The hardest part of any trip is getting started, especially when getting started at 2:30 a.m.

We had a layover in Memphis. Lore and I were looking around the airport for coffee. You can tell Memphis is not a coffee town by the seven-to-one ratio of barbecue restaurants to coffee shops.

For amusement, when not writing in my little book, I perused Sky, Delta’s in-flight magazine. It included a politely written six-page feature article about what a dipstick Ashton Kutcher is. According to the article, his life philosophy is based on using the word thrash as a noun. To quote:

You just gotta have thrash… Thrash is a wake of moving toward a target.

Anyway, we are moving toward our next target, Miami, where we will spend the night before the long trip tomorrow. Today we’re flying Delta. It’s a nice plane and a good flight with no problems, for a change.

Back in Mississippi from the Great Smokies

I got back to Mississippi early Sunday morning. I go back to work on Wednesday.

The assessment? I did well on my assignment and impressed a lot of people. I received a lot of nice compliments from both the folks who worked for me and the folks I worked with, but it was very stressful and I’m glad there was an end to it. I came away from it learning two important things: one, that I can be a supervisor and do it well; two, that I’m not in a big hurry to move up into that position.

Now I’m going back into the routine. It’s hot and humid and the sun is scorching me (in the shade of the east Tennessee forests I put on my sunglasses maybe half a dozen times in seven weeks). I’d like this to be my last summer in Mississippi if possible, and if I don’t have to work another winter here that’d be just fine too. The detail in Tennessee snapped me out of the trance (read: rut) I’ve been in since I moved to the Coast, and I’m ready to move on to somewhere better.

Photos from seven weeks in the Great Smoky Mountains:

On fireflies and stress

I wish I could have updated this journal more, but I’ve been busy and without consistent Internet access. Work has been great, but very stressful. I have to finish two things this week: train my seasonal staff and prepare for a two-week long event. The event is the mating display of synchronous fireflies. This park contains the only easily accessible public place in the Americas to see these fireflies, which flash in unison or in waves. I saw them myself this week. Their pretty cool, and they’re not even at their peak yet.

Been having some problems with my car. Nothing serious yet, but I’ll have to take it in to the shop. Something I don’t really have time for. If all goes well I’ll be back in Mississippi Saturday night.


My parents are visiting. My dad fixed my modem. The driver had to be reinstalled, and there were complications with that.

Sunday we went to Dollywood. I don’t like theme parks, but Dollywood wasn’t too bad. We saw a couple of good shows and one really bad one. The banjo player in the bluegrass band was amazing. He barely moved his fingers, but he picked very fast.

We keep eating out. I’m going to undo all the good I’ve done with my hiking.


We spent the day getting ready for tomorrow’s festival. This afternoon, we picked up a moonshine still to use as an exhibit. We picked it up from an old-school gas station in Cosby (complete with lazy old hound dog, dirty little kid, and people sitting on the porch). Cosby calls itself the “Moonshine Capital of the World.” As I was loading the boiler into the government van the whole thing suddenly struck me as funny and I started laughing.

My folks are coming in tonight.

Third week at the Smokies

I’m finishing my third week at the Smokies. My dial-up connection at home hasn’t worked until today, and I’m still having some problems.

It’s going well so far. I get a little stressed but things are working out just fine. This place is pretty amazing, in addition to being huge and very busy. I’ve hiked a few trails. In fact I put in a 14-mile hike in the Cosby area last weekend. I thought I was going to die. The trails are long- well, they are not so long by themselves, but if you start combining different segments into loops they add up. 10 miles a day is my usual upper limit. That long hike was worth it, though. I have lots of photos so far and there will be more to come, if I can get the computer to work properly.

Gatlinburg, the town right at the park entrance, is a tourist trap. Literally, it looks like Frontierland at Disney World. It makes me want to puke. It’s congested, ugly, and full of schlock. When you cross the park boundary, it’s like another world. The Gatlinburg fathers should take a trip to Moab, Utah and see how a national park gateway community can complement the public land around it rather than compete against it.

The staff at the park is great (and large). Everything is someone’s job here. They’re also really into the mountain culture here. In fact, my staff is planning a mountain heritage festival for next weekend. Hence the occasional stress. I’m doing a good job, I think. I supervise veteran interpreters who actually know what they are doing so it’s much easier.

More later.

Tennesse update

I’ll post more later when I have some more privacy, but I’m in the middle of my first week here. Things are good. This park is very busy and very big. The staff is huge and as a result very specialized. My new motto is, “That’s someone else’s job here!”

I’ve visited the nearby towns here a little. They are heavily developed for tourism. More on that later. The park is pretty but I’ve seen very little so far. This weekend I will do some exploring.