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  • Frank DeArmas

Kentucky & the Great Smoky Mountains

We Start our 2023 Shakedown trip


Kentucky and The Great Smoky Mountains


Kentucky Horse Park Dolly Parton's Stampede Great Smoky Mountains


This year’s adventure started with Jan reading about an event that takes place every year down in the Great Smoky Mountains near Gatlinburg Tennessee. Around the beginning of June, Fireflies come together here to mate and carry on their blood lines. What’s special about these fireflies is that they light up, and go dark, at the same time, thus their name, the synchronized fireflies.


This event is so popular that the Forest Service holds a lottery to give out passes to go see them in the national park. We entered the lotto but did not get chosen. So did that stop us, um, no. We took a chance and went anyway. Plus, we love the Smokies and it’s on the way to the Outer Banks where we hope to see wild horses that live free on the barrier islands.


We set off on our June adventure, and promptly hit Michigan’s terrible roads, and traffic. Seriously, after driving the Alaskan Highway you would have thought the roads in Michigan are better, nope. I’m not sure why, but Michigan has the worst roads in the nation, yeah, worse then the Yukon and Alaska. It was so bad that one of my headlights ended up coming loose from the bracket, luckily it did not detach from the harness and I was able to reconnect it.


Anyway we stopped for lunch at a rest stop and fired up the generator, only to find while it started, no power was going to the coach. After calling Cummins it looks like I’ll have to bring BucketQuest in for them to figure out what’s going on, Oh the joys of a shakedown trip. So, we canceled a boondocking night and added a RV park and we were good for this trip. Service is set for the end of June so it's all good for our west coast trip.


 

Whispering Hills RV Resort, Kentucky



We finally got to our first stop which is Whispering Hills RV camp in Georgetown Ky. This area is very pretty and famous for it’s blue grass, horses, and Bourbon. After getting some rest we went to visit the Kentucky Horse Park. We have been there before and it is a great day visit, especially if you love history and horses.


We had a great day seeing different breeds, and two triple crown winners, but also sad as derby winner Go for Gin had past since the last time we visited, he was a great horse.

As I mentioned, we have stopped here before as it is on the way when we head anywhere south. Plus we love the horses and just the whole vibe that the Lexington area holds.


The evening found us playing cards and just enjoying the cool Kentucky evening.


Jan's fun facts about Kentucky


I was just browsing the internet to see what I could find and I stumbled upon old laws that are still on the books. I thought they were kinda funny and thought I would share.


  1. In Kentucky every citizen is required to take a shower once a year.

  2. It is illegal in Kentucky to marry the same man more than 3 times.

  3. In Owensboro Kentucky, A woman may not buy a hat without her husband's permission.

  4. And last but not lest, there is a law that forbids you to carry an ice cream cone in your pocket. This came about from horse theft. If a horse followed you home, it wasn’t theft. So they would put an ice cream cone in their back pocket to lure the horse home.


One last tid-bit I always wondered about. Wearing a hat to the Kentucky Derby is believed to bear good luck!


 

After this quick stop It was time to head south to the smoky mountains.


 

Pigeon Forge and the Great Smoky Mountains




As mentioned earlier in this blog, this whole trip started with the hope of going to see the Synchronized Fireflies of the Great Smoky Mountains. Well, since we did not win the lotto, you have to win in order to be allowed into that area of the park, we really did not get to see them. But the Smokies offer so much to see and do, and not to mention all the tourist attractions that Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg have to offer, we were never bored.


Dolly Parton’s Stampede


Our stay started with an evening of dinner theater at Dolly Parton’s Stampede. I’ll be honest with you, I was not sure what to expect. But the skill of the riders and their horses were very impressive, and the food was good as well. I highly recommend you guys go to see it when you come down.



The rest of the week was filled with exploring the park, which is a beautiful wilderness full of history. The park itself was funded by monies from Nelson Rockefeller, the states of North Carolina and Tennessee, and donations from everyday folks like us. You see, this park did not get carved out of public lands like others we have been to. No sir, they had to buy every acre of land from thousands of owners.


And many of those owners did not want to go. Kind of interesting when you realize that they were not the first to be moved out of their homes here in what became Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The smokies were the ancient tribal lands of the Cherokee Indians. When Andrew Jackson signed the Indian removal act, all of the natives that lived here were forced to move to a reservation in Oklahoma on what became known as the trail of tears. 4000 Cherokees lost their lives on that forced march. Not exactly a bright spot in our history. The more I learn about the Native Americans, the more I grow to respect their ways of life and stories.


Moving beyond that, the scenery in the park is amazing. The drive from Gatlinburg Tn to Cherokee NC takes in some of the country’s most spectacular vistas. We then drove out to Cades Cove and got to see some of the remnants of the early settlers.


Lastly, we took the 2.6-mile round trip hike to Laurel Falls. It was a fitting end to our stay and visit, oh wait, there is one very embarrassing part of our stay here I almost forgot, Jan once again destroyed me at table shuffleboard, and we split our put-put games. I am ashamed to say I only won shuffleboard after she had a few glasses of wine. Oh well, like they say, lucky in love, unlucky in shuffleboard.


Jan's facts and take on The Great Smoky Mountains


Even though the Smoky Mountains have a large variety of animals, and our sole purpose was to hopefully see the synchronized fireflies, I have to say we lost our MoJo on this stop. We only saw 4 fireflies, a few turkeys and a couple of black birds that decided to walk with us on the trail to see Laurel Falls. It was still a wonderful time and we plan on coming back to see the falls colors or if we ever win the synchronized fireflies lottery.


We found a self guided tour during our visit and it talked about how this area was once the home of the Cherokees. They were forced out in the early 1800, (which I agree with Frank, is not one of our proud moments in history) but there is still a presence of their culture in the area. I love hearing about their legends. The following is one of my favorites as I do love the night sky and the Milky Way.


How the Milky Way came to be


A Cherokee Legend


Long ago when the world was young, there were not many stars in the sky.

In those days the people depended on corn for their food.

Dried corn could be made into corn meal by placing it inside a large hollowed stump and pounding it with a long wooden pestle. The cornmeal was stored in large baskets. During the winter, the ground meal could made into bread and mush.


One morning an old man and his wife went to their storage basket for some cornmeal. They discovered that someone or something had gotten into the cornmeal during the night. This upset them very much for no one in a Cherokee village stole from someone else.

Then they noticed that the cornmeal was scattered over the ground. In the middle of the spilt meal were giant dog prints. These dog prints were so large that the elderly couple knew this was no ordinary dog.


They immediately alerted the people of the village. It was decided that this must be a spirit dog from another world. The people did not want the spirit dog coming to their village. They decided to get rid of the dog by frightening it so bad it would never return. They gathered their drums and turtle shell rattles and later that night they hid around the area where the cornmeal was kept.


Late into the night they heard a whirring sound like many bird wings. They look up to see the form of a giant dog swooping down from the sky. It landed near the basket and then began to eat great mouthfuls of cornmeal.


Suddenly the people jumped up beating and shaking their noise makers. The noise was so loud it sounded like thunder. The giant dog turned and began to run down the path. The people chased after him making the loudest noises they could. It ran to the top of a hill and leaped into the sky, the cornmeal spilling out the sides of its mouth.


The giant dog ran across the black night sky until it disappeared from sight. But the cornmeal that had spilled from its mouth made a path way across the sky. Each gain of cornmeal became a star.


The Cherokees call that pattern of stars, gi li' ut sun stan un' yi (gil-lee-oot- soon stan-Unh-yee), "the place where the dog ran."

And that is how the Milky Way came to be.


Author Unknown


 

As Jan mentions, the creation stories explaining their world are fascinating and it's made us want to look further into other stories and get to know them better.


Next stop The Outer Banks of North Carolina.


Please let us know what you think or any suggestions by emailing us.













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