I have been on the Blue Ridge Parkway for a grand total of twenty-seven hours. During my first hour on the Parkway I found myself lamenting, “What the fuck have I done??” and, to no surprise to those who know me well, here I am, a day-and-plus-some later, still thinking, “WHAT the fuck have I DONE?!?!” (Notice the added emphasis.)
This is The Wilderness. There are torn and worn plaid shirts, missing teeth, tar-spitting, bugs, camo, tires the size of my car, and I’m pretty sure I heard banjos somewhere in the distance (I refuse to watch “Deliverance” until I re-enter civilization). By the grace of the Verizon gods I am able to receive cellphone/internet reception, but I’m not at my actual Ranger House yet (aka The Place Where Reception Goes to Die) soooo...I don’t know how long this bliss can last.
Despite my whining and sarcastic remarks, this area is quite beautiful. If I weren’t freaking out so much maybe I would understand all the hype the Parkway receives, so hopefully I’ll have more to report in the "beauty department" after I get over the initial, “How do I escape?!” phase. My parents and I have toured the two-block span that makes up Laurel Springs (where I will be living), West Jefferson (actually very cute and worthy of ‘town’ status), Sparta (don’t even get me started), and Boone (home of Appalachian State University -- why the hell wasn’t I assigned there???). We also went to Blowing Rock (giant rock formation on top of a mountain) today, which, according to legend, is where an Indian chieftain hid his daughter after a white tradesman took interest in her. From atop this rock the princess spied a gorgeous Indian hunter and she shot a flirtatious arrow at him (because nothing says, “I like you,” like, “I might accidentally kill you.”). They fell in love, got married, and then suddenly he was called off to war. Princess didn’t want him to go so instead of choosing between war and his wife the hunter threw himself off the rock (brilliant decision). His wife wept until the wind blew him up from the bottom of the mountain and into her arms. Although this story has some noticeable flaws it does explain the name of the rock. Apparently in the winter, snow will be blown up and over the rock from the bottom of the mountain.
We ate lunch at a coffee shop in West Jefferson, that I believe will become my new favourite hangout) even if it is about forty minutes away. While we were there we were served by an older woman who could only shuffle and I, for one, was damn impressed that she was able to carry two plates at once. The poor woman shuffled all around the café looking for whoever ordered the tuna salad and it turned out it was the guy next to us (even though she had asked us, we said 'no' and sort of announced it to the people around us...would have been a good time for him to speak up, but who knows). Someone said, “It belongs to that gentleman over there.” The guy looked at me and said, very gruffly, “I’m not a gentleman.” Okay. Good to know; “gentleman” is apparently an insult in North Carolina.
My ranger housing is actually very nice. The whole place looks like a brand new house and my room was meant to be a double, but the girl who would have been my roommate showed up and left the next day. That’s a bad sign. My roommates (Holly and Jennie*) seem very nice although I learned that one of them is my boss. So that should be fun! Guess I won’t host a kegger at our house. Darn! Haha.
And speaking of keggers, the three of us are the ONLY rangers living in the park except for the Chief of Maintenance, who lives in the house next to us. What?? No one warned me about that. Apparently Holly was surprised to learn this, too (at her last park she lived in a commune of all seasonal and permanent rangers: interpretive, maintenance, and protection), so I think I may have found a fellow comrade who also worries, “It’s...so quiet...” Jennie, on the other hand, has been at this park for six years and is as happy as a clam with the calm and quiet. Hmmm. She may object to my blasting of Showtunes then...
I’m really sorry that this has been a mini-novel, but I must write about one last thing! As my parents and I were coming home from dinner tonight we had to pull over three times for passing ambulances. We didn’t really think much of it – we’re in the middle of nowhere so they were all probably going to rescue a stuck cat or something – but then we pulled onto our cabin’s road and found all the ambulances at the hay farm across the way plus seven other emergency vehicles. The farm across the road is on a very steep hill (surprise, surprise, there are nothing but mountains here) and the farmer had flipped the tractor on himself! Luckily, after about an hour of digging and whatnot the man was pulled free and, since the ambulance took its sweet time leaving, I’m guessing he was okay. Phew! So that was a bit of excitement. Welcome to North Carolina!
And now I will leave you with this last request: COME VISIT ME, PLEASEEEEEE!!!!!! We can go tubing, kayaking, canoeing, whitewater rafting, hiking, and many many other things for the adventurous soul (we can also just lay by a stream and relax or go to Jefferson/Boone and shop, for those of you less inclined towards extreme sports). Oh! And I have an extra bed. Please come and enjoy Chez Knapp!
*Names have been changed to cover my ass, just in case.