Monday, February 5, 2018

Goin' Back to Big Creek in 2018

It is settled.  Andy and I will return to Big Creek as campground hosts for May and June.

Big News:  Big Creek is going to be on the reservation system this year.  No more driving all that way only to find that there are no sites available - or getting there early in the morning to hover over campsites that might be vacated.  Your site will be waiting for you!

I tried to go from the park website to get to today but it took me to the Cataloochee campground.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Where is Dinata Misovec

I have hardly been on line for the past three weeks or so.  It's a long story.  Maybe, I'll get to tell it soon,.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Free Copy of Big Creek!!!!!!!!!!!! Kinda

Actually, it is not exactly free.  I want to barter with you.
I’ve learned that I really need to get more reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Good Reads. That somehow gets the book more attention and increases sales.  One strategy to do that is to give people a copy in return for a review (or two, or three). Of course, I can’t afford to mail out paperback copies, but Hugo House has a method for distributing e-books (for FREE!).
So, if you are interested in reading my charming, delightful, and informative book, and writing a review of it, send me an email to and I’ll give you instructions for getting it at no cost. Please don’t ask for a copy unless you are serious about writing a review (even a short one).  Time is limited, so please respond right now. So far, I have nothing but five-star reviews on Amazon – and I don’t even know who all those people are.
Big Creek is a fairly quick read at about 200 pages.  It’s not literature.  It’s not scholarship.  It’s just me relaying our adventures (and misadventures) volunteering as campground hosts in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  I wrote it because I was amazed at all that transpires in a national park while most of us are admiring the scenery.  There is a huge, dedicated cadre working to maintain order and minimize the impact of over 11,000,000 visitors per year. Even though it is not fiction, there is still a bit of humor, heartbreak, and some interesting characters. You’ll also learn to make biscuits like my Grandma Dorothy.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Dog Day in Big Creek

I can't help but admire the mossy lawn we have here in Big Creek.

The dog of the day was Bowser.  He was very well behaved and calm.  He did bark when some horses went by and then again when a couple walked by with a dog. He also did some sophisticated begging while we ate our dinner.  

Boss Larry and Ranger Jeff came by for a visit and to take the cash out of the iron ranger.  Boss Larry bought four books!  That is in addition to the one I gave him. I may not have a Best Seller, but I have a seller.  I sure hope he likes it.

Bowser stayed with us for a good part of the day, so we sat outside all day with him.  Most of the time, he stayed close to us.  He seemed content, but was overjoyed when his master returned from fishing up Big Creek.

Andy Misovec

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Ellen Visit

We dog sat an old girl yesterday. She looked as though she has had twenty litters of puppies.  She was very calm when her family left.  She had a skin problem (I think it was a common dog allergy) and was rubbing up against Andy's chair to scratch it.  After she whimpered while doing so, I got a tube of Benedryl and rubbed it in the area that she had just about rubbed bald.  That seemed to relieve her suffering a bit.  I loved the way the fur on top of her head made a pattern when she furrowed her brow.

These mushrooms really stood out on the lawn in the picnic area parking lot.

I hurried back to the motorhome after the morning campground walkabout while Andy was dealing with traffic in the parking lot.  I was just hanging my keys on their hook when I saw Ellen walking up to the motorhome.  That was quite a surprise because I thought she was in Boulder, Colorado.  Well, she had been.  She was driving home to Raleigh, North Carolina and dropped by to say hello (and get a copy of Big Creek for her mother, Diane.  Ellen told me that she had parked in front of the gate to our site.  I thought she should move it so the people in the group site could get in and out. Meanwhile, Andy was up at the gate reporting to dispatch that someone had parked and blocked the road to the host and group site.  When Ellen got there to remove her car, Andy called dispatch to report that the car owner had returned and moved the car.  Then we all laughed about it.

We were having a delightful visit with Ellen when Spence and Linda dropped in to say hello after they had cleaned the restrooms. Ellen asked Spence and Linda both to autograph Big Creek next to their photos. Of course, Spence told her a few stories before he got up to leave.

Ellen asked Andy to help her check her oil.  She was not sure she was doing it right.  The problem was that the oil level was too low to register on the dip stick.  We drove her to the Citgo station in Hartford to buy some oil. Big Creek Road was a traffic mess.  So many cars were parked along the road, even in front of the no-parking sign and the horse trail, that we had to back up quite a way to allow an oncoming car to get through. Then several more came before I could pull back out to go down hill. Cars and trucks were driving up Big Creek Road one after the other.  Down past the ranger station, on the sharpest curve, we got gridlocked with cars lined up in both directions. Andy got out of the car and told each driver to park in the horse camp.  At least a dozen cars came in as we were making our way down the last stretch to the park entrance.  If we did not need to bring Ellen back to get her car, I would have stayed out of the park until evening to avoid a repeat of that experience.

The return trip was a little easier.  I stayed up at the gate to make sure no one blocked it to prevent Ellen from driving home.  Andy and Ellen topped off the oil and she was on her way.

Some park visitors had left two large dogs in the back of a pickup truck.  They were secured with their leashes.  But, after we walked by, one of them took a leap out of the truck.  I went back to make sure the dog had not hung herself.  She had yelped but was standing next to the truck.  We did not try to get her back in the truck since she had been barking at us when we walked by.

On our way back from the campground, three young people were with the dogs.  The second dog had also jumped out of the truck and was caught up on the tow hitch.  They had disconnected the dog's leash.  The first dog had hurt both hind legs when she jumped out.  I had not seen the blood when I checked on her.  There was a good bit when we returned.  One of the young women was studying to be a veterinary tech and bandaged the dog's legs. I left a courtesy notice on the windshield and asked that they be more responsible dog owners. The future vet tech left the dogs secured to the outside of the truck.

On the radio:

A group of mini-bikes was speeding through Little River Road about twenty miles over the speed limit.  One ranger had pulled over several, but the ones in the front of the group got away.  He called to another ranger to be on the lookout for them.  A second ranger thought they were leaving the park and heading to Wears Valley. Later in the day, Ranger Heath pulled over two mini-bikes.

Two hunting dogs with radio collars were running around in the park. A ranger caught them and put them in a kennel.  He got the owner's phone number from their collars.

A twelve-year-old boy was wandering around alone.  It may have been a volunteer or maintenance person who called it in to dispatch.  The caller said that the boy did not speak English.  A Ranger responded and found the boys parents.  We don't know how.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Serenity Cascade with Linda Gray

Andy pointed out this leaning tree as we headed up to the campground.  I had not noticed it leaning before.  Maybe Spence has; we'll mention it when he comes back to Big Creek. It probably wouldn't take too much rain or too much wind to knock it down the rest of the way.

Just in case you have not seen enough leaf pictures:

Three-year-old Marshall was a little shy this morning - until I asked him to climb up on a large rock and pose for a picture. He pulled up his shirt to show his belly several times.

Maintenance Linda told me a few days back that she wanted to show me something to take pictures of.  So we went over to the Cosby campground maintenance yard to meet her at quitting time.  I took a copy of Big Creek for Richard, the mainenance team leader.  He dove right in.

Spence had not come to Big Creek.  He had been mowing all day in Cosby.

Linda directed me to the place where she lived as a child (ages four to nine).  It is in a small cove off a back road, off a side road.  The house she lived in is only a pile of lumber now.  Linda pointed out spots and shared childhood memories with us.  The current owners of the property have converted the old buildings into lodging.  I found it on Trip Advisor

I did not capture the height of the cascade as well as the Trip Advisor reviewer.

Linda remembered a spring house, where she was sent to fetch water.  She didn't think this was it, but I like the picture.

As we checked out the creek, Andy pointed out that the cascade was reflected in the window of the upstream cabin.

Linda and I walked up the path alongside the cascade to find the top.  As far as we could tell, this was the top of the cascade. The picture does not show the scale; I estimate that it is an eight to ten-foot drop.

We were about half way back down when I took this picture.

Here, I was above the last eight-or-ten foot drop.  Linda posed near a boulder for some sense of scale.

I was completely charmed by Serenity Cascade. It is a small magical nook in the mountains.

Next, Linda directed me to Caton's Grove Methodist Church, built in 1903.

The cemetery is large.  This is just a small section to show you the old, old tombstones.

We drove straight to the tent campground went we returned to Big Creek and saw this.  This is Josh.

I saw the park truck and knew he was listening for a bear wearing a tracking collar. (We sometimes see hound dog owners tracking their lost hunting dogs, that also have tracking collars.)  We walked over and I asked if they were hunting a bad bear. Jessica(?) said actually they were tracking a good bear.

He had been a bad bear in the past, hanging around campgrounds looking for food.  Apparently, the experience of getting darted, caged, collared, and transported had been so traumatic for the bear that it has not been detected in front-country areas for a long time.  That bear has stayed in the back country away from people.  They were hoping to find him and remove the tracking collar.

She is so adorable, I would never guess that she is a bear trapper.  She said she is doing research on bear behavior.

On the Radio:

There were two accidents fairly early in the morning.  Someone reported a two-car accident on "the spur" with no injuries.  A short while later there was another report of a motorcycle accident on the Blue Ridge Parkway with one person lying in the road and one off the road.

Someone threw a rock and hit a woman on the head.  Dispatch suggested they take their own vehicle to a hospital for stitches. That would be faster than waiting for an ambulance to get there.

A park visitor called the park to report that he had seen three children on a trail without an adult. The oldest was about 15.  A ranger was preparing to head up the trail to lead the children out when dispatch called him to say the reporting party was coming off the trail and would wait for the ranger at the trailhead.  The ranger then went to meet with the reporting party before hiking out. We never heard any more about it.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Big Creek is in Big Creek!!!!

It was a Big Day and a Milestone for Big Creek. The books arrived yesterday at Spence's house and he brought them to work this morning. I'm not sure who was more excited to see them - Andy (because he has been so annoyed with the slow progress), or me (happy to see my "baby" finally born, or Spence (the main character).  Spence took off to weed whack at the park entrance and we headed to the campground for our morning walk.

When the area near the day-use parking lot is freshly trimmed, the foundation of the old logging operation stands out.  I think it may have been the saw mill, but am not certain.

Here is another emerald boulder along the campground road.  I have really grown quite fond of moss!

The five men from Hendersonville NC in Site 8 were breaking camp.  I was sorry to see them go.

I don't know what these are.  They are lovely.

We were in the day-use parking lot, heading back to the host site when we saw two large Knoxville TN school buses driving in.  Both drivers attempted to park across five or six parking spaces, so I walked to the driver's windows and told them to offload their passengers and then go park in the horse-camp day-use lot. They offloaded ninety middle-school kids and chaperones.  Yes, the summer trips have begun.

The kids all headed to the picnic area.  Some made their way back up to the restrooms.

With books in hand (and the back seat of the car), I was anxious to get out and distribute them.  We stopped at the park entrance and told Spence he had 90 people using the picnic area restrooms.  He said he would have to clean them again.

We stopped at Our Place in Cosby.  Boss Larry had told me they like to sell local-interest books.  We chatted with Harold for a while and he decided to take four books on consignment.  We also bartered:  two books for a bag of those gourmet coffee beans.

Of course, we are not going to get near Pigeon Forge without going to the Mellow Mushroom for pizza.  There is one in Gatlinburg, but it is so much easier to park in Pigeon Forge.  With full tummies, we headed back into the park.  My goal is to get Big Creek on the shelves in the park visitor center gift/book shops. I think that will be my best chance of recovering my cost to publish it.  I had called the Great Smoky Mountains Association, that runs the visitor centers, and was told to drop a copy off at the Sugarlands Visitor Center shop.  They have a review committee to approve books for the shops.

Last year, at the park spring picnic, Andy mentioned that I was writing a book about the park to Superintendent Cassius Cash.  He said he wanted a copy.  I delivered it today, a year later. I snapped this picture of the park headquarters as we walked to it from the visitor center. Just one of my usual walking shots.

Mr. Cash was in a meeting, but his assistant didn't think it would be a long one.  She asked us to wait in the lobby.  It was a delightful spot.

When he arrived, we reminded him that I promised him a book last year.  We had a delightful visit and he posed with me and the book for Andy to take our picture.  He is just as cheerful and friendly as his big smile implies. Of course, he already knows everything that is in the book.  He acknowledged that and said it would be interesting to see it from my perspective.

The Little River Ranger Station is near headquarters and Ranger Heath came on duty at four o'clock.  I gave him a copy of Big Creek and he posed for me with it.  After Spence, Heath is the most-discussed park employee in the book. I told him I hope he doesn't get fired after his bosses read the book.

We got a little surprise treat at the ranger station.  These volunteers are VP2 (Volunteer in Park). There were at the ranger station to assist with the Synchronous Firefly Viewing Event. We hear them on the park radio all the time.  They roam the park roads and help visitors in distress.  We have heard them called to open locked cars with the keys inside.  They direct traffic around accident scenes.  As much as I hear them on the park radio, I would not be surprised if they put in nearly full-time hours - FOR FREE folks.  The national park volunteers are a devoted lot.  For me, it was like meeting a radio personality.

Our last stop was the Big Creek Country Store. Kelly had already told me a few weeks ago that she wanted to sell my books. She is just outside the park entrance to Big Creek, a good spot to sell Big Creek. She took ten on consignment. Check out the pictures of the store. It is so cute, like a step back in time!

We saw Emily and Cody in the parking lot as we headed to the campground in the afternoon.  They were preparing for a multi-day backpacking trip and were packing their packs.  We chatted for a few minutes and headed on to the campground.

I noticed this big old tree in Site 10 yesterday but did not have my camera to photograph it.  What is wrong with people?!!?!?!?!?!? One of the largest trees in the campground appears to have been chopped into repeatedly with an ax.  Some spots seem to have been burned.  It does not show in the picture but the whole area is discolored.  I am furious.  It is tree abuse.

We have not seen regular camper Windy since we arrived this year.  He was in the campground this evening with his grandson Marshall.  He is a beautiful child with an outgoing personality.  I can't believe he is already three years old.  I remember him as a baby.

Windy is letting the boy run wild and have a great time to instill a love of camping at an early age.  He said that, if his wife Lisa was here, she would not let him have so much fun.

Emily and Cody were still packing when we passed back through the parking lot.  I told them that if they were getting too late a start, to come to the host site to spend the night.  The campground was full.  They said they did a lot of hiking and didn't mind hiking at night.  Just about dark, they knocked on our door. They had studied their maps and realized that the Mount Sterling Trail is six miles long and very steep.  They accepted our offer.  After they were set up, we had a good visit with them.  She is doing some research in the park on the effects of last fall's fires.  He is a photographer.  Check out his website at Lucky Duck Photo. An interesting thing about Cody:  he paid his camp fee with two-dollar bills.  He said he collects currency.  When he doesn't want to keep it, he spends it. We had such a nice visit, I wished they could stay longer.