by Wallace Coffey, Bristol, Tennessee
When the name Alona Kennedy comes to mind for birders in our mountain region, it immediately evokes warm memories of good days and good times at Raven Ridge Bed and Breakfast and Campground and great dishes served at her Hummingbird Café near Hayter’s Gap on Clinch Mountain. Many birders have spent the evening at Tanager House, Whippoorwill Lodge, and birding from their spacious decks. All of that and more were found along the Washington-Russell line. It was a spectacular adventure for Alona and her husband, Charles Kennedy.
Charles, at age 53, died in a tragic traffic accident in Paris, TX, in late November 2006 that shook not only Alona’s world but that of conservationists throughout these hills. He was not only a popular area birder, naturalist, conservationist, and tourism promoter, but he also bought and protected 100 acres of land at Raven Ridge near the top of Clinch Mountain and just over from Middle Knob where the famous Hayter’s Gap Fire Tower stands.
The Brumley Mountain Trail was dedicated on June 11, 2012 to Jack Kestner and Charles Kennedy and is now open. The trail and the protected status of The Channels were a dream of Charles Kennedy’s. (Turn to page 13 for an article about the trail with lots of photos.) The trail runs approximately 14 miles east from Low Gap above Hidden Valley Lake, across the ridge of Clinch Mountain in Russell and Washington counties, through The Channels State Forest and Channels Natural Area Preserve, and terminates along US Route 80 above the community of Hayter’s Gap.
Alona and Charles lived just up the ridge from fellow birder Jack Kestner, a famed local newspaper columnist and nature writer who passed away several years ago. Kestner was a lookout at the Hayter’s Gap Fire Tower as a teenager and wrote a book called “Fire Tower.” Kennedy read the book as a child and was lured by it so much that he moved to Southwest Virginia from Texas to live there. Just imagine his thrill when he discovered Kestner was a neighbor. The two became great friends on the mountain.
Alona landed back on her feet in a big way recently when she opened a new restaurant near Steele Creek Park at Bristol, Tennessee. Café Alona International Cuisine & Catering is growing with amazing success, and word of mouth about the good food continues to spread throughout the region. We can’t do Alona’s menu justice trying to write about her spring rolls, shrimp pasta, vegetarian pasta primavera, pork scaloppine, pecan salad, Italian Panini, ham Swiss Panini, bruschetta and black bean cake. We don’t even know what is on the evening dinner offerings of Greek, German, or Korean, and the list of delicacies goes on and on.
Now birders, hikers, and foodies can continue enjoying Alona’s many different and exciting foods and warm hospitality as well. The café is located at 1154 Hwy TN Rt. 126, about two miles from where you turn off towards Steele Creek Park and is open Monday thru Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday. Alona also has a significant catering business and hosts parties and large group dinners. The evening dinners have a variety of offerings with a theme of international menus changing by countries each night.
Call 423-574-3333 for reservations!