In the Smoky Mountains with Future Science Teachers (Day 3)
June 5th, 2014
The Great Smoky Mountains
by pre-service teacher An Nguyen
Our group started the day with the first stop at the Twin Creeks Science and Education Center located in the Great Smoky Mountains. We met up with Ranger Joy Absher, and she began the section with a brief introduction of the Smoky Mountains, including the wildlife and the ecology. Shortly after, we headed toward the Archive across the hall, where there were several records that dated back to the early 20th century. Every member of our group was simply amazed by the variety, detail, and liveliness of those records. We spent quite a bit of time in the Archive to take pictures, ask questions, and explore more records. Then, we went back to the conference room to attend a briefing about climate change, National Park resources, etc. After collecting some reading material about the park, we got back to the van and drove up to Clingman’s Dome.
A beautiful sight gradually unfolded as our van reached the parking lot near the summit. A vast blue sky, hiding behind several green mountain tops, while a mist of light fog slowly passing by, became visible in front of us. Our eyes tried to capture the wonderful and prodigious works of nature. As soon as we arrived in the parking lot, all the members of our group prepared for lunch with sandwiches and chips. We greeted Ranger Carlin, who would take us to the top of the Clingman’s Dome. By this time, most of our surrounding had been covered by a light layer of fog mixed with sprinkle rain. It probably took us around half an hour to reach the top of the dome through a gravelly and rocky road. During our hike, the ranger talked about different types of snails and salamanders, and the ecology of the Smoky Mountains at high elevations. Quickly after we got to the top, we had lunch and took pictures of our achievement of conquering the top of Clingman’s Dome (6,644 feet).
We went back to the van, passing through a thick wall of fog. The smell of mint mixed with fresh air suddenly filled up our lungs. It only took us five minutes while dashing through an inevitable wall of fog to get back in the van. We followed the ranger to check out our next stop.
The ranger carefully explained the process of catching and examining salamander. We were divided into group of two to seek salamanders around the area. After ten minutes of empty bags, Sarah and I spotted a Red Spring salamander. The “big” guy swiftly got out of our bag, but we managed to obtain the salamander again. Salamanders are bio-indicators; therefore, we surveyed salamander to comprehend the change of the ecology. In addition to that, we also planned to visit a site at lower elevation, as a result, we could compare the differences of the eco system at high and low elevations.
The rain suddenly became heavier as we were saying “goodbye” to the ranger. We were all wet after that project. We drove back to the hotel to get some rest and be ready for our next adventure.