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Monday, December 28, 2015

A Walk In The Woods

Portal Tree   Great Smoky Mountains  Big Greenbrier    Timothy H. Fisher Photograpy

Yesterday I went for a hike. You heard me, a hike. I have not been on a trail for several years due to many health factors and the chronic fatigue I deal with each and every day.
For me to work each day and then rest on weekends is pretty much the best I can do physically. But this was one of those situations that you just have to say yes to and hope for the best. My friend Mike, who is a Mountain Jedi, contacted  me and said he was taking some nice folks from Mississippi to Parton Town in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and they would love to meet a close relative of  Dolly Parton or as I refer to her, The Dolly Lama.  A whole new wave of Dolly love was born with the release of  the made for T.V. movie "Coat of Many Colors".  Dolly's dad and my mom were brother and sister. They were born into a family of 12 children in the area that is now the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Life was tough in Parton Town located in a community called Big Greenbrier. The old cemetery is located about a mile or so up the Old Settlers Trail. It is by no means a difficult walk unless you are out of shape and haven't hiked in a while. Check and double check...
But I so wanted to do this walk. I have not been to the family cemetery in about 20 years. Not that much changes in a cemetery,  but I wanted to make sure my daughter and her husband knew where it was and heard some history on the area of her Parton family ancestors. Many of the Parton men were tough and of a violent nature. It appears we produce a lot of  tom cats and preachers.  From what I can hear most of the fair maidens in the Brier were warned to stay away from the Parton clan, but alas as most fair maidens tend to do, they did not heed the warning. My grandmother Bessie was pretty much banished from her family when she married Walter Parton, AKA Poppy to us kids. This is just a hard truth for some, everything certainly wasn't rainbows and lullabies for our family and for the majority of mountain families. It was a hard knock life in the Appalachian hills, lack of education and wide spread poverty encased many of the families like the damp mist that hangs in the hollers to this day.

I did not want to miss this opportunity to walk with Mike Maples and to hear stories of the people and the places long forgotten in the Smokies. He is certainly one of the most sought after hiking guides and never fails to keep you entertained and amazed with his knowledge of our ancestors. He does a lot of off trail hiking (not recommended for John Q Public) and locates and maps old home sites and the artifacts of daily living left behind when the inhabitants were forcibly removed to create the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Mike Maples with an old saw found in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

I had been worried on Saturday night that I would not be able to go on Sunday morning because I was so tired from the Christmas holiday. As you folks with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue know, the holidays usually knock you on your patooty when all is said and done and the tinsel hanging limply on the tree just reminds you of how much you dread un-decorating. I had over indulged on fudge and chocolate covered cherries and just felt like a run over dog. Sunday morning came and I was stiff and wobbling like a weeble. So I did the only thing I figured might help: massive coffee intake while I watched the catholic mass on TV, (no I'm not catholic),  Minister David Jeremiah and then a Pentecostal preacher. I wasn't leaving any denominational stone unturned,  I needed as much Divine Intervention as possible.
 Much to my daughters surprise I was ready to go at 8am. I was slathered in Pain-A-Trate, the Melaleuca  company's miracle pain relieving cream and had dug the old hiking boots out of the closet.

I had her dust and clean my walking stick with the turtle carved on the handle and I was ready to go.I had emergency snacks, a liter of water, BP meds and hopefully a direct line to the big man upstairs. We met the family and Mike at the trail head. It was already in the upper 50's and humid as could be. My stiff muscles were screaming already...but i went anyway. Soon familiar scents were dancing around me~ rich fertile earth, the river and pines.  Aches and pains faded to memories of the past when I walked this trail with my mother and Aunt Hazel, the last time being around 1998. The sound of the high waters of the middle prong was roaring through the valley. I felt light headed and I did not care... I breathed the air of the Brier and felt the familiar presence of  my past, it was wonderful.

 We slowly made it to the cemetery where we dowsed a few of the graves that were only marked with river rock head stones. If you are not familiar with the art of Dowsing, it is also called Water Witching and  using Divining Rods. I can't explain how it works but it does and you can either do it or you can't.

Mike and I both can find the unmarked graves and determine the sex of the person buried there. We visited the grave of Benjamin Christopher (Chris) Parton, a Civil War Soldier who is both mine and Dolly's great, great Grandfather.We left and continued on to the old home place of Chris Parton, where the mossy remains of a rock wall and the old pile of chimney stone sit  by a mountain stream.

Mike Maples at the Albert Houston Parton homeplace  chimney remains
A couple of pieces of old pottery shards were on the ground. I tried to imagine life as it was 100 years ago for them. I wonder if they imagined 100 years ahead to their future generations.....  soon we were making our way back to the car. My feet were soaked from crossing two rain swollen streams and the day was catching up with me, but I was so happy for that moment in time.

Now today is a horse of a different color. Don't get me wrong I am so happy I went, but this morning when I attempted to walk to the Keurig it looked much like this:


So I now find myself deep in the soft comfort of the Granny Bed, once again slathered with Pain-A-Trate and on not one but two heating pads.  I honestly don't have an inch that is not aching or sore but God willing I will  try to do it again when I can bend my knees....but for the next few days I will be like this: