As anyone who has pulled up a rocking chair in our office knows, we are a faithful subscriber to National Geographic magazine. Those magazines are responsible for me getting farther and farther behind on my reading list because I can't stop by our "library" without finding another two or three or 15 places I'd like to visit.
A while back I noticed a different looking cover. This National Geographic was published in October 1952. It's so old, there's not even a photograph on the cover, just a white text box highlighting the feature stories with the familiar yellow border.
A couple of things caught my eye. First, I noticed the tagline "$6.00 a year. 60 cents a copy." Secondly, I recognized a now familiar name had authored the first story. Jacques-Yves Cousteau wrote "Fish Men Explore a New World Undersea." I wonder if the young Cousteau had any idea how many adventures he would author in his life.
However, the thing I paid most attention to was an article written by Val Hart, with photography by Robert F. Sisson, titled, "Pack Trip Through the Smokies." That was a must read. It was a thoroughly enjoyable read, and I found the reason we saved it from the incinerator was that the author visited LeConte Lodge as part of her journey in the Smokies. They rode horses up the Boulevard Trail to reach the lodge, now illegal and never for the faint of heart.
I noticed other differences in the story, too. Sisson's photo of Alum Cave Bluff included no stairs or railing. The park service boasted 1.9 million visitors in 1951, a far cry from today's count. Different times, I guess.
Other things remained quite similar. Hart's assistant guide, a man named Glenn Messer, aptly described the speed of the boomers (red squirrels) in these parts. "A boomer is the fastest little varmint in the mountains, kind of a red squirrel. Hit goes so fast that if lightnin' strikes the top of a tree whar a boomer is, the boomer can beat it down to the ground, look back up, and say 'Hit's split!" I'd have liked to have thought of that.
The author's head guide, Tom Alexander, offered another telling comment. "Mountain boys leave here," Tom said. "and go to work in factories in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Wilmington, or on ranches out West. But almost always they come back home, saying they couldn't drink the water. Hart replied, "We could understand how anyone who had grown up in these mountains would find it difficult sinking roots in other ground."
Allyson has returned from her off days. She'll be writing High on LeConte for the rest of the week. Thanks for reading. Happy trails.