animals and more. You can learn to play the harmonica, dulcimer, banjo or washtub, or go on a guided hike. There are many musical performances during the day and each evening. It goes on and on.
People come from all over the U.S. to attend this free week of performances by experts in their fields. If you had to pay for this week, you couldn’t afford it. Go to the web site http://www.mypigeonforge.com/ then click on “event,” and then “wilderness wildlife week” to see the listing of classes for each day. By my count, there are over 100 new classes this year.
Go on the days that interest you most, and make it a multi-day holiday if you want. You can stay across the street at the very nice and clean Music Road Inn for $52 per night, if you ask for the Wilderness Wildlife Week rate. You will pay close to double that amount if you don’t ask for the WWW special rate.
Event #3. This one is also free and even closer to home. Wait until we get a nice snowfall some day in January. Put your boots on and head out to one of the new Fairfield Glade Trails and take a hike in the snow. It doesn’t matter how cold it is, dress in layers, and as long as you are moving you won’t get cold. Enjoy the beautiful snowy day. You will think you are in a Robert Frost poem, or in New England, except you won’t have to wait for June for the next warm sunny day – it will probably only be a day or two away.
Look for tracks in the snow from animals. If the snow lasts for a couple of days you can see where fox, coyotes, bobcat, deer, pigs, squirrels, weasels, etc., have been. Those human tracks you will see will probably be mine. Walk slowly and carefully so you don’t slip, along with having a better chance of seeing wildlife. You won’t believe how beautiful the woods are in the winter. Take your camera
For all three of these free events in January, I absolutely guarantee that you will enjoy yourself. If you don’t, email me here and we will talk about it. I don’t expect any emails.
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