Uncovering secrets

Tremont Scavenger Hunt is fun lesson in Park mysteries

Editor’s Note: In March, 2009, Blount Today freelance photographer Jolanda Jansma participated in the 2nd Annual Tremont Scavenger Hunt, an event begun in 2008 as a way to introduce folks to Tremont, the culture and history of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and as a fundraiser for the Tremont Institute. She wrote a story about her experiences and took pictures during and after the hunt. With the 3rd hunt scheduled for Saturday, March 6 (registration deadline, March 1), we thought it would be good to share Jolanda’s experiences with Blount Today readers.

To register for the hunt and for more information on how it works, go to www.gsmit.org.

It’s not like I’m a stranger to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We hike in the mountains. My husband is an East Tennessee native, and the Park is one of our favorite places to spend a day.

But just when you think you know all you need to know, someone mentions a Pearl Harbor connection to Cades Cove, and you find there are always secrets to be discovered in our Park.

A means of discovering new information took shape last year when my family and I participated in the 2nd Annual Tremont Scavenger Hunt on Saturday, March 7.

The Scavenger Hunt really begins the day before. At 5 p.m. on Friday, Tremont emails all participants, which numbered 105 people in 20 teams last year, the list of questions and challenges. My husband Rick, having grown up in the area, took quick charge as our “expert.” Our team consisted of Rick Hill, Erik Jan Hill, Marty Smith, Carissa Hill and myself.

I am grateful for Internet, for we were able to answer many of the questions at home. There were questions that caused all of us to furrow our brows. What in the world would this riddle mean:

“What is whiter than snow, but snow it ain’t; Greener than grass, but grass is ain’t; Redder than blood, but blood it ain’t; Blacker than coal, but coal it ain’t.” At 2 in the morning I still had no answer and decided to go get some sleep.

Saturday the hunt began at 8 a.m. All teams received two paper bags. One contained some information on Tremont and their 40th anniversary. In it we would gather some of the items requested. The other was for picking up trash. It, too, would bring points to our total.

Many of the challenges are easy. It is just a matter of going to a site, documenting it by taking a picture with a digital camera, or picking up a designated item. Some are much more difficult, and we know knew we will not be able to complete all of them. One item would have required a hike to Mount LeConte, and it was worth 100 points. For a team with small children, this was not possible, so our team and several other teams decided to stay in the low country.

Cades Cove was first on our list. Knowing how busy it gets, we wanted to get in there as soon as possible. If you visit the Cove often, some of the questions seemed easy. But beware of how they ask the questions. It is easy to make a mistake, as we found out.

Some things I knew. For example, I knew that on the ceiling of the Primitive Baptist Church, one can find fingerprints. The sap in the wood left the mark of those who built the church. Finding a park ranger was easy enough. I am sure that by the end of the day, Ranger Ken Looney had enough hunters asking for his picture. But until the Hunt, I had never heard of a Pearl Harbor Memorial inside Cades Cove. But with the help of a wonderful volunteer, we had no trouble finding it.

The hunt also took us to the other end of the park. For those wanting to travel it, Ramsey’s Cascade was on the list as well as several questions in the North Carolina side of the Park. We needed a picture of our group hugging one of the Three Kings. Another thing on the list was a salamander in a park stream. (One team, which shall remain nameless, decided to use a toy salamander. They did NOT get their points!)

The day was beautiful, and it was busy in the Park on this warm Saturday. At 4 p.m., we were scurrying to get back to Tremont on time. With one minute to go until the 5 p.m. deadline, we walked in to the Institute.

Several teams did not make the deadline and had points subtracted for each minute they were late. The last team we saw coming in was a team of nurses from Blount Memorial Hospital’s Labor and Delivery floor. They were about 40 minutes late, but were having a great time.

So how did we do? Not that bad. We had a great time, learned some new things, found some new things, even made it the whole day without Erik Jan wanting to play his Nintendo DS. We were all winners, maybe not in points, but overall experience.

The Tremont staff members provided all of us with a wonderful spaghetti dinner and made sure all were taken care of. So, as tired as we all were at day’s end, I can say it was a great experience. Watch out for us this year! We WILL be back.

Our team never could figure out the riddle, but the Tremont staff gave us the answer. It’s a blackberry!

As for the Pearl Harbor Memorial, it was erected by Golman Myers on Dec. 7, 1941. To find it, pull into the larger parking area before Elisha Oliver’s cabin, or pull into the car pull-off in the curve. Walk up the hill on the left, and you will find the memorial.

But please remember to respect nature and the memorial, for there is no path going up the hill.

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