"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime"-MARK TWAIN

Sunday, October 19, 2014

One of those Weeks!


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A few miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway took us from Maggie Valley to Cherokee.  Every day the colors looked more vibrant.  We took our time on the short journey and enjoyed the views from every pullout.

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By noon on Sunday we had checked in and paid for our week in Cherokee.  We had been looking forward to this gathering since leaving home the end of August.  Only one other egg there when we arrived. A lady from the Outer Banks with a 13’ Scamp.

Monday was cloudy so we made a Walmart run, then a drive down the Nantahala Gorge and over the Cherohola Skyway.  Rain and fog made up the majority of the day.  Tuesday morning we awoke to more rain.  We had a leisurely breakfast, then decided to make a drive over the mountains to Townsend, Tennessee. Wanda wanted to visit a dulcimer shop there, and it seemed the best thing to do when the forecast was 100% rain and thunderstorms.  The ride over was really pretty in a way.  Rain and clouds, with waterfalls everywhere.

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As we arrived in Townsend, Wanda’s phone rang.  Her mom had been in the hospital for a few days due to dehydration.  Wanda’s brother was visiting her each day and keeping us updated on her condition.  She was scheduled to be discharged that morning.  Sometime Monday night she had managed to get out of bed, and had fallen.  Broken cheekbone and ribs.  Wanda said she felt the need to get home, so off we went.  Back over the mountain, stopping by the campground office to inform them of the situation, and that we were leaving.  Sorry, no refunds. 

Hooked up and out of the campground by 4 PM.  Arrived home eleven hours later.  Wanda was up and on her way to Jackson by 8 AM.  She spent Wednesday, and most of Thursday there, getting her mom settled back at her nursing facility on Thursday afternoon.

The third weekend of October is the time of the Great Mississippi River Balloon Races.  We had made no plans to attend, but decided to drive over on Saturday morning.  We could visit with family, as well as some old friends.  Arrived just in time to see a number of balloons hanging around the target.

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Watched our guys as they passed over.

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We followed along with the crew, and helped them pack up.  From there, we spent the remainder of the day hanging out with family and friends.  Enjoyed a beautiful day outside, overlooking the mighty Mississippi River.  As we were leaving Natchez, we received another phone call.  Mom back in hospital.

Wanda’s back in Jackson for an undetermined period of time…..Sad smile

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Little Cataloochee


We made our way off the Blue Ridge to Waynesville, and Maggie Valley, North Carolina.  One of our favorite places in the Great Smoky Mountains.  Maggie Valley is everything Gatlinburg, Tennessee isn’t.  Sure, there are shops selling lots of stuff you don’t really need, but on a much smaller scale.  Maggie still has small, locally owned, tourist courts with rockers on the front porch.  Local restaurants and cafĂ©’s.  We’ve been coming here since the mid 80’s.

A place that has been close to our hearts for nearly thirty years is the Little Cataloochee Valley.  A remote corner of Smoky Mountain National Park.  Similar to Cades Cove, but like Maggie Valley, on a much smaller scale.  A valley that once sustained quite a community with two church’s,

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numerous homes,

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and a school.

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The only access is by a five mile, narrow, dirt road. For years we would be the only folks in the valley for hours. We would walk the road, visit the church’s and graveyards, and imagine the life of the folks that once lived there until the Government forced them out.

On one visit back in the early 90’s, we met a very old man carrying milk jugs over this foot bridge.

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He was driving an old Ford Pinto station wagon, and the rear was full of more jugs.  We got to talking with him, and found out that his family was the last one removed from the valley.  They resettled in the small town of Clyde, where he had worked for the paper mill until retirement.  When I asked about the jugs, he informed us that he had attended the school which was just across the road.  He had drank water from this spring,

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his entire life.  He had been coming over the mountain every few weeks since being forced to move out.  Filling his jugs and carrying them back home to Clyde.  Even today, the spring hole was full of clear, cold, water.  The only difference being a sign the NPS put up questioning the purity, and recommending boiling before drinking. I don’t think the old gentleman would have paid much attention to it.

Around 15 years ago, the NPS decided they would reintroduce elk to the park.  The Little Cataloochee was selected as the site for reintroduction.  As the elk population grew, so did the tourist visits.  What was once a quiet, peaceful, piece of history is now much like Cades Cove.  People arrive by the carloads, hoping to see the elk.  Volunteer elk wranglers monitor the action, and answer questions.

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Though it was nice to see a couple of large bulls, and even hear one bugle, something has been stolen from Cataloochee.  The quiet reverence one felt standing in one of the church’s, or the old school, is gone. The respect for the people that built the road, carved out the pastures, and created the community is missing.

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You hardly saw anyone visiting, and listening, to the history that was there.  Most had come for the zoo…..jc

Thursday, October 9, 2014

North Carolina, much like Virginia


As far as rain, that is.  I don’t think drought is a word that has been used up the East coast in the last few months.  The last two, for sure.

We woke to bright, sunny, skies the past Monday morning.  Had breakfast at the local Cracker Barrel and headed for downtown Boone, NC.  A small town dominated by Appalachian State University.  Visited the Mast General Store and left a few dollars, behind.  From there we took a few back roads toward Grandfather Mountain, and Linville.

As the fee for Grandfather Mountain was $20.00, each, we quickly passed on that visit.  Seems it was much more reasonable the last time we were in the area.  From there we passed through Linville and on to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

We managed a drive over the Linn Cove Viaduct.  An engineering marvel that carries the parkway around the side of Grandfather Mountain. Built from the top, down; rather than from the ground, up.  As each section was completed, the construction cranes and other equipment would move out onto it and construct the next section.

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Bottom view.

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By the time we made it back to Boone, the rain had started.  Tuesday morning found us hooking up and going South again on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Some color was scattered over the ridges, but clouds and rain masked most of it.

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We spent Tuesday night in a Forest Service campground just outside Asheville.  Full hookups, but the most un-level site I think we’ve ever had.  I got in a short hike around the small lake before the rain started, again.  The weather forecast for Wednesday was sunny, but we awoke to clouds and drizzle.  We only planned to travel ten miles or so on Wednesday.  Our destination was Mount Pisgah.  Once part of the Vanderbilt estate, it is now a lodge and restaurant complex with beautiful views of the mountains. Thankfully, the skies had cleared by the time we got there.

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There’s also a park service campground located in the area.  No hookups, but nice paved sites.  We planned to spend a couple nights there.  After we got all settled into our site, we decided to check out a couple hiking trails.  The most interesting wasn’t really a trail, but a blocked road up to this.

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Maybe a half mile hike up to the top of mountain almost as high as Mount Pisgah.  I figured the view should be pretty good from there.  I was surprised to find that I could climb the tower.


The views weren’t disappointing.

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Back at the Casita, we cooked some supper, then went looking for a sunset.  Couldn’t get a view Westward, so settled for a couple shots of the darkness climbing the Eastward mountains.

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As we were leaving the pullout, someone mentioned the Blood Moon that should be rising soon.  By the time I managed to get the camera back out of the bag, it was already rising.

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Wish I had been prepared with the tripod set up. It’s amazing how fast a full moon can clear the horizon.

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More rain in the forecast…..jc