Made it down to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, my old stomping grounds. It's good to be home, and where there are big mountains. This is a pretty typical view, the kind of thing you'd see any old day driving to get groceries and what not. I guess you can see why I call it God's country. This is where I feel at home.
Surprisingly, things have changed in the 30 years since I lived here. "They" got here. Now, there's four lane highways all the way down to Atlanta, and it's an easy drive to come up here and have a second vacation home on the side of the mountains. I was lucky to live up here when there was still some of the old mountain culture and heritage, and there were no four lane roads at all. If you've ever read any of the Foxfire series (highly recommended) or watched Deliverance (just watch it for the scenery), those were the people you would see and meet up here. The Last of the Mohegans, oddly enough, was filmed down here (where the landscape is wild) and not up in NY, where it was written and set. With the web, cable and Satellite TV, etc., the world here is a lot more ubiquitous, and a lot of the mountain culture is largely gone. Now its the same old box stores here as you see any other place. The Skyliner Diner is gone, and there's a Taco Bell. Granted, its a lot more trouble to perch the box stores on the side of a mountain, but they manage :-)
One aspect that's hard to get used to is that unlike MA, there doesn't seem to be any regulations regarding building beside rivers or on mountain tops. So, the "wilderness" river I used to train on for canoe racing now has a line of expensive homes down both banks, and there's elaborate put in parks and the like. This is the Tuckaseegie River, where I used to train. This goes right by Western Carolina University, where I went to college. Rivers here tend to be pool-ledge-drop rivers, not full of cobbles, boulders, and glacial leavings, like what we have in New England. Each has its unique feel. Lot of folks paddle and tube this in the summer, and there's a lot of fly fishing for trout.
If you're a fly fisherman, you can imagine what it would be like to wade out there and cast your fly, gracefully presenting your fly to that hungry trout waiting right over there...
Almost every mountain has a clear cut area where some joker cleared to put in their expensive mountain view house. I'd like one myself, but they're not beautiful to my eye ;-)
This new house is right on my home kayak training river. Notice that it's up on stilts to keep it out of the water when the river floods. I'm not sure what will happen when the flooding river washes a tree through those slender supports.... The river is unbelievably powerful.
I guess it's nice, but different.
Poison Ivy, Southern Style. This hairy looking poison ivy vine is about as big around as my lower leg, and is climbing way up in the tree. Here in the South, you see poison ivy as a small plant, a bush, a small tree, and as a vine. A big vine. It's common to wade through it to get to the river, but if you wash it off right away, you usually don't get it. Jewel Weed, another common plant you find near rivers, is an antidote to poison ivy. If you take the Jewel Weed leaves, crush them, and rub them on the poison ivy, it will quit itching and go away. It might take several days, however, which curiously is the same amount of time it would have taken to go away if you didn't use the jewel weed :-)
Picture of the rig taken from I-26 at a pass through the mountains about 3,500 feet in elevation, or as high as Mt. Greylock, the highest mountain in MA (3,489 feet). Nearby Mt. Mitchell is the highest peak east of the Mississippi, and is nearly twice as high as Greylock at 6,684 feet. The truck is pulling like a champ in the moutains.
View from I-26
We'll stay in the area today, and I hope to spend some time looking at Fontana Dam and the Smokies.