Oconaluftee Visitor Center – There’s walking and there’s hiking

OVC - Chasteen waterfall

A quiet day at the Visitor Center. But that means that we could spend more time with each visitor.

I always ask visitors if they want to hike. I don’t make any assumption, based on age, weight or demeanor. When I ask Americans who don’t want to hike, they always hem and haw, say “a little” and apologize.

“We don’t have time”.

“We have little kids,” though the children seem more active than their parents.

“We have elderly parents in the car.”

But when I ask international visitors, they’re quick to say “No!” and I admire their candor. But lately I notice that they make a distinction between “walking” and “hiking”.

“Walking” means dayhiking to Brits. And other English-speaking Europeans use the same expression. Yesterday one couple from Germany said that they didn’t want to “hike”. But I told them about the mile round-trip to Clingmans Dome and the walk to Laurel Falls (three miles round-trip). Both are paved trails so they’re certainly not considered “hikes” by Europeans.

I’m going to try that strategy with Americans and ask “Would you like to walk?”

OVC - Horses on Bradley Creek TrailI walked up Bradley Creek and turned onto Chasteen Creek Trail. It was muddy, made more so by the horse traffic. Chasteen Creek Falls is a destination for people on horses.

I’ve been up and down Chasteen Creek Trail several times but have never taken the time to take the sidetrail to the falls. How could I suggest it to visitors, if I didn’t have a clear idea myself? I’m sure that those who work the Visitor Center desk do that all the time, but I can’t do it. Now I know where it is and that it’s a destination worth recommending.

OVC - roof on new Visitor CenterIn other news, the new Visitor Center now has the start of a roof. They’re making progress.

I don’t know when the building will be finished but I’m looking forward to it.


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