It has been unseasonably hot and dry. Perhaps in compensation, the sunsets have been spectacular, and the katydids have started singing all night. I love to lay on the porch in the hammock and let them sing me to sleep, as I listen to the other night noises.
There was a wildfire at Goforth Creek in the Cherokee National Forest on Monday, which is apparently still burning. Reports are that about 200 acres of this very popular destination in the Ocoee Gorge have burned so far. I went through the gorge on Tuesday morning, and it didn’t look too awfully bad from the road, although the north margin of the road had burned for a considerable distance west of Goforth Creek. There was smoke in the air as far away as Benton. The forest service says that the hot and dry conditions are hampering efforts to battle the fire. Oddly, I did not see any personnel or equipment at the mouth of the creek when I went by, although the Forest Service has said that they are reserving this area for fire fighting efforts.
The 4th of July is coming early this year. The celebration begins in downtown Blue Ridge at 10:00 AM with the parade. The Abominable Band is performing in the parade and immediately afterward in the park. The celebration at the marina begins at 3:00 PM. The TVA is opening the road across the dam for the event, and it is supposed to stay open permanently. The Shriners will be serving their barbecue at the marina, and the fireworks take place at dusk.
Tonight, June 29, there is gospel music planned at the Main Street Stage in Ducktown, starting about 6:00 PM. On Saturday, there is a pancake breakfast at the Hoist House (at the Ducktown Basin Museum) from 7:00 AM to 10:00 AM. The parade starts on Main Street at 10:15, and the rubber duck race is at 11:00 AM. There are events throughout the day, and bluegrass is planned featuring Hwy 76 at 6:00 PM and southern rock and country with C. C. Morgan at 8:00. The fireworks display begins at dusk and runs until about 9:30.
The fireworks show in McCaysville is scheduled for dusk on July 3, or about 9:30. You can see this one from almost anywhere in the Copper Basin area.
Epworth is having their traditional celebration on the 4th, beginning with a pancake breakfast from 8:00 AM – 10:30 AM at the Epworth Community Club (above the college). Activities begin at 10:30, including hay rides, face painting, bounce houses, and displays of antique tractors, cars, and steam engines.There will be a patriotic program at noon. Barbecue, hot dogs, drinks, and ice cream will be available for purchase. Festivities will continue until about 2:00 PM.
The Annual Save Georgia’s Hemlocks event is scheduled for Sunday, July 8, from noon until 3 P.M. at the Unicoi State Park, Picnic Pavilion #7. This is a pot luck, but burgers, drinks, and a vegetarian option will be provided. This is a membership meeting, with updates on the hemlocks, progress reports, news on research, and future plans. RSVP to 706.429.8010.
Back on January 9th, I mentioned that I’d just finished reading Winton Porter’s book on his trail store at Neal’s Gap, Just Passin’ Thru. A couple of days ago, I finished reading Avalanche & Gorilla Jim: Appalachian Trail Adventures and Other Tales by Albert Dragon. Dragon is a Philadelphia lawyer – if you’re from Pennsylvania, you get a kick out of saying that – who started hiking the trail in 2002, when he was about 65. He had to abandon his first attempt in the Smokies due to breathing difficulties, but he subsequently completed the trail in segments as far as Vermont. The book gives a very good idea of the “through hiker” culture and experience. What sets it apart is that Dragon, as an attorney, was apparently used to dictating detailed notes for his assistant to transcribe, and he dictates notes every night on the trail. This gives his account a depth of detail and immediacy that a lot of hiking literature lacks. It was most interesting to me when he was hiking through our area, of course, because I know a lot of the territory that he covers up to Fontana Dam. Overall, the book gives a very good idea of the dangers and adversities of the trail, and the little mistakes that can lead to big consequences, like deciding not to carry enough water and then not finding any at the next stop. At one point, Avalanche and his hiking partner Gorilla Jim – named in the festive tradition of “trail names” – disregard a storm warning and have to be rescued from a heavy snowfall in Tennessee. But it also gives a good idea of the rewards. As you read along, you realize that the occasional sojourns and “zero days” in the the towns and villages adjacent to the trail are as much fun and adventure as the days spent walking the trail. The book may inspire other hikers, especially those in his age group, to try the trail. As his experiences make clear, it isn’t a decision to be made lightly. It requires a lot of preparation and equipment, and it’s definitely not for everybody. In the end, Dragon proves something to himself that he finds very satisfying, and whether you share that need or not, it is interesting to follow him on his adventures.