Oconaluftee Visitor Center – Day Two of Training

OVC 20100320 - Oconaluftee River

Yesterday was my second day of training at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center.

When I arrived, I noticed two school busses in the parking lot. These were fourth graders who were studying North Carolina History and were visiting the Mountain Farm Museum – part of Parks as Classroom Program.  This is a national program, which in the Smokies, focuses on K-8 grades and uses the resources of the park for learning. I was sent down to the museum to observe.

A group were discussing farm chores that children had to do when they lived in what is now the Park. Another group were watching a blacksmith shaping a piece of metal. All the children had heavy, thick gloves ready to pick up a red-hot poker. A third group were going to bake sugar cookies, the old-fashioned way. The pupils were dressed in old-fashioned costumes – girls in long, cotton dresses and boys with suspensers and hats.

Then I started my shift behind the desk and it was busy. Since it was a beautiful day, visitors’ concern were not about the weather. Instead it was all about the road closures. Some visitors just didn’t know where they were in relation to the world, or more specifically, in relation to the I-40 closure. I have to learn how to read a map upside down as I explain where they are and where they want to go.

Visitors wanted to “hike”. I sent one couple to the Bradley Cemetery on the Bradley Fork Loop clockwise, so it’s only two miles roundtrip. Some came as late as 1 P.M. asking for some hiking suggestions. At that point, the only thing I can encourage folks to do is walk the Oconaluftee River Trail. The trail is flat, wide and by the river the whole way.

After my 10 A.M. to 2 P.M. stint, I had a long talk with Florie. She’s very experienced and really understand the visitor and the job. She pointed out that right now, I can spend time with each visitor group to describe a hike in detail, but what about in the summer?

Also most visitors want a short walk to a destination. Not easy to find but I’m going to try to document several places, so I can easily recall them and be able to talk about them.

We talked about programs that I might want to design. Frankly, I just want people to set foot on a trail and so many just drive through the park. But it’s not that simple. A program, even an hour walk on the Oconaluftee River Trail, must have goals, objectives, methods… like a lesson plan. Mmm, got to think about that…

OVC 20100320 - bench and treeI finally got out to walk the River Trail (3.2 miles round trip) into Cherokee. I found the bench and tree where groups meet just outside the Museum.

Then I spotted spring beauties, the first spring flower. The picture below is not that great but the flowers certainly were.OVC 20100320 - Spring Beauty

People were walking, jogging, pushing strollers and teaching the Cherokee language.

On the way out, I saw two Cherokee women with about six pre-schoolers by the river. They were scooping up water and chanting in Cherokee. I stopped to look when the older woman motioned me to go away in Cherokee – no translation was needed. On the way back, I met the group on the trail – two adults in front and all the children behind gigglind and shouting. When the adults turned around, all the children froze.

“Do you see any children here?” She asked me in both languages. “No”, I answered. “So the sound must come from the trees and sky,” she continued. The children thought this was hilarious.

Fishing is very popular but you must have a Cherokee Tribal fishing license. The man in the picture above was having a good time.

I obviously passed my training and now I’m a full-fledged OVC volunteer. Come and ask me a difficult question.




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