By Ol’ Tennessee Ridgerunner
The Western states have long been recognized as the “ideal” location by proponents of sustainable living, rural homesteading and perpetuation of a survival retreat lifestyle. There are, however, a few excellent alternatives to the Western Redoubt for relocating your family to a more secure and defensible retreat. At the top of the short list of realistic choices for self-reliant rural living is Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau in the Southern Appalachian Redoubt. Here’s why.
Since I recognized that our country was taking a left turn back in 2007, I’ve been an avid online researcher on sustainable living and self-reliance. That’s when I discovered James Wesley, Rawles and his then-fledgling website, www.survivalblog.com. His blog has become a vast treasury of practical advice on all things related to preparedness. Most notably the author of Patriots, Rawles is a strong advocate for safe relocation to the American Redoubt which includes all of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and the eastern parts of Oregon and Washington.
My Search Begins
At that time, I was living next to ground zero for every nutjob with a suitcase bomb and a deathwish, so you might say I was highly motivated to get my family “out of Dodge.” I traveled about the America Redoubt region many times over several years searching for my ideal retreat location, and I found it.
It was at that same point in time that another realization struck me. The off grid lifestyle I was pursuing would be challenging enough by itself without having to brave some seriously adverse mountain weather conditions that I had mostly forgotten as a long-time Southerner by choice. Sadly, after considering my family’s overall well-being and our collective abilities to comfortably sustain ourselves over the long-term in a region with about seven months of snow pack annually, it was a non-starter.
After more research and thoughtful prayer, l refocused my search to alternative locations in the Southern tier of states. I have been fortunate to have traveled extensively over more than 25 years in the land of Dixie, where I found multiple attractive locations on Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau that offered all the features I sought in Western states, without the freezing temps and nosebleed geography. One remote 50-acre location on the Northern Plateau area caught our attention because none of the listed structures were actually visible through the dense cover from several satellite views. After a lot of local research, I prepared an off grid retreat "must have" checklist that included all our requirements which this property would have to meet for a sale to be consummated. After one extensive onsite visit, we were headed to the closing table where a multi-layered entity cash-purchased the property to maintain our anonymity. We were strangers in a strange land and well on our way through a never-ending journey, but that's a subject for another day.
It should be obvious to you that not every family has the flexibility and financial wherewithal to pack up and move West just to avoid the potential dangers of a huge population migration from the East Coast should a major natural or man-made disaster occur. That’s why it’s so important to carefully consider your other relocation options - practical options - rather than giving up the search and resigning to face the potential consequences of staying put in the city.
Relocation expert Joel Skousen, author of Strategic Relocation North American Guide to Safe Places, in a subsequent article about Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau, reminds us why it's important to continue the search: “...the US coastal plains east of the Appalachian chain of mountains is the most dangerous area in America since that is where the overall concentrations of people are the highest and where the level of individual preparedness is the lowest.”
Consider Viable Alternatives
Having identified where you don’t want to be stuck in a catastrophe, Skousen points to the Appalachian Mountain chain as a convenient retreat site for people on the East Coast, but he quickly notes the disadvantages of still being too close to the actual threat of social unrest that will flow from major Eastern cities. He writes, “These refugee flows will concentrate on low valley roads going through the mountains as people head for other known cities first. When they find no refuge in those other cities, the concentrations of flows further west will diminish as people drop off due to fatigue, hunger and discouragement and start foraging locally. That’s where the danger of a site close to danger comes in: eventually, desperate people will make it to rural homes and cabins even in the mountains.”
Skousen wisely teaches that a significantly greater level of safety can be achieved by locating beyond the Appalachians to the high regions of Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau, which offer a relatively sparse population and lots of available land. He writes, “Tennessee is a famous battleground state with deep conservative sentiment and lots to offer in terms of lifestyle: great music, horse country, good growing climate and fine people. TN gets my best rating for a retreat state in the East. Land is relatively cheap and there is no income tax. Garden potential is good, there is lots of forest land within a tank full of gas from many large eastern cities.”
Why the Cumberland Plateau?
We agree with Skousen who states, “I consider the Tennessee Cumberland Plateau the “redoubt of the East,” and it is my highest rated area for retreats near the East Coast. In a meltdown of the social order, by the time refugees get through the first mountain range and the numerous mountain rifts that confront them—before seeing the 1400 foot high Cumberland Plateau, they will be highly motivated to stay on the valley floor with its promise of food and civilization (the lure that keeps people on the march). There isn’t much agriculture on the plateau (though it is fine for growing garden crops) nor are there large communities so there is little draw for refugees to make the trek up those slopes. What highways do lead up to the plateau cut through steep valleys and gorges and are fairly easy to block off to restrict access.”
The Cumberland Plateau has access to two major cities: Chattanooga metro (pop. 550,000) in the Southeast and Knoxville (pop. 830,000) in Northeast Tennessee. Both cities, particularly tech-saavy Chattanooga, have strong economies, vibrant job markets and are about 50 miles or a one-hour drive East from the Plateau mid-points, respectively. And the Tennessee Cumberland Plateau is not downwind of nuclear plants located along the Tennessee river. Prevailing winds originate from the Southwest and generally follow the direction of the river from Chattanooga toward Knoxville. Nashville, Tennessee’s capital, is roughly 60 miles West of the edge of the Cumberland Plateau and should be avoided as a relocation site.
In his recommendation, Skousen notes that the northern sections of the Cumberland Plateau, North of I-40, are the best areas because of their access to public lands and water supplies. The area is bordered roughly by the Highland Rim and the Cumberland River Valleys to the West and Cumberland Mountains and the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area to the East. The sprawling Catoosa Wildlife Management Area is situated to the South closer to I-40.
South of I-40, the Southern Plateau areas include Prentice Cooper State Forest to the South near Chattanooga, Savage Gulf State Natural Area further to the Northwest, and Fall Creek Falls State Park to the Northeast. There is very limited population in this region with just one small town, Spencer (pop.1600 at Ele. 1,800’) located in the middle of the Plateau. There are vast sections of forested land West and South of Spencer. These Cumberland Plateau areas offer considerable safety to those planning to relocate for a rural homesteading lifestyle.
Do you long for a secure homestead far from metropolitan dangers? Can you overcome your inertia and get out of your comfort zone to search for a remote retreat? There are alternatives available that can meet your family’s needs for a safe retreat site that don’t require a coast-to-coast relocation or an unlimited bank account. Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau of the Southern Appalachian Mountain chain offers hope and options to those who, for whatever reason, can’t manage a cross-country relocation to the Intermountain West. Are you ready to search for properties in the Cumberland Plateau?
Joel Skousen, is the publisher of the World Affairs Brief, a weekly news analysis and commentary service online at www.worldaffairsbrief.com Skousen’s books (The Secure Home, and Strategic Relocation—North American Guide to Safe Places) are featured at www.joelskousen.com
Tennessee's Cumberland Plateau is sparsely populated and remote wooded tracks are available for homesteading.