When I arrived at the visitor center at 10 A.M. on Monday, it was quiet. The only people were those working in the building. I thought it was going to be a slow day.
Less than an hour later, the visitor center was hopping.
Families looking for a short hike got sent to the Oconaluftee River Trail.
Folks looking for a few hours of hiking were advised to try Kephart Prong Trail and go up as far as they wanted.
Those looking for a view got sent to Charlie Bunion but only if they got up there before noon.
Those were the easy questions. But the difficult questions kept it interesting.
A family came in with two children and two Junior Ranger booklets. “Is there a ranger-led trip today?” the mother asked. “It says here that they need to go with a ranger.” Or other appropriate activity.
So I sent them on the Oconaluftee River Trail and asked the children to read and understand at least two signs on the trail and to summarize them in the booklet. Dan, the seasonal ranger at the desk, says that he sends them to the Mountain Museum and asks them to read the signs and report back.
That was easy compared to other questions.
“My aunt loves the park. She’s going to get cremated and wants to have her ashes spread over the park. How can she do this?”
I was stumped but sent her to the Public Affairs officer. Later at lunch (yes, we do get a lunch break), I found out that there’s a special permit for this. I might think about arranging this for myself.
“Where can you go prospecting in the park?” Maybe I should have classified this as an unusual question but not a hard one. No place in the park. Period.
“Can you buy postcards of the slide?” I have never seen such postcards but what a great idea. I’ll pass it on to the Great Smoky Mountains Association.
And then sometimes you make someone’s day or even longer.
A middle-aged man asked me about the large portrait of Mary Winchester (1848-1942). She lived in the area and was painted by Rudolph Ingerle, a famous artist who loved the Smokies. I had never really paid attention to the portrait but this visitor told me that he was distantly related to her. I looked her up in the “Answer book” and photocopied the page about her. He left very happy.
At 2 P.M. Grable, a Student Conservation Association intern, and I went roaming. I wanted to see exactly where the Smokemont closure was. We drove up there and had to park as soon as we crossed the bridge. First, I took Grable to the Bradley Cemetery but that didn’t take long.
We walked on the Bradly Fork Trail and met a couple coming back who wanted to do some more hiking. We took them back up on Bradley Fork up to the bridge across the creek. They then continued on the Smokemont Loop.
Daffodils were blooming everywhere, a sure sign of homesites.
It’s getting warm and I’m getting my short-sleeve shirt next week. Florie told me that I’d have to sew on the patch myself. Are you kidding? Would you give a man a shirt without a patch already sewn on?