Visitors to Natural Tunnel State Park next Saturday will get an up-close look at what it took to survive as a pioneer settler in the late 1700s.
The Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail Association invites visitors to journey back more than 200 years by visiting the Blockhouse — a replica of John Anderson’s fortified home, which became a landmark along the Wilderness Road — to experience settlers and Native Americans getting ready for winter during its annual Frontier Harvest Festival on Oct. 26.
From noon to 5 p.m., guests can try their hand at breaking flax, watch a blacksmith at work and taste warm soda bread hot out of the oven. There will be period-dressed re-enactors demonstrating Native American and settler cooking and leading a Cherokee language workshop and an African-American slave workshop.
In addition, hunters and sportspersons will have the opportunity to witness and participate in the craft of tanning hides the natural way, practiced for centuries by the region’s early inhabitants. Longhunter Charles Brown of North Carolina, will demonstrate the process of skinning, fletching and tanning hides with brain, ash and tannic acid. Brown not only preaches the gospel of natural tanning, but he also puts his skills as a hunter, tanner and leather craftsman into practice, using the age-old techniques that every hunter once knew but have become forgotten in this modern age.
Brown, who lives in an isolated cabin in the mountains of North Carolina, gets much of his food by hunting, employing a flintlock and black-powder rifle used for centuries by his ancestors. He crafts one-of-a-kind hunting bags that have become treasured by longhunters and sportsmen.
Brown will set up his typical hunting camp and demonstrate the craft of tanning as well as answer any hunting/tanning/accoutrement questions during the day.
The Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail was blazed by the legendary frontiersman in 1775 from Long Island of the Holston at what is now Kingsport through the Cumberland Gap of Virginia and into Kentucky. It would become the route for hundreds of thousands of settlers of the western frontier. Over 30 years, some 300,000 people passed Anderson’s home on their journey through Cumberland Gap into Kentucky and further westward.
The Frontier Harvest Festival is free.
Also on Saturday, the park will feature its Lighting of the Tunnel beginning at 7 p.m. at the mouth of the tunnel. Local musicians John Kilgore Jr. and Friends will perform. Cost is $3 for parking and $3 to ride the chairlift.
For more information, call Natural Tunnel at (276) 940-1643.