Trip to Smokey Mtn National Park

Back from visiting Simon at the Great Smokey Mountain National Park. Simon has a summer job at the Tremont Institute which is an educational nature facility where kids/families spend a week experiencing the Park and it’s ecosystem. (check it out on the internet). He’s a counselor and leads groups on nature hikes, swims and classwork. His major is Environmental Science and with his years as a boy scout, has the perfect credentials for this job.

Our plan was to get up early Friday morning and pick him up at the park by 5PM when he got off work. So we got to bed early Thursday night only to be awakened by a call at midnight from Tom advising us that there had been a major storm at the park which had basically shut it down and trapped people inside with downed trees and at least one fatality. No way to know if Simon would be able to get out or if we would be able to get in but we decided to get started as planned and have him call us along the way if he got any information that would keep us from seeing Simon. Along the way, Simon called 3 times with the news that we couldn’t get into the park but he would be able to get out and meet us so we continued on as planned. He told us that he and several co-workers had ventured out right after the storm and started cutting away trees that were blocking the road. They were at it until the wee hours of the morning when the forestry guys arrived and took over the heavy clearing. When we got there, right at 5, sure enough we were stopped at the entrance and it became obvious that we were not getting in, no matter how sad our story. No worry, Simon did get out right on time and we headed to the hotel in Maryville, TN. (I was under the impression Simon’s job was in NC but learned that his part of the park is in Tennessee). Saturday we went into Knoxville to a downtown farmer’s market, hit one of Simon’s haunts at a restaurant called Tomato Heads and the obligatory 3 quilt shops. The whole time we were educated with Park lore regarding the flora and fauna and with tales of the kids and coworkers that Simon had befriended. He’s learned more about salamanders than you ever thought there was to know; ditto trees indigenous to the area; ditto birds; lichen; snakes; old settler cabins and farms; this trail and that peak. He can expound, and does, for half an hour on the difference between a 9 year old and a 12 year old and is as happy as I’ve ever seen him – and he’s a normally happy guy. We left him about 2PM so he’d be able to meet up with the crowd heading for a tubing trip to be followed by a burrito party that evening. We did actually get to see two bears fairly up close and personal.

We took a liesurely two days on the way home, stopping a couple times in Georgia to buy some roadside stand peaches and vidalia onions. No more quilt shops!! And the reason there are no pictures is that the battery on the camera was dead. nice.

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