The Good Life: Trails & Trilliums

Celebrating the Natural Wonder of the South Cumberland Plateau

Story by Lyda Kay Ferree, The Southern Lifestyles Lady
Photography submitted by the Friends of South Cumberland

The 13th annual Trails and Trilliums Festival will be held April 15-17 at theMonteagle Sunday School Assembly in Monteagle, TN. The Assembly, with its charming cottages, creeks, bridges and gardens is an ideal spot for this unique event. The historic Monteagle Sunday School Assembly donates the use of their buildings and grounds for Trails & Trilliums as a part of their mission. Founded in 1882, it has remained true to its roots, combining interdenominational religious studies with a robust program of art, theatre, literature, and public affairs. Today the Monteagle Assembly is a place where families gather during the summer season for fellowship and spiritual and intellectual growth.

“The Trails & Trilliums Festival is easily the most popular event of the year for the Friends of South Cumberland State Park,” said Linda Parrish, chair of the event.  “This event attracted over 1,200 people last year. It’s a fantastic celebration of spring in one of the most bio-diverse places in our region.”

For newcomers to this festival, a trillium is a genus of perennial flowering plants native to temperate regions of North America and Asia. The lovely trillium is in the lily family. The flower has three green or reddish sepals and usually three petals in shades of red, purple, pink, white, yellow or green. Several species have been traditionally used for medicinal purposes.  A white trillium serves as the emblem and official flower of the Canadian province of Ontario and is an official symbol of the Government of Ontario.  The large white trillium is the official wildflower of Ohio. Major League soccer teams in Toronto and Columbus compete with each other for the Trillium Cup.

The Trails and Trilliums Festival weekend in Monteagle opens Friday, April 15 with hikes to Shakerag Hollow and Lost Cove followed in the evening by the Trails and Trilliums Children’s Choir Concert performing a concert of traditional southern mountain music. The choir consists of students from Franklin, Marion and Grundy counties.

Local students also participate in a Student Art Exhibition focused on nature-themed work. The exhibition will be held in the Assembly Auditorium. Workshops and programs presented throughout the weekend provide more information about the history of the Plateau, plants, birds, animals and even fairy houses.

A casual reception, Wine and Wildflowers, will be held next door at Harton Hall with the opportunity to view the works of guest artists participating in ART for the PARK. Forty percent of the proceeds of artwork for sale will go to Friends of the South Cumberland.

On Saturday, April 16 both casual and dedicated hikers may explore the natural wonder of the South Cumberland Plateau by signing up for any of the 11 guided hikes. Vans will carry participants to Lost Cove, Fiery Gizzard, Foster Falls and as far away as Stone Door Natural Area.

At the Assembly, outdoor lovers of all ages may enjoy programs that include Wings to Soar, Butterfly Gardens and last year’s favorite, Tales from the Trail. Wings to Soar will combine music, videos and live birds of prey. Butterfly Gardens will be the topic presented by Michael Culbreth, a certified interpretive guide for Tennessee State Parks. And Tales from the Trail is a conversation led by Mary Priestley, author of “Fiery Gizzard, Voices from the Wilderness.” Priestley is a curator of the Herbarium at the University of the South, author and botanist. She will sign copies of her newly published book at the end of the program.

Additional programs include “The White Fringeless Orchid,” “Cumberland Wild Hike into History,” and “Building a Fairy House According to Fairy Rules.”

Live music may be heard at the gazebo on Saturday, April 16 from 9 a.m-4 pm. Food vendors on site will include Shenanigans of Sewanee and Spill the Beans (coffee and more truck) of Chattanooga.

ART for the PARK, an art and vendor sale held in Harton Hall and Gardens, continues through the weekend, with many nature-themed works that showcase the integration of forest beauty into our lives. Lendon Noe, a well known artist from Jackson, TN, will display her art as will Brett Weaver, Susan Goshgarian McGrew, Carol Curtis, Bob Askey and Lucy Keeble, among other artists.

Overhill Gardens will have a broad variety of native plants for gardeners recreating forest enchantment at their homes. Avi Askey, a second generation nurseryman, started Overhill Gardens in 1999. It became a true family business in 2012. Currently the owners have 2 acres in very intensive container production. “Most of our stock is grown from seed/cuttings collected within a 1-mile radius of our nursery, but we also highlight species from the Cumberland Plateau,” said Askey.

Saturday night crescendos into the always fabulous ART for the PARK gala with dinner, art, and music benefitting Friends of the South Cumberland.

The fun continues through Sunday, April 17 with hikes and an opportunity to learn about and build fairy houses. Artists, vendors, food and music will be available throughout the day.

The grand finale of the weekend is the Cumberland Wild Hike into History program. An all-star panel of historians, naturalists and local experts will discuss the amazing history of the South Cumberland including Native Americans, pioneers, sawmills, coal mines and old growth forests.

“For those who love a walk in the woods, we want to capture our experience and bring it home with us. We photograph it, paint it, write about it, sing about it and try to recreate the woods in our own gardens,” said Linda Parrish.

What to Know
Trails & Trilliums
April 15-17, 2016
For more information about tickets, lodging and attractions visit:

The Trails & Trilliums festival is a fantastic celebration of spring in one of the most bio-diverse places in our region.
— Linda Parrish, chair of Trails & Trilliums