A Walk In The Park

This past week I decided to have “A pamper me” day, so I went to the local nail shop. I was seated next to a young woman (probably 30ish) at the pedicure station. She struck up a conversation by asking me if I lived here and I answered in the affirmative. Then she told me she was here with her husband all week on business and were staying in Gatlinburg (nice, I thought, I love Gatlinburg).  She went on to explain that since he would be busy in meetings all day she decided to drive over to our side of the valley and visit the Tanger Outlet Mall (I’m nodding in understanding and agreement). Then she asked me if there was anything they needed to do while in our area. “Well, I said, “You have to go to the park.” “It is beyond beautiful”, I said, “and since it is early in the week she and her husband should go either this afternoon or Tuesday before the traffic gets bad.” I also told her about The Roaring Fork Motor Trail right off the parkway in Gatlinburg, which is another truly beautiful part of the park. She nodded and was silent for a few minutes and then said, (wait for it), “What kind of park is it?”

I truly pray the shock of her question didn’t show on my face, but I took a deep, slow breath, smiled and said, (in my sweetest southern accent) “Why, Darling, it is THE GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK!” I took another slow, deep breath and said, “It is the largest National Park east of the Mississippi River and it is probably the only one that is absolutely FREE.”

 “Really, she said, “I had no idea?!” (I already knew that). 

After a brief silence, I realized she had no intention of going, so I added, there is also The Island. The Island has a large eye-type Ferris wheel, like they have in London, a music-water show like they have in Vegas, a Margaritaville, Paula Dean’s restaurant and lots of shopping. She smiled real big at that news.


Oh Lord, help me! She sits on the edge of one of the most spectacular areas in this nation and she drove all this way to go SHOPPING.

 I came home, told sweet husband and he declared we would go to “The Park” on Wednesday, walk about and have us a picnic. And that is exactly what we did. Besides the Mountain Laurel are in full bloom and I have yet to see them (pictured below).


 There are two trails near the Sugarland Visitor’s Center that are easy hikes. We chose these because I have some very temporary back/leg issues. We also picnicked at the Chimneys Picnic Area – a MUST SEE and Sweet Husband’s favorite part of the park.  There are plenty of other wonderful hikes, from easy to challenging.  There are actually 900 miles of hikes in this park alone…yes, 900 miles! 


There is an area with a trail, just off the parkway in Sugarland where you can see the almost lost homesteads of two families.  All that is left are two chimneys and a long rock wall.  These were abandoned when the National Park Service purchased these farms in the 1930s (pictured above).

Below are a few other shots taken along our trail walk.  Tell me, if you can, why would you go shopping when you have this kind of beauty nearby?


The Great Smoky Mountains

So much beauty, so much to see and do…every season.


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The Revenant & Yellowstone National Park

Yesterday sweet husband and I took in an afternoon movie; The Revenant featuring Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass (c. 1780 – 1833). Based on true events, Glass was an American frontiersman, fur trapper, and explorer of the watershed of the Upper Missouri River in present-day Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and the Platte River area of Nebraska.

Although it was never stated where these events took place, there was one mention that someone was last spotted near the “yellow stone”. Yellowstone is called Yellowstone because the river flows through a yellow stoned canyon.

As you know by now, we spent the summer in Wyoming and Montana, therefore, from the scenery, I believe this part of the story of his life took place in that area; perhaps what is now the Chief Joseph Highway area?

I’m not a movie critic, but the cinematography was academy award quality.

Seeing this movie, which is extremely rough, took me back to Wyoming and Montana; it has haunted me all day.

It started with Glass walking through an overflowing creek in the middle of a forest. The first sounds were of an Elk Stagg trumpet. It is an unmistakable, loud and wonderful sound. One can actually go to YouTube and type in, “Elk Sound”, to hear it, you will never forget it – please do.

There was only one scene involving Bison, but they were stampeding away from a pack of wolves. The Bison’s trumpet or groaning sounds more like a lion. The rocks, cliffs, Lodge Pole Pines, rivers and waterfalls took me “home” to Yellowstone.

This 144 year old national park is located primarily in the state of Wyoming, although it also extends into Montana and Idaho and oh how I love it and miss it.

The stats:

  • It spans an area of 3,468.4 square miles comprising lakes, canyons, rivers and mountain ranges.
  • Yellowstone Lake is one of the largest high-elevation lakes in North America and is centered over the Yellowstone Caldera, the largest super volcano on the continent.
  • This lake has MORE thermal features under water than in the entire rest of the park.
  • The caldera is considered an active volcano. It has erupted with tremendous force several times in the last two million years.
  • Half of the WORLD’S geothermal features are in Yellowstone, fueled by this ongoing volcanism.
  • Lava flows and rocks from volcanic eruptions cover most of the land area of Yellowstone.
  • The park is the centerpiece of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the largest remaining nearly-intact ecosystem in the Earth’s northern temperate zone.
  • If you work in the park, naturally you live in the park. If you need something as simple as a haircut you will need to drive an hour and half, in good traffic (which is rare), one way.
  • They do have general stores and small health clinics in each village within the park.

One clear evening in August we drove up to Hayden Valley to hopefully see the asteroid events and the Milky Way and, of course try to hear the Elk and Bison trumpet and groan. We were successful on all counts.

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We made friends easily with several of our co-workers and hope to see five of them in the next couple of weeks.

I will not be working there again even thought we had probably the best store manager and cafeteria manager in the entire park. We won’t for three good reasons: (1) it is a long, long drive from Tennessee to Wyoming and (2) my body doesn’t do changing shift work very well and (3) Yellowstone had in excess of 4 million visitors this year; a record. Sadly the company we worked for did not or could not supply our general store with enough help. Oh, my heart will miss it, to be sure.

bisonDSC03988DSC03990 - Copyearth quakeFriends at YSgrandswansYS FallsYS Hotel



Here is how it works.  There are big corporations who bid on concession contracts with the National Park Service to run the retail, lodging, restaurants and entertainment in the National Parks.  We found this out by visiting several national and state parks last year while we were “Living In Our Minivan”.  Once this information was obtained, we discussed it, picked a park, applied, were hired and we reported for work on June 8, 2015.  To protect the innocent the company name will remain anonymous.  We were really lucky, as the other company in the park was huge, impersonal and had very low dress standards (just an observation).

We agreed on jobs, were assigned a nice dorm room, were given our uniform t-shirts and directed to the EDR (employee dining room).  The EDR fed us very well.  A portion of our salary was deducted for room and board.  Our room was like a Days Inn room:  Sink, closet, private bath and good-size bedroom.  We also had a (free) laundry room on the basement floor where the only TV lived.  We had no Wi-Fi and very poor to no cell coverage.  The public areas of the dorm were kept OCD clean.  We were responsible for our space (not OCD).


GOOD:  There were three age groups (1) college age (2) retired and (3) middle-aged teachers off for the summer.  Most of the college age are from foreign countries (?), this company seems to have a hard time getting American students who want to work for them in the summer.  The retired (us and a few others) are here because we cannot sit on the couch any longer and because they, like us, want to see these parks.  These are all really wonderful people to work with, we all became friends and formed a tight team.  We spent time out in the park together or visiting in our rooms, playing cards or pool in the TV room.

Brandon, Robert and Rose

Brandon, Robert and Rose

Brandon, Lily, Teegie and Grace

Brandon, Lily, Teegie and Grace

Rose, Robert and me

Rose, Robert and me

Teegie, Grace and Mel

Teegie, Grace and Mel

BAD:  We worked for a very large, privately owned corporation with juvenile rules that had to be upheld by our manager, who obviously didn’t always agree with them, because she was normal and human.  We had to “clock-in” and couldn’t do it two minutes early, even if we were just standing there.  The General Store was open 14 hours per day, seven days a week.  We alternated shifts each week, (hard to get used to).  We stayed short staffed all summer and HR either would not or could not get us the proper help.  My assumption, from years of working is, the smaller the payroll, the larger the profit.  This MAY be the reason American college students won’t come to work for them – their reputation proceeds them.  This was real work, standing/walking 7+ hours per day.  The poor customers had to pay the high price by waiting in long lines.  This was especially hard on them because Yellowstone is huge and moving from one area of the park to another takes a very long time.  They were tired, but they didn’t take it out on us (much).  I don’t have a picture of the dorm, but I do have a couple critters who came to visit us at our dorm.  Sweet husband purchased bear spray after one of these visits.

Black Bear next to our dorm

Black Bear next to our dorm


WONDERFUL:  Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding areas.  Teton National Park, Cody, WY, The Bear Tooth Highway, Mesa Falls in Idaho, The local live theater in West Yellowstone and so much more.  I will have details in the following posts.

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More later…


DISCLAIMER:  These blogs from Wyoming, Yellowstone, etc. are not going to be in exact order, nor do they need to be.  I just got my MIFI (Verizon portable internet) repaired and am finally able to post again.

We drove from our spot in Yellowstone to Idaho Falls on our 4th Tuesday off of the season.  I did not want to go – I was so tired after working five days on my feet and because the evening before a group of us drove in to West Yellowstone to the Playmill, a Local Community Theater (truly the best community theater – EVER! ….we saw, “The Foreigner“).  That event put us back at our dorm well after midnight.  As a result, I woke up grumpy and tired…I pushed through because Sweet Husband and good friend, Teegie where excited and DETERMINED.

On our way out of the park we passed a mother bison with calf just walking down the road in the opposite direction from us.  She had the traffic backed up a mile.


Idaho is mile after mile of changing topography.  from rolling hills, canyons, and the most beautiful farm land.  Idaho grows all the products needed for Budweiser, as well as potatoes, grass for cattle and a couple of crops we couldn’t identify.

Mustard with the back of the Titons in the background

Mustard with the back of the Titons in the background





There were streams filled with fly fishermen on one side of the highway and the back side of the Grand Titons on the other, with farm valley between.


We took a side trip to Masa Falls (a must see) created by a massive volcanic eruption 25,000 years ago.  Two thousand times more massive than the one at Mt. St. Helen back in the 80’s.

Lower Mesa Falls

Lower Mesa Falls

Upper Mesa Falls

Upper Mesa Falls

Lodge at Mesa Falls

Lodge at Mesa Falls

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This whole region has three Calderas.

We has errands to run in Idaho Falls, including seeing these magnificent falls are being used to produce hydro power.  In addition to that, on our way out of town back to Yellowstone we saw hill tops lined with wind turbines.

Idaho Falls in downtown Idaho Falls

Idaho Falls in downtown Idaho Falls


Many downtowns these days have statues symbolizing their region.  Idaho has big rock potatoes, turned into benches.

Potato back

Potato back

Potato front

Potato front

I expected this region to be arid and brown.  It is lush and green and filled with wild flowers … PLUS: Elk, Bison and Bears,Oh My!


Moose across the river

Moose across the river

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A rare white elk

A rare white elk

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We Went back a different route through Jackson Hole and had dinner at The Jackson Lake Lodge.  This was our view at dinner.


The Hills Are Alive With . . . Wild Flowers and Happy Critters

tree at guard gate

Orange and red trumpet flower on a small tree taken by Bubba McClary

This blog post will be mostly photographs.  The wild flowers in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park are a riot of diversity, color, fragrance and size.  There are many bears with cubs, making their debut.  Deer, Elk, Turkey, Rabbits, Squirrel, Ground Hogs and so much more.  If I did not add a name to the picture of the flower, it is because I am clueless as to what they are called. I have never seen many of these before.  I have been told that I can buy a book at the ranger station to help me identify them and (naturally) I will.  I am so thankful our National Parks are preserving these.  I did not take all these pictures, as it takes time and equipment I do not have, but I will give credit to those wonderful photographers, who trek into these woods.  Enjoy!

chreeping phlox

Creeping Phlox

Gwen Cross Photography1

Gwen Cross photography

Gwen Cross2

Gwen Cross Photography

Orchid Gwen Cross

Orchid by Gwen Cross Photography

Trillium Gwen Cross

Trillium by Gwen Cross Photography


Wild Rhododendron


Mountain Laurel


Ornamental Maple (not native, but planted here in abundance)


Some type of wild Magnolia


Cantilever Barn in Cade’s Cove


Mushrooms grown here and harvested from the woods here

wild azalea

Wild Azalea. Photo by Hank McClary

sweet shurb

Sweet Shrub. Often planted near cabin windows for their fragrance (back when we slept with windows open)

Lady Slipper2

Lady Slipper. Photo by Gwen Cross


This is not wisteria, it is a flowering tree and the fragrance is divine.


Red Bud



wildflower 3

Orchid by Sharon McClary

wild flower 2

Some type of wild Iris (?)




More mushrooms (for sale)

bear turkey IMG_1711 IMG_1657 IMG_1649 IMG_1648 IMG_1622 IMG_1618 IMG_1604 IMG_1600 IMG_1598 IMG_1593 IMG_1584 IMG_1545 DSC03252 DSC03249 DSC03248 DSC03185 wildflower7 wildflower6 wildflower5 wildflower4 wild flower1 Mr. turtle Lady Slipper