Monday, May 29, 2017

Big Creek - It's a Book!!!!!

I checked Amazon late last night and found Big Creek!.  It's a book!!!!

Even if you are not remotely interested in buying a copy, check it out.  Somehow, the more people that look it up, the higher it gets in the algorithm and will show up higher in the list of searches. Or, so I've read.  I probably don't know enough people to make a difference, but it's worth a try.

I don't have my paper copies yet.

Now you won't have to read my whining about the book not getting done any longer!

The Recovery

The tent campground was cleared out when we made our morning walkabout.  Only the parties in Sites 2 and 3.  We saw Spence a bit later and he reported that only Site 3 was occupied.  There were plenty of day visitors though, even with imminent rain.

The section of Little River Road, where all the trees blew down yesterday, was still closed.

On the radio:

A fisheman (angler, if politically correct) fell and fractured his leg in the Little River. He must have used his cell phone to call 911 and they forwarded it to the park dispatch office.

It was noon before the litter team reached the Ramsey Cascade.  Ranger Jeff was ahead of them. At 1:35 the team announced that the they were heading back down the trail. We did not hear them talking to much about the recovery, except for people checking in to help or verifying that people were carrying the necessary "technical recovery" equipment up the trail. It is a big job, requiring a lot of people to carry equipment in and more to carry the patient out. It saddented me each time I heard them on the radio.  The crew got rained on as they were carrying the patient back down the trail. I think is was about 7:30 in the evening when we heard Ranger Jeff report that all participants were "clear" of Greenbrier.  It must have been a long, hard day for them all.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Ramsey Cascades Tragedy

We had one clap of thunder and then some rain last night about eleven.  I didn't notice any wind. Apparently, they got a much bigger storm on the Tennessee side of the park.  The radio was abuzz this morning about trees fallen across the roads.  It seemed that most of the park roads were closed. We heard several people discussing downed trees on Little River Road. At one point, a park worker said there must have been a micro-burst as there were thirty to forty trees down in one area.  They had the road blocked.  There were discussing through the day on what to do about it and they eventually decided that it would be too dangerous for men to cut them up with chainsaws.  They decided to close the road and wait for heavy equipment to come in some time this week.

There is a gate at the entrance to the group and host campsites.  We try to keep it closed on weekends and, especially, holiday weekends.  Otherwise, as soon as the small parking lot is filled, people will be parking in the group site. I'm sure the folks who paid for that site would not be too happy about it. The parking lot was already full when we walked around the campground in the morning.  Andy closed the gate on our way up there.

Since we were already up to the road, we continued on it rather than our normal route through the parking lot.  I love the little (short) split-rail fence along this section of road.  Most of the rails are covered with moss.  I think the moss poachers Spence told us about got a lot of their moss from this fence.  Many of the rails are missing their mossy blanket.

At this point, the road loops around into the parking lot.  The campground road is just around the bend.

I noticed this tiny forest of slender plants.  I thought they might be ferns, but they have not opened enough for me to be sure.

Boss Larry, fresh from his vacation, arrived while we were eating. Ranger Jeff arrived shortly thereafter and they went to the campground to empty the iron ranger. They brought all the payment envelopes back and counted them on our picnic table.  We chatted for a bit and then, they were on their way.

Here is another first.  These mushrooms are growing in the gravel walkway in the campground.

I post photos of these boulders in the woods next to the campground road every year.  They are brilliant when the sun hits them just right.

We stood on the bridge and watched these two children in the creek.  They did not get in that frigid water any more than necessary to get from rock to rock.

Another crop of mushrooms has popped up in the moss near the toilet building. They are about as big as a pencil eraser.

I don't remember the time, early to mid-afternoon most likely, when we heard a report of a man who fell forty feet onto rocks at the Ramsey Cascades and they could not see him. Rangers were immediately chiming in.  Ranger Jeff was apparently the first one to the Greenbrier area.  Ranger Heath was not far behind him. It is a long way to get to the waterfall with a five-mile dirt-and-gravel drive into the Greenbrier area from the entrance.  Then it is a four-mile strenuous hike to the falls.

Someone reported a tree down across the road in the park.  I think Ranger Jeff reported it and went on.  Ranger Heath was going to clear the tree from the road so the rescue vehicle could get through. More park personnel were joinging the rescue.  About eighteen were on the way to carry the patient out, clear other park visitors out of the way, interview hikers coming down the trail, etc.  They were having radio trouble and kept having to repeat for dispatch or each other.  Sometimes we could only hear half of a converstation.

It was about seven to seven-thirty when we began to hear them discussing continuing in the morning. The In-Charge ranger said he wanted a report first-hand before making a decision.  Later, he announced that Ranger Jeff had reached the patient.  They would make a recovery in the morning.  All the rescue team on the trail was to drop all their rescue gear where they were.  The trail will be closed until they complete the recovery tomorrow.

It is always distressing when we hear of a death in the park.  It happens way too often for various reasons. I am sure it is hard on the rangers and other park personnel who attempt to rescue park visitors. 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Another Dog Day

A family from Greensboro, NC came up the trail with their dog and I offered to dogsit.  His name is Rugby, a mix of lab and heeler. He was a bit anxious when his family left and watched them until they were out of sight. He calmed down after I fed him a Pup-Peroni.

He has some great markings, brindle all over with one eye and ear dark brown. I was surprised how soft he was.

 He was also extremely affectionate.  When I was sitting in my chair, he put his front legs over my shoulders and licked my arms, face, and neck.  That was all the exposed skin I had.  I won't need a shower tonight.  He was also a singer.  He would throw his head back and howl like a wolf, just not as loud.  Here, though, I think he was sniffing something in the air.

A butterfly kept landing on my camera on the table.  I pushed the button several times, but this was the best picture I got.

This was an unusual sight in Big Creek on a holiday weekend.  Someone had just left.  Someone else pulled into the space just after I snapped the picture.

The campground was full again early in the day.

The campers in Sites 2 and 3 are not roughing it.  They each have a toilet/shower tent.

They even have HOT showers!  This is new to me.  It is a propane water heater.  The small black box in front of the heater is a battery to run the water pump.

This adorable little camper in Site 10 was worn out and sleeping on Daddy's lap.

They also had a smaller boy in a portable crib.  I don't know how much hiking he did, but he was conked out.

This couple was the highlight of the day.  They are from Sebastian, Florida. (She is from Minnesota originally).  He had never seen mountains and was beside himself with excitement, enthusiasm, and awe.  They came in from the interstate in the morning on a whim.  As they were driving up Big Creek Road and rounded a curve, a  mama bear with three cubs was standing in the middle of the road.  He showed me his pictures on his cell phone.

They were still joyous in the evening when they posed for a picture for me.  It was so satisfying for me to see them enjoying their adventure. They plan to continue exploring all the way to Washington (state).

On the radio:  

An unattended parked car rolled off the road.  I couldn't determine how far off or down, but they did call for a tow truck.

Someone announced that he was out with an owl jam.

There was a rescue being performed on the Crooked Arm Ridge Trail, but we did not hear the beginning and, hence, did not know what happened.  It took several hours for a little team to be formed, reach the person, and carry them out.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Spring Picnic

I think I've heard it called the Beginning of Season Picnic too.  This one was held at the Twin Creeks picnic pavilion in Gatlinburg. I was determined to get there early this year so we would not be last in line (yet again) and not get much food. We made it.  The speeches had not even started yet.

There was a big crowd, as usual. This is only a partial crowd shot.

Linda and Deborah were standing just inside the pavilion and called to me.

It was really cold!  I wore a jacket, my Marathon winter coat, but it didn't do the job.  My hands and feet were cold.  Linda had on a heavy park uniform jacket and she was still cold.  It was colder inside the open-air pavilion than it was outside.

When he gave a talk, we learned that Ranger Heath is now the president of the park employee (recreation?) association.  He announced the upcoming events for the year, thanked the people who worked to get the picnic organized, and praised his predecessor. He is wearing that bright t-shirt because he was teaching a search and rescue (SAR) course.

Clay Jordan is the park's Deputy Superintendent.  He was previously the Chief Ranger. He pointed out that the picnic is to welcome the seasonal employees.  A large number of the park employees are seasonal.  We campground hosts are included even though we are unpaid.

Then I realized that Linda had been strategically standing at the beginning of the food table.  When they announced that it was time to eat, we had but to turn around to pick up our plates and start filling them.  This year, for the first time we have attended, there was food in all those dishes!

After we ate, Clyde and Deborah showed us an interesting spot in the woods.  I didn't get a close-up picture because it was too wet and muddy to get there without walking over wet logs.  Deborah said that last year's fires have exposed all kinds of things in the forest.  This was an old spring house.

The walk to it was also interesting.  Because people lived in the area before the park was created, there was vegetation you don't normally find in the forest.  We saw a plum tree loaded with fruit, but there was too much brush to get to it easily.  We walked by a healthy patch of garlic. The tiny stream that ran from the spring had a lot of watercress in it.  I would have harvested a handful if it had not been so muddy.

We were parked next to this barn.

blog post draft

I apparently started writing a post and then forgot and started a new one.  I don't know when.  I just saw this draft in my blog post list.  I'm still wondering what happened to the food.

On the radio:

A park employee reported two coolers full of food in the middle of the road and asked dispatch what he should do with them.  Dispatch deferred to a ranger who said to take the coolers to the ranger station. I am pitying the party that lost the coolers.   Where are they going to be when they discover their loss?  - on the far side of the park or in a nearby picnic area? They may turn around to search for them, in vain.  Will they have the presence of mind to call the park to report their lost lunch?  If they do, will they have a phone signal?  How long would the food sit in the ranger station before the Rangers can eat it?  Or, will they have to wait until it spoils and then just throw it away?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Around Big Creek and a Book Milestone!

We saw a patch of blue sky in the morning!  It has been dark, damp, and raining for days so I was thrilled to see the blue.  It did not last long though. By the time we got to the campground, the sun was gone. I took this picture from the parking lot, where we have a little more sky.

I took this picture standing on Site 10.  Big Creek is about two feet above normal and the little side stream (bottom right) is rushing.  Normally, it is barely a trickle.

There were some creative campfire builders in Site 3.  They were gone and had left this stack of wood atop the fire ring.

I don't know if they were the same ones who chopped off some of this tree along the creek path.

The creek path is lush after all the rain.

These two little waterfalls (two or three feet high) are normally three tiny streams running over the rocks.  I love this spot.  When the water is normal, one can walk across the rocks to the far side (an island in Big Creek) and not get the feet wet.

Does anyone know what these are?   They are just a few inches tall.  They look good enough to eat, but I haven't tried them

Here is Site 12.  This is the group that has come to Big Creek every year (the week before Memorial Day) for over thirty years.  I love these guys!  We have three generations in two campsites.  You can tell they are experienced Big Creek campers by the size and number of tarps they hang over their campsite.  They know it rains here - a lot.

I realize now that I did not include the young boys in my photos. Two of the middle generation are chefs.  We should have accepted their offers to eat dinner with them.

The man with two little girls in Site 11 wanted to cancel his campsite reservation in Cataloochee since he got a prime site here.  He did not have a phone signal so we let him use our phone to call the reservation office. He got put on hold for a long time and gave the phone to one of the girls to listen to the music while he put up the tent.  She was supposed to give him the phone when the reservation person came back on the line.  But, the girl got tired of listening to music and gave the phone back to Daddy with the music still playing. The tent was not fully set up either.

This bug was on the bridge railing. I thought he was a particularly handsome fellow.  The colors remind me of a race car or a fast motorcycle.  It probably is not very fast though.  Look at those tiny wings.

Since the water level in the creek was high, I walked to the far side of the creek to take a picture of the creek-wide waterfall below the bridge.  Normally, the drop is three or four feet.  Today it was closer to one foot. That's Andy on the bridge.

This cluster is near the group picnic table.  It looks like daylilies to me, but I've never seen any blooms here.

Take a closer look.  The Swallowtails were gathered under the bent leaves.

I saved the big news for last.  Hugo House sent me an electronic proof of Big Creek for me to approve.  I found two more errors in it!  I made note of them for George and approved the proof.  The next step is that they will print one copy for me to approve.  When I do, they will print however many I want to buy.  I should get books a week or so after that!!!  Is it really going to happen?  I think it might this time.