I’m getting the hang of this!

ElkAre you tired of hearing about the Elk Bugle Corp? I’m just getting started.

My first two visitor contacts this past Tuesday were in the bathroom at the Cataloochee campground. “I need to know how to get to Little Cataloochee,” a woman asked. I told her, “six miles on the road. Park and then it’s a 6-mile walk round trip to see all the attractions.” She seemed pleased.

“Don’t give them too much information,” Pat, our shift leader, said. “If they want to know where the bathrooms are, you don’t need to tell them about the life of Thomas Crapper, the plumber who invented the modern toilet.”

I took two antlers, this time, and I drove out into the Cataloochee Valley. My first group wanted each and every family photographed with two antlers coming out of their heads. These are very heavy, so the picture consists of a child in front with a parent holding up the antlers in the back.

As of Tuesday (June 16), we had 100 elk, including 10 calves. According to Joe Yarkovich, the Elk Management biologist, many more births are expected. Several visitors had seen elk in the shadows, at the edges of the forest. Some just park themselves with binoculars and wait. It may be that I’ll be the only person who hasn’t seen elk on Tuesday afternoon.

Caldwell Fork - Ch. 9But after you talk to folks for just a short while, you realize that they want to know more than elk behavior. They are fascinated about the history of Cataloochee. So I show them a few photos of the Woody House and the elk pen on Big Fork Ridge Trail. I encourage them to walk to the Woody House.

At the Woody House, I met two summer interns from University of Tennessee in Knoxville who are studying how the hemlock wooly adelgid is affecting the bird population. The hemlock in Cataloochee seem particularly affected; some places on the Caldwell Fork hike seem like a hemlock graveyard.

I realize that if I walk to the Woody House and then to campsite #40 each week, I’ll see the changes in the seasons. Tucked away behind a log, I saw a couple of spring beauties – really late bloomers. Also toothworts, cinquefoil and the mountain laurel still in bloom.

As I parked by the World Headquarters, I noticed a young couple, obviously very confused as to where the ranger station was. They were visiting from Belgium and had several questions about backpacking. They seemed quite prepared and had the right equipment so I encouraged them to get into the backcountry the next day.

43 visitor contacts.





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