Sunday, May 22, 2016

Please Forgive My Rant

This is the 100th Anniversary of our National Parks so please bear with me while I climb onto a soapbox and go on about a couple of things that really get under my skin. I promise it won’t be long and I also promise I won’t do it often.

Every year, we are exposed to a new level of the public’s ability to abuse our national parks. This is just one park with a small percentage of people who continually bend rules and in some cases downright break them. We are just one pair of campground hosts for a month but if you multiply our experiences times four hosts times twelve months times all of the national parks, forests, and public areas where volunteers are investing their efforts, then across the country, there’s a lot of people who think they are above the rules and very often, these people end up souring the park experience for other visitors.

I’ve lost count of the numbers of campers who come in late in the evening after the rangers have gone for the day, set up on an empty site, enjoy the hospitality of the park, the migratory birds and of course the wild ponies, only to pack up and leave before the rangers are on duty the next morning. This is lost revenue to maintain our parks, pay our rangers and continue the wild places as they were a hundred years ago. Those funds have to come from somewhere. Perhaps they’ll even come from taxes taken out of all of our pockets.

While our month here is almost done, we continue to feel good about the hours we’ve put in and will continue to look for ways to give even more of our time in the future.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Invasion From The South

We were on duty today and just about to finish our rounds when I noticed new horses in the Oceanside campground. We turned our golf cart in to discover the arrival of Bayberry, a mahogany bay stallion, and his 10 mares. It appears Bayberry is a ladies man. I grabbed my camera and started methodically getting images of as many of these newcomers as I could. This sounds easy but the horses are constantly on the move, looking for the tastiest bits of grass. Then there is the makeup of this particular band. There are two reddish bay mares, three chestnut  mares and five pintos. This is an impressive band and Bayberry keeps a watchful eye on all of his ladies, all while smelling the air for approaching stallions and grabbing his share of the tender blades of grass between sites.

Whenever there is a band of horses in sight, no matter how large or small, people will gather. Pony patrol was on scene to help keep people safe and honest while we made sure cars parked safely. There are some campers who are here for the beach or fishing and could care less about the horses so we needed to be sure they could travel to their sites unimpeded.

Suddenly, Bayberry’s head came up, he stomped a hoof and blew his nose. And before I knew it, the entire band was on the move at a trot up over the dunes and onto the beach. Once they hit the hard packed sand, they were off at a canter, kicking up their heels, snorting and bucking. The only way to describe their actions would be to say they felt fine. The sun was warm, there was a cool breeze and maybe Bayberry felt he had gotten away with sneaking his mares onto the sweet grass of another stallion’s territory without being caught.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Found At Last

Eureka! We found Miss Mackie this week. She’s grown into a fine young mare. She’s darker in both the fore and hind quarters than I had imagined she would be. Her fur was so light when she was five months old. And she still has that ever so distinctive “poodle face” on her left side complete with an eye. No matter how I look at her, she’s still amazing.

We also just been informed of another birth to one of the southern bands, a filly. I have expressed a desire to travel down the OSV road which basically means driving in the loose sand to see her. We may even find the third foal while were down there.

Our duties continue to keep us busy. Every day there is something different. Just the other day, we came upon a very large group of people who were not registered campers. They pulled into one of the campsites, set up a couple of grills, laid out two tables full of salads, beverages, snacks and eating utensils and kicked back to party. We spoke to them, explained why they couldn’t be there and recommended they move to one of the picnic areas. We returned about 45 minutes later to discover no one had begun packing. We explained once more they were not allowed on the site, it was rented and the people who had paid for it would be arriving at any moment. Still they didn’t move to pack. One of the party did think to go to the ranger’s station to see if there was a nearby site available for them to move their celebration. Rangers rented them a nearby site but when we returned to make sure the picnic site was clean and fires doused, we found Chip and his mares being “fed”. I convinced Chip and his mares to leave and then we received further proof the people were morons. They felt if they fed the horses, they would leave. It was at this point we called law enforcement to come explain park rules to this group. Both Carl and I left to continue our rounds. Still, another hour passed and when we arrived to make sure the site was clean, they were not only off the site but they had gone from the park.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

A Really Rough Winter

Rangers on the island are looking forward to the birth of three foals to add to the Maryland herd. This past winter we lost somewhere between ten and twelve animals lowering the count to 85. In most cases, nature is allowed to take it’s logical course absorbing the animal back into the ecosystem.

On May 9th, we finally found the new colt grazing with his mom on the marshes. He was born on or about April 17th . I don’t have a name for him yet but he is by Yankee out of Carol’s Girl. This is the same stallion who sired “my filly”, Miss Mackie.  And speaking of Miss Mackie, as of this writing, she remains elusive. I would say I won’t leave the island until I find her but you and I both know that’s unlikely. On June 1st we’ll be NH bound. It’s hard to imagine our three months of volunteerism is winding down.

On our morning rounds we noticed this one site that had been thoroughly trashed. Tents were collapsed, food and trash bags ripped into, cooking utensils and stoves overturned and two cars filled with sleeping campers in the parking space. We woke the people up and encouraged them to clean their site. We continued on our rounds, checked in at the Ranger Station and went back to check up on our trashed site. Upon our return, we discovered the occupants of the cars and gone back to sleep. So we woke them up once more and found one of their party who spoke better English than the other nine. I took photos of the mess, the trashed tents and their license plates while Carl called law enforcement to assist us with expediting the cleanup and their departure.

It took the officer 45 minutes to arrive at our location. In that time, we were able to discover the people arrived with missing tent parts causing them to tie one tent to the nearby bushes. This is against the rules. While cooking supper, a fox or raccoon came out of the woods. The would be campers retired to the cars leaving everything right where they left it. Part of the mess was caused by the fox or raccoon but most of the destruction was caused by the chestnut stallion, Corky. He was seen leaving the scene of the crime through the bushes. Now, the food being left around breaks a couple of important Park rules but these poor people also had had car trouble leaving one of their vehicles on the grass and yes, that too, is frowned upon by Park staff. These poor people had arrived late so they were unregistered on top of everything else. About the only rule they didn’t break was to allow a dog to run free. I mentioned this to Carl and he laughed, commenting they couldn’t have had room in the two cars which already held 10 adult individuals.

When all was clean, the officer followed the people to the office to ensure they paid for their night of “camping”. We hope they give camping another shot in the near future.  

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Policing Our Area

This morning we rescued several campers from four legged hooligans. They were being held hostage by the bay stallion, Chip, and his three mares who congregated under their gazebo and around the tents, checked out the picnic tables for breakfast items and tried to carry away a bag of trash. The understandably shaken campers now understand why we have rules and our actions opened an avenue of discussion which lasted more than twenty minutes. I hope they will always remember their visit to the park, for both the good experience and the lessons learned.

Part of our job here is education and we’ve been doing plenty of that. We have reminded families with children to be aware of the feuding stallions, cautioned pet owners to keep their leashes short and provided answers to all manor of questions from “ why is that stallion so thin?” to “ why don’t the horses cross the bridge?”. We’ve even tried explaining to one camper why clotheslines are not allowed.

Park policy changes with each administration. Two years ago, we were required to clean out fire pits and dump the ashes in the tree line. Last year, fire pits could be cleaned but only after being sure the embers are cold. It seems an overzealous camp host moved hot coals to a dumpster causing a fire and a complete meltdown. So, this year, debris like cans, trash and glass can be removed from fire rings but only maintenance is allowed to clean pits out. Another change in policy has had some unforeseen consequences. The Park Service has ceased it’s practice of removing windblown sand from campsites. Since a barrier island is constantly moving with storms and tides and the power of nature cannot be convinced to stay within boundaries, the unintended consequence is flooding of areas that stood high and dry previously. Freshwater ponds have become dry, three RV sites are now labeled as “tents only” and several picnic tables are in danger of being lost in the dunes.

Monday, May 2, 2016

A Day Late…

I had played our arrival over and over in my head like a favorite movie. First, we would drive around the corner on Rte 611 and catch that first glimpse of the bridge which connects Assateague to the mainland. We would drive past the Visitor’s Center and the State Park Boat launch, up and over the very steep Verrazano Bridge to be greeted by several horses grazing along side the road or on the nearby marsh leading into the National Seashore. My little filly, Miss Mackie, now 2 ½ years old and no longer little, would be there in all her tri color beauty accompanied by her natal herd. However, in my minds eye, I hadn’t counted on the miserable conditions, gale force winds and driving rain, which was the only thing greeting us as we approached the island. Day dreams aside, we didn’t see a single one of the 110 horses that call Maryland home for more than two days.

The weather continued to be most discouraging. Out on the bay, the white caps had white caps and over in the Oceanside Campground, the sand was constantly relocating itself. We’ve used our pickup truck to do patrols even though we’ve been provided with a fairly new golf cart that just sits behind the camper. The rangers even brought us a brand new “rain coat” for it however it’s been way to miserable to try the installation.

Finally, after four days, we noticed horses slowly grazing their way towards us. We have learned from past experience how the dynamics of each band and the territory they claim are in constant flux. Last year, the resident band of horses in Bayside Campground numbered five, four mares and one stallion named Corky, all of them chestnut in color. It was a bit boring although it did create somewhat of a challenge for me to try to distinguish the differences of each mare. This year, the resident band consists of a dark bay stallion  officially known as Delegate‘s Pride but everyone calls Chip, a pinto mare I recognize from last year’s band near the bridge and one of the chestnut mares from Corky’s band.

Then one morning, Corky and two of the chestnut mares casually strolled onto the grassy area from the nearby marsh. I could tell by the way he was acting, there would be trouble. He checked each pile of manure, called bulletin boards, for evidence of what mare might be coming into season and also the health of any stallions in the area. I noticed the  bay stallion making his way towards the interlopers. Ears flattened, teeth bared and more than a few squeals were heard. Then the hooves flew. There was a series of vicious kicks after which the bay chased the chestnut out of the area. The mares kept their distance, at first, but eventually drifted off in search of tender morsels. Several minutes passed before the chestnut came back into view chasing the bay before him. These exchanges continued over the next couple of days with no clear victor. That is until yesterday.

Sometime in the night, the bay stallion, Chip, convinced one of the chestnut mares to follow him. Corky has continued to press for an advantage but hasn’t gained any ground.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Sherando Lake Recreation Area, Lyndhurst, VA

Each new place we go presents a different challenge to us as volunteers. An incomplete address had us scheduled to arrive at Natural Bridge Station while we were expected at Sherando Lake, a difference of almost 100 miles further north. Thankfully, I have my “smart phone” with me and I ask Google Maps for adjusted directions.

Our arrival in the George Washington National Forest has again caused quite a stir although in a much different way than our arrival had at Nebo just one month earlier. We were greeted at the front entrance by 4 volunteers, all trying to speak at once, and the Supervisor, in charge of all volunteer assignments, Kelly whose voice boomed out over all present. There was a boisterous greeting, introductions all around and some discussion about where our camper should be placed. There is a separate part of the property reserved for volunteers near the maintenance shed but Kathy and Dave suggested we join them in the group camping area a little further into the park.

Once the backing in of our 24 foot trailer into the somewhat narrow site has been accomplished,  we took a moment to check out our surroundings. We find ourselves in a depression located within the Blue Mountains, described as a bowl. This bowl prevents all television signals and cell reception from making it’s way to our devices. But the month will not leave us totally unplugged. Carl is happy to report the satellite dish is working just great thanks to a lovely southern exposure.

Each night and most early mornings, we have been treated to the antics and grazing of a small herd of deer, numbering 10, all does. I keep hoping one of the ladies might have a fawn or two hidden nearby although these first few days have disappointed.

Our assignment, this month is the Bathhouse and Pavilion on the shore of Lower Sherando Lake. There are numerous picnic sites with barbeque pits, a pleasant sandy beach for kids to do whatever kids will do in the sand and several acres of cool grass shaded by large Oaks. It’s too bad the weather has been so very blustery, cold by some standards and rainy more days than not. We are told by July the grassy lawn will be covered with knees and elbows. Sherando Lake is divided by a large earthen berm. Both Upper and Lower Sherando are stocked with trout and fishing is allowed. You may kayak, canoe or row to your heart’s content while swimming is reserved for the lower portion. No motors are allowed.

 Each day, we are required to disinfect showers, clean toilets and mop the rather large and constantly dirty tiled floor. Every day the wash water takes on the color and consistency of a lehar, the quickly melted cement like runoff of ash, dirt and debris associated with a volcanic eruption. It seems to be a thankless job although I have had several comments on how clean the bathrooms are and what good shape the grounds are in. Most people thank us for our hard work once they find out we are volunteers. That’s not why we do this.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Doing Chores

We have but one week left at our first post in NC. Each week we’ve presented ourselves to the rangers, begging for more to do. On Wednesday, Ranger Jamie visited our campsite with a short list of voluntary projects to fill our remaining time here.

The list consists of normal camp host duties such as making the Long Arm sites presentable once more after the inaugural guests of the season have departed on Monday. We are prepared to gather trash, rake tent platforms smooth and clean fire pits.

Other items, on the list, involved helping maintenance with the bath house project, answering phones at the day use area and steam cleaning of the locker room and showers at the Paddy’s Creek swimming beach.

The Long Arm Camping area is reachable only from canoe, kayak, rowboat or small motor crafts. There are 30 primitive sites with pit toilets and cold water. I’m looking forward to the trip.

There has been many housekeeping duties to attend to during our month here. Over the five years we’ve owned this camper ( can it be that long already? ) a few things have broken, come loose or needed a little TLC and it had been next to impossible to clean in February before we left with temperatures in single numbers. I’ve made good use of my leisure starting with the bathroom and working my way forward finishing with the bedroom. All that remains are the windows.

Three of our six day / night shades had worn through their strings and Carl has succeeded in restringing two of them with good success. While he worked on the shade, I worked on those windows both in and out.

We have spot cleaned the camper outside, removing grime and in some cases, mold. Carl has spray painted the new and beefed up bumper and then there was the sudden breaking of our awning due to a hasty out of sequence closing during the rising winds. This caused us to make one more trip to the local Camper’s World RV Store where I continue to look at all the gadgets, knowing I have no room for them and drooling over the multitude of new and slightly used campers in and around the parking area.

Oh, and there was the completion of one more project. Carl built us a sign to accompany us on our journeys. I was hoping for something that read “ Carl and Valerie Hill, Whitefield, NH ”. Carl went for a more simplistic approach. It’s a work in progress.

The photo attached is an American Sycamore tree. Notice it's already camouflaged...

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you all!


We arrived at Brahmari Brew House about 45 minutes early and decided to enjoy their homemade sodas but which one? The answer was simple. The bartender set us up with a flight, one 4 oz. glass of each, of the four handcrafted and very uncharacteristic soft drinks. Carl and I both found one of the offerings not to our liking, two of them were ok and as luck would have it, we both thought the Thai Tea to be the most enjoyable.

Our driver / hostess for the 3 ½ hour tour was Jennifer who seemed both cordial and knowledgeable about the micro brewery business as well as the history of the area along with why Asheville has become the hub of specialty brews. I opted for the non-drinker experience since I would not call myself a drinker never mind a beer drinker. I did take a sip of two or three of the beers Carl thought I would like.

Our stops included Noble Hard Cider, Catawba Brewing, Hi-Wire and Green Man, the oldest of the breweries , established in 1997. Before I go any further, I have to tell you, in previous posts, I have misspelled Catawba and I want to apologize to any who might be bothered by this. Spell check didn’t honestly know what to do with the spelling.

Our evening ended back at the Brahmari House to enjoy a burger before heading back to Lake James State Park with me at the wheel. The non - drinker becomes the Designated Driver.

Biltmore House, Asheville, NC

Blog Entry For March 17, 2016

And so it was. After having breakfast and jumping into the truck we were off for the 52 minute ( by GPS ) drive to the Biltmore House. Amazed isn’t the word for the number of people milling about the visitor center, the cars waiting in line for the estate personnel to check passes, the parking attendants placing vehicles exactly where they wanted which reminded us of Disney World, the number of shuttle buses ready to take people from parking lot to the front of the house more than 2 miles away but it is the word I would use to describe the feelings when I caught my first look at the Biltmore.

George Vanderbilt was a single man who planned for his future and took 6 years to build the more than 244 room family home which officially opened on Christmas Eve, 1895. George and Edith’s daughter Cornelia was married to the Honorable John Francis Amherst Cecil in 1924.

The Cecils opened the Biltmore to the public in 1930, responding to requests to increase area tourism during the Depression, and to generate income to preserve the estate. Today, fourth and fifth generations of the Vanderbilt family are involved with the day to day operations along with a staff of more than 2,000 employees.

Showcased in Biltmore House, this season, are centuries of wedding fashions consisting of movie costumes and family heirlooms. The exhibit is entitled “Fashionable Romance: Wedding Gowns In Film” and has been paired with exquisite floral designs complimenting each film’s era.

The tour encompasses several rooms on 3 floors of the residence along with the basement recreation area and servant’s quarter. Our tour began with the Entrance Hall, continued along the outside of the Winter Garden, a short detour through the Billiards Room and into the Banquet Hall complete with a sampling of music from the Organ Loft. This room has a triple fireplace on one end of the room, cathedral ceilings which support two massive chandeliers which I can only describe as looking like birdcages.

Other rooms on the tour were the Breakfast Room, Salon, Music Room, Tapestry Gallery, Library, Second Floor Living Hall, Both Master and Mistress Bedrooms with a joint Sitting Room, Third Floor Sitting Room, Van Dyck Bedroom, Morland Bedroom, Madonna Bedroom as well as a view of state of the art bathrooms, at that time.

I could go on about the wonderful lunch we had in the Stable Café or the immaculate gardens we wandered through but a friend once told me the shorter the blog entries, the more likely someone will read them. And yes, the Stable Café is situated in the most beautiful of “barns”. Even the horses lived like royalty.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Thursday Plans

Today, I booked us on the Asheville Brewery Tour which meets at Brahmari Brew House on South Lexington Street and visits four of the many microbreweries that have sprung up in and around Asheville. The first, of what was to become Brewery Central, appeared in 1994 while the other relative newcomers followed with the boom in specialty beers about 5 years ago. I never took into account that it was for Thursday, March 17th.

Also today, Ranger Nora gave us a pair of admission tickets to the Biltmore Estate and a 20% off coupon for souvenirs and dining. She explained she is a season pass holder which entitles her to gift two admission tickets to family or friends. She set them aside meaning to give them to family members visiting from out of town but plans changed, people got busy and suddenly, it’s March 16th . The tickets are only good through March 18th . She had even considered driving to the estate and handing them out in the parking lot. Admission to the estate is $60.00 per person. I’m seeing a trip to Asheville in our very near future.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Cleaning Up In This Town

Today is the annual Lake James Cleanup and we’ve elected to help more than 100 volunteers and 5 boats to cleanup the watershed and shoreline. This chore is made easier by the water level having been dropped over the past two weeks. One of the rangers told us the mountains, in the area, had more snow than usual and when it melts, it all runs downhill into the three rivers that drain into Lake James causing a higher than normal shoreline.

Each spring, area residents fortified by civic minded high school students and prisoners on a work release program remove tires, sheet metal, Styrofoam and anything else found in the lake that would prove to be an eyesore or a hazard to navigation. Work crews are also sent to high use areas like canoe portages and picnic sights to remove trash that has been left behind. I can’t help but be disgusted by the juxtaposition between people who enjoy the out of doors and those that are too lazy to carry out what they carried in.

My satisfaction grew with each orange bag that was cinched closed and readied for a ride back to the State Park picnic area where two huge roll off containers had been set to receive everything collected. Lunch was provided by all of the area fast food restaurants including Wendy’s, Burger King, Hardee’s, Dominoes, Little Caesar’s, Bojangles and  KFC.

An hour later, I was beginning to stiffen and could tell I had muscles that would be screaming at me by morning. I don’t care. We did good today!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Lake James Touring

When visiting any park, state or federal, one should always check the information board for activities happening during your stay. Here at Lake James State Park, the rangers publish an informational brochure available at all kiosks with details of these events. Today, we were able to enjoy one of those activities by getting out on the lake with one of the  park rangers. These hard working guys are a wealth of knowledge, not just a uniform who enforce rules.  

Once a month, Ranger Earl hosts 8 visitors on a waterfowl and wildlife tour. These tours fill quickly and we were only able to get on board because two people didn’t show up. Nature dictates what will be seen and today the Loons were camera shy although we had a wonderful view of the many nests in the Blue Heron Rookery. A check on the two eagle’s nests revealed no one at home even though high in the sky above, a eagle soared out of the reach of my camera lens. The highlight of the trip, for me at least, was spotting 3 raccoons playing on the rocks near the shoreline. All of their bandit like faces were wet and Earl thought maybe they had been searching for crayfish, a favorite of theirs.

As I’ve mentioned before, Lake James is the reservoir for Duke energy’s Hydroelectric transmission. The water level, on the lake, has been slowly dropping since we arrived. This has exposed many downed trees and miles of shoreline debris. Ranger Earl kept one eye on his depth finder since he wasn’t keen on wading this time of year to push the boat off a sand bar or free it from a snag.

When we returned to the boat launch, Ranger Clay was on hand to help Earl tidy up the boat and get it on the trailer.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Making A Check List

Over the week, we completed our cleanup and presented a list of maintenance issues to make the campground ready for guests. We were hoping the bathhouse would be finished and the campground opened before we leave but it’s not looking good.

Park Rangers have asked us to travel the surrounding communities looking for things that campers might be interested in doing while visiting the area. So far, we have identified a great Laundromat with wireless internet available in Marion. There are more than enough fast food restaurants as well as quite a few more casual dining options including what was our favorite, Golden Corral. Maybe it was the night we went or maybe the cooks were having a bad night. Suffice it to say, neither Carl nor I enjoyed the food. We’ve traveled to Morganton and attended the movies. In both towns, there are WalMarts and Food Lions for reasonable food shopping. We are too early in the season for many of the touristy kinds of things although the Linville Caverns did open last week.

Each day we get a bit more of the camper back in shape. Carl has been busy repairing hatch cover latches, replacing the water filter and tightening things that have loosened over the years, while inside, I’ve been removing several months worth of dust and generally getting things shipshape although with only 24 feet, there isn’t much ship to shape. We do, however, have one job neither of us is looking forward to and that’s the repair of our folding day / night shades. Over the five years we’ve owned the camper strings on two window shades have completely broken while a third hangs by the proverbial thread. The directions on the repair kit says “easy to follow” although it remains to be seen.

I’ve observed the stirrings of the season with the first blooms, dandelions. Daffodils are prolific but in the woodlands, not much is happening although we are noticing the Maple trees are waking from their winter slumber as evidenced by their bright red buds. And the pale but vibrant green of willows are beginning to be noticed. There are several walking trails all throughout the park, some even specifically for biking. Carl and I have walked a few of them to familiarize ourselves with the terrain should anyone ask.  We’ve just been made aware of the Fox Den Loop, aptly named for an active fox den. It’s a two mile walk but if I can get a photo or two of the little darlings, it will be worth getting up early.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Blue Ridge Parkway, Take 1

It rained in great torrents and the wind howled for most of the night and when we woke up this morning, it was only 26 degrees. Not wanting to sit around for another day without responsibilities, we decided to go north, drive some of the Blue Ridge Parkway and look for a couple of waterfalls with trails more befitting our age and general physical condition. The driving directions seamed fairly straightforward so armed with not one but two different maps, we left shortly after breakfast.

In a perfect world we would have driven to Little Switzerland, filled our gas tank, found and hiked to Linville Falls and Dugger’s Creek Falls, made our way back to Marion and had a nice lunch.  But not today. Today, we spent four hours on a fool’s errand and a cold one at that. Having snowed at higher elevations last night, the steep twisted road climbing ever higher had been salted to keep all vehicles safe. We never found Little Switzerland, I suspect because everything was closed or because we were not on the correct road. We took several wrong turns, got rerouted by Google Maps on my phone and ended up finding a Wal-Mart out in the middle of, literally, no where. Who knew?

After a couple of detours, we finally found the entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway in the small village of Linville Falls only to discover the Parkway was closed in both directions due to snow and ice on the road. We were within a mile of the trail head
but I just didn’t have it in me after all the hassle. A quick stop at Linville Caverns was made for a few photos of the North Branch River. And I found this vine covered tree to be especially interesting.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Checking Out Our Work Detail

Our breakfast was interrupted by the rangers responsible for opening the park. Introductions were made and we chatted about our travels until maintenance arrived. The five of them, Carl included, stood around and discussed what could be done to get our water working. There were multiple comings and goings for this tool or that part until it came down to the inevitable, a state worker leaning on a shovel while the other one stands in the hole. I know, it’s almost too funny to be true but I have a photo to prove it.  Mean no disrespect to any workers, state, federal or otherwise, it just seems to always come down to that.

Just before lunch we walked the campground, checking out where each site was located and what might be needed for possible maintenance. We found several trees needing some trimming, broken and downed branches everywhere and the tent pads needing to have needle and leaf removal. Fire pits should be cleaned and there are a few water spigots that need some TLC with a little lubricant. Each site has a 12 x 15 tent platform, a picnic table, fire ring, grill and a metal box for food storage.

Water repairs completed, lunch consumed and a courtesy check in with Lisa at the day use area preceded Carl getting our water heater plugged, lines flushed and water flowing in the camper once more.

Monday, February 29, 2016

South Bound

You know how it is when you plan for a trip, using hours of research time, making lists until you need a card catalog to remember what was on each list and it seems as if the day will never come. And then one morning, you wake up and there’s no time left. You throw everything into your vehicle and head out hoping you haven’t forgotten anything. I always have that feeling for the first 50 miles or so. To date, with all the miles we’ve traveled, there has been little left behind that we truly needed.  

Three days of traveling just over 1,000 miles  kept us on schedule to arrive today for our first volunteer position as camp hosts at Lake James State Park in Nebo, NC. Our travel was uneventful with an evening spent in Cherry Knolls, NJ and Harrisonburg, VA Wal-Marts. We saw almost no snow our entire trip, encountered only a brief rain shower and the only complaint was high wind which threw us all over the highway from Harrisonburg, VA well into North Carolina, a distance of more than 150miles completely killing our already poor mileage. We had a brief chuckle when we followed a tanker truck which appeared, to us, to be hauling a load of coffee. The mood deflated somewhat when we passed the tanker to find it was an ordinary load of gasoline.

Manmade Lake James encompasses 6,812 acres and serves as a reservoir for the Duke Hydroelectric project. Constructed between 1916 and 1923 with the completion of dams across the Catawba and Linville Rivers as well as a lesser tributary, Paddy’s Creek. The park is an hour east of Asheville near the Blue Ridge Mountains. Lake James State Park currently has one campground, a walk in tent site only area with 20 sites, however they are in the process of constructing another campground which will accommodate drive to site tent camping. It’s not ready due to the really bizarre winter they, too, have experienced. It isn’t just the north country that’s been out of balance. Did I mention today the temperature hit 71 degrees.

We caused a bit of commotion when we arrived at the Paddy Creek Office. It seems no one was expecting us. There was a brief scramble to get us keys and show us to our site at the Catawba River Campground where we were told the showers and toilets were torn apart for renovations and the water source for our site had frozen over the winter. With our arrival, we were assured it would be repaired on Tuesday. The ranger checked in with us before he closed the park at 6:00PM. All was well and we were then “locked into the park” for the night. They actually close the gates from 6:00PM to 8:00 AM. There wasn’t a soul around and no artificial lights save those in our camper. We passed a very quiet night.