Archive for April, 2011
Yesterday, at the Swain County Chamber of Commerce’s annual Easter egg hunt, local children had the opportunity to meet the famed Easter Bunny up close and in person. As he’s done in years past, the legendary great white rabbit again included Bryson City on his world tour of holiday egg hunts.
Chamber Executive Director Karen Wilmot was thrilled with the Big Bunny’s arrival saying “Bryson City is indeed fortunate to have such a celebrity at our egg hunt. The kids were awe-struck. And the Bunny almost seemed dazed by their admiration. We’re already working to book him again for 2012. Keep your fingers crossed.”
The National Park’s new 6,300-square-foot Oconaluftee facility is much more than a mere Visitor Center. Its centerpiece is an impressive museum dedicated to the Smokies’ cultural heritage, beginning with the Early People — the Cherokees. It follows the influx of European settlers in the late 1700s and documents many facets of their often hardscrabble life in the mountains — including ‘moonshining’.
The museum complements the Park’s other museum at Sugarlands Visitor Center, just outside of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, which highlights the natural resources and biodiversity of the park.
Located two miles north of Cherokee, NC at the park entrance, the new facility includes a much larger and more convenient comfort station. The spacious bookstore is run by the Great Smoky Mountains Association. The old Visitor Center, built in 1941, will now house office space for park staff and meeting space for park functions.
No tax dollars were used for this Visitor Center. The Great Smoky Mountains Association provided over three million dollars to finance the construction of the buildings. Friends of the Smokies spent more than $500,000 for the information and cultural resource exhibits.
The Visitor Center opens at 8:00 am every day except Christmas. Closing times vary with the season — from 4:30 pm in mid-winter to 7:00 pm in mid-summer. For more visitor information, visit the GSMNP website.
If you’re a Trillium-lover, now is the time to head for the mountains. In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you’ll see them carpeting the wooded slopes along Newfound Gap Road (US 441), which runs from Cherokee to Gatlinburg. They are especially abundant near Collins Creek on the North Carolina side and Chimneys on the Tennessee side.
The Large Flowered White Trillium (above) is the most abundant of the Trilliums of the Great Smoky Mountains. The big, bell shaped white flower, which usually turns to a delicate pink with age, is on a stem 10 to 15 inches high. When started from seed, Trilliums take 6-8 years to have their first bloom.
Like the ubiquitous Bradford Pear, most of today’s early blooming tress and shrubs are non-native transplants. But in the early days, the Smokies’ first tree to bloom was known as the “Sarvisberry”. The blooms not only signaled the arrival of Spring’s first traveling preachers, they provided the year’s first decorations for weddings, funeral wreaths and Sunday church services. Thus the name “sarvis” — the colloquial pronunciation of “service”.
The serviceberry tree above is on the Zack Beasley homesite – now a pavilion on the old highway 288 Riverside Park where the Tuckaseigee becomes Fontana Lake.
Thanks to George Ellison for suggesting this week’s Postcard.