Thursday, April 30, 2015

April 30, 2015 - Wildflowers

Thursday, April 30, 2015 – Big Creek

Andy was up early and figured out why we could not get a signal yesterday; the signal booster was not plugged in. He said it was 48 degrees outside when he got up this morning.

The first thing we heard on the park radio this morning was a report that the 350 (a bear) was running over the hill. We obviously missed the best part of that story.

Maintenance Spence was off work today; Thursday and Friday are his weekend. Boss Larry was in a training class so we did not see him either.

It is a one-mile walk for us to leave the motorhome, walk around the tent campground, check out Big Creek at the bridge, pass the motorhome and take the horse trail  to walk around the horse campground, and then back to the motorhome. We plan to do it three times a day to get in our three miles.

The sun was in and out behind small clouds for the morning walk. The leaves were wet from and early rain. It was brilliant. There was no sun as we walked up the road to the tent campground.

Yellow Trilliums are everywhere. Many of the leaves had been chewed on, but I found a number of bite-free ones. These were in the picnic area next to the creek.

Big Creek was a torrent by the tent campground. It was mostly white water behind the gnarly old tree.

I spotted so many wildflowers today, but have not looked them up to tell you what they are. This tiny violet-type thing was on the path by the creek.

This amazing yellow one was just a little farther along the path. Those are impossibly tiny flowers.

Here is the first of many pictures of the bridge over Big Creek you will see in May and June.

The gorgeous cluster was on the far bank of the creek.

I walked down to the water’s edge and took a picture of my scale model Andy on the bridge.

These, my favorite of the day, were also on the far bank.

On our way back to Sao from our morning walk around the campground, a car stopped by us and a man said that someone had left a backpack sitting in the parking lot. We walked past the cars blocking our view of it and saw the backpack sitting out by itself, not near any cars. Someone drove off without it. It was open and full of gear, so I zipped it up and handed it to Andy to carry. It was heavy. I planned to examine the contents for some identification when we got back to our campsite and report it to Dispatch. Just as we got to the sidewalk at the end of the parking lot, a car came speeding in, driving the wrong way in the one-way traffic circle. When he got near us, he held his arm out of the car and yelled, “That’s mine! That’s mine!”  Andy handed him the backpack and told him to slow down when he leaves. He said he was speeding to hurry back to retrieve his pack.

The horse camp is immaculate and ready for the season.

Andy laid out our plastic outdoor carpet and staked the corners. Then we set up our new screen room. It fits nicely over the picnic table. We were anxious to get it up as the gnats are swarming around our heads.

Spence had mentioned them yesterday and today we saw them for ourselves. There are a bazillion small brown grasshoppers here. That is no exaggeration; it’s an estimate. When we walked by them in the forest, their jumping in the dry leaves sounded like rain. We had not seen them here before, but this place is alive with them now. I mean grasshoppers in Biblical proportions.

At 1345, someone at Clingman’s Dome called dispatch (700) to report that it was snowing up there. It started raining here in Big Creek at 1400 and rained lightly for the rest of the day.

There was a mildly interesting conversation on the radio between two park employees.
“ You are leaving a lot of smoke behind you.”
“Yeah, this thing is using a quart of oil every three or four days. Your spotlight in on.”

Someone reported a tree down across a guardrail and asked for someone to come with a chain saw to remove it. Another person responded that he would send someone and, then a few minutes later, a third guy said he was on his way.

It was raining for the afternoon walk around, but I carried my umbrella and took pictures until it was too dark to get them in focus. This cluster of small white flowers is growing on the moss on a boulder lining the campground road.

 The Sweet Shrub is in bloom along the campground road too.

I took another, close up, for a better look.

The field of large boulders is green as ever.

We chatted with the campers huddled under their tarps to stay dry. Everyone seemed happy. It was getting colder so Andy stopped back in the motorhome to put on a sweatshirt under his raincoat. I saw this turkey on the horse trail while I waited outside.

It’s not the best picture ever, but it is better than my usual turkey butt.

At 1800, someone reported from Clingman’s Dome that the snow was starting to stick. At 1920, the park closed the road to Clingman’s Dome. There was ½ to ¾ of an inch at that point. A ranger called in tags for two cars parked there to see if they belonged to backpackers. Dispatch checked and both cars belonged to people who had registered for backcountry campsites for tonight so they didn’t have to worry about them driving out in the snow.

A woman was walking by our site as it was getting dark so Andy went out to see if she needed some directions. She said she was looking for a place to pitch her tent. Andy asked where she came from and she said she had walked from Georgia. Surely, not today. Then Andy told her where to find the tent campground.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

April 28, 2015 - Return to Big Creek

Wednesday, April 29, 2015- Orangeburg, South Carolina to Waterville, North Carolina (230 miles in 4 hours 37 minutes)

Of course, we owed it to the Cracker Barrel to eat breakfast there since we had spent the night in their parking lot. I don’t like to eat breakfast, but did enjoy the country ham biscuits and coffee. Andy had a real breakfast. We were back underway at 0800.

There was still a misty rain, but not as heavy as yesterday.

At Asheville, North Carolina, we took I-40 to Waterville at the North Carolina/Tennessee border. At the exit, we crossed the Pigeon River and followed the road to the hydro-electric plant. I pulled over in the parking area where the white-water rafters and kayakers put in the river at 1237. Andy disconnect the car while I called the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Dispatch office to let them know we had arrived.

This is the Pigeon River. The kayakers and rafters put in the river in front of the power plant, behind that gray shed. That is also where Big Creek enters the river, from the right.

Andy drove on ahead of me so he could convince anyone driving out of Big Creek to back up to a wide spot in the road for me to pass them. I certainly was not going to back up. Maintenance Man Spence was just getting ready to mow the grass at the ranger station. When he saw us, he came out to direct me across the one-lane bridge across Chestnut Branch. I don’t think I could do it without someone directing me as the bridge is on a curve and there is a large boulder right where I would want to swing wide to line up.

We never met another vehicle coming down the road. I pulled up in front of our host campsite and waited for Andy to direct me to back in. Andy hooked up the utilities and I walked around and took pictures of Sao in the host site. This one is looking down the road to our site. The ditch in the foreground is to divert rainwater around our campsite. They have dug it out since last year and that is a good thing.

Here is a look back up the road to the parking lot. Green is powerful here.

For this picture, I was standing on the road between the group site and the host site.

Here is a look at our yard from the door of the motorhome. Big Creek Trail, leading to the horse camp, is just beyond the green moss lawn. I have learned to love gravel. If it was not there, we would be in mud.

Then I walked down to the horse trail and took a picture back at Sao.

The leaves are not fully out, so we will have some sunshine if it comes out from behind the clouds.

Spence stopped in to welcome us back when he finished working. I took four or five pictures of him, but none of them turned out well. This was the best of the batch. I’ll get a better picture of him later.

His hair is still long, past his shoulders, and in a ponytail.

It has been a year since his father died and left Spence the farm. Now, the sisters are taking him to court for some cash from the estate, which has no cash. He said the court date is in June. I was hoping that the family feud would be over by now.

We set up our signal booster antenna, but still have no signal to get on line or use the cell phone. Hopefully, we’ll figure that out soon.