Friday, April 11, 2008

Turkeys, coal and Norris TN


When I woke up from my nap this afternoon (Wed, 4/2) I thought I was still in the Smoky Mountains as smoke is covering the whole area. A call to 911 (just in case) revealed that the Forest Service is doing a controlled burn north of here while the winds are quiet. Severe weather is due in tomorrow so that should dampen any possibility of fires spreading (hopefully).

I am composing this segment of the blog from the Blue Heron Nat’l Park Service Campground near Stearns KY. This area is part of the Big South Fork Nat’l River & Recreation Area, part of the Daniel Boone Nat’l Forest. As of a just a few minutes ago, I am the only one here. Fairly nice campground. And, I backed into my site without toooooo much effort. Didn’t take as many attempts as at Norris.

Okay, where is Stearns you are saying, I can’t find it on the map. It’s about 30 miles west of Williamsburg (on I-75), near Pine Knot, Whitley City. Stearns is a National Historic Town. All this area was heavily into coal mining and logging. There is a scenic railroadto take you from Stearns to Blue Heron. I am driving there tomorrow morning, since the railroad is not running yet. Blue Heron, is a Nat’l Park Service outdoor interpretive site of the old coal mining town. Tom and Cheryl, from the Alabama gathering, told me about this place.

Okay to back up a bit. I did some research at the little local Norris Library and came up with two addresses of where my grandparents lived while here. I also found an article that explained why the Bureau of Mines was here. (Yuk, just went outside to get my notes and the truck and trailer are covered with ashes.) Originally, the project was to develop processes for refining ceramic raw materials found in the Valley and to promote markets for these materials. Eventually, W.W.II added additional needs to develop use of nonmetallic or industrial minerals in war use.

I drove by the two residences where they lived. I did not recognize the first one but did the second one. Oh wow, lots of memories were there, but it was well worth the time spent.

I went to the Museum of Appalachia, at Norris, and spent a great 3 hours going thru the place. This is an excellent collection of pioneer, cultural, antique and everyday items from interesting and colorful mountain folk.

(Mark Twain Family Cabin above right)The buildings are real and have been moved to the location simulating what it would be like living and working in the Southern Appalachia area, for example the Mark Twain Family Cabin moved to the Museum from ‘Possum Trot, TN. It once served as the home of Twain’s parents and some of their children before the family left Tennessee in 1835, before Mark Twain was born. During the season (usually starts around early April), there are craftsmen demonstrating blacksmithing, broom making, weaving to name a few; along with musicians gathered here and there since music was such a big part of the family’s life. I did get to meet the founder, John Rice Irwin, and he’s my image of a Southern Gentleman from yesteryear. It is well worth a visit and they have delicious food at their little cafe too. I had a Tennessee Casserole, pinto beans and fried cornbread, and fried cabbage for lunch. I loved that fried cabbage and hope I can find a recipe for it.

MORNING! Oh drat I just spilled my bowl of raisin bran on the floor, luckily I hadn’t put the milk in yet. Coffee is just about done so that will make up for the spill.

It’s 5:30 a.m. and a bit early to start breaking down and heading down to Blue Heron. I really do need to find a Laundromat before I get to Bonnie’s in Paris KY. Ninety percent of the hangers in my closet are empty and I double items up. Ahhhhhh morning coffee.

As I drive further north through the forests, the trees are more deciduous. If you have been reading my blogs very long or know me, I love pine forests. Add a little surf and I am (Left, pine tree w/little pine cones)really happy. So am not enjoying much pleasure from these forests now; although in 10-14 days they will be much prettier. The hillsides are showing a hint of green with spots here and there of white from a flowering tree, there are also splashes of shades of pink along with a blood red grouping here and there. Deciduous tree forests, to me anyway, are quite trashy - not human trashy - just nature trashy. There are a lot of fallen trees that have broken up when they hit the ground, a lot of underbrush and saplings, not to mention all the leaves (I know they are good for the earth). Maybe when it’s green it doesn’t look trashy. Where man has cleared the underbrush and has done a little bit of thinning, it’s not too bad.

Oh last night, I heard turkeys gobbling. The sound was coming from one area of the forest, so either they were “domestic” or wild. I like wild, gives me the feeling of really being in a forest.

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