2012-03-29 Thu. to 2012-04-11 Wed.
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I had a wonderful time at a Vandweller Get-To-Gether(GTG) in the Cherokee Forest near Copperhill, Tennessee. <Did I mention that camping there is free? We camped there previously – see my blog for previous dates and experiences.> We had about 12 people at different times during the period and we shared many meals and much time listening to music. Our “in-house” honorary Vandweller, Bob Kuhn provided us with many great songs from Bob Dylan, Neil Young, James Taylor and his own compositions. A nearby tent camper, Tony, joined in with the singing and added to the environment with his wonderful tunes and 12-string guitar. In addition, late one afternoon, local friends of Donna (a Vandweller), Tom and Kay came and played banjo and violin and guitar. David cooked a ‘special’ meal for them as well as the group. On that night, everyone enjoyed many bowls of beef stew to start the evening. After eating, there were several hours of ‘picking and singing’. During our GTG, another vandweller, Leonard, had a guitar and received some lessons and encouragement for learning to play guitar from Bob. Cuzzin’ Dick was so encouraged by all the local lessons and ‘picking and singing’ that he ordered an acoustic guitar from the internet. I had a Flip camera that records 30 minutes of High Definition video. I recorded Bob singing several of his songs and tried to upload them to the Vandwellers-GTG files. I received an error – probably because the files are so large (because of being HD), so I created a ‘channel’ at YouTube.com called – what else? “PuddinInVannaWhite”. Bob gave me verbal permission to put his songs there and I hope that others can enjoy them as much as we did. I called them ‘Campfire Acoustic Guitar’ and put both Bob’s name and phone number in them. He is interested in finding ‘gigs’ where others enjoy hearing him sing and pay him for his talent. Good luck Bob!
NOTE: THE VIDEO IS DARK BECAUSE IT WAS NIGHT WHEN I RECORDED THE SINGING. However, the sound quality is good – turn up your speakers some. In the video about Bob’s friend who was a participant in the “Blackhawk Down” affair, there is a 1 minute introduction by him about the composing of the song.
Hope that you enjoy the songs. This is my first time for both uploading to YouTube.com and for linking to the new channel.
When I first arrived, our northern Georgia/southern Tennessee weather was ‘chilly’. It was about 40 degrees Farenheit in the morning and during the day, we had many days of warming sun and some days with clouds and threats of rain. On the whole, it was very comfortable weather. I have a propane small heater and used it a couple of mornings so that I could get dressed comfortably. (I slept in a down sleeping bag and was cozy for the whole outing.) Late, one afternoon, there was a threat of rain, and overnight we had a little rain – but, we really needed it. Cuzzin’ Dick had found a 12′ x 12′ canopy for sale in a store before the GTG and he raised it over the concrete picnic table at campsite #2. This area became ‘camp central’ and when David Hair arrived, he set-up his propane double-burner waist-high stove under the canopy. We had enough room under it to protect us and a lot of our gear. Usually, we left the camp chairs and lanterns under the canopy each night.
Donna volunteered several times to make breakfast. The first breakfast was bacon and eggs. On another morning, she cooked pancakes for the group. She also cooked a hamburger lunch (with roasted on-the-cob corn) and a stew dinner. Cuzzin’ Dick cooked us his ‘chef-quality’ apple pancakes for breakfast one morning and shepherd pie casserole in his special iron pot one night. Cheryl added to many dishes with some sides and one day gave us a large pot of macaroni and cheese. Many days, breakfast and lunch were on-your-own and there was a volunteer cook for a group dinner. David let his cook-stove set-up for anyone who was brave enough to cook for the group. One morning, I attempted to cook ‘yellow grits’. (I’m not an accomplished cook and about the only thing that I can do is ‘boil water’, open cans and boxes.) Cheryl supplemented the grits with her crumbled sausage and, of course, anyone could add shredded cheese from the plastic store-bought bag. I’m not a coffee consumer, but Cuzzin’ Dick has a coffee-ground machine and there was always a coffee pot over the firepit in the morning.
One day, Karen, Bob and I went to the Ducktown Piggly Wiggly grocery store to shop for our group supper of chili. We also stocked up on some items needed for a few more days of “observing nature”. We were only gone for a couple of hours, but – I felt like I had almost returned to civilization. While out there camping, we usually don’t know anything about news of-the-world.
One afternoon, Donna and David worked on her van spark-plugs and David installed a solenoid for her electrical system. The next afternoon, Donna and Leonard changed both the transmission fluid and filter for her van. Karen kept Leonard busy when she found out that he had a battery tester and charger. They diagnosed Karen’s low-battery condition and David repaired her trailer hitch wires. I watched as much as I could in order to learn how to diagnose and fix problems. After the meeting, I purchased a 3-stage battery charger and electrical probe just in-case I may need them one day.
One half-cloudy afternoon, a couple of us, walked about a mile to the lake and watched the fishermen come and go. On the way back, we picked up a couple of bags of litter and deposited them in the nearby forest-service provided bear garbage cans. (By the way, the forest-service has someone come pick up the garbage each week during the heavy camping season. Note the heavy-duty bear-proof garbage containers in a picture with the pit toilet cement-block building.)
There were two stone chimneys near the pit-toilet that another group on another day walked to and explored. The buildings are believed to have been destroyed when the land was bought by the forest service for creating the wilderness area. We thought that one was perhaps a local hunting lodge and the other was a detached kitchen. The lodge chimney is very large, and the kitchen one is smaller. We found several glass bottles during the outing that we picked up and returned to camp. I ended up adding the bottles to my ‘recycling’ area.
I spent many mid-days in the green grass field in the warm sun. I also, found my fly swatter and had some battles with the house flies that seemed to enjoy the sun around the back door of my van. In short, I was as lazy as I could be. One day while I was sitting in the sun, the wind was whistling around and the tree tops moving, I wish that I could put that feeling on paper somehow.
On Easter Sunday, a large group gathered in campsite #3. They had a picnic and an Easter egg hunt in the grassy field for many of the children. It was fun watching them find the eggs.
One morning, a man with a white pick-up from Natural Resources came. He had a large heavy container in the back of the truck that was leaking water all over the road. He stopped at campsite #5 first and then came drove to campsite #1. He would take a large fishnet from the truck cab, walk to the back and dip the net into the container in the back of the pick-up. Then, he carried the net filled with young trout to the creek and release them. It was fun watching him stock the creek and you could tell by his quick step, he knew what he was doing. He reminded me of Santa Claus – he was serious about his job and performed it quickly and efficiently. When he was holding a full net of fish and walking to the creek, the fish were wiggling in the net and one jumped out about a foot from the creek. I took a picture of him putting the net in the creek and watched the young fish on the bank take a couple of jumps in the leaves and find the creek by himself. For a few hours after he stocked the creek, I watched five fish swim in the current with their tails near the rock bank. I have a picture of the rock bank near campsite #1, but – I do not think that you can see the fish in the water even though it is very clear. The trout fingerlings quickly found homes in other parts of the creek. Except for a few that were caught by some fisherman.
For the GTG, we had vandwellers come from many other states. Jay, from New York drove his ‘brand new’ camper and enjoyed learning about it and all the features that it has. He has a van ‘pop-top’ – a tent for the executive suite. I didn’t get a chance to take a picture of it. He only stayed a couple of days and, unfortunately, missed some of the campfire singing. Two people, Cheryl and David, came from Ohio (and, unfortunately left early one morning before I could tell them ‘bye’.). Leonard, travelled from near Dallas and plans to re-locate for a few months in Jasper during the summer. Donna came from Oklahoma and is considering re-locating to the Cherokee area soon. Of course, as several of us are from the Georgia and Atlanta areas and have enjoyed the pleasure of each others company on a previous occasion. It was a fun group and it is the group that makes camping fun.
Rita, made both Cuzzin’ Dick and me a wisteria vine basket. Not only did she make the basket, but – she also went mushroom hunting and put a mushroom that she found in it for me. Thanks Rita (and Mark – her son <from Kentucky>). One afternoon, Rita gave a group of us a lesson on how to make a wisteria vine basket. It was very interesting and I may try to make one by-myself on a future trip.
During our time in camp, we not only invited other campers to enjoy our meals with us, but – after many in the group left, a neighbor camper invited both Dick and me for ‘turkey burgers’.
I included some pictures of the famous ‘pit toilet’. I call it the “Necessary Room”. (I wouldn’t go visit unless it were ‘necessary’.) There are pictures of the sand road to the lake and the entrance sign with the gravel road. I have worked on this post to make sure that there are a lot of pictures. I believe that a picture is worth a thousand words, and no matter how much I write – I really can’t describe it to the reader.
On Tuesday evening (the last night that Dick and I were to camp), a local young boy had a young girl in the Ford Ranger truck with him and he made the mistake of driving too fast when leaving the campground. His tires were worn and when he made the left turm from the campground into the main gravel road, his tire blew out, he lost control of the pick-up and hit a tree and turned over. Cuzzin’ Dick called for emergency help – and went to see if anyone was hurt. Well, the young boy and girl crawled out of the passenger window and were, thankfully, unhurt. However, the young boy was understandably emotionally upset about the damage to his truck and having to present his story to the emergency responders and police. The accident happened about 5:30, and the police officer kept the young boy in his car with him until the tow truck had the pick-up on the bed and could follow him out of the National Forest. The young girl went with to the hospital in the emergency truck because her parents were not able to come and pick her up. (Note: She was under 18 years old. The young man who she was with was 19.)
The final day of camping was pack-’em-up time. Cuzzin’ Dick packed his van and I helped take down tarps and pack some. I don’t know what happened to my van, but the battery was dead and I had to ask Dick for a jump start to get going. I followed him to Ducktown and then took the ‘scenic route’ back to Atlanta. On a back road, following a couple of large rock-hauling trucks, a rock bounced off my driver-side van windshield and a small crack developed. Oh well, you can’t expect to have and drive a vehicle forever without something happening sometime.
It was sad to see everyone go – but, it certainly was FUN while everyone was in camp – and we can always try to plan and do it again at a later date. (By the way, for the next GTG, Cuzzin’ Dick would like for everyone to bring a “musical instrument”. I’ve already told him that I’m bringing a pair of drumsticks and a five-gallon plastic bucket!)
<Puddin’s Note (about the travel-blog website): I’m still learning the software for updating the blog and some of the ‘tricks’. It takes me a lot of time to design and develop this code as I frequently make mistakes and have to ‘re-do’ things. I would appreciate all feedback that you have, and, if-you-will – please make a comment on the website. If I do not get feedback, I plan to discontinue wasting all the effort. By the way, if you would like to receive an email when the blog is updated, click on the ‘SUBSCRIBE’ button and enter your email address. >
((My Dad has a nickname for me and it is “Puddin”. He started calling me that when I was very young. I named my van, “Vanna White”. When I decided to start a blog, I wanted a unique name for my travels and the names “Puddin” and “Vanna White” came to mind.))