It’s still quiet when I arrive at Oconaluftee Visitor Center at 10 A.M. and I wonder how I’ll spend the next four hours. Then people trickle in and ask some tricky questions. Sometimes, they don’t ask but in my conversations with them, I ask myself some questions.
At the desk, we have three stamps for visitors to stamp in their National Park stamp books. These stamp books, put together by Eastern National, help you to record where you’ve been within National Park units along with the current date. We have an Oconaluftee Visitor Center stamp in the Smokies which is where they are and a Blue Ridge Parkway stamp, only a couple of miles away. I kid some stampers that they can’t stamp their book with a Parkway stamp unless they’ve been there.
But the third one is the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail. This trail commemorates the forced march of Eastern Indian tribes to Oklahoma in 1838. The Cherokees were one of several tribes which were forced to move from their homeland in the southeast. Many lives were lost. About 1,000 Cherokee escaped in the Appalachian mountains. In 1868, they gained recognition and established their tribal government. We now know them as the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Their reservation is just outside Oconaluftee Visitor Center.
That’s the history. But where’s the trail? The trail is not a walking path like the Appalachian Trail. It’s a mix of auto and water routes that follow the historical trail – a trail in progress. The closest place that you can say you’re on the Trail of Tears is in Murphy, North Carolina – I think.
I went to the Museum of the Cherokee Indian and the people at the desks said that they didn’t have a clue. I couldn’t get anyone on the phone either but I’ll keep trying.
In the meantime, I won’t tell stampers that they have to go on the Trail of Tears before getting a stamp. But I did kid some that to get a complete set, they’d have to go to the National Park of American Samoa – that’s miles west of Hawaii.
I walked the Oconaluftee River Trail again to see if there were anymore spring flowers. They’re dying and summer flowers have not yet come up.
What is coming up is the new Oconaluftee Visitor Center – we can now see some walls. See the picture above.