Fly Fishing & Family – May 7 – 21, 2018

Remiss: “lacking care or attention to duty; negligent: it would be very remiss of me not to pass on that information | the government has been remiss in its duties.”

I think that about covers my attention to our blog since May 6. Not that we haven’t been insanely busy. Not that our attention hasn’t been subject to the demands of learning, connecting, fishing, or reconnecting with family. And rain. Days and days of rain and grey skies.

This morning, in a span of an hour we’ve driven from Delaware through Maryland and into Virginia. We’re in the DelMarVa region.  There didn’t seem to be much of a difference from Delaware to Maryland but the second we crossed into Virginia there was a marked difference. Gone were the new style strip malls with the usual tenants (Smoothie King, fast food restaurants, Sally Beauty, Nail Salon du jour…) set off by stretches of tidy homes and farms. The farms continued but with a difference – we decided that the properties looked less tended somehow.

Last night we glamped at Trap Pond State Park in Delaware. So named because in the 1700’s a stream was damed to funnel water through an iron mill, gone for more years than it existed. The pond is an impoundment and now part of the Delaware recreational offerings. Set in a mixed loblolly pine and hardwood forest surrounding the dam end of the pond. The cats loved walking on the deep duff. The sun came out in the afternoon yesterday. The sky is blue. We’re shedding those rainy blues.

Visiting with family in Delaware was so much fun.

One day we went with Barb’s niece, Andrea, to Philadelphia. The train took us right to the historical center of town and we walked around in the rain while visiting the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. Reading Station Market didn’t spit us out for a couple of hours – what a place! We had lunch, ate ice cream, bought bagels and oogled the people and shops crammed into the historic market.

Barb’s brother and his friend, Jane, took us to dinner and the symphony one night. It was Mahler’s Seventh… I am not a fan. Though there were a few passages in the five movements that were not confusing, boring or disjointed, neither of us could fall into the music. Then there was the day Jane drove Chris and the two of us out to Cape May for birding. We walked on the beach, on trails, verges of fields and through sanctuaries hunting for Cape May Warblers (who did not reveal themselves). It was a warm day with clouds scudding overhead – a day perfect for birding and touristing.

We also met the extended family for lunch in Wilmington, down by the water. It was sure fun to see Halle and Riley who have both grown tall and poised and Claudia and Corinne who changed much as well. We don’t get out here enough to keep track of their triumphs and since we aren’t using FB regularly, we feel really out of touch.

The week before that… hum. Lots. We parked the RV at Frost Valley YMCH Horse Camp for five days. The Roads Scholar program, Fly Fishing for Beginners, took place at the ranch. The first day we learned about the history of Fly Fishing and the Catskills. It was on the Neversink and Beaverkill Rivers that European anglers demonstrated the grace and joy of fly fishing to American anglers. Hallowed ground, er, waters.

That afternoon learned to cast out on the big central lawn. Eleven hopeful anglers flinging line out with more and less accuracy, over and over. At dinner folks commented on how much shoulder action they had seen. We learned that fly fishing like medicine and psychotherapy is a practice. The more you practice, the better your body remembers how to do it and the more you learn about reading rivers and streams the better your chances of catching fish.

The next days we got into streams and the famed rivers. We even got to fish the Willowemoc River. The days were cold, grey and misty, the sun playing slight of hand. I’m not sure anyone escaped cold feet. We learned about flies and went to an Orvis store in Roscoe, New York for supplies.

Our indomitable instructor, Oleh Czmola is a guide and teacher there in the Catskills. He was patient, kind, devoted and always excited to share his expertise and love for fly fishing with each of us. Nothing seemed to dampen the joy Oleh got from teaching or from seeing our little successes. Barb and I both had a lot of fun and didn’t take even one photo!

The Frost Valley YMCA Staff, including Nicky Macy our group leader, Amy who made food for us, Michael and Laurie who helped with teaching made our stay comfortable and fun.

The lodge had a big fireplace indoors and one out on the deck next to a stream. It was lovely talking to Gene and Maggie, Marilyn and Phil, John, Vince and the others while the fire crackled and warmed us anglers up. I got great book ideas from Maggie and Gene (and have ordered same or picked up from Overdrive electronic library).

After we left Wilmington, we headed for 13-South thru Virginia, the road is in good condition and the towns along the way offered pleasant viewing as we cruise along. A nice change of scenery is ahead though – a practical transportation solution and tourist attraction.

The Chesapeake Bridge-Tunnel! What an undertaking it was to build an over twenty-three mile crossing to accommodate cars, trucks and deep draft ships. Begun in 1960, the bridge-tunnel was opened to traffic in 1964. Twelve miles of low-level trestle, two bridges, two one-mile tunnels, two miles of causeway, and four man made islands compose this engineering marvel. One of the tunnels takes the traveler ninety feet deep! Driving the bridge-tunnel is fun – from the heights to the depths it makes short work of crossing Chesapeake Bay.

As it happens, we reached the south side at rush hour. We’ve managed to avoid traffic jams so far of this trip but this one made up for all the other’s we had slithered past. Thanks to a really nice trucker, we merged when necessary and got to 17 South so that we could find our (privately owned) campground adjacent to the Great Dismal Swamp.

Scranton & Pittston Treats,

We spent a quick night, Thursday, at the lovely Bald Eagle State Park near Howard, PA. Lovely because the air was scented with cedar, the tree frogs were setting up a hoedown and the birds were fantabulous!

We saw a Baltimore Oriole, a bit of brilliant ORANGE glory, and the Yellow Warbler an adorable little yellow guy with a red streaky breast.

Dasher likes to sit on the back of the couch and watch birds, his tail twitches sweetly and he says “meh meh meh.” quietly.

Our trail walk out to a footbridge over a tip of the lake treated us to a didgeridoo of bullfrog song and some cool morning exercise.

Rudy got a huge tick on his face. Surgery performed and tick photos taken. ick. just. ick. Then he got another one… repeat. ick.

Off of I-81 is the Johnstown Flood National Historic Site. We had to stop – Barb recently read David McCullough’s book about same. The visitors center is above the remains of the South Fork Dam that broke and caused an enormous disaster.

The story:
A bunch of rich guys – the same ilk as Rockefeller – built a dam and created a one mile wide, two mile long lake so that they, their families and friends could take a respite from the pollution and heat of Pittsburg – a mighty coal and industrial center. It was an exclusive club that for many years nobody knew the names of the members. Over time, they didn’t maintain the dam and in fact after it broke one time, the rich decided to take away some of the safety features of the original dam and just plugged up the break. No engineer was ever consulted.

In May, 1889, there was a monster storm – two weeks of solid rain. All the rivers, creeks and streams became swollen and filled with debris.

Downstream up to fourteen miles from the dam were three villages and a large town – Johnstown.

The streets of Johnstown were already almost knee deep in water from the Little Conemaugh and Stonycreek rivers that forked around the town. Many of the 30,000 citizens downstream from the South Fork Dam took to higher ground.

Three telegraph messages were sent downstream and to Johnstown warning that the dam was looking very unstable. At least one didn’t get through because telegraph wires had fallen to the existing flooding from the rain.

On the afternoon of May 31, people heard an ungodly rumble. The dam had broken and 20 million gallons of water were blasting down the valley. Folks ran for the hills as the already flooded rivers swelled from the pressure of the water coming behind. The water from the dam took 57 minutes to reach Johnstown obliterating everything in its path.

One survivor told the tale of his survival by getting on the roof of his families barn, then jumping from roof to roof as the debris raft surged down the valley. He said he never saw the water.

Over 2000 people died: babies and the aged, the strong and weak.

The rich club members were charged but escaped prosecution, in much the same way they do today.

“The Johnstown Flood” by David McCullough is a deeply researched work that is approachable – though you may wish you hadn’t. It’s on my library list now.

Then…

We took back roads north to the Francis Slocum State Park near Wilkes-Barre, PA. Sometimes back roads are barely one lane and boroughs sport houses with porches three feet from the roadway.

Francis Slocum was a 5 year old when she was kidnapped by the Delaware Indians. Her brothers didn’t give up searching for her and found her 59 years later. She was living on a reservation in Indiana with her second husband. By then her four children had probably given her some grandkids. She refused to move back to Pennsylvania and died at 74. Sounds like a good enough reason to name a State Park after someone, right?

It’s really pretty here. The lake is small and though we’re near a busy city it feels very remote.

There is a stereotypical Pennsylvania view – pastoral with rolling farm lands, huge decorated barns and majestic Victorian homes. This is the land through which we drove. Settled, constant, reliable. That is, until we drove through woods. The multitude of snapped off trees had me searching the internet to see whether PA is subject to tornados. Yup. That was the answer, tornados.

We are doing home type things today and tomorrow to prepare for our 5 days of fly-fishing lessons. We hope that Road Scholar provides another excellent experience. We’re excited! The weather has warmed up (it’s 80 and overcast today) and we look forward to wearing our arms out practice casting.

Saturday, we did laundry in Scranton and drove around downtown to look at the buildings. An old city, Scranton has some beautiful and well preserved architecture. The places folks live, at least those we traveled through, have seen better days like a lot of America.

Barb took me to Pittston for a treat! We went to the old Blue Ribbon Dairy for ice cream sundaes. Still made with original recipes, Blue Ribbon can make ice-cream and the soda sweeties do their best to assure you like it!

I’ll post more after we leave Frost Valley YMCA as we begin to make our way south again.

Thanks for reading!

P.S. a recipe:

Cleaning Out The Refrigerator Hot Salad

Steam cut veggies until al dente. We had about 4 cups to eat: carrots, broccoli, some cabbage, onion and kale.

Mix: 2 T. lemon juice, 3 T, Tahini, 1 micro-planed clove garlic, 1/4 c. olive oil until it becomes smooth salad dressing.

Return veggies to pan (or use a bowl), add salad dressing and gently toss until coated.

Make a nest of lettuce or massaged kale,  Top with hot veggies. squeeze the rest of that lemon over the plates. Devour.

(this dish is one that benefits from a night in the fridge, eat leftovers, yum)

 

 

Pennsylvania!

Ohiopyle State Park, Ohiopyle, PA

South-western Pennsylvania, southeast of Pittsburgh by an hour or so.

Ohiopyle State Park, 20,500 acres, was formed in [full stop with Jeopardy Buzzer] [I don’t want to write a detailed travelog today…]

May 1 and 2 have been sunny! Two gray days, one snow day and two sunny days were perfect for the explorations we had on our agenda.

Snow day (yes, snow) – we went to Frank Lloyd Wright’s – “Falling Water.”

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  • On the National Historic Register; in consideration for UNESCO World Heritage Site designation, which it deserves.
  • If you go, you will know where I want to live and how much I love the constant sound of water (tinnitis be gone!). Barb – not so much – the water was too noisy.
  • Site design would work nowhere else on the planet.
  • From every room water is audibly or visually completing the experience of being in the home.

Gray day one- toured “Kentuck Knob” another FLW property. This was a fun tour – not as formal as the “FW” tour.

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The roof is cantilevered over the porch, Wright built in hexagonal skylights to let water and snow pass through for less weight on the roof and to let wind caught under the roof escape.

The place is up on a “knob” which is the face of a big hill or mountain. The views were long, the sculpture garden thought provoking (a great chunk of the Berlin wall resides at the end of a neon yellow Forsythia aleé).

 

Gray day two – went grocery shopping, took Dasher to the vet after he endured 24 hours of vomiting, cleaned ‘house’.  Little cat is already becoming a champ at taking his meds – he’s a sensitive guy.

Sunny Day one – hiked the Ferncliff Peninsula out of Ohiopyle.

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  • The peninsula is formed by an Oxbow in the Youghiogeney River (Yawk-io-HEN-y or Yawk in these parts). It wasn’t logged because it’s steep, notably sized Tulip Poplar and Hemlocks.
  • Great hike, tons of wildflowers – in fact, that has been a theme, right?
  • The Wooly Adegelid has damaged and continues to kill Hemlock trees up here as well as in NC, VA and WVa. Pennsylvania is right out there with their Hemlock injection program for protecting these lovely trees.

Ohiopyle, pop. 57, is all about rafting and the Great Allegheny Passage bike trail (the GAP).

Sunny Day two – rode from Ohiopyle to Confluence on the GAP trail, had lunch at Mitch’s and returned for a nice 22 miles. No cars, not crowded, fairly flat sweet ride.

Steep rocky mountain on one side of the trail, covered with bazillions of white Trillium. Tiny violets peeked from rock crevices and around roots of trees.
‘Yawk’ River rolling along on the other side of the trail.

Since our travels in North Carolina, the near constant background sound has been the call of train whistles and the movement of railcars over tracks. Whether close – with the attendant squeals and basso profoundo rhum-rhum of the engines or distantly just a hum and thin whistle. Sometimes one is barely conscious of the noise and others the noise reverberates in the chest.

Observations from a hard of hearing, hearing-aid head …

The Youghiogheny River has a song. As if symphony string section is playing a sustained note. The bass, violins, violas each hitting that note with their variations of sound. Quickly now, bows flicking quickly over strings, continuous. Very occasionally a bass drum sends a deep pop of sound – the water flying over a big rock, turning onto itself.

The woods – deciduous and just beginning to leaf – have a song. Wind doesn’t sough through the closely packed trunks here. It hums, a reverberant “C” punctuated by the squeaks of trunks that rub together.

One hand clapping. What would you hear, dear one?

We stood on the SPOT that George Washington stood. Is that like sleeping in an Inn where “George Washington Slept Here” is advertised? Barb felt a rush of historic patriotism! The place wasn’t good for George, he got defeated by the British here, poor guy.

Barb is making a beautiful salad and stuffed portobellos to grill. I made grilled chicken breast and yuzu sauce in veggie packets with creamy peanut slaw last night. Tomorrow night – Black bean and quinoa tacos with spicy slaw. We don’t eat to badly.

Gee, in a few days, we’ll be up in the Catskills at a YMCA camp for Fly Fishing 101.

 

 

 

 

West Virginia, Coal, New River

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Cantrell’s Ultimate Rafting, Fayetteville, WV

Life has a way of changing our plans…

Plan was to go to Babcock State Park in Clifftop, WV for a few days. From that base we could explore the New River and it’s surroundings.

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iPhone + map navigation took us the most direct route to Babcock. It was another of those semi-harrowing drives on narrow, windy, steep (up and down), narrow two-lane roads. Can a route be harrowing and lovely at the same time?

The woods were beautifully greening from canopy to earth, dogwoods lifting their planes of blooms like clouds through the grey of densely growing tree trunks. The rhododendron thickets weeped down the mountain sides, not yet in bloom, their leaves, stars points from the bloom, glistening with the misty rain.

Babcock SP was deserted. We left the RV in front of the check-in station and went back to Park HQ. We talked to the ranger and learned the springtime policy for the campground was “we might get up that way sometime…” We decided against staying at the park.  For some odd reason, neither of us felt safe there. There was a 300 year old Grist Mill at HQ that was worth a photo or hundreds (it’s one of the most photographed sites in Appalachia).

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Consulting Campendium and Allstays apps pompted a call to Cantrell’s Rafting outfit. Cantrell’s advertised 11 sites, accommodations for big rigs (not us, but still…), laundry and bathhouse, restaurant, bar and clubhouse. Mom and Pop, Nancy and Richie Cantrell were waiting for us and got us all settled in our little site.

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Cantrell’s hilly-meadow sport’s a bunch of little cabins, a bandstand, several school busses (rafter transport) and a really nice lodge. The hosts were very friendly and knowledgable about the area and shared some good hikes and drives with us.

New River Gorge National River. Do those words trigger thoughts of the largest arch-span bridge in the Western hemisphere? No? How about the river that runs, strangely, north? How about three canyons, three rivers and all running at least five Class V rapids each? I know, you have it now.

Coal country. Railroad country.

Once the rails opened the New River canyon, rich investors followed and created mining camps that eventually turned into small towns – 60 of them in all. Most have all but disappeared, some are still habited and four stand out. Nuttleburg, Kaymore Sewell, and Thurmond are explorable and often offer trailheads for hikes.

We visited Nuttleburg, built in 1870 boasted two churches, two schools and a bevy of small houses. The Company provided housing, a company store and jobs. Black and white workers were housed separately but worked together.

Henry Ford bought the mine in 1920, part of his plan to own everything from the ground to the final purchase of his vehicles. Ford needed the coal to fuel the railroad which would bring coal and coke to his steel manufacturing pant that then created the metal to make cars. The plan failed when Ford was unable to buy the C&O Railroad. Ford built a huge conveyor belt from the mine – high above the town – to the tippet. The tippet had coal sorters that deposited sized coal lumps directly into railroad cars.

The coal from this area of West Virginia was of the highest quality. When ignited inside a coke oven and left to ‘cook’ for a couple of days, the coal produced burned the hottest and was smokeless. Newer, less labor intensive, methods of turning coal to coke prevailed and coal mining was changed forever.

Look at youtube.com for “Working Man” (the Miners Song) or “Coal Mining Man” by The Men of the Deeps and you’ll see photos of mining camps and miners lives. The music is haunting as was Nuttleberg.

New River Gorge Bridge was built from 1974 to 1977. It is the third highest bridge in the US and at 3,030 ft, long is the fourth longest arch span bridge in the world. The four lane roadway is 879 ft. above the New River and 16,000 plus vehicles cross it daily. Unusual in long arch span bridges, the New River Bridge’s span is below the roadway.

The construction of the bridge is an engineering marvel. We saw movies of the construction while we visited the National Park visitors center. They built huge towers that spewed gigantic cables, the cables held bridge parts while builders screwed together two-inch thick, seven-inch long bolts that held the segments together. Sections were floated out over the gorge on the cables and lowered into place one at a time.

Base jumpers, bungee cord boingers jump off the bridge on “Bridge Day” the third Saturday of October, when the bridge is closed to all vehicular traffic. In these parts, Bridge Day is a huge festival.

Today it takes seconds to cross the bridge but back when Nuttleberg was thriving, it took 45 minutes to get over the old bridge and climb out of the canyon – not counting the time it took to reach the old bridge.

There is still a low bridge to cross, just not the original which was washed away in a flood. The present bridge escaped being unmoored during another huge flood when the railroad stopped a train of fully loaded coal cars across to hold the bridge to it’s pylons.

From here we drive a short distance to Ohiopyle State Park in Pennsylvania.

 

 

 

Hungry Mother State Park – Appalachia

Hungry Mother State Park

From I-85 N, we took Exit 47 at Marion, VA and followed the signage to Hungry Mother SP. The roads were easy to navigate to the first Park office at Camp Burson. Burson is below an earthen dam built by the CCC during the Depression, campsites are gravel or grass, some are shaded and there isn’t any cover between sites. At the office we were told that the other campground was up a “very windy road.”

Unhooking the car, it took only 15 minutes to explore the road, lake and Creekside Campground – the twists wouldn’t present a problem for the Trek. We signed in at the Discovery Center close to the main park amenities (boat ramp, canoe/kayak rentals, swimming beach, fishing pier, restaurant and bike/walking trail heads) and camped on Hungry Mother Creek.

Settled for a few days, we took a look at the things we could learn about this corner of Virginia.

I’m starting to wonder about whether we travel under a weather curse. Rain. Everywhere we’ve been gray skies follow us. I appreciate the sun (read- worship) when it makes an appearance.

Hungry Mother Creek’s name has three possible origins, the most popular version begins with an attack on white settlers by “hostiles.” A whole village of people were killed and the women and children were taken captive. Among those were Molly Marley and her two year old daughter.

Legend has it that Molly and her child escaped and wandered the forests eating berries. Molly finally collapsed and the child wandered down the creek until she was found. The child uttered two words, “Hungry mother.” Molly died and nothing more is said about her little girl but the two words were branded to the creek and when the impoundment was created, the lake and park got the same name.

We walked the park and explored Marion. There are a couple of good places to eat – The Wooden Pickle Bar and Grill was closed when we stopped by but we got two enormous sandwiches at Macado’s (Mack-a-Do’s). The interior of the restaurant is crammed with movie and baseball memorabilia. We each took half a sammie home and had two ‘normal’ sized sandwiches the next day. I meant enormous!

One of our explorations found us driving the famous Dragon’s Backbone – CR16. Famous because of the twists and hairpin turns that motorcyclists love. “Dragon’s how Backbone for some knee-dragging fun!” boasted a brochure at the park’s Discovery Center. It was a fun drive and passed a rainy day nicely.

We also explored Saltville, chiefly through the eyes of the Museum of the Middle Appalachians. The museum is small and powerfully curated. From the Pleistocene times (mammoth teeth and bones) to the 1960’s, the museum’s collection offered insight into life and times.

The museum has a notable collection of early Native American jewelry in the form of shell bead strings – one is forty-two feet long – and arrowheads.

Around the tops of the walls were core samples of earth pacing a timeline with adjoining displays. Saltville was founded before the Civil War by folks who wished to exploit the rich salt deposits 200’ deep in the earth. The mines are located in the valley and the workers houses, company store and school were all on the hillsides around the mines.

The first attempts to extract the salt followed traditional mining – drill a hole, widen it and bring up the salt. That failed because Appalachia is water country. If there is a seam in the ground, water seems to seep or run out of it and sure enough, ground water went right into that first mine. The water set the method of mining, saltwater was pumped to the surface, evaporated in kettles (that look just like sugar kettles in south Alabama). The evaporated sale would then be scraped out and bagged.

During the Civil War salt from Saltville mines played an important part in food and the manufacturing of munitions. During the Civil War, each southern state had it’s own mine and evaporator. Evidence of Alabama and Georgia’s mines are still visible near the ponds that grace the landscape today.

Saltville was a company town, workers could receive script valued at $1.10 or cash at $1.00. Script from the Mathieson Company had such good value that people could go south to the big town of Buckley and spend or cash it out in most of the stores. The town boasted the best high school science program in VA until it was closed in the 1960’s.

Our docent went to that school and was later told, by her college science instructor, that she had a significant advantage over other students. She also described being a child in Saltville, the parades and semi-pro baseball team, the sense of intimacy and knowing everyone, the safety and beauty that surrounded the people who lived and worked in Saltville. She was of the first generation to need to move away to find work and one of many who returned to retire.

I read a local newspaper while we were in Marion. The focus of most of the articles was environmental pollution and how it affects the local population. The number of mines (of nearly all exploitable minerals) in Virginia and West Virginia that have been abandoned is staggering. Those mines, being in Appalachian Water Country, seep their minerals into peoples wells and the springs that many folks drink from.

Chemical companies still rule employment in the area. One local company that legally dumps the chemical PFOA into the New River admits to no wrongdoing while it supplies hundreds of residents with bottled drinking water. Don’t take my word for it, look up some of the towns in Appalachia and find out about land and water issues folks face.

Inroads were made on cleanup of mines and chemicals in water supplies but I wonder how much more cleanup money or government holding corporate polluter’s feet to the fire will occur since the current administration is repealing rules and regulations of the Clean Air and Water Act left and right.

 

 

To the Great Smokey Mountains

April 19 – 22, 2018

Black Rock Mountain State Park, GA

Up we climbed on a narrow two lane road, following signs, not knowing what to expect. This may seem an innocuous statement, but climbing a thin strip of blacktop in a 28’ motorhome while pulling a car is no laughing matter. One, we can’t back up while the car is attached to the coach. Two, the coach is eight feet wide. And three, tight blind curves are disconcerting! Honk-honk!

At the top we found a gentle dome about 500’ wide. Barb backed the RV in to a spot on the West side of the dome. We had inadvertently put ourselves right on the crest of the Continental Divide!

When we turned off SR23, we had no idea we were climbing the highest mountain in Georgia – 3640’. The park offers 1700 steep acres that include the Continental Divide and part of the Appalachian Trail. We hiked for a couple of hours around the side of the mountain, over the divide and back, and on the ridge line, part of the Continental Divide.

I remember the first time I was on one of these geographic delineations. My dad, sister, Barb and three of our children made an extended fishing trip across the Northwest and into Canada near Banff. My dad talked about the Divide and how the waters flowing from mountains there went to one side or the other – east or west.

While we were at Black Rock, a water leak up hill from our site had water running down to our spot on the dome. It didn’t make it far enough to have to choose which side to go down. It, like the glass of water I poured out to test the divide, simply soaked in and disappeared.

This is a great park but not for the faint of heart towing or Coaching. There are only 38 mixed use campsites and some aren’t very level at all. Still, the hiking was wonderful, photo views plentiful and the black rocks at the summit of the trail are pretty.

Great Smokey Mountains National Park

The drive to Cosby Campground in the GSMNP took us around the park to the Northeast side. From Black Rock Mountain State Park in Georgia we followed SR 23-441 over to I-40 and north. The trip became interesting after taking Exit 447.

From this campsite in Cosby Campground inside the National Park, I advise anyone towing or driving an RV, do not look at GPS or Maps to get you over to CR 32. In fact I’d venture, don’t take exit 447. We admit, we do like to use Maps (iPhone) and Google Maps.

Our GPS took us down a wide one lane road which we finally, shared with a school bus. We stopped and asked the driver about the road. She shared that the way we were heading led to a more narrow road but that it would indeed get us up to 32. She advised taking it slow because we’d be going past folks houses and she’d been depositing children along the way.

We did exactly as she said and arrived at 32, by then the GPS had abandoned all hope. The voice wanted to re-route in a circle, every few feet we rolled forward ‘she’ freaked out. You know when that happens?

Cosby campground sounded pretty good, when we saw the sign. Phew!

The campground itself is graveled, RV sites are paved and vary as to their flatness. We tried one site, gave up when we couldn’t level and moved to another. There isn’t any cover between sites at all and the RV sites, at least, are packed pretty tightly – the play-doh the kids at the next site use is brand x, for instance. This is a good place from which to hike or drive out to explore the park.

I made Andouille Sausage and shrimp with veggies and quinoa for a spicy good Gulf style dinner. The recipe is from Cooking Light magazine, always reliable for simple, tasty meals. During the night it got cold enough that Rudy (the handsome silver-gray old meow of our tribe) climbed under the covers!

We woke to a bit of a calamity. Dasher (the young, destructive, butter-gold newest meowster of the tribe) amused himself during the night by chewing up one of my new hearing aid ear molds. Luckily, he didn’t damage the BTE part the mold plugs into.

I always take my old HAs along when traveling, so I can use them and I am grateful for that. The new HAs are so technologically advanced that to compare the old with the new is to compare an iPhone 8 with a 20# black rotary dial phone. They make 150 decisions a second to adjust to my hearing environment, the experience is gorgeous.

Gatlinburg is thirty minutes away from Cosby Campground and there are lots and lots of RV parks, RV Resorts and cabins for rent as you head through to the GSMNP Visitor’s Center. Those choosing to stay in them pay a premium for hook-ups and summer time amenities like swimming pools.

We drove to the Visitor’s Center and enjoyed the ubiquitous movie and displays of preserved plants and creatures that once lived wild. We also called Candace, my audiologist. In about two weeks, I should have a new ear mold. We’ll figure out where to have it sent as we get closer to the date. What a relief!

After exploring the Visitors Center and identifying a this flower we saw at Black Rock Mountain SP, we headed up to Chimney Rocks picnic area for lunch. Running beside the picnic areas is a gorgeous trout stream. After lunch we walked along the water – staying to trails and being conscious of not stepping on any uniquely biodiverse plant life.

The park has 2,115 miles of streams in it’s boundaries and is one of the last wild trout habitats in the eastern US. Though acid rain from nearby coal and manufacturing plants damaged the waterways and affected the health of trout the park has seen steady improvement since the Clean Air Act went into effect. Note: the administration has recently seen fit to repeal the Clean Air and Water Act so expect continuing damage from human short sightedness.

The thousands of streams, brooks and trickles that contribute to the rich diversity of plant and animal life here in the park:

Five separate riparian zones host 1,500 flowering plants, dozens of native fish, over 200 species of birds and 60 of mammals.

The park is Salamander Central with more species of salamanders concentrated in one area than anywhere else on earth. Thirty species live in the park and 24 of them are lungless. Some exist only in GSMNP.

The smoke in the Smokies is a misty fog that rises from all the moisture in the mountains.

Lastly, elevations in the park climb from 660’ to 6500’ and the Appalachian Trail wends it’s way through the parks length. We did a cameo appearance, walk on walk off, on AT just to say we did it, but I think it might be fun to take on a section here in the park someday. Turns out that most of the flowing water in the park originates up on the crest of the Smokies along the Trail.

Some of the people who have used the 848 miles of trails in the park have paused to deface trail signs and shelters with graffiti and leaving behind their trash. 1,500 lbs of trash were hauled out of backcountry campsites and shelters in 2017. Is there a lack of awareness and education or are some people simply mean and destructive?

Today, Saturday, is a writing, meditating and cleaning day for your travelers. We walked a nice one mile trail, leaving behind nothing but footprints and taking lots of photos of flower carpeted glades and streams. We’ve seen a few new (to the trip) birds here in the park – the American Turkey, Blackburnian Warbler, Northern Parula, Black Throated Green Warbler and the Blue Headed Vireo were standouts.

Both of us were enamored of the streams and trickles that appeared around every bend. The Great Smokey Mountains National Park is a wonder and worthy of a visit.

Here’s food for thought. The folks in the space next to us ran their generator, which sat in the back of a pickup truck, from 9 am to 7 pm on Saturday. They seemed to stay inside their pop-up camper and watched a huge screen tv. We went hiking to escape.
A few other campers thought it was our generator and had to be disabused of that thought. When the generator people turned the thing off, they hopped into their trucks and left the pop-up. I never did that type of camping and just don’t understand what the appeal would be. Surely, it’s much easier to stay home?

I just opened Pandora’s Box. The type of travel camping we do really isn’t camping, either. I’ve heard it called “Glamping” which makes me think of forty-five foot rigs that must be plugged to a fifty amp nipple or their residential refrigerators won’t run. That’s not what we do either.

In motorhome and towable land, we’re small. We hold a high standard of Camping Etiquette – footprints left behind, campsite cleaner than we found it, maintain quiet, be respectful of other folks, pets leashed etc.. We don’t run our generator longer than necessary and even then we wait for folks around us to leave when possible.

We sure aren’t ‘roughing it’ tenting or tear dropping though. Our RV is filled with luxuries – it even has an in house vacuum, for crying out loud. I don’t know what to call our style. Ideas anyone?

For now enough about defining our type of travel. Barb and I started RVing together in 1994 and purchased our first Safari Trek in 1995. I don’t guess we’ll change how we go after all this time.

 

Thank you for waiting:

Here we go! It’s April already, 2018 and we’re making tracks again. Hope you can come along for the ride.

Last week we devoted ourselves to tying up loose ends and finalizing the planning for this trip. The route we will travel is pretty much planned, we know where we’ll be stopping for nights and for sights and have lists of bike trips, hiking, museum-ing, learning and visiting goals.

Our 2017 traveling, taught me (Liz) something about food storage and I hope to have implemented enough changes that we won’t have to shop quite as often. For instance, we eat tons of veggies and fruits. The little bins at the bottom of our Norcold fridge proved to be inadequate. I got a couple of plastic boxes that fit the shelf above the little bins and they are now filled with the overflow produce we will eat this week. I also froze some favorite foods we won’t find once we leave the South (Gulf Shrimp, for sure!).

We will be holding a north-easterly heading all the way to the Catskills in New York. First big camp, the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. We hope the weather holds and it isn’t too cold up there. In fact, that’s my wish for this whole trip – that it not be too cold. Even where we live, it has been a long cold spring.

Barb and I have a Fly Fishing class – 6 days – in the Catskills in upper New York State in early May. We are both looking forward to learning more and getting in some practice in the storied waters that hosted the very start of the sport. The class is one of Road Scholar’s offerings, Elderhostel’s new brand. RS caters to traveling learners who are over 50 years old.

Last spring, we went to RS Summer Camp. It was held in Arkansas at Trout Lodge, a beautiful YMCA camp on a lake. Did we have fun! It was so much like camp when I was a girl, there were kids everywhere – all thoroughly engaged in the activities du jour, laughter and kids shouts from the lake or the trails across the conifer shrouded hills. It was fabulous. We over-50 campers enjoyed canoeing, kayaking, sailing, hiking, zip-lining, tower climbing, target shooting, crafts, horseback riding and a locked room challenge; seriously it was the best camp experience ever!

Today we camp in Georgia at an Army Corps of Engineers campground in West Point, Georgia. We both look forward to a walk on whatever trails or roads the campground offers, to shake off the road – if we get there in time.

I feel right at home as we take the exit from 85, this is the same exit we took around St. Patrick’s Day to spend a long weekend at a (very expensive) RV Park with the Heart of Dixie Chapter of RVing Women. We visited Calloway Gardens and Roosevelt’s Little White House and met some really nice gals. Franklin Roosevelt loved this part of Georgia and came here for healing waters treatment. We agree with him, this is a gorgeous part of the US!

Back to the present though. R. Shaefer Heard Army Corps of Engineers Campground is on West Point Lake – technically the West Point Project water resource management area. This campground is an easy 6 or so miles off I-85 N.

What a place – waterfront property today for these girls! The entire door side of the RV faces the water, we have a deck and stairs leading to the water where we could tie our boat up to a tree.

The campground is really large, 117 sites and all are reservable. On our walk, we found many campsites clustered together for families and groups. Eleven pull-through sites (one of which we occupy) make it easy for folks who are passing through or aren’t good at backing into sites. Most of the campsites are right on the lake, many are surrounded by trees and bushes that make them very private. This month, the campground isn’t full at all. One thing to note; there appears to be one shower building but most of the small tan buildings hold sinks and toilets.

After the hot drive on 65 and 85, fresh breezes coming off the lake are welcome. The campsite is busy with Yellow-Rumped Warblers, Palm Warblers, Chickadees, Eastern Bluebirds and Carolina Wrens. We hear a woodpecker working for dinner and the shushing of the tiny red waves rushing toward our shore. Red waves because this is Georgia, red dirt reigns.

4-18

Leaving the lake side window shades up all night afforded us a rare treat, a view of the lake as we woke with the light. Lake water moves in a most mesmerizing fashion, she says after falling back to sleep.

Another thing learned; long drives are exhausting. We decided to drive shorter distances and spend more of each day out of the RV during this eastern US sojourn.

The plan is to make a short trip (under 3.5 hours driving) to the next overnight.  We’re zooming along on 985 N right now. Barb just suggested we keep going for another hour to Black Rock State Park closer to the Smokeys… I’ll let you know how the longer drive today meets out goal to drive shorter distances.

We’re glad to be traveling again.  Please leave comments for us and don’t forget to hit the follow button!

Breathe.