Saturday, August 17, 2019

Maintenance Day

Today we are having a general rest and maintenance day.  This means: time for laundry, time to clean the Airstream and put it in order, time to reorganize the car and its contents, time to fill the propane tanks, time to check the tire pressure and adjust it when needed.

We are camping near Sedona canyon taking our time and getting everything back in order before going to the Grand Canyon tomorrow.  More news then!

Trish enjoying our campfire on a nearly-full-moon night.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Pueblos and Parks

Today was a day filled with great adventures.

We left Albuquerque this morning and traveled about sixty miles west to Acoma Pueblo.  (We are
listening to Willa Cather’s DEATH COMES FOR THE ARCHBISHOP as we drive, a book with major settings in New Mexico and Acoma Pueblo in particular.)

The Acoma people are a Native tribal group who have occupied this mesa-top Pueblo nearly 400 feet above the floor of the land for more than 2,000 years.  We had a wonderful guide named Brandon whose grandmother and parents still live atop the Mesa.  It was a beautiful visit.

The Acoma Pueblo mission church atop the Mesa.  Finished 1630.
After leaving Acoma we continued west and finished the day at The Painted Desert and The Petrified Forest both part of the Petrified Forest National Park.

One view of the spectacular range of colors to be seen at The Painted Deaert.”

We could have stayed for hours exploring The Petrified Forest with thousands of giant logs, now preserved in the beautiful agatized colors of the stone that gradually replaced them over countless eons of time.  It was impossible to imagine what gigantic forest of living trees originally fed what we see here today.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Poteau, Oklahoma

Until Trish was nine years old, her father had a career in the Navy.  Since her mother had grown up on a farm in Poteau, Oklahoma, whenever her dad was deployed on a Navy assignment, the rest of the family would go back to live on the farm in Poteau.

Poteau is down in the southeast corner of Oklahoma and is mountainous and mostly forested.  There is a beautiful and little-traveled scenic highway called the Talimena Scenic Highway that goes from Mena, Arkansas over into Oklahoma south of Poteau.  This was our route there from Hot Springs.

The original farmhouse is still there, and it has been enlarged and brought quite up to date by Trish’s Uncle Truman and his wife, Aunt Linda.  (They even have a 30 amp plug so we could plug the Airstream in and have air conditioning in the driveway.)

Trish with Uncle Truman and Aunt Linda in front of the Poteau farmhouse.
We left Poteau early this morning to make a major move west.  Tonight we are in Albuquerque after driving 737 miles today.  The drive enables us to slow down a lot over the coming days and take our time around the southwest.

Along the way we did stop for a visit at the Route 66 Museum in Clinton, Oklahoma.  For anyone who grew up with the legends and stories of America’s First Highway, this museum is a must.
At the Route 66 Museum.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Hot Springs, Arkansas

Yesterday and today Trish and I have been in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

We came to Hot Springs for two reasons.  The first is that we faithfully collect National Park visits as we travel.  Hot Springs National Park is our fourth National Park in five days of this trip.

Before the very idea of a National Park existed, Hot Springs was set aside in 1832 as an area to be preserved for public recreation.  The mineral content of the water and the fact that most Americans did not have hot water in their homes made Hot Springs a spa town visited by thousands of people each year.

In 1921 the recreation reservation became our nation’s smallest National Park.  This was in part to preserve “Bathhouse Row,” the line of huge bathhouses that were by that time waning in popularity.

The Buckstaff Bathhouse where Trish and I each had a total bathhouse treatment.
Today two bath houses operate as National Park concessions while the others are used as National Park visitor center or preserved for historic value.

The second reason for our visit to Hot Springs is that the city is important in Trish’s family history.

It was her father’s home town and the home of her grandparents on that side of the family as well.  When her mother went to Hot Springs to nursing school at the old St. Joseph’s Hospital there (now the site of the Arkansas School of Math and Science), that educational adventure also included meeting her future husband.

Trish as her grandparent’s gravesite in Greenwood Cemetery,  Hot  Springs
In Trish’s childhood there were many trips to visit in-laws in Hot Springs.  We found her grandparents home, ate at their favorite restaurant (McClard’s Barbeque), and visited the cemetery where they are buried.  We also visited St. Joseph’s Hospital at its historic original location.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

From about 1890 to around 1920 the mountains of Western North Carolina and East Tennessee were devastated by the logging industry.  Vast woodlands were clear cut leaving the soil loose and unprotected.  Fires consumed the scrap that was left and landslides where all too common.

The idea for a National Park did not come into being because the mountain land was beautiful.  No, the idea came because so much damage has been done it was hoped that such protection might allow the dear land to recover and heal.  Almost all of the vegetation and most of the wildlife in the Park is new growth and recovery over less than the last hundred years.

Efforts to raise money were taking place in the early years of the Great Depression.  After, with great difficulty, the people of North Carolina and Tennessee raised half of the needed money for the Park, fund raising stalled down.  Hopes were down until the Rockefeller Fund donated the other half in memory of Laura Spelman Rockefeller.  The only visible acknowledgement of this gift is on a plaque at Newfound Gap where President Franklin Roosevelt stood to dedicate the Park in 1940.

Perhaps the newest addition to the Park has been the reestablishment of the elk that had been natively present until hunted to extinction more than a hundred years ago.  In 2000-2001 elk were brought into the Park from The Land Between the Lakes in Western Kentucky and also from British Columbia.  The return has settled into such success that the elk in the Park and beyond have now passed determinate number.

A young elk having his breakfast.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is unique in many ways:  there are more species of trees in the Park than in all of Europe from Turkey to Ireland, and, there are more than thirty species of salamanders in the Park making it the salamander capital of the world.

The Park was also established with the charter provision that it always be open to the public free from any admission fee.  Knowing this, we can all take advantage over and over keeping it one of the most visited Parks in our national system.

This is why they are called the Smoky Mountains!

Cataloochee Reunion

Even today getting to remote Cataloochee Valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park involves driving a dozen miles on a dirt road across the Cataloochee Divide from the Waynesville, NC side toward the Tennessee state line.  It is difficult to imagine the travel and access issues faced by the earliest settlers when they began to move into the valley in the early 1800’s.

Even the Cherokee people used the valley as a hunting area rather than permanently living there.

In the 1900 census there were 54 farms in the big valley occupied by 112 families with a total of 768 people.  Yes, those families were very large; more working children made survival easier.

Cataloochee’s Palmer’s Chapel Methodist Church with reunion attendees gathering.
Nearly 500 people gathered on this 81st year.
The terrible destruction of the logging era followed by the advent of the Great Depression left these families in great hardship by the time the idea for the National Park became a reality.  By the time the Park was established in 1934, except for a small number of residents with lifetime tenancy, the population of the valley had moved away, selling their land for the National Park.

This year only two people were present who were born in the Valley.  The hundreds who were gathered are still affirming their family history and love of that beautiful place.  

The event starts with a church service in Palmer’s Chapel presided over by Steve Woody, descendent of the Steven Woody family.  The church is named for my Uncle Gudger Palmer’s family, who donated the land where it stands.  After church, there is a great time of eating and visiting, then goodbye until next August.
Trish in the yard of my Uncle Gudger’s childhood home.
The Palmer house is now a National Park Visitor Center.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Jonathan and Kahran

Well, we are now underway!  Trish and I left the island yesterday and traveled to Greensboro.  Our son, Jonathan, and his fiancĂ©, Kahran, life in Greensboro.  Before our trip is over we will be coming from the west back to New Orleans for their wedding on September 21.  I am performing the ceremony, and, since I have not done this in a long time, we needed to get together for one more meeting to work over the entire plan.

Jonathan and Kahran
We met them for dinner, along with Jonathan’s mom, Beth, and then got a chance to pretend that we all know what we are doing and that we are actually prepared for September 21!  It was an excellent time.

Today we have driven on up to my home town. Waynesville, to be ready for the Cataloochee Reunion in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Before the Park was established in 1934 some of my forebears lived there.  My Uncle, Gudger Palmer, was 100 years old the year the Park turned 75.  He died in 2012 at age 103.

Most of the native born people of Cataloochee have gone on from this world, but, each August for 81 years, their descendants and friends gather to remember the days when a significant early community lived in the remote valley and to celebrate the care and perpetuation of National Park stewardship.

We are camped in our Airstream beside Jonathan’s Creek, one of the places where I actually played and camped as a child.  Tomorrow will be a great day with a service at Palmer’s Chapel Methodist Church followed by dinner on the grounds.

You will hear more about Cataloochee when the day is over.

Maintenance Day

Today we are having a general rest and maintenance day.  This means: time for laundry, time to clean the Airstream and put it in order, time...