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  • Writer's pictureWm Bracknell

The 2013 ATC Biennial Conference

The Appalachian Trail Conference 2013

Western Carolina University

July 19 -26

The 2013 Appalachian Trail Conservancy's biennial conference was held at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, N. C. southwest of Asheville. It was the first conference that we can remember that allowed RV camping on the campus. We had just bought a travel trailer in March and only camped in it a couple of nights in a local county park. It was only a 14' long unit so my Chevy S10 was quite able to tow it.

We left home early on Thursday morning and planned to stay in a private campground the first night before moving to the campus on Friday when registration started. We stopped in Mars Hill off I-26 to get gas and as I pulled out of the station, I got the sense that there was air in the brake lines. There was just a different feel to them. As I drove the rest of the way through Asheville to Balsam and to Moonshine Creek Campground of U.S. 23, I used the transmission to help slow down when need to save the brakes.

On Friday morning, we started to pull out of the campground, the brakes felt even spongier so I decided to unhook the camper and leave it there until I could get the brakes checked out. I was thinking they just needed bleeding.

We made our way carefully down the mountain for eight miles to Sylva and spotted a tire and brake shop. After a two hour wait, the shop manager got it up on the lift and right away determined that the brake line was leaking badly at one of the connections right over the rear axle. He said they were too backed up to fix it, but sent me over to another guy and he repaired it in less than an hour.

We got lunch, returned to the campground, retrieved the camper, and headed to the campus to park the camper and register. The area designated for campers was in a parking lot right next to the football stadium. We had no electrical hook ups and the showers were back up at one of the dormitories. Fortunately, one of the entrances to the stadium was left unlocked, so we had access to toilets.

It wasn't the best situation, but it was only $10 a night. Another down side was that there was a football camp going on that week and every morning before daylight a herd of young men would come walking by in their cleated shoes. They were courteous and didn't talk, but the coaches behind them did. Several of them drove and parked in the same lot. The good thing is that we only stayed three nights and then returned to the Moonshine Creek Campground.

On Saturday night there was a live rock concert over on one of the athletic fields not far away and we could hear it quite well. It was a good band, but they went on until about midnight. The crowd tried to encourage them to play more, but after only one encore they stopped.

As usual, Saturday and Sunday was filled with workshops and the evenings with entertainment. The entertainment at this conference was sub-par with previous ones

On Monday, we went to Franklin to walk a greenway along the Little Tennessee Greenway with a group from the conference. After lunch, we decided to take the scenic drive south to Cashiers and Highlands and stop along the way to see a couple of the great waterfalls in the area. At one of them, the trail along the creek actually went behind the falls. When we returned to the campus, we moved the camper back to the campground.

Tuesday, we decided to take our own trip over to Balsam Gap and park where the Mountains-to-the-Sea trail crosses the parking lot coming from The Smokies. It was a great day for hiking and the high altitude kept the temperature down. The mountain view in that area were gorgeous. In one location along the trail we stopped and told to an artist making a sketch. He gave us his card from his gallery in Waynesville. We stopped at the Devil's Courthouse area and hiked up the steep trail to the viewing area. There were a good number of folks of all ages making their way up and down the trail.

There were more excursions and hikes scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, but we decided to head back home and check on the garden and the cat. We pulled out after breakfast and took our time making the four hour trip home.

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