Friday, October 10, 2014

A Visit to the Loretta Lynn Ranch in Hurricane Mills

Hurricane Mills - Loretta Lynn's House. Photo by Jessica Blankenship.
You are not a true Kentuckian nor a real country music fan if you do not know who Loretta Lynn is.  She was one of the country music pioneers that paved the way for many females to sing in music.  Today she continues to tour, putting in over 70 concerts a year and nothing seems to slow her down.

Last year I had the opportunity to visit Butcher Holler, the home of Loretta Lynn and Crystal Gayle.  You can check out my adventures by clicking here.  This week, while in Nashville, I decided to take the trip out to Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, to the Loretta Lynn Ranch.  Needless to say, it was well worth the hour drive from Nashville.




Just off the exit on I-40, you will travel 6 miles before turning left into Loretta Lynn’s Ranch.  Right off of the exit is the Loretta Lynn Kitchen up on the hill.  Be sure to stop by there for some delicious home cooking.

Upon entering the ranch, you see various log buildings and an office.  The Loretta Lynn Ranch contains not only her home, but an RV park, camping facilities, cabins to stay in, ATV course, outdoor stage, farming area, and more.  As you wind your way down the paved road, you see the pure beauty that surrounds you.  Signs lead you up the road to where her house is and then where to cross the bridge, turn left, and to park behind the gift shop.

First, go into the Ranch gift shop to inquire about tour tickets.  They will give you a set time.  I got there about 2PM and the only tour available was at 4PM.  It worked out perfectly with timing to give me time to see everything else.  The friendly staff person told me that Loretta Lynn was indeed on the Ranch and there might be a chance to see her.  Needless to say that put a little smile on my face.

After I got my ticket, I took off exploring.  My first stop was over at the Loretta Lynn Museum.  Don’t forget to take the opportunity to take a photo by the large rock display.

Loretta Lynn Museum with Conway Twitty Tribute - Photo by Jessica Blankenship.
Upon entering the museum, you will be greeted by a staff member who will escort you to one of the rooms.  We were told no photos and no video are allowed in the museum.  That included cell phones.  The first room I was taken into contained several vehicles and artifacts.  First, you can climb up into Loretta Lynn’s first tour bus and see how they lived out on the road.  It was neat seeing little pieces of history on the bus to give it that retro look.  You can see the jeep that Mooney had and that was used in the movie “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”  Near it is Hank Williams, Sr. bed, along with a Christmas tree full of ornaments handmade by fans, and the Mack Truck that Mooney use to drive.

Down the ramp, you are lead into the next room that is just FULL of memorabilia of Loretta Lynn, family members, and friends.  Each display case had its own theme.  One of those contained wedding dresses of various family members.  Another was double sided of items of country music celebrities that donated items to her museum.   Award plaques, photos, and posters hung on all of the walls.  All of her awards were in one display, including her trophy for being inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame.

Then there was the very large tribute to Conway Twitty, complete with movie screen of videos of him on stage surrounded by display cases of clothing, books, photos, and personal items from the family collection.  It was a fitting tribute and you couldn’t help but have a tear in your eye looking at the stuff while hearing Conway sing “Goodbye Time” on the screen.

After touring the Museum, I went exploring through the other museums on the ranch.  There was the Grist Mill Museum and the Doll Museum.  Throughout the ranch, there are various gift shops containing Loretta Lynn memorabilia.  Some are the same items, but I did notice a couple of things had different prices.  You can purchase some autographed items reasonably cheap.

Beautiful Grist Mill in Hurricane Mills - Photo by Jessica Blankenship.

Don’t forget to pick up a post card! You can drop it off in the mailbox and have it stamped at the Hurricane Mills post office.
Hurricane Mills Post Office - Photo By Jessica Blankenship.
It was getting close to our tour time so our group of about 10 or so gathered in front of the Ranch Gift Shop waiting on our little bus.  Meanwhile vehicles drove by left and right.  All of a sudden, a while truck pulled up slowly and the window rolled down.  “Hey ya’ll!” yelled out a voice from the passenger seat.  I couldn’t believe it, but there she was, Miss Loretta Lynn.  I didn’t even think to pick up my camera and take a photo.  The folks around me were shouting and screaming and taking photos.  It literally was like the paparazzi.  For me, I stood there grinning and just in awe.  She didn’t stick around too long and they headed up to a building up on the hill.

Soon after, our tour guide, Andy, came to pick our group up.  Since we didn’t get to do the Butcher Holler home replica and Coal Mining Museum, we did that first.  The Butcher Holler replica had some items that were in the movie and some of the actual artifacts from back home.  Having been to Butcher Holler, it was neat how much they did make the house like the original.  We were not allowed to take any photos inside – whereas you can take photos in the original Butcher Holler.  The Coal Mining Museum was in tribute to Loretta’s dad.  Andy spoke about the hardships of mining and pointed out different features throughout the museum. 

Replica of Butcher Holler - Photo by Jessica Blankenship.

Next it was off to Loretta Lynn’s mansion.  Again, we could take photos outside the house, but not inside.  First thing we saw was a set of wagons that use to be Mooney’s.  You also get to walk past what he called his “man cave,” a building on the outside full of his stuff for his office.  You walk up the garden path up to the house.  We were told the history of the plantation and that Loretta and Mooney purchased it many years ago.  Inside, it was a step back in time with the d├ęcor.  We saw her salt & pepper collection, as well as the set where she filmed her Crisco Country Cooking shows.  We were just shown the lower floor and Andy indicated different things that were in the movie.

Mooney Lynn always loved Case farm equipment - here rolls a combine getting ready for harvesting season. Photo by Jessica Blankenship.

Walkway up to Loretta Lynn's mansion - Photo by Jessica Blankenship.
We were fortunate to get to see the whole tour as we were told that Loretta Lynn was on the ranch because she was filming a documentary for PBS.  It is set to air next spring and probably for a couple of hours.  We saw a few of the items left over by the crew as they were wrapping up.

Loretta lives in a house behind the mansion.  The mansion itself is now a museum and no one lives there. 

After the end of our tour, we headed back over to the store and Andy said our goodbyes.  Before I left, I made sure to drive over to get a photo by the gate.

Me on the steps of the Loretta Lynn Ranch

Of course, Gnomecephus the traveling gnome had to join in on the fun! Photo by Jessica Blankenship.
Something to note – some of the features are handicapped accessible, while others are not.  The Loretta Lynn Museum and Home are handicapped accessible with ramps.  The Grist Mill and Butcher Holler Home Replica are not and some steps are required.  The small tour bus does not have a wheelchair lift and you will have to climb a few steps to get on.  I wanted to give this heads up in case you wonder about wheelchair access.  I am sure they will be willing to assist you, but I would call ahead and ask.


Needless to say, I’m so very thankful that I made the trip over to Hurricane Mills.  It has been on my bucket list to see the Loretta Lynn Ranch and little did I know, I would have the surprise of seeing her.  Be sure to check out the website for the Loretta Lynn Ranch and perhaps plan your adventure to the ranch.  They also have cabins, so you can even stay there if you would like.