First, let me catch you up to date.
Day 5: Laundry, hung out at the campground.
Day 6: Trip to Song of the Wood to purchase a hammered dulcimer, which was expected in the mail to them. But alas, the wrong model of hammered dulcimer had been shipped so we have to make a return trip to to Song of the Wood next week, when the model we want will hopefully be in. On the upside, while we were in the shop we met this year’s Hammered Dulcimer Champion, Joshua Messick. He played for us and, as would be expected of a national champion, he’s fantastic. Check out the video on his website. He was very kind and gave us some good advice and encouragement.
Day 7 (that’s today!): Today is Pirate Day at the KOA and also the beginning of 4th of July week, in case you have not been keeping track of how quickly your summer is flying by you. The KOA is filled to the brim with all sorts of people, some of whom do not have tattoos, but those are pretty much the seniors. I am in the un-tattoed-younger-than-60 minority here at the KOA this weekend.
We ate breakfast this morning at the pavilion so someone else could clean up the pan in which the burned pancakes are stuck to the bottom. We had biscuits and gravy, french toast, pancakes and bacon. We were so fortified by our breakfasts that we decided to take on the metropolis of Old Fort, NC today. Old Fort has one primary claim to fame: Andrews Geyser. The problem, of course, was that I needed to fill up the entire day, so I hopped online and found a few other points of interest to entertain us in Old Fort.
Our first stop in Old Fort was the Railroad Museum:
Not much in the museum, really, but it was enough to satisfy the boys.
The lady manning the museum was kind enough to point us in the direction of a new Old Fort attraction — Davidson’s Fort. I asked her if they were always open and she replied that no, they weren’t really open, but there was generally someone out there working on Saturdays, so we should drive out anyway.
I’m pretty sure that tonight around the campfire, when I ask the boys what their “high” and “low” was for the day, they will both answer that it was visiting Davidson’s Fort, but not because of what we saw there — rather, who we met.
As we pulled into the completely empty field that served as the parking lot for the fort, we saw that the gates were open, but as we were the only car there, we assumed we were alone. On making our way up to the gates, however, an older man and his chocolate labrador pulled up in a truck and spoke to us. They were Mark (the man) and Wallace (the dog). Mark invited us in and told us some of the history of the fort, which is basically a re-creation of the fort built by the Davidson brothers in 1776 to protect the settlers in the area from attacks by the Cherokee indians. The remains of the original fort were washed away in the 1916 Flood. Now, to hear the Cherokees tell it at Oconaluftee Indian Village, where we visited earlier in the week, the Cherokees never attacked white settlers, they only defended themselves. It was extremely educational for the boys to hear both sides of that history this week. We may have to unpack that a little around the campfire tonight.
But I digress with all this history.
The reason the boys will cite the fort as their “high” today is because Mark told us a story from his days as a tour guide in Honduras. Apparently, in his younger days, he led tours to Honduras three months out of the year. So one day as he was driving down some road in Honduras, he noticed a huge python stretched across the road, from one side to the other. He decided to get out of his truck and pick up the snake around its middle because it appeared to be pretty slow-moving — he didn’t really explain why he wanted to pick up the snake though my children suggested over dinner that perhaps it was to get the snake out of the road so that Mark could pass by; but my impression was that it was a snake, he was a young man, and sometimes young men want to see if they can pick up really huge snakes. Regardless, he picked up the snake around its middle and the snake whipped itself around so fast that, but for the enormous dinner the snake had apparently just eaten which impeded its ability to turn all the way back on itself, he said he would have been a goner. He then looked at my kids and said, “I was eye to eye with that giant snake and then I dropped it!” You could have pushed Mace over with a feather.
After leaving Mark and Wallace, but not before being invited back for the 4th of July, when they’ll be firing off all manner of weapons, we headed out to Andrews Geyser.
Andrews Geyser is actually not a geyser at all, as we normally think of geysers. It’s manmade, but it’s location and history are pretty interesting. My favorite part of the story is how people riding on the Southern Railway could see the geyser from several points as they wound their way through the mountains. The geyser itself is located in the crux of an s-curve and the last time we were there, we watched a train climb along the mountainside beside us to our right, only to turn into the s-curve and come back and pass us on the mountainside to our left.
Today we didn’t get to see any trains during the hour we were there for lunch and tadpole catching.
This is what Casey was aiming for and eventually nabbed:
The boys also spent time in the river and Mace engaged in what he likes to call “forced migration” — which is where he takes an animal from one habitat and places it in another. Today, he relocated a minnow to the geyser’s pond.
When we sat down to lunch, Casey had a tadpole from the pond in half of a water bottle sitting on the table. I sat down on the same side of the table with Casey (the better to share the french onion dip!) and the picnic table tipped backwards, spilling the tadpole into the dirt underneath the table. Casey finally found it and ran it back over to the pond. Boy, that tadpole will have a story to tell his brothers tonight about how he was almost forced to migrate to the dirt prematurely.
Because we were already halfway there, I suggested to the boys that we drive up and visit Linville Falls before heading back to the KOA. The hike to the falls is not very long nor strenuous, but today it was pretty crowded, as far as trails go.
We saw the falls from three different overlooks and it pretty much looked the same at each one and each overlook was equally crowded. But it was still worth the time it took to hike out. We considered going to Crabtree Falls along the parkway on our way back down, but after visiting the NC Minerals Museum at the entrance to the parkway, we decided we were too tired to hike another mile and a half today.
Though I do have a question for my friends in the UK: when hiking on a crowded trail in the UK, do you keep to the right of the trail so oncoming trail traffic passes you on your left, or do you keep to the left of the trail so oncoming trail traffic passes you on your right? In other words — do countries hike the way they drive or no? It may sound like a silly question, but until today, it had never occurred to me to ask and now enquiring minds want to know.