Special Live Chats on AOL
PARKS & PEOPLE ~ LIVE
Guest: Judi Ritchie
May 16, 2001
Moderator: Davinder Khanna
just returned from The Great Smoky Mountains. Every spring for the past 4
years she has camped there. There is no better way to start the spring out
than to roam the roads of the Smoky Mountains.
Four years ago,
while wandering around AOL, Judi discovered friends that share the same love
she had for camping. The group, which now numbers 1500, have camped many
times all over the United States. A member will pick a spot in an area of
the states, notify the group and they all come.
Judi and her
husband have spent 45 years traveling the U.S., Canada with an occasional
trip to Mexico. And before Judi was married she traveled this country with
her parents. She has seen the United States from inside a tent, to sleeping
on the ground and from the inside of a plush motorhome. Her first choice for
seeing this country would be from the inside of a motorhome. Much more
comfy, but Judi does remember with fondness all the times she camped under
the stars with her parents. She wouldn't deny anyone that experience.
Judi's professional life is one as an Accountant. She put herself through
college while being a full-time Mom to 3 children, a wife and holding down a
50 hour per week job. Even back then she had time to travel and see the
back roads of America. She finds that by going off the beaten path you will
find the genuine people and enjoy your travels more. You get to see a
portion of America that lies quietly in the background waiting to be
discovered. And the discovery is well worth the time it takes to uncover it.
HOST TRAVEL Park: We are pleased to welcome
you to our chat series "Parks & People Live." Tonight's chat is on "Great Smoky
Mountains." Our guest speaker, Judi Ritchie (JRitc41846), has just returned from
The Great Smoky. She has camped there every spring for the past 4 years. Judi
will share with us her vast experience and knowledge of the Smokies.
A special thanks to Carol Dean-Porter (HOST TRAVEL Jump) for conducting
tonight's protocol. She will be organizing questions from the audience for us.
So, let us welcome our guest, and begin our session. Judi, thanks for being our
guest tonight and for sharing your experience and knowledge of the most visited
park than any other national park in the System.
JRitc41846: Thank you for having me.....I am pleased to be able to
interact with our online friends and will attempt to answer questions as a lover
of both national parks and camping.
Monacoman: What is your favorite part of the Smokies trips in the last 4
JRitc41846: The Roaring Fork tour would be one of my fav....I've seen it
RCooper904: There is a drive from Tenn to Va over the mountains. Can a
large MH make it easily? May be Skyline Drive, I dont know.
JRitc41846: Russ...I think with careful driving a MH could make
it....I've known folks who have driven it
HOST TRAVEL Park: Judi, what do you think is the reason GSM is the most
visited national park in the system?
JRitc41846: Its forest....its relaxed envirnment.....being transported
back in time to a more simplier place.....plus the many trails, river, streams.
All the plant and wildlife that is to been seen.....Every year something new
seems to crop up.
Torchie01: Skyline drive is too tricky for a motor home, best to do by
car and camp near by
Yuptruck: What is your favorite part of the Smokies?
JRitc41846: Am I limited to just one favorite part?
JRitc41846: Then I would say Roaring Fork and Cades Cove
HOST TRAVEL Park: Would you suggest a time frame that a person would
consume in seeing the Smokies?
JRitc41846: To do it justice, I would think it would take at least 10
days.....at 8 hrs daily
Slidetaker: Has acid rain affected The Smokies?
JRitc41846: yes it has....in fact in some of the higher elevations you
can see evidence of it
BNTO 49ST8S: R Cooper 904 may be asking about the Blue Ridge Parkway from
Tenn to Va.
Parkslands: This Park is also famous for its traffic problems. What was
your experience recently?
JRitc41846: I stay away from the park on weekends and the traffic is not
good at all.... during the week....traffic is managable and you can see what you
HOST TRAVEL Park: What's the highest mountain in the Smokies? Is there any?
JRitc41846: Clingmans Dome....6643 high
HOST TRAVEL Park: Are visitors allowed there?
JRitc41846: yes....there is a road to within half a mile to the
top.....then you have to walk the remainder of the way
Coast42: Have you ever seen any bears on your trips thru the park?
JRitc41846: I'm sorry to say.....Not a one.....and I didnt even see the
elk that were released this past spring.....I think they all hide from
HOST TRAVEL Park: You mentioned two favorites Roaring Fork and Cades
Cove....can you tell us why they are your favorites?
Mudd Man 1944: DOUTHAT STATE PARK HERE
JRitc41846: Our country was founded on hard work.....and these two areas
typlifies what those folks in the 1800's must have gone thru to make a living
it was grueling and extremely hard work to live back then in the mtns
HOST TRAVEL Park: I understand Cherokee Indians gave a name to Smokies?
What was that?
JRitc41846: yes they did......"land of a thousand Smokes"
Slidetaker: A woman was killed by a bear there recently. Isolated
JRitc41846: Bears are a wild animal and therefore unpredictable.....so
its hard to say what provoked the bear if anything.....but I think bear attacks
Parkslands: NPCA and others have proposed that visitors travel through
Cades Cove via bus. What do you think?
JRitc41846: No.....that would take away from the ambiance of the
area....if anything there is a hayride.....that goes thru the cove....they can
be hired....Leave the buses to interstates...
HOST TRAVEL Park: What's the first thing a new visiter should do to get
the most out of seeing the Smokies?
JRitc41846: They should make a stop at one of the visitor centers to ask
questions pick up tour brochures and listen to the 10 min movies they have.
PHorstrans: I am very naive when it comes to parks. In the name Great
Smokey Mountains National Park. Can you tell me where the Name Smokies comes
JRitc41846: Smokies come from the haze that hovers over the mtns on a
daily basis....the haze is actually small raindrops..but they dry up before
hitting the ground.
Parkslands: Have you ever been to the Cataloochee section?
JRitc41846: I'm sorry to say I have not.....
HOST TRAVEL Park: Judi, can you tell us what's special about camping in
JWahlsten: It's the people you meet.
JRitc41846: I personally find a certain amt of peace when camping near a
stream....listening to the water rushing over the rocks....watching the sun come
up.....and the sunsets...
PHorstrans: How much would I have to pay to be a Forest Ranger there? :)
JRitc41846: I wouldn't trade that for all the money in the world...I cant
answer that question for you PHorstrans.....but you are certainly welcome to
volunteer at any National park.
HOST TRAVEL Park: When was this park established? How large is the the
area? And the make up of the area.
JRitc41846: The park was established May 22, 1926 by President Calvin
HOST TRAVEL Park: Birth Anniversary is next week. :)
JRitc41846: There are more than 700 miles of rivers and streams....the
park encoumpasses 800 miles.....200,000 acres of virgin forest and 800 miles of
Parkslands: What is your opinion of the policy to let old homesteads
deteriorate other than those landmarked.
JRitc41846: My opinion is it would be sad to allow that to happen....Its
part of the background of the park.....once deterioated....you can never
reestablish it again
JWahlsten: The park has the highest point in Tn Right?
JRitc41846: John...The highest point is Clingmans Dome which sits on the
border of TN and NC
HOST TRAVEL Park: What would you recommend to a visitor that would help
protect the ecosystem of the GSM National Park? How private citizens can help in
JRitc41846: I think a good rule of thumb is always to leave a park in
better shape than when you arrived but I believe that the park has a "wants "
list and a visitor may check in with the rangers to see what they could do in
HOST TRAVEL Park: Did you find any problems or threats to the national
JRitc41846: yes....people.....throwing paper out...littering.....not
using trash containers trying to deface the land.....
Parkslands: Have you ever hiked to the Balds? or any other unpublicized
JRitc41846: Sorry.....Parkslands....I'm a camper not a hiker.....so I
dont visit an area to hike...lol
HOST TRAVEL Park: What was your experience with the park personnel there?
Are they easily accessible?
JRitc41846: For the most part they are very accommodating. Sometimes when
a great group of folks are there you may have to wait to ask questions of a
ranger...but they are always courteous....a fine example of park personnel.
HOST TRAVEL Park: What's the best time to visit the Smokies?
JRitc41846: Spring and Fall......Spring becuz the park is waking up from
winter and putting on its spring finery......and fall becuz of the colors that
are painted on the mtns...
Parkslands: Are reservations necessary for camping?
JRitc41846: To assure yourself of a campsite when you want one....U
should make a reservation.
PHorstrans: Are there camp sites in the park and if so what are the
policies for camp fires?
JRitc41846: each camping site has its own policy....depending on where
the campground is....but I think 2 out of the 10 campgrounds will allow
HOST TRAVEL Park: Cades Cave is a must see on anyones agenda.....Are
there any descendents still living in Cades Cove?
JRitc41846: There are descendents living in the area.....but not in the
HOST TRAVEL Park: Could you describe Roaring Fork, your favorite place?
JRitc41846: Roaring Fork is a turnoff at stoplight #8 in
Gatlinburg....once you turn off there you are transported to an entirely
different time.....tall green trees.....streams and
waterfalls....wildlife....all in an 8 mile loop you will also have the
opportunity to see villages such as they were in the 1800's.
Boozoo cha: Greetings from Dixieland everyone!
Coast42: If one is camped outside the park, near the entrance, is there a
drive such as you described where one can pull off and look?
JRitc41846: in Roaring Fork?
JRitc41846: Roaring Fork has many areas where you can pull off and just
take in the wonder of the area usually the pulloffs are near waterfalls....or
the streams....or at restored buildings
HOST TRAVEL Park: Well folks, the scheduled time with our guest is coming
to an end. We will take 1 or 2 more questions now if you have any left. :)
PHorstrans: Is there anything comparable to GSMNP as far as amenities?
And do you have a favorite?
JRitc41846: I have 2 favorite National parks out of all of them....The
Smokies and Rocky MTn NP.......
HOST TRAVEL Park: Our special thanks to Judi Ritchie for being our guest
tonight. Judi is very active in helping the parks and park organizations that
are working to protect them.
JRitc41846: Your welcome...it is my pleasure.
HOST TRAVEL Park: Thanks also to Carol (HOST TRAVEL Jump) for helping
with the protocol.
PHorstrans: Thank you Judi. I have learned alot. :)
JRitc41846: Anytime....as you can tell....I love the parks....
HOST TRAVEL Jump: Night all :)
HOST TRAVEL Park: Good night all
Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Official site
Friends of Great Smoky
Mountains National Park
America's Parks Online
Bloomfield Drive, Suite 103, Alexandria, VA 22312 ● 571-218-9541