Monday, May 03, 2004

Whew - was I tired yesterday! Got up at 4:30AM to finish my sermon for Sunday. I usually have plenty of time during the week but I was in NC for a meeting Tuesday -Thursday.

The meeting was great by the way. A mix of important work, a great pub and gorgeous scenery. We met at Hot Springs, NC. Hot Springs is a little town nestled in the Smokies. It is just a few miles over the border from Tennesee on Highway 25 (a two laner through the mountains - very cool). It was a spa town in the past. Now it is a trailhead for the Applachian Trail, so there were an ecletic mix of folks in town all the days we were there.

My dad grew up about 30 -40 miles (as the crow flies) south of Hot Springs. According to my mom when he was a kid his dad and brothers went up to Hot Springs and camped - I imagine they took in the baths.

I am now an official Smoky mountain lover. It might be a latent genetic thing finally emerging since half my family tree lived in those mountains for generations. Now don't get me wrong - I still love the rockies, it is just that the smokies are different. The rockies are majestic and awesome. The smokies are human and gentle. I kept imagining walking up a mountain and meeting a family on their porch who would invite me in for vittles. I will be making the Smokies - or as a friend from NC calls them "the Carolina Mountains" - a regular trek from now on.

Oh yeah - my trip to Cumberland Gap was cool. I went to the visitor center for awhile and then drove up to the lookout. On the way up I stopped at one of the Civil War Forts - really a series of gun emplacements and rifle pits. Then I drove on to the overlook. There was another fort up there. Once my eyes were trained I could tell that there were rifle pits all the way up the side of the hill with the cliffside to the back. The terrain is somewhat terraced - a sure sign of manmade work - and there was rotting wood in long rows just beneath the surface of the ground. My Great - Gpa was in one of those forts when he was captured. I don't know which one, but my sense history and romance about the past was in high gear as I roamed around the mountain top for an hour all by myself - I don't mean with no friends or family with me - I mean I was the only one up there. Made the experience more poignant.

At the lookout one can see the cut that is Cumberland Gap clear as a bell. It is amamzing that a little notch - an accident of nature - was the key to the westward expansion of the US for a number of decades. Many of us who have ancestors from the early days of the US probably live where we do now because of that little cut in the mountains.

I'll have to go back again.

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