2015 Trip Six, Great Smoky Mountains, Oct. 16-17

Asheville, NC Oct. 17


Indulge me in a few paragraphs of self-congratulation. This post is our 400th since we began in January of 2013. An expectation of one year off to travel has mushroomed to three years, although the weeks traveling have decreased from 35 in 2013, to 25 in 2014, and 15 in 2015. The posts are more often than not written nightly and cover one day; slower days get combined. Rarely do we make one entry cover three days. That does not allow for serious editing, hopefully the entries are written decently.

The blog was begun as a means to remember our trips and to let family know where we were and what we were doing. That is still the primary purpose but, although the blog has not gone viral, we now have followers in Europe, India, Japan, etc. We hope you are enjoying our description of a slice of American life.

Our first posts were generally about 500 words in length. For the last year or so they have been usually over 1,000 words. Ballparking the average at 750 words for 400 posts equals 300,000 words; enough words to have written 3-4 novels. Obviously there is no plot or character development involved.

Photos are taken with a Nikon point and shoot; easy to carry, simple to operate and to recharge batteries, pictures able to be quickly uploaded to our iPad. We shoot what we see, we rarely return to a location for better lighting or weather. Pictures are meant to remind us of what we saw, we are not aiming to be professional photographers. If the day was rainy and overcast, or if the only shot of a location or subject was into the light, well, so be it.

Our travels will likely continue to decrease. We will have to determine next year if we continue to pay for blog space. Thanks to Adam and Shannon we now have a printed version of years 2013 and 2014.

So enjoy! We have been blessed to be able to travel this extensively, to enjoy our time, and, yes, to stay married after all those weeks together on the road.

Ed and Chris

On to today’s post.

Last view as we leave Great Smoky Mountains behind

Last view as we leave Great Smoky Mountains behind

We left Gatlinburg Friday morning, again in great weather. Once again over the Newfound Gap Road through the heart of Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Cullowhee NC is home to Western Carolina University. (Its 500 member marching band was the lead band of the 2014 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.) Our goal was to visit the Mountain Heritage Center.

This was mid-semester break, parking on campus was easy. Thankfully since the Heritage Center was not designed as a major tourist activity; it seems to be more of research arm. The Center had just moved to the library building and no center staff seemed to be working during break week.

There was an exhibit from the North Carolina History Museum available; one that brought back memories of difficult times. The photographs of Lewis Hine from the early 1900s documented the reality of child labor in the textile factories dotting the North Carolina landscape. Children under 10 working long hours. The lack of caring by factory owners, the acceptance of the “way it is” permeated the photos. His pictures were taken for the National Child Labor Council. There was a second small exhibit located on a different floor giving a brief history of North Carolina pottery.

Former Jackson County Courthouse in Sylva, now the library

Former Jackson County Courthouse in Sylva, now the library

Not exactly a home run event. Our second stop was the small town of Sylva, supposedly postcard pretty with lots of small shops. Well, you know we are not major shoppers but we gave it a try and did find a small gift for two family members. Lunch was hilarious though. The Coffee Shop (that’s its name) had been written up as THE place the locals eat at. Well they do because it is cheap and the waitresses recognize locals and serve them first. The visitors looked at each other and said “When do we get served?” It was cheap though.

Our third stop was a complete strike out. Supposedly there are more people of Celtic heritage in North Carolina than anywhere else in the world (even Scotland and Ireland??) We did not get a chance to find out. The Scottish Tartans Museum in Franklin-Franklin was the site of our evening lodging-was closed, according to the sign on the door and not mentioned on their website, so they could attend some Scottish Games in Atlanta. We ate ice cream at a local creamery instead.

View from the Blue RIdge Parkway

View from the Blue RIdge Parkway

Saturday was our first Blue Ridge Parkway Day. We drove 70 miles along the southern end; the parkway extends from Cherokee NC (by the Great Smoky Mountain National Park entrance) 460 miles to Waynesboro VA where it connects with the Skyline Drive. The parkway was begun in 1932 and finally completed in 1987. The design was chosen to highlight views, thus there are lots of overlooks and in many areas, trees and brush are cut back so vistas can be seen by the driving public.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway

We drove, and stopped, and hiked, and took pictures. Due to its design, instead of focusing on managing tight corners, we were usually watching the North Carolina mountains and trees roll by. Our drive began before 9 AM (after leaving Franklin at 8AM) so initial traffic was not too heavy. By the end of the day it was heavy indeed.

School Building for the School of Forestry

School Building for the School of Forestry at Cradle of Forestry

Our major detour off the Parkway was to the Cradle of Forestry, a U.S. Forest Service sponsored site located in the Pisgah Forest east of Asheville. The Pisgah Forest was established in 1916 from the estate of George Vanderbilt who built Biltmore which we will be touring tomorrow. Vanderbilt wanted to own all of the land as far as he could see from his enormous mansion so he bought over 125,000 acres of land, including Mt. Pisgah (named after the mountain in the Bible from which Moses saw The Promised Land).

The name Cradle of Forestry is derived from the fact that Vanderbilt hired Gifford Pinchot and Frederick Law Olmstead to develop gardens and manage the forests on his estate. Eventually they turned the forestry portion over to Dr. Carl Schenck, a German. Schenck developed the first forestry school in the United States in 1896 at Biltmore, locating it in the forests among the land Vanderbilt purchased from small farmers and landowners.

The goal of the School of Forestry was to teach people who would understand “trees could be cut and the forest preserved at one and the same time”. As we saw in the Great Smoky Mountains, clear cutting was the standard lumbering practice with ruinous effects. The school operated for 15 years.I thought it was ironic that the School of Forestry was founded by the son of Cornelius Vanderbilt, the mega-entrepeneur that virtually dictated the spread of the railroads in the 1800s. The railroads used enormous amounts of wood for railroad ties and the railroad expansion across the country made lumbering large tracts of land feasible.

Axe hurling at Woodsmen Meet at Cradle of Forestry

Axe hurling at Woodsmen Meet at Cradle of Forestry

Pole climbing

Pole climbing

The Cradle of Forestry has several walks that wind among the school grounds and preserved school buildings. Our original plan was to tour them and the exhibits and move on. However, today was the re-scheduled date (from the “biblical” rains of two weeks ago) of the Woodsmens Meet. The Meet involved seven schools of forestry in team compettions in pole climbing, log cutting, axe hurling, chain saw cutting, etc. There were male and female contests. We spent an enjoyable bit of time watching several of the competitions.

Finally, we drove to Asheville and made 5 PM Mass at the Basilica of St. Lawrence. This church has the largest free-standing elliptical dome in North America. Lucky for us, a couple was celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary and we were able to spend a longer period of time in church than usual.

Ed and Chris 11:45 PM

Categories: road trip, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “2015 Trip Six, Great Smoky Mountains, Oct. 16-17

  1. 400th blog! And I’ve read every one!
    What an entertaining and informative way to keep up to date with your travels.
    Thank you for doing this.
    Much love

  2. tonyfink@comcast.net

    Congratulations to you both. You do a good job and your blogs are informational and entertaining.  Thanks.

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