Bringing it home

Afternoon of Day 11: The Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center

After leaving our friends at Tremont, we started driving back to Maryville College.  First, though, we stopped by the Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center to talk more about the ecological history of this region and specifically to discuss the Native American experience in Appalachia.  After touring both the inside and outside portions of the museum, we were given the opportunity to hurl darts using an atlatl.

Target practice with an atlatl, a device that uses leverage to increase velocity and distance of spear-like projectiles.  Atlatls were used by Native Americans in Southern Appalachia, as well as by many other peoples around the world.

Target practice with an atlatl, a device that uses leverage to increase velocity and distance of spear-like projectiles. Atlatls were used by Native Americans in Southern Appalachia, as well as by many other peoples around the world.  Our attempts to hit a plastic deer met with limited success.

Day 12: Exploring the Ocoee River

One of the running themes in the Great Smokies Experience is to compare and contrast different philosophies and institutional approaches to the management of natural resources.  For this reason, we understood from the beginning that our time outside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in other parts of Appalachia are as important as our time within the Park.  On Day 12, we looked at two other U.S. Government agencies, the U.S. Forest Service and the Tennessee Valley Authority and examined how they attempt to reconcile and balance a wide variety of environmental, economic, social, recreational, and other interests.

Entrance to the Cherokee National Forest on the Ocoee River

Entrance to the Cherokee National Forest on the Ocoee River.  Unlike the National Park Service which is administered by the Department of the Interior, the U.S. Forest Service is managed by the Department of Agriculture and allows limited harvesting of its resources.

OcoeeKayaks6_MountainsInView.jpg_HalfSize

We kayaked down a flat water section of the Ocoee River.  This river and the surrounding area in Ducktown was almost completely deforested by the copper mining industry.  The region was depleted of its topsoil, poisoned by sulfur, and so bare as to be described by a desert by many observers.  According to the TVA, astronauts in the 1960s could see this damage from space and used this “scar in the Appalachians as a navigational aid.”  Today, some 90% of the area has been reforested through a pairing of government and private initiatives.

Flat water kayaking on the Ocoee

Flat water kayaking on the Ocoee

Mountain Challenge's Bruce Guillaume demonstrates kayaking techniques.  (Bruce is considerably faster when his kayak is in the water.)

Mountain Challenge’s Bruce Guillaume demonstrates kayaking techniques. (Bruce goes considerably faster when his kayak is in the water.)

Exploring the ruins of Caney Creek Village.  The Tennessee Power Company built this town in 1912 to house workers to build Ocoee Dam #2.  The community thrived for 21 years until the TVA took over the Tennessee Power Company's operations in 1943, at which point they closed the village.

Students explore the ruins of old Caney Creek Village. The Tennessee Power Company built this town in 1912 to house workers constructing Ocoee Dam #2. The community thrived for 21 years until TVA took over the Tennessee Power Company’s operations in 1943 and closed the village.

Investigating artifacts from Caney Creek Village

Investigating artifacts from Caney Creek Village

Days 13-14: Saying goodbye

Students spent the morning studying for the final examination.  Though taking a two-hour examination may not be as fun (or photo-opp worthy) as hiking by a waterfall or kayaking, the students knew from the beginning that they were earning college credit and that the final exam was the last significant academic challenge of the Great Smokies Experience.  As with every other challenge they faced, the students rose to the occasion and did top-notch work; we couldn’t be prouder of them.  I simply could not have imagined the pilot year of the Great Smokies Experience having gone any better.

Climbing a large magnolia tree at Maryville College after the final exam was over

Climbing a large magnolia tree at Maryville College after the final exam was over

Eating at a restaurant on the last night of the Great Smokies Experience

Eating at a restaurant on the last night of the Great Smokies Experience

A final game of cards in Crawford House as students waited to be picked up for the journey home

A final game of cards in Crawford House as students waited to be picked up for the journey home

Looking forward to 2014

That’s it for 2013.  Bruce, John, Mark and I going to miss these students and we hope to see them again in the future.  (Feel free to drop by when you’re in the neighborhood!)  Meanwhile, it’s time to start preparing for the second year of the Great Smokies Experience.  If anyone reading this would like more information about this program, please feel free to email me at doug.sofer[at]maryvillecollege.edu and thanks for checking us out.

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