Wednesday dawned rainy and so we make it a business day since it was the first of the month and we had new cell phone minutes. We straightened out an American Express $429.00 chargeback from the new manager of the Tides, spoke to one of our tenants about a low water pressure problem and spoke to Christopher and agreed to buy the 5 acres in Twinton
. We used the wifi connection at the Microtel (in the parking lot) to check e-mails and bank accounts and did some food shopping. After that we went to an all year Christmas shop and bought an ornament with a black bear on it . The black bear is the mascot of the Smokies. The highlight of the day was the visit to Ripleys Aquarium. I didn't expect much because of the Wax Museums I've seen in the past but was pleasantly surprised and awed by the variety of the fishes and the overhead wraparound tank. I even got a treat and was able to touch a Ray. Worth every penny!
Thursday was another rainy day. We drove up to Clingmans dome 6,643 ft but were unable/unwilling to walk up to the platform 1/2 mile up the path because of the cold and rain and fog. The temp dropped from 65 at camp to 53 at the dome. We know it was 65 cause we saw some kids playing in the water and thought that they surely must be freezing! Along the way we saw lots of cyclists in twos and threes in matching outfits (going to Kennywood?) I want to know how they get back down the mountain. Going up is one thing but the downhill side must be challenging too. We saw lots of dead hemlocks from the woolly adelgid. We drove up there via Newfound Gap, the divide between TN and NC. I got my picture taken at the divide, 5046 ft. There were a bunch of Japanese folks speaking Japanese who all got their pics taken at this plaque after me. I just want to know if they knew what it said
. Because it was so rainy, we drove over to the NC side and on to the town of Cherokee where we went to the Indian museum and visited some gift shops. It was very interesting especially the 20ft dugout canoe which gave me a better appreciation of their skills. We also stopped a the Farm Museum at Oconaluftee Visitor Center which replicates a 19th century farm. I was particularly impressed by the size of the logs they used. The spring house was my favorite. Such a great idea and it worked too - nice and cool in there. The last fun thing we saw that day was the Mingus Mill. It reminded me so much of the Kennywood ride "the old mill". We spoke to the miller, a retired school principal, and learned about turbines. To wrap up the day we went back to camp and I cooked kolbassi and beans over the fire - burned the potato that I had in the fire. Oh whell.
We arrived early and set up camp in our first primitive place - no hookups, only cold water in the toilets. They enforce bear precautions here! re: food storage and disposal - special cans and dumpsters (one of which was right beside our site). It rained 2 of the 3 days and we saw the wisdom of the tarps folks draped over their tents. John and I bushed up on our 500 Rum skills. After setting up, our first explore was to Cades Cove where we took the 11 mile driving loop road. Since it was dusk we saw lots of deer and promised ourselves a return visit to get out and explore the old log homesites and buildings.