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Changing dreams

The genesis of Foxfire Mountain Adventure Park is rooted in farming
By Glen Liford 5/24/2018

 

Existing buildings on Marc and Marion Postlewaite’s Sevier County farm were repurposed when the idea for the Foxfire Mountain Adventure Park became a reality. The Postlewaites converted their cattle farm to an adventure attraction after experiencing difficulties with their herd of Hereford cattle.
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Looking out over his East Tennessee farm, now known as Foxfire Mountain Adventure Park, Marc Postlewaite sees throngs of smiling visitors where Hereford cattle once roamed. The tourists come for the thrilling zip lines, the challenging aerial ropes courses, and leisurely woodland hikes. But essentially, they are attracted to the property for much the same reasons that Marc made the decision to buy the farm: the sweeping mountain views and tranquil settings are therapy for the soul.

“I never envisioned anything like this when I first started,” says Marc. “But like the old Beatles song says, ‘Life is what happens to you when you are making other plans.’”

After a successful career in the newspaper business and later as an entrepreneur and leader of a technology company, Marc and wife Marion felt the tug of their Tennessee roots.

Both had grown up in the shadows of the Great Smoky Mountains — Marc in Gatlinburg and Marion a little farther away in Knoxville. The couple met when Marion was doing her student teaching at Gatlinburg Pittman High School. Marc was working for his father who owned both the Gatlinburg Press and the Sevier County News Record.

“It was big news when the school got 12 new student teachers at Gatlinburg-Pittman High, Pi Beta Phi Elementary, and Sevier County High,” says Marc with a sly smile. “I was a young guy, and I thought I needed to go interview those student teachers. It was just an excuse. I was smitten.”

The couple married in 1969 and raised four sons, who Marc says are “scattered from Boise to Boston, to Raleigh to Charleston.” During the next nearly 30 years, Marc’s career led him away from the mountains he loved, and he ended up in Florida. But the draw of the mountains remained. In fact, he and Marion had owned a small farm in the area once before, but had sold it years earlier.

So in 1998, Marc sold his business and the couple set their sights on a new plot of land that was comprised of many of the features that lure visitors to the region each year — rugged terrain, lush woodland, clear rushing waters, and spectacular views of the nearby mist-covered mountains — and returned to the area that held such fond memories. Marc had sold his portion of the technology company and purchased the 100 acres of picturesque property in Sevier County with the goal of a slightly slower pace and a different sort of lifestyle. Still, he was — and is — a successful businessman driven by goals and plans, and was determined to make the venture a success. He wanted to populate the pastures with Hereford cattle.

“I like the Herefords because they are pretty,” Marc says. “They’re cute when they’re young, and they’re pretty gentle and easy to handle. I bought some really nice cattle from a vet in Newport and began raising them for breed stock.”

He began purchasing inputs for the business from Sevier Farmers Cooperative to get the operation running smoothly and profitably. The appearance of the cattle suited the scenic nature of the property, and Marc’s vision had him tending a beautiful herd of the white-faced cattle surrounded by the serenity of the setting.

“I wasn’t making any money, but I was having fun,” he says. “I was semi-retired, playing with cows, driving my tractor around, and life couldn’t get a whole lot better.”

Then reality intruded. A severe drought struck the area, and over the course of a few years, operating conditions became challenging for many local beef producers in the area, and Marc’s fledgling business was no exception. Cattle prices declined and expenses soared. Hay that was once $25 a bale became a $100 a roll, if you could find any, says Marc. Neighbors were buying hay out of state and hauling it in, adding to the cost.

“My cattle were getting hungry,” says Marc. “It was just getting too expensive to feed them, so I sold them.”

Disgusted and discouraged, Marc and Marion decided to put the farm up for sale in 2009, placing the property in the hands of a realtor with the intention of downsizing to a condo in town. They set off on an Alaskan cruise to get away from their problems for a while and contemplate their next moves.

It was on that trip that Marc took another “leap of faith” and rode a zip line for the first time.

“I didn’t want to do it because it was scary,” says Marc. “But once I did, I fell in love with it. When I was back on the ground, I told Marion, ‘I know what I’m going to do with the farm.’”

He called the realtor that day and took the farm off the market. On the way home from Alaska, the couple stopped in Vancouver, British Columbia, and went across the Capilano Suspension Bridge. The visit inspired an accompanying feature to the zip line project. It seemed as if almost overnight, the idea for Foxfire Mountain Adventure Park was born.

In the years since that trip, the farm converted to a family-oriented adventure park has evolved with expanded features and an additional 50 acres have been added to the property. The attraction is located a short 12 miles outside the city limits of Gatlinburg, Sevierville, and Pigeon Forge and is surrounded on three sides by Bear Wallow Mountain, Prosperity Moutain, and Foxfire Mountain. The East Prong of the Little Pigeon River cradles the farm in a distinctive u-shaped bend. The pastoral setting has been a hit with visitors seeking both adventure and serenity, says Marc.

An assortment of zip lines, hiking trails, and other adventure outings ensure visitors can return again and again to experience the attraction in different ways, he adds. Among the attractions of the park are:

• The Waterfall Canopy Tour, which allows visitors to slip over valleys, creeks, and a 70-foot waterfall as they glide among seven tree platforms over the course of the two-hour tour;

• The Goliath Zip Line Tour, a two-hour excursion opened in 2015 that encompasses five extreme zip lines, including the longest, highest, and fastest in the Great Smoky Mountains;

• A stroll across the 330-foot long Bridge to Prosperity, which crosses 70 feet above the Little Pigeon River to Prosperity Mountain. The bridge is the longest suspension bridge in the United States; and

• Bear Crawler Adventure Tours on special Argo eight-wheel-drive all-terrain vehicles that travel along rugged off-road trails, across the river, and to the top of the mountain.

There is also a 12-element aerial challenge course, a five-lane, 60-foot climbing wall, a kids’ obstacle course, and play area. The park’s proprietary, delicious Zippin’ Pig Barbecue is smoked daily in season on location.

The latest expansion of the farm is the Wylie Cider House, where hand-crafted hard and soft ciders are made from scratch and sold in the Foxfire Mountain Gift Shop. Some 19 flavors of hard cider and two of the soft are offered.

“The road out here is a really pretty drive, and it’s not very long,” says Marc. “When people come here, they are just amazed because many of them hadn’t been on a farm.”

The visitors also get an up-close look at the terrain that makes the region so special and that natives often take for granted, says Marc.

“If you are from a different part of the nation or the world and don’t have these features, it’s a ‘wow’ moment,” he says. “It fills me with happiness to see people leaving the property saying, ‘Wow, this has been a fantastic experience.’”

Reservations for groups are suggested. Contact the park at 865-446-5148 for specific information, or visit their website to make arrangements online at foxfiremountain.com. The aerial ropes course, climbing wall, and Zippin’ Pig barbecue are seasonal from Memorial Day through Labor Day, while the zip lines, bear crawler, and America’s longest swinging bridge are open all year long. Foxfire Adventure Park is located at 3757 Thomas Lane, Sevierville, TN 37876.

 
 
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