Friday, 15 March:

Day One - And we're off...!

Our first day: on the road (we left 0800) and pretty uneventful. But Dr. J brought along reading material about the Everglades, to occupy us during the drive. About 1030 we crossed the Kentucky state line bound for warm weather. Dr. J kept pointing out different birds and trees. Cedar trees mark a change of bedrock to limestone. It is really interesting watching the progression into foothills and then, ultimately, the Smokey Mountains. It is also very interesting socializing with professors outside of class. The atmosphere on the bus was both relaxed and charged with excitement. Experiences such as these don't come around very often. Even more exciting is having someone with you that is so familiar with the surroundings.

At 1430 we reached Tennessee. In Knoxville, we stopped to shop for groceries. One has no idea how bizarre it is to shop for 12 people until experiencing it.

The scenery in the Smokey's was incredible! As we gained altitude, the rock formations were of metamorphosed, non-limey rocks and the cedars gave way to hemlocks and other evergreens. We saw tilted beds, including some (north of Knoxville) that were vertical. The vertical beds are now stripped of soil and jut out from the surface. In Sevierville, we spotted our first great blue heron of the trip, wading for dinner in the Pigeon River. We stopped at Newfound Gap, on the North Carolina/Tennessee border, at 5046 feet elevation along the Eastern Continental Divide. The landscape, although beautiful, remained winterlike, and, worse, was scarred by a recent major ice storm. At times, entire ridges looked as though a bulldozer had hit them. We could neither see through the clouds, nor drive to, Clingman's Dome, at 6643 feet elevation, the highest peak in the park and the highest point in Tennessee. I can imagine some poor man clinging to it. Ha!

At 1930 we stopped for dinner (Big Boy) in Cherokee, NC. Everybody had an opportunity to phone home. When we left, we played a little cat-and-mouse with Dr. Cunningham (in the van behind us), as we were having transmission trouble in the bus. There was an ongoing play-by-play that was fun.

Finally, at 2145, we made camp at Black Rock Mountain State Park, GA. After setting up the tents (the first time, and in the dark!), we all went for a walk and Dr. J tried to call up a screech owl with no luck. Still, it was fun listening for a response. I have definitely got to learn bird calls.

We all turned in at 2330; Vicki was sleeping outside until it started raining. Boy did she come flying into the tent! It sure sounds nice with the rain hitting the tent. It put me right to ... zzzzzz.

- TPa