Posted by: pjbarr | April 23, 2010

The Valley Beautiful

Start: Irwin, TN; Uncle Johnny’s Hostel
Finish: Johnson City, TN
Distance: 0.0 mi.
Trip Distance: 339.9 mi.
Side Trips: Irwin, TN
Side Trip Miles: 0.0 mi.
State: TN
Highlights: Pizza Buffet, Seeing my Parents, Luxurious Accommodations

When you look at your life, the greatest happinesses are family happinesses. – Joyce Brothers

I awoke to the sound of rain on my tent. It was like a lullaby to wake me up. My spacious, double wall tent allows me to rest easy in the rain, as I have no issues with condensation or water seeping in. With its large size, I can move around freely without worrying about hitting the mess against the rain ply and getting wet. Yes, my new tent is a hiker palace.

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Since my parents were coming this morning, I was able to sleep in and lazily emerge from my tent. About half of the 20+ tents from last night were already gone. I reveled in not having to hastily pack up, and I enjoyed an hour of hanging out around the hostel.

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My folks arrived and I was so excited to see them. It had been three weeks since their last visit and I had hiked about 200 miles since then. They were impressed with my fuller beard. I had not really gotten the chance to examine it myself at length until this evening in the mirror.

We spent the day taking care of chores like laundry, a run to Wal-Mart, the post office, etc. We ate a fantastic, extremely satisfying lunch at the all you can eat pizza buffet at Pizza Plus. We also milled around downtown for a while and visited the Chamber of Commerce before driving to Johnson City.
Erwin sits in a valley once referred to as “The Valley Beautiful”. I learned of this pleasing name from Sam Brocato, the head of the Partners of the Cherokee National Forest who is leading a project to restore the Pinnacle Mountain lookout tower on the north side of the valley. Allison and I travelled to The Valley Beautiful last fall to help with the fund raiser for the project.

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We also travelled here over a year ago to meet with Charles Maynard, founder of the Friends of the Smokies and ring leader of the Mt. Camarerer restoration project in the Smokies during the mid-1990’s. We met to discuss the restoration of Shuckstack, and I hope to get Charles more involved in the initiative in the future. He is very influential in regards to the park and has the ability to aid significantly with such a project.

Irwin is famous, rather infamous, for once hanging an elephant to death in the early 20th century. A circus elephant in near Kingsport, TN, had trampled and killed its keeper. Irwin, having both the necessary equipment and the desire, organized to execute the elephant by hanging from a crane at their train depot. Thousands turned out to watch, though the first chain broke and another chain had to be used, ultimately taking the elephants’ life after an hour. I’m not sure if Irwin is proud of this, but it is an interesting story.

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Tonight we are staying at the Doubletree Hotel, overwhelmingly luxurious accommodations that my tired body has been most enjoying. It has been a great day off spent with family I love.


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