Oconaluftee Visitor Center – International Visitors

OVC - Phlox 2010/04/19

Visitation is definitely picking up. Not just the numbers but where they travel from.

One of my first “customers” was a couple from Saranac Lake, New York in the Adirondacks. They were part of the New England 111 club, that is, they had hiked all the mountains over 4,000 ft. in the North East. I know that some Western North Carolina readers laugh about hiking over 4,000 ft. when they might live at that altitude but in the Northeast, that’s quite a challenge. The mountains include the New Hampshire 4,000 footers, the New England 4000-footers, the Catskills 3500 (don’t laugh) and the Adirondacks 46. Lenny and I finished everything on that list but about 20 Adirondack mountains before we moved to Asheville.

This couple were backpacking to finish their South Beyond 6000 by climbing Marks Knob, a trailless mountain in the Northeast corner of the Smokies. I congratulated them ahead of time for their great accomplishment, especially coming from such a distance. I also told them about hiking all the trails in the Smokies, the Smokies 900 club. There’s always more hiking to do in the East.

Several visitors asked me to suggest “something to do” in the time they had. I don’t think we have a publication that suggests:

If you have two hours

If you have a day ….

I made up my own itinerary, based on what they told me they wanted to do.

I met international visitors from Australia, Spain, China and Germany. Lots of Germans – they are great travelers and they want to hike. I wondered if I’d ever have any French visitors, I could actually be helpful. I didn’t have to wait long.

A couple of stumpers:

“My husband has a carry permit and he wants to make sure it’s legal”. A carry what?? My first gun question.

“It’s up to the gun owner to know the law in each state. But you can’t bring in a gun in a visitor center”. That much I knew.

“Why is the flag at half-mast? Another woman asked.

Yesterday was the National Day of Service and Remembrance for Victims and Survivors of Terrorism. It also was the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma bombing. And you, dear reader, thought I just told people where the restrooms were.

After 2 P.M., I headed out to the Oconaluftee River Trail to check out the flowers. A big group of teenagers were hanging around the Mountain Farm, along with several women speaking French. This was my chance. They were a group of high school musicians from the center of France, playing with American high school orchestras. I told them I was a volunteer, though I didn’t know the French word for volunteer. If I don’t know the French word for something, I just describe it.

OVC - fringed phaceliaThe trail was chock full of flowers. Lynda Doucette, who is leading a wildflower program on Wednesday for the Wildflower Pilgrimage, will have no problems keeping the audience busy and entertained.

OVC - Healing WatersI also met a fishing group from Healing Waters, a program that helps veterans by taking them fly fishing.

You meet a lot of interesting people on the trail.

So tomorrow, I head back to the Smokies for the Wildflower Pilgrimage.

The good times never stop.




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