When we were punching a clock back in New Jersey, the three big summer weekends were sacrocanct. By New Year’s, we had plans, usually hiking, and nothing was going to interfere with them. But now, Monday, Memorial Day, was just another day and I went into Oconaluftee Visitor Center, hoping to make someone else’s Memorial Day a little special.
But first, I went through Cherokee to pick up a passport. They want to remind tourists that Cherokee is a separate nation and that tourists will need a passport. The “passport”, free and available in many shops, is a handsome document which contains tourist information and a map.
The weather was not cooperating. So the usual question. “It’s raining. What do we do?” I suggested to one guy that he put on a raincoat and walk the Oconaluftee River Trail. He thought it was a good idea and he and his wife took off.
A young family came in with a very eager five-year old who was working on his Junior Ranger badge. This is a National Park Service program to encourage children ages 5 to 12 to explore the park. They have to attend a ranger-led program or equivalent, pick up a bag of garbage and do other activities from a booklet.
This boy had seen both an elk and a bear from the car the day before. He probably didn’t know how lucky he was. But the Junior Ranger booklet he had didn’t list elk as an animal he could see. He wrote it in but those booklets have to be updated.
After I asked him a couple of questions, I gave him his badge and certificate while his father took pictures. It was a good day.
Smokemont Campground is finally open!
I roved Bradley Fork Trail, in threatening weather. It seemed like it was just about to rain the whole time.
I talked to eight people, six briefly. The Danish couple crossing Bradley Fork on the left walked with me for a while.
They were on their big OE – Overseas Experience, a New Zealand term for going overseas for an extended trip. This couple had quit their jobs and were traveling the world for 10 months. I told them that this was a foreign concept to most Americans.
Most spring wildflowers had disappeared but the mountain laurel was glorious. See above.