Blue Ridge Parkway Post Drive and Farewells

Saturday July 12th, 2008  was a day of quickly packing up the remains of our dorm rooms, of saying goodbye to some, for others it is a ‘see you at the next NEH workshop’.   We packed up,  had a quick breakfast and then boarded the bus for a final  drive along the parkway. We re-visited several of the stops we made on our first night here.  Obviously the weather was a major difference We enjoyed sunshine and bright weather today.  We recorded our impressions in our journal ( which was submitted once we returned home).  We reflected on the various lectures from the past week and how it affected our enjoyment of this road.

Amy from Philadelphia and I on the BRP

Amy from Philadelphia and I on the BRP

We then returned to the Campus to complete a on line evaluation for the NEH.  After that, I snuck out to take a few more snaps of campus and the pretty area.  I think that if I had the opportunity, I would love to spend four years studying for a degree here.  The opportunities to learn and grow would be invaluable.

By 2.30pm, I was on the road with a few other participants to the Greensboro Airport , in Greensboro, North Carolina for a 8pm flight. perhapss a long time to wait in an airport, though it was lovely to have the quiet time to sit and read quietly.

My airplane  in Greensboro, North Carolina

My airplane in Greensboro, North Carolina

The New deal and BRP…..and sunshine….an a bear named Fredrick.

****Gosh a month and a half later, I had better finish my blog. School starts in two days.

Day 6 in Boone, North Carolina. How can it be that our NEH Landmarks in American History program is almost over? Honestly, this has been the fastest week of my life.

We began our sunny day inside. Periodically throughout today’s schedule, Dr. Specht was thoughtful to give us well spaced out break times to get outside and enjoy the fresh air and pleasant weather.

Dr. John Willams , a historian and author of Appalachia: a history, spoke to our group on the topic of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal program affect regionalism? Did it help shape the Blue Ridge parkway’s construction and emphasis or weaken the Appalachian lifestyle?

During break time, I was able to zip over to the Bookstore to purchase a few gifts to take home. Thankfully, my thriftiness antenna was able to seek out the clearance rack. The end result will be a lovely surprise for Scottie and a sense of pride that comes with finding a good bargain! This is not my sole visit to the bookstore this week. I have spend a few break times browsing their shelves, amking lists of chidlren’s literature by local authors. I might suggest for future workshops that a list of children’s picture books, fiction novels from local Appalachian authors be made available. This would assist other participants when creating thier lesson plan requirement.

Fredrick the Grizzly, Pam the Librarian and me

Fredrick the Grizzly, Pam the Librarian and me

Another good thing which happened this week was the location of our classroom. It was in the library. The brand new library…close proximity to research materials and knowledgeable people. Today, I met with Pam, the IMC librarian and had a short chat with her regarding her collection of children’s materials. Pam introduced me to Fredrick the Bear. He is ( probably 8 feet tall or so) an Alaskan Grizzly bear, who traveled as part of an educational learning idem during the 70s and 80s. Eventually he found a permanent home n the Old Library Building on campus. Pam shared with me his difficult journey to the new building, that the movers who were under contract to move only the cataloged items ( books, videos, learning materials etc). were refusing to move Fredrick into the Belk library, lower level. Fortunately, he was a cataloged item and Pam had the MARC record to prove to this to the moving company. I can imagine gently moving an 8 foot tall Grizzly was not anticipated by the movers and has resulted in some rewording for future contracts!

As an aside, Pam has assure me that Fredrick has been cataloged as a 599 due to his wild animal status. Personally, I felt that he looked rather at home in his current habitat and should have been cataloged as a 636, as a domestic animal. Alas, this is what librarians do….dueling Dewey conversations. Lucky for me, Pam did not pull out her Sears Headings Catalog. (Dear Reader: again, this is library humour).

Ms. Tina White, NPS

Ms. Tina White, NPS

We visited with Tina White, of the National Park Services. We first met her earlier in the week as she guided us through the Cone mansion.  One of reasons that she is such a like-able person is that she speaks about the history of the area, on the Cone family with such reverence and kindness and respect. She is most knowledgeable. In this photo she was kind  to pose with her hat.  Today she spoke about the the NPS, and the services it offers to  school teachers to aid in their history and naturalist lessons.  All free of charge.  At Saint Stephen’s,  I believe that we access these resources, history in a trunk, via the DeSoto National Park, in West Bradenton.

Group Picture

Photographer recognise me from

this blog! I was tickled pink to learn this. What has started out as a means to meet my school’s professional development requirements has turned into something more. I never really expected that someone would be reading the previous mentioned posts. Gosh, are there any spelling errors? I feel like I might have egg on my face.

Towards the end of the afternoon was free time.  A group of us walked down to the Main street for some air and poke around the shoppes.   We stopped down on King street for a root beer float, something I have not had in many many years.

By 6.30pm, we returned to the campus to enjoy a lovely meal in private dinning room with performances by Lisa and her husband. While she is a elementary school teacher in the area, he is the Dean of the English department and has a musical talent.  they were to perform with the Chocolate Drops and Doc Watson  (Both local well know talent in the area) the following evening.

I returned to my dorm room to read and think about packing afterwards. Although did not actually DO any packing. I have so very much enjoyed my time here, in this beautiful and inspiring area of the country. It has provided me an exposure to a wild and untamed form of nature which we rarely have in Florida.  I feel revitalised to begin back to campus and start planning my lessons for the Fall. I also have a better appreciation for taking care of the natural world around me, to respect my environment and to rethink some of my day to day chooses in a manner which is helpful-not harmful to the planet. I have a better understanding of the creation of the Blue Ridge parkway, of eminent domain, of who the BRP was created for the benefit of some, and the expense of others.  This building project has altered many lives, cause migration to big cities in search of work,  betterment of future generations and an altering of a lifestyle which many choose to participate in.

Recreation and segregation on the BRP

Sarah Potwin at A.S.U.

Sarah Potwin at A.S.U.

Thursday, July 10th. Day 5 in Boone, North Carolina began with an early start. After a quick breakfast in the school cafeteria ( though there was time for a quick latte at the Student Union coffee bar..!) we boarded the bus for Julian Park were we met with Dr. Eric Faruman and Dr. Wayne Williams, both professors in the recreation management department at Appalachian State University. Despite the rain, we met as a group in the outdoor amphitheater to discuss the importance of field trips for our children. Last Child in the woods:saving our children from nature deficit disorder by Richard Lou was cited a number of times. Leave no ethics and outdoor education resources such as Project

Dr. Eric Frauman, Price Lake, BRP

Dr. Eric Frauman, Price Lake, BRP

Wild were introduced. We discussed the role of class field trips for our students and how it can improve their understanding of the curriculm. Field trip management ( risk management) and funding were also reviewed. A planned 2.4 mile hike around Julian Price Lake was cut short due to earlier rains causing the trails to be impassable near the half way point. We examined rhododendrons ( which grow rampant in this area of North Carolina, a water snake and several trees which have been partially chewed by a resident beaver.(One of Sarah Potwin’s favorite animals.)

After a box lunch in the amphitheater, we again boarded the bus to a brief travel to Doughton Park, mile marker 238-245. Historian Elizabeth Hunter gave a brief talk of race and segregation along the BRP. She lead us on a walk of one of the hidden segregated picnic areas, a less scenic location for minorities in the 40s and 50s. Lunch counters could be used by whites only. An immensely scenic location, which takes full advantage of the neighbouring mountains was located higher on a hill in Doughton Park. This location has been maintained today, with advantageous access to washrooms and nearly parking areas. The segregated picnic area is no longer maintained as that the segregation policy of the National Park Service has long since been abandoned. We discussed the notion of who the BRP is for, and providing services for all. Oral history has proven to be an important source of historical information on this topic.

Brinegar Cabin, Mile marker 238, BRP

Brinegar Cabin, Mile marker 238, BRP

Our final stop took us past some of the most spectacular vistas so far on our week of learning. Brinegar Cabin was home to Martin and Caroline Brinegar from 1880 to 1937 when the Park Service purchased it to construct the BRP. The property has been maintained as a traditional Appalachian cultural landscape for visitors. Ironically, the Brinegar cabin offers a much different glimpse into Appalachian living in comparison to the Cone Mansion, which was being lived in at roughly the same time. This location reinforces the traditional public concept of simple Appalachian living, yet demonstrates the hard work required to forge out a living : growing food to be self sustaining, growing and harvesting flax and wool to weave, shoe making etc. It portrays a self sufficiency in pioneer lifestyle ( learned gardening techniques, spring fed water supply).

Our National Park Rangers were excellent speakers, knowledgeable and

National Park Service park Ranger, Brinegar Cabin, BRP

National Park Service Park Ranger, Brinegar Cabin, BRP

willing to demonstrate many of the processes which the Brinegar family used in their daily lives. Strong family values in a pre- industrial time are evident. The Brinegar family were not bothered by a need for a modernity lifestyle. Martin Brinegar is buried at a nearby crest of the Parkway. Caroline left the property in 1937. The National park Service granted the property to her until her death. Though, in 1937 she left due to the interruption of the parkway’s construction in her quiet lifestyle. A heavy machinery ( bulldozer, crane depot as located nearly 150 feet away from her cabin) as well as blasting of North Carolina rock was occurring in the area , both shattering she sense of quietness and autonomy.

Our return to Boone was later than anticipated. Thus, a few fellow participants and I found a place off campus for a quick dinner before returning to my room for reading and writing.

A vist to the Cone Mansion

Today, July 8th, 2008  was yet another grand adventure in Boone, North Carolina. Day three of our Blue Ridge Parkway NEH LAndmarks in American History workshop and the theme could be construed as a study in the naturalist environment. Dr. Tim Silver, author of Mt. Mitchell and the Black Mountains: An environmental history of the highest peaks in the Eastern America, gave a morning slide presentation and discussion relating to his book. We discussed the notions of ‘what is nature’. our conection to a constructed landscape, how we hard the ecological balance when we try to tame nature for our pleasurable views. Nature is in people’s thinking as well as their actions. Again, as was the case in yesterday’s discussions, the theme of imminent domain has come up….how do we attract tourism with an antiseptic and stylised landscape and at what cost of those who live on the land?

A short time was spent in a break out group examining primary sources from Bertha Cone’s letters to Hoover expressing her displeasure at the construction of the Parkway through her parcel of land. As was the case yesterday, I am still in awe of the amount of research and preparation which has gone into planning this workshop. Many of these primary sources are from the National Archives in Washington as well as from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

After lunch, our group boarded a bus to Blowing Rock, home of the Moses and Bertha Cone Mansion. Phil Norblitt, author of Mansions in the Mountains:the Story of Moses and Bertha Cone and their Blowing Rock Manor, accompanied us. As a former National Park Service Interpreter at this location, Mr. Norblitt is very knowledgeable of the family’s history, of the Cone Family’s cotton textile business and art collection. This sad tale, of Mr. Cone’s death at the young age of 51, only 8 years after completion of this family summer retreat, forced his wife Bertha, a lady of Victorian values at the turn of the century to begin managing their functioning farm on the property. Her strong convictions to its management led to an opposition to the building of the parkway through her

Cone Mansion, Blowing Rock, North Carolina

Cone Mansion, Blowing Rock, North Carolina

parcel of land. Again, the theme of imminent domain surfaced in our discussions. Those with power could influence the path of the parkway. Ultimately, at her bequest, Mrs. Cone’s house was willed to the Greensboro Hospital, then was turned over to the NPS to be enjoyed as a pleasurable park for others. The house was intended to remain closed to the public, though today a local crafts group display and sell their wares in a portion of this building.

Much of the Cone mansion history reminds me of our John Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida. Similar to Cone, Ringling was a wealthy man, who had built a luxury retreat in an exotic local. Both entertained wealth acquaintances at these retreats, both were married without children and direct heirs to manage their assets. Both realised a death within the couple and thus hard times fell upon them. In the case of the Cone’s , Bertha became responsible for managing both the house as well as the self sustaining farm. In the case of Ringling, Mable died leaving John Ringling with little joy. Much of his fortune was lost during the Depression, resulting in his penniless status at the time of death. Ringling’s house and art collection was left to the State of Florida willingly. Mrs. Cone, begrudgingly signed and agreement to hand over the farm land to the government at the time of her death. As I walked through the Cone mansion, my mind was drawing parallels to these two houses , whose tales were unfolding at roughly the same time.

Sarah Potwin, Cone Mansion, Blowing Rock, North Carolina

Sarah Potwin, Cone Mansion, Blowing Rock, North Carolina

Workshop participants hiked a portion of the Cone’s trails to their apple barn, enjoyed the pleasures of rocking on the houses front balcony while enjoying the stunning vista of the town of Blowing Rock below. A heavy summer time rain pounded down for nearly 20 minutes. Interestingly, it was possible to see the weather front approaching us, sweeping across the the mountain tops.

We then boarded the bus, to return to Appalachian State University Campus to eat supper, then read and write about our experiences.

Bookmark and Share

Blue Ridge Parkway and its origins….

The morning of July 7th, 2008  began with a breath taking vista as I left my dorm to go to breakfast on the campus of Appalachian University, here in Boone, North Carolina. I am amazed at the state of ‘pretty’ which exists on the campus. Perhaps that is a generic term, though the university has been well thought out and is moving towards a definitive direction to stimulate learning in this area.

I cannot go any further before proclaiming my delight ….a brand new library facility has improved the campus and student’s access to information.

Belk Library, Appalachian University

Belk Library, Appalachian University

Opened in 2004, Belk Library consists of five floors, a central rotunda which funnels light to the main floor, fireplaces, coffee shoppe and technology to optimise learning ( abundant computer terminals, on line databases, projection devices, wired auditoriums etc.) Of course, I gravitated to the basement level, which was anything but damp and dingy, lower level windows brightened a children’s collection space.

Main Lobby Rotunda, Belk Library

Main Lobby Rotunda, Belk Library

This facility not only services university students in the school library and elementary education programs, but also the Town of Boone’s children. Traditional story times and other such programming bring the local children into this building and exceed their information needs.

The morning began with a lecture by Dr. Anne Mitchell Whisnant, author of Super-Scenic Motorway: A Blue Ridge Parkway History . Dr. Whisnant produced an over view of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the reason for it’s being, history of its creation and touched on the notion of framing views of nature by taming the natural world. What is the public good? How do you identify it and achieve it fairly? Is imminent domain fair for who exactly? All environments and landscapes have an arena of politics behind it. Existing interpretations and stories should be looked at with a critical eye. This discussion touched on the creation of the parkway for the good of certain parties, though with power, such as Hugh Morton, owner of Grandfather Mountain a privately owned piece of land with a right of way to the BRP.

Proceeding this , a small break out discussion group met to look over further primary sources, including a handwritten letter from Mr. S.A. Miller, an Appalachian farmer pleading to President Roosevelt to save his farm land. Again, the theme of imminent domain and fairness came into play.

After lunch, we departed for a tour of Grandfather Mountain to admire the

Linn Cove Viaduct Visitor's Center, North Carolina

Linn Cove Viaduct Visitor's Center, North Carolina

views and better understand the shape of the landscape. A stop at the Linn Cove Viaduct Center documented the final section of the BRP, completed in 1987. This viaduct, near mile post 290 ( or known as Section 2H) was estimated to cost $4 million to construct, though came in at $10 million. Part of the delay in completion of this final section of the parkway was the debate over the routing of the Parkway to Grandfather Mountain.

Sarah Potwin, Grandfather Mountain, 5200 feet above sea level

Sarah Potwin, Grandfather Mountain, 5200 feet above sea level

We then returned to campus for supper and time to read. As part of my course requirements, I am to write a lesson plan which will include material from this week’s workshop. Currently, I am playing around with a theme of fairness (imminent domain might be a big word for my elementary students) and how fairness cannot be achieved for all. I am also looking at incorporating a geographical element into my lesson, though at this point these are simply vague notions.

Arrival in Boone, North Carolina

After leaving the Sarasota airport at 7.11am on Sunday July 6th, I was ready for my big adventure. Flying to Boone, North Carolina was a new experience for me, as that I have never flown out of our neighbouring ( and manageabley a smaller airport) and secondly, I have never been to Boone, North Carolina. Many of my Saint Stephen’s students have spoken about it, as that it is an area many know from their summer vacations. I have been admitted to a National Endowment for the Humanities program, titled Landmarks in American History. Its aim is to better equip elementary and secondary teachers with a first hand knowledge of American history. Each workshop is one week in length and offers a different theme from America’s history. While in Boone, I shall be studying the creation of the Blue Ridge Parkway, its benefits and its effects on those who own land in the area.

41 participants from all over the country will be lodging at Appalachian University, the school hosting this workshop. I anticipate that I shall leave with a better appreciation for the natural world around me, a better understanding of history in the Appalachian Mountains as well as between communicating with my students about an area they know well.

My arrival in Greensboro, North Carolina , speedy check into the assigned dorm and then we were off to enjoy a ‘pre-drive’ of the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway. Armed with a notebooks and pen, participants were asked to journal their initial impressions of the parkway. This journal will be contrasted to a second journal entry at the end of this week long workshop.

Initially, I was impressed by the intensive lushness of the plants. Of the carefully planned groupings of trees, selective trimming of branches to maximize views, of how views are structured to get people out of their cars to interact with nature( hiking on trails, picnics, snap photos of the mountains), of how ‘Hillbilly Culture’ is stages for entertainment purposes ( i.e. abandoned cabins constructed by the road side. The every winding curve of the road becomes the driver on, yet slow speed of 35-45 miles an hour must be maintained for safety as well as maximum enjoyment of the natural world.

The Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway hosted a welcome picnic at the Cascade Overlook for workshop participants. Despite the rain, the view was enjoyed by all as we interacted and introduced ourselves.