Wednesday, April 16, 2008

‘T’was a sunny day and altogether lovely. Today we hiked to Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains, some 6,643 feet high, visiting the Mountain Farm Museum on our way to Cherokee, a small town on the edge of the Cherokee Reservation, here in North Carolina.

Everywhere we saw the palest of early spring leaves and wildflowers, including the very tiny Spring Beauty that carpeted the hardwood forest dry floor. We met hikers headed for Maine along the Appalachian Trail; Allen was ready to go.

I was entranced by the layers of blue mountains in every direction. The Cherokee story of dancing bears I turned into a poem, in memory of my grandmother who (family rumor says) was part Cherokee. She never spoke of her history, but this is the country of the Trail of Tears in 1838 which moved hundreds of Cherokees to western territories. My grandmother grew up in Fort Reno, Oklahoma. One day I’ll be able to do more research.

The Mountain Farm Museum near Cherokee was fascinating for the glimpse we gained of olden ways of farming and later logging in these Appalachian hills between 1830 until the park was established in 1934, displacing some 1,200 families.

Buildings from these old communities were moved to the Mountain Farm Museum, some as old as 1899, and including a house, woodshed, meat house, apple house, chicken house, cane mill and molasses shed, corn crib, blacksmith, springhouse, pig sty, and barn. Old photographs and wandering around this afternoon helped me visualize how much work these people did to survive and how dependent they were on their own skills. Yet these traditional ways (including quilting) are nearly gone. So we wander down paved trails and catch glimpses of a way of life that was once common. Tomorrow we'll visit Mingo Falls and head east. May the sun shine where you are.

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