Oconaluftee Visitor Center – Uniform changes

OVC - Fire pinks

Yesterday I got a brown ball cap to wear with my Smokies volunteer uniform. No more green hats. It’s a further attempt to distinguish volunteers from National Park Service staff.

Uniforms are a big, big part of the whole National Park Service ethos, much like the military. What exactly constitute the proper uniform is dictated by the Superintendent. Volunteers got a directive from him yesterday.

So, again, how to tell a volunteer from an employee. NPS staff wear green pants, gray shirts and a “Smoky the Bear” hat with a wide brim. Their emblem is the arrowhead.

Volunteers wear UPS-color brown pants which we provide. We’re lent a khaki button-down shirt with a name tag over the breast pocket. Our round patch says “volunteer” and so does our brown hat. No pins or other badges are approved, except for a Presidential Service Award pin. That pin is given for many, many volunteer hours. I’d have to get another lifetime to get one of those.

There are at least two types of volunteers.

Interns “volunteer” for college credit or in the hope of getting a NPS position. They get a stipend and usually work five days a week for a few months. Sometimes, they get housing in the park.

Then there are true volunteers like me who get nothing but the satisfaction of helping an underfunded park. Our uniforms are exactly the same but it’s easy to tell interns from volunteers. Interns are much younger. I have yet to meet a true volunteer younger than 40 years old.

Interns also seem to get more responsibilities more quickly but that’s harder to measure. Since they’re working five days a week, if only for a few months, they don’t spend much time at the visitor desk. An internship has to be an educational experience, so the park has to give them lots of meaningful work.

Mingus Creek Trail – two cemeteries

OVC - Mingus family cemeteryI roamed Mingus Creek Trail to check out if there was still a
sign to the Mingus family cemetery. I want to recommend this easy hike to a destination in the future.

I walked 1.2 miles from the trail head and made a right turn on an unofficial trail with a sign that said “cemetery”. Another 0.8 mile took me to another “cemetery” sign on the right. Then a little scramble up to the Mingus family cemetery.

It’s a large flat area with stumps for grave sites. On several stumps, rocks have been placed to show that people have visited the cemetery, very much like the Jewish custom.

OVC - Mingus slave cemeteryComing back, I checked out the slave cemetery only a few feet from Mingus Mill Parking.

This cemetery was much smaller and had a few well-groomed mounted graves.

I suggested to a family that I met in the parking lot to check it out. I saw no one on the trail but that may soon change when I start suggesting Mingus Creek Trail as an alternative to the Kephart Prong Trail. 

And the firepinks above? I saw them on the trail, my first summer flowers.


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