I’ve just spent a week white-knuckling it as my hubby skillfully navigated the dozens of back roads crisscrossing the hills, dales, mountains, gorges, and tiny towns of SE Tennessee/SW North Carolina. He rarely let me drive, assuming that I might suddenly ‘zig’ when a ‘zag’ was needed. I can understand his concern—rarely did we see warning signs on approach to nasty sharp turns, and there were many of those, most veering around the edge of some exceedingly high cliff. He kept telling me to sit back and relax… hmmm, easier said than done. Toward the end of our vacation, he relinquished his iron grip on the driver’s seat, and after observing me behind the wheel for a while, he understood that I was just as eager not to go over any cliffs as he was!
So now we are back on the flat-as-a-pancake roads of south Florida, and I must say it’s a bit of a relief, though we will definitely venture forth again into that mountainous world. Next time, however, we’ll at least better know what to expect.
Two of the little gems we discovered were the town of Tellico Plains, Tennessee’s gateway to the relatively unknown but breathtaking Cherohala Skyway and home to the Tellico River and nearby Bald River Falls (and excellent trout fishing), and the tiny village of Coker Creek (also in Tennessee), which is nestled high in the southern Appalachian mountains, surrounded by the Cherokee National Forest. The latter was apparently a haven for panners of gold long before the California gold rush. You can still try your hand at it today; plenty of places, including the local visitor center, seem to sell the pans.
We did some canoeing and kayaking on Apalachia Lake, a nine-mile-long wilderness lake in southwestern North Carolina. We rarely saw a soul out there and, apart from the birds, could only hear the occasional faint sound of an airplane going by overhead, somewhere high in the stratosphere. Day and night the waters were calm, apart from the occasional fish jumping.
I saw plenty of cemeteries as we made our way around the area, and immediately thought of taking some photos of individual graves, but after checking the Find a Grave site, was amazed that all the cemeteries seemed to be registered there; and plenty and even sometimes all graves appeared to have been recorded. No need to feel compelled to grab the camera; those amazing Find a Grave volunteers had already ‘been there, done that’!
So having taken some time off, I have no family history post to share with you this week. But I do want you to see some reproductions of stage coaches and other now-obsolete wagons, all handcrafted by a Coker Creek craftsman. Two are on display outside the Visitor Center and a brochure shows you all the rest of the carriages available for purchase should you so desire. Fascinating! Of course, what for us is an amazing and novel sight would have been common for many of our ancestors of the pre-automobile era. This was just the way you got around. Imagine climbing aboard that covered wagon and having it be your home for months on end, no matter what the weather…
As I stepped up to peek inside the stage coach, I could not help but think of my second great grandmother Wealthy Jaques Angus, who traveled over the mountains of Vera Cruz, Mexico, by coach in the early 1840s with her two small children in tow, to meet up with her husband, my second great grandfather James Winans Angus who had established a coach-making business in Mexico City. Who do you think she shared her stage coach ride with on that memorable journey? None other than a young Army lieutenant, the recently graduated Ulysses S. Grant! Imagine that!
More on that some other day. Meanwhile, enjoy the pictures!