Sorry about the delay in getting this month's Wanderings out. May was so busy, so exciting, it spilled over into June. The celebration you may have heard since we last talked was us cheering as we achieved various milestones. We celebrated our One-Year-Anniversary on the road with the sale of our house in Burke (many thanks to Mike and Stacy). We celebrated that event with the purchase of a new 27-foot Sunline trailer (yes, four feet makes a huge difference). AND, around noon on June 9th, with Mike along, we completed the survey of the last campground in the Forest Service's Southern Region! Over 500 campgrounds surveyed in 49 National Forests visited, surveyed, and compiled.
Like pioneers of old, we spent a few days in Nashville, TN preparing for our westward push. We have been delightfully free, thus far, of major problems, and want to keep it so. A main reason for this is Fred's attention to detail and close adherence to manufactures' recommended maintenance schedules. An example of how important attention to very little things is simply
checking the lug nuts on the trailer wheels. Wheels and axles have been lost because lugs aren't kept tight.
We are very excited about "getting out west." It will start with Nebraska's National Forests. From there we'll go to South Dakota's Black Hills and Montana's Custer National Forests. We estimate these will be completed early in July. The rest of the summer will be spent surveying some of the other National Forests in Montana - and there are a bunch!
After spending so much of the winter months in relatively flat areas down South, we found being back in the mountains great! We started May in the gentle mountains of Georgia's Chattahoochee (the locals shorten the name to the 'hooch). Then, we moved on to the Nantahala in North Carolina with its many gorges and batholiths. We finished the Southern Region with the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee.
The highlights of the 'hooch were a visit with an old family friend of Fred's, Judy Seik and her husband in Atlanta, The Pocket campground, and the German alpine-like town of Helen, Georgia. The Pocket campground was the site of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Camp F-16. Although the buildings are gone, some of the foundations remain along with some beautiful
stonework and a little wading pool. All are evidence of the CCC enrollees' handiwork. Although many of the campgrounds we visit are linked to CCC projects, it is often difficult to locate the sites of main camps. You see, after WWII, most camps were bulldozed to the ground. Finding this much of Camp F-16 was very exciting. Even more exciting was the comprehensive history done by CarolJo Rushin-Bell, a Grad Student, in 1983. The icing on the cake was a graveyard we found tucked in behind the campground. It contained the headstone of a Confederate Soldier
(M.B. Fowler, 1827-1862) along with, maybe, two dozen others.
Helen, Georgia is an interesting story. In 1968, Helen was dying a slow and painful death. Industry was leaving and the town's economy in the pits. The story goes, three of the town's business owners, while having coffee at a riverside restaurant, conceived the idea of turning their little town into a Bavarian village. The transformation transported Fred to his days in
Garmish, Germany. Helen, GA is definitely another site to put on your "Places to Visit" list.
The Nantahala National Forest is an interesting geological area. Nantahala is Cherokee for "land of noon day sun." It is easy to understand why it would be named so. In this Forest you seem to be either in full sun or shade in a gorge with a rushing river on one side and a shear stone cliff-face on the other. There are spectacular waterfalls, some very challenging rapids, and unbelievable views from atop the batholiths on the eastern side of the Forest. Technically, a batholith is a "large, discordant,
plutonic mass with no known floor that has more than 40 square miles in surface exposure." (Suzi's term to describe the many huge, solitary lumps of solid rock we saw throughout the Forest.) They have at least one shear, granite face and a gently rounded appearance on another side. We hiked to the top of one batholith called Whiteside. If it hadn't been so hazy we might have seen the Atlantic Ocean. By the way, although vegetation might be limited on top of a batholith, they are not "balds." You find "balds" in the Cherokee National Forest, too. These mountaintop
man-made meadow areas are today were the white-man pastures his herds. Many "balds" were initially developed by the Cherokee people to encourage wildlife into an area near their village.
We worked our way from the southern section of the Cherokee to Virginia. It was interesting to notice the geological transition of this Forest from Nantahala's ruggedness to the lush green, gentle ridges of Jefferson National Forest in Virginia. The Cherokee runs along the eastern boundary of Tennessee. It is bisected by the Great Smokies National Park about midway. In the south, you find the awesome '96 Olympic whitewater center on the Ocoee River. Incidentally, this river runs into and out of Parksville Lake but you won't find it on your map. Maps show Ocoee Lake. The term "Parksville Lake" is used by the local folks who have no idea where Ocoee Lake is located. Another type of challenge to deal with on this adventure - different vocabulary. Further north, the shear walls and whitewater are
replaced with gentle swelling topography and easy flowing streams. Another feature we noticed in the northern section of the Cherokee was it's lush, diverse vegetation; doubt we will be seeing this much green for awhile.
In one of the showrooms we visited while looking for a new recreational vehicle was a poster. The image was of three RVs circled around a campfire. Sitting around that fire, cooking, visiting, etc. were a half dozen individuals. The caption under this picture was "When was the last time you made a lifelong friend in a hotel lobby?" We have learned the truth of this question on several occasions. The latest was a very pleasant weekend spent at Jack Rabbit campground in the Nantahala National Forest with Pat and Bill Brown. We met Pat and Bill last year at Salt Springs campground in Florida's Ocala National Forest. A major downside of our adventure is meeting interesting people and, much too soon, saying good-bye. The upside is we know the friendship will last far beyond the miles that separate us.
We looked backed on all we have achieved and the support we have had from family and friends. We are so amazed and grateful. Sometimes Suzi talks about her fantasy 250-acre ranch, with a self-cleaning house, a herd of self-maintaining animals, and a cabin for each child. Fred will admonish her for being a dreamer. Her response, "Who thought, this time last year, we
would achieve so much, Mr. Dow?" Maybe that is how it works - you dream, you try, and sometimes you achieve. In the meantime, Westward Ho! Until next time, keep on dreaming and achieving.
Suzi and Fred