Oconaluftee Visitor Center – Gee …

OVC - Gee Phillips with visitors

Every time I drive out to Oconaluftee Visitor Center in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I think I’m going to do the same thing – and I’m surprised every week.

OVC-Mac TeepeeYesterday, I left before 8 A.M. so I could check out Mac’s Teepees Cabins in Cherokee. Last week, a visitor called in to find out if the cabins were still in business. The teepee-like cabins were the site of an obscure movie Digging to China. I told her I had no idea but I was going to find out.

The business is closed. The cabins on the left of the abandoned house have been covered with kudzu. There are a fresh set of similar cabins that look as empty.

The Visitor Center was hopping. Though it was only the first day of fall, maybe they wanted to get a jump on fall colors. I understand the colors are going to be spectacular. International visitors from Switzerland, Germany and even a French speaker from Quebec stood out.

OVC-Dan cutting sorgum caneAfter my four hour stint, I roved the Farm Museum. Dan was cutting sorghum preparing for the sorghum crushing in a couple of weeks.

I met Gee Phillips. See her picture above.

Gee lives in Dayton, OH but has been volunteering in the Smokies for several weeks since 1992. She dresses as if she lives in the beginning of the 20th Century, sits on the porch of the Davis house and talks to visitors.

OVC - Gee Phillips 1Gee grew up on a farm in east Tennessee so she feels this is like coming home. She’ll cook on the open fire, make soap and do other crafts appropriate to the time period.

While she’s here, she works a full 32-hour week. She lives in a staff apartment with a seasonal ranger. What a great lady and an inspiration to us all. 


I’d like to end on a positive note but after I left Gee, I noticed that three elk had moved into the field just past the  entrance of the park. Visitors had also noticed and parked themselves right in front of the elk. This was not good.

I rushed over across the field, south of the construction entrance. By then two elk had fled but not the people. I put on my Elk Bugle Corps attitude from last year and got the people and the traffic moving. The third elk bounded across the field and into the woods.



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