Sunday, May 31, 2015

May 31, 2015 - Rangers Will and Chase

The tent campground cleared out this morning. Only the couple in Site 4 stayed and moved to the prime campsite, Site 11. The people in the group site packed up fairly early and they all went to the Cracker Barrel for breakfast. They have been camping here twice a year, as a group, for14 years, and Cracker Barrel on the last day is a tradition.

Andy and I sang Smoky Mountain Maintenance Man to Spence and he loved it.

I don’t know how much wood the group brought. They had a fire going the whole time they were here, except at bedtime, and still had a huge pile left. Two of the young men brought it over with a dolly in three or four loads. At quitting time, Spence tried to split one of the large blocks. It was very hard wood. The man had bought the scraps from a pallet manufacturing company.


Spence waited for the group to leave before cleaning the toilet building near us. We walked up to the tent campground. When we returned, Spence said I should take a picture of how well he cleans. So I went to the ladies room door and took two pictures. It was immaculate so I didn’t even walk in there with my hiking boots on.

We walked through the horse camp and saw where someone had knocked down the fence around the water trough. Spence has to get a new fence post before he can fix it.


Andy and I walked on down Big Creek Road to see if the buggy that followed the horse off the side last night was still there. It was not. We surmised that the owners had come up with the flat-bed truck we saw last night and pulled it up the mountainside. This picture is a big disappointment. I was standing on the side of the road looking down a steep slope, but it looks flat in the picture. It looks as though that big ole tree root ball stopped them from going farther down.

Here is another look at the spot, not looking down over the side, which gives a better idea of the steepness. Sorta.

We walked back up the road and saw Spence at the water pump building.

I took a peek and a picture inside the door while Spence was getting ready to test the water. He does this every day.

We left Spence to his work and continued up Big Creek Road. I love this walk, but we don’t do it too often, especially not on weekends when there is a steady stream of cars pouring in.

A caravan of the group of people who had been in the group site one night and then moved to the campground was coming down the road. They all waved and said goodbye and thanked us for being such good hosts as they passed.

Rangers Will and Chase surprised us at our motorhome, sitting outside. They had walked ten miles over the mountain from Cosby and were waiting for Ranger Heath to come pick them up.

We had a most pleasant chat with them. They have both worked at several different parks and we enjoyed hearing their stories. Andy insisted that we sing the Smoky Mountain Maintenance Man song for them. Then, when Heath arrived to pick them up, he wanted to sing it again for Heath.
Chase is new here.

Will is the acting lead ranger for our section of the park.

 On the radio

A 57 year-old woman was having trouble on the Goshen Trail.

A minute later, another 57-year-old woman had a broken wrist about a mile up the Grotto Falls Trail. She was walking down with her family.

At 1852 rangers stopped a vehicle with expired tags. I don’t recall precisely, but it was six months to a year overdue. It was a US government car.

About 2035 a car was flipped over on its side on Rich Mountain road with four passengers inside. Only one was hurt with perhaps a broken ankle.

Get on my email list

It is way too difficult to post to a blog without an internet connection.  I send the posts out as an email. That way, when we get to town, I can do a quick send/receive at the coffee shop.

If you would like to receive the logs while we are in Big Creek, send me an email to

and I will add you to the distribution list.  Otherwise, they will get posted on the blog site after we leave Big Creek in July.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

May 30, 2015 - Smoky Mountain Maintenance Man

Andy made crepes for breakfast. I mixed up some cottage cheese and blueberries for the filling. Yum. Andy made a full pot of coffee, anticipating Spence’s arrival about 0830, but he did not show up.

For some reason, this morning I got the notion to take pictures as I walked around. Maybe every ten yards or so, if I wasn’t distracted, I would snap. Now I remember I also did that on the boat and while walking around European cities. It did not show much that I don’t usually pay attention to, but I did take some that I have never done before.

When we walk up to the campground from the host site, I usually pay attention to the left of this picture, the sidewalk toward the toilet building and parking lot. Today I looked up the driveway toward the gate and Big Creek Road.

I walk between these four trees multiple times every day and have never really looked at them this way.

This is the kind of thing I normally take a picture of. (I know, I ended the sentence with a preposition. It’s the way I talk.) The air mattresses are stacked outside to dry and the pillows are spread out on a tarp in Site 5.

This is the forest floor near the group site, taken from the horse trail. I should marvel over this more often as the Great Smoky Mountains are a wonder of biodiversity.

Spence and Linda showed up at our site with their lunches. I heated our stew and we all sat in our screen room to eat. Spence had been in Gatlinburg in the morning, getting a truck fixed, I think.

This little boy had just fallen down with a big cluster of grapes, most of which scattered on the ground. He hurt his arm on the gravel and almost started to cry. Uncle Andy quickly offered to put a new arm on him. It was hard to tell whether the little guy was going for it, but he forgot about the arm while probably wondering, “Is this guy for real?”

His big sister was hiding behind the boulder, playing police-and-bad guys with some other children when we came by. We called it cops-and-robbers when I was a kid.

Of course, I’ve been taking a lot of pictures of sun shining through leaves lately. Maybe I haven’t captured this particular branch hanging over the bridge though.

I take a picture like this nearly every day the sun is shining.

Maintenance Spence and Linda had just finished cleaning the toilet building in the tent campground. Spence objected to me taking a picture of him when he was working. If I take a picture of him taking a break, he complains that I never take a picture of him working.

I usually take a picture of this branch when the sun is shining on it. They never look as good as real life though. Too much detail is washed out by the sun. It is along the campground road.

I noticed these growing along the path from the horse day-use parking area. It wasn’t time for another snap, but the sun was shining on them. I never would have noticed them otherwise. They are tiny, about this size of a straight pin. I could barely see them without zooming in with the camera. They are growing from a patch of moss on a log. I’ll have to try for a sharper image tomorrow.

Here’s another thing I have never taken a picture of. It is the water faucet in the horse camp. It was time to snap something.

When we were not walking around, I worked on entering receipts into Quicken and balancing statements. The big excitement of the day came after dark. We had closed all the shades and Andy was taking his boots off when we got a knock at the door. An excited young man said that a horse and buggy had fallen off Big Creek Road down past the horse camp and they wanted me to call a ranger. He also said the doctor in the group site was going to help.

I called dispatch on the radio to report and said we would go check it out and call back. We drove the car and Andy had the presence of mind to take his flashlight. I left mine safely back in the motorhome. Just at the horse camp entrance, we came upon a group of horses and riders making their way up the road. They said they were not with the others, but had come upon them a while back. Then we encountered two men walking. They were not hurt and did not want a ranger. One of the men said he wanted a ride down to the stop sign. Our back seat is full of “stuff” so there is only room for two in the car. Andy got out and said he would walk while I drove the man home. He lives in the old house across the creek from the park entrance.

We had not gone too far when I saw a light off the down-mountain side of the road and stopped the car. A man, a horse, and a grown boy climbed up over the edge of the road in my headlights. I asked if they were OK and they were not hurt. The horse kept sticking its head in the car window. The man kept dropping his cell phone and I was afraid I would run over it if I moved the car.

I called dispatch again and reported that no one was hurt or wanted help and I was driving the man home. We met the doctor and his son as they were driving back up the road and asked the man if he wanted the doctor to check him over. He said, “I don’t need no doctor”. I relayed the message, “He don’t need no doctor”. Then he told me that some hikers had spooked the horse and that caused the accident.

The others walked. The man wanted Andy’s flashlight, but Andy was not willing to part with it. That made the man angry and he told Andy to go away, he wasn’t needed. Apparently, he fussed at Andy all the way down the road. After I dropped off the man at his house and made my way back up the road, I met the boy with the horse. He apologized, “My dad is drunk and he’s been cussin’ your husband”. Next, I encountered Andy and he got in the car, livid and ready for a fight.

When we got back to our site, we chatted with the doctor in the group site. I told him the men were drunk and he agreed, “moonshine, made it himself”. Andy cooled down a bit and we talked about other things for a while. Ken raises cattle and said he would come over tomorrow and invite us to his house for some grass-fed steaks. Now that really cheered Andy up.

Andy came up with some new song lyrics today. You can guess the tune.

The Smoky Mountain Maintenance Man

He’ll be comin’ round the mountain when he comes.
He’ll be comin’ round the mountain when he comes.
He’ll be comin’ round the mountain. He’ll be cussin’ and a shoutin’
He’ll be comin’ round the mountain when he comes.

He will bring his big weed eater when he comes.
He will bring his big weed eater when he comes.
He will bring his big weed eater and the campground will be neater.
He will bring his big weed eater when he comes.

He will clean the campers ashes when he comes.
He will clean the campers ashes when he comes.
He will clean the campers ashes and where they wipe their asses.
He will clean the campers ashes when he comes.

He’ll be ridin’ on his mower when he comes.
He’ll be ridin’ on his mower when he comes.
He’ll be ridin’ on his mower and the grass is gettin’ lower.
He’ll be ridin’ on his mower when he comes.

He will fire up his blower when he comes.
He will fire up his blower when he comes.
He will fire up his blower, but with age he’s get’n slower.
He will fire up his blower when he comes.

He’ll be drive’n on his Gator when he goes.
He’ll be drive’n on his Gator when he goes.
He’ll be drive’n on his Gator sayin’ “see y’uns later”.
He’ll be drive’n on his Gator when he goes.

One the radio

I did not pay much attention to the radio today. Andy responded to the campground vacancy report; we were full again.

There was a search and rescue going on somewhere in the park, maybe on the Chimneys trail. I did not hear what happened, but it took them hours to get a rescue party gathered at the trail head and hike up with the litter. Maybe just as long to reach the patient. Our very own, Rescue Ranger Heath was part of the team, as usual. He reported reaching the patient and within a few minutes reported that they were heading back down the trail with her on the litter. Much later, I heard him say that they did not need an ambulance; she was leaving in her own car. I’m guessing it was a broken bone and her husband/partner was going to drive her to a clinic to get her patched up.

Friday, May 29, 2015

May 29, 2015 - The Bean Tree

The people in the group site are the tarp champions of all time.  They have huge tarps over all the tents and the eating area.

The people in Site 11 also have a huge tarp.


The morning sun was brilliant on the creek when we walked down the creek-side path.

Here is a picture of the water running under the bridge in the picnic area.


The rain started just as I was opening the motorhome door after we walked around the campground in the morning. We had two errands, pick up the mail in Hartford and Andy’s prescription in Newport. It was pouring down rain, so we headed out.

Here is our temporary post office in Hartford, Tennessee.  It is a waterfront post office, the Pigeon River is right behind it.

We always spend a few minutes chatting with the postmaster.


The Bean Tree is next door to the post office, so we decided to try it.

This mosaic sign made with bottle caps is standing next to the front door.

It is right on the river bank with a large outdoor eating area.  Since it was raining, I opted to sit inside to keep the server dry.

There were some painted rocks for sale on the back porch.  I inspected them, but did not buy one.

We got back into the car and Andy could not find his hat.  I didn’t laugh at him. Much.

The people in the group site were moving one of their canopies.  We have seen people move erected tents, but this is a canopy first.

I just noticed this fan attached to the side of the tent in Site 4 today.  They must open up the tent side somehow when they run it.

The people in Site 11 (and several other sites) were saving more sites for some friends. I told them that reserving sites is not allowed.  You claim a site by setting up your tent on it, and then pay for the site. The woman was pretty feisty and didn’t want to hear it, so I didn’t argue the point with her.  I just hope that no one else arrived and did not get a site because sites nine and eleven were “saved”.  With a cooler in Site 9

And a chair and paddle in Site 12.  The man had just added the paddle when I took the picture.

On the radio

At 1100 a teenager crashed his bike, with a possible broken arm.  A ranger went to check it out.

There was an elk jam near the Smokemont Campground about 1130.

We heard dispatch announce that they were cancelling the Amber Alert for the missing 10-month baby.  We had missed the beginning of that story.

Some people were in the Elkmont area looking for hunting dogs.

A twenty-year old woman fell about 20 feet off the trail at Ramsey Cascades. She had a big gash on her forehead. She was about three miles from the trailhead. They were sending Rescue One, which I just learned is a heavy duty pickup truck. It took a long time to round up people to help carry the woman out.  After a while, they didn’t care if people were litter certified, as long as they were strong.  At 1620 Ranger Heath was out with the patient at a bridge.  He said she was not moving, but I think he meant she was not moving down the trail rather than that she was dead. At 1637, they decided to walk her out, but were keeping the team on hand, just in case she couldn’t make it. At 1703, the litter was moving down the trail. At 1807 they were “off trail”, “clear”, and the patient was on her way to the hospital.

In the early evening, there was a serious accident on Parsons Branch Road near Rt. 129 at the far end of the park.  The vehicle was a rented Jeep that was on its side in the middle of the road.  When the park ranger arrived, there were already emergency vehicles on scene from outside the park. They were sending the crash victims to the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Four passengers were going to the hospital, one by helicopter and three by ambulance. According to the ranger, there were beer cans everywhere. One of the ambulance drivers requested another helicopter at 2024.

The wildlife guys were out late at night checking traps.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

May 28, 2015 - Avalon Builds a Fire

The people in the group site moved up to the tent campground. They were up there early negotiating with resident campers to take their spaces when they left. They had told me last night that a toilet in the ladies room near us was stopped up and running over.  I called it in to dispatch, since it was after hours for the Cosby maintenance crew.  Then I turned off the water. This morning, one of the women told me that a toilet in the tent campground ladies room was also stopped up.  I called Junior on the radio and he said he would be over to take care of both of them. The new group moved in and began setting up camp, including enough tarps to keep them dry in any weather.

These ruins in the center of the parking lot are the remains of the old logging camp that was here before the park was created.

We met a group of hikers in the parking lot from the Milwaukee area.  I mentioned that Daughter Jennifer lives in Mequon on Green Bay Road, and one of the men told us he works in Cedarburg and drives past Jennifer’s house every day. Of course, we told him that when he sees a motorhome in the driveway, to stop in and say hello.

This couple in Site 3 lives in nearby Dandrigde, Tennessee.  They really know how to relax in a campground.  The man told us those coffee mugs belonged to his grandmother.  I love that.

We take this path off the campground road when we go to the bridge over Big Creek in the picnic area.

This is the end of the bridge at the far side of the creek.  On the picnic area end, there is a “no horses” sign.  These posts at the far end ensure that horses do not go up the Baxter Creek trail.  It is too narrow along the steep mountainside before it gets into a nice forest path.  But then, later, the trail gets steep and difficult, not suitable for horses.


We ran out to Newport again for Andy to drop off a prescription while I set up my computer in the East Tennessee Coffee Shop.  I did an email send/receive, but have given up on updating the blog.  Maybe I should post the words without the pictures to save time. I had put on a pot roast in the crockpot in the morning and the motorhome smelled wonderful when we got back.

Avalon was building a small fire in Site 9.  She just finished medical school in Florida and is on her way to her residency in Delaware. She thanked us for our morning hiking recommendations and had a great day.


This view is from the beginning of the parking lot as we walk up to the tent campground.  I was looking down toward the bridge.


The grandpa in Site 11 was taking a cart-load of foodstuffs back to the car.  His little grandson came along and was pushing a toy truck all the way.  The picture does not show how steep this  section of the path is.  Grandpa was struggling to hold the heavy cart back so as not to run over the little boy.

On the radio

There was a report of a helicopter hovering close to the ground near the Oconaluftee visitor’s center. It was doing slow circles just above the trees. There were no numbers on it. We never heard any more about it.

At 1652 a large bull elk was next to the road causing major traffic problems just inside the park near Oconaluftee. Luftee Rovers were sent to deal with him, or at least encourage the park visitors to keep moving. I figure the bull elk was going to do whatever he pleased.

A ranger called dispatch to say he was out of service.  They do that every day, but this guy added, “I’ll be out of service. Thanks for a good three years.”  That’s as close to personal chit-chat as I have ever heard between rangers and dispatch.

At 1800 a twelve-year-old boy had cut his foot.  They did not want an ambulance, but did want a ranger to take a look at it.