Sunday, June 23, 2002

"Dawn, at the encampment...see to it you're there."

Well, it wasn't exactly the encampment but it was dawn. It was a very early morning to say the least. We decided to leave the hotel around 3:45 AM to get to the Green Knob Overlook milepost 350 to catch the sunrise. This is where the opening and closing vistas of the movie were filmed. Those beautiful smokey, fog-ladened mountains you see as the theme music is playing. So we all congregated and caravaned to the Blue Ridge Parkway. I'm sure it was a beautiful drive but it's hard to know that for sure driving in the dark. It took us about two hours to get there. There were fifteen of us brave souls that showed up for this event. It was a very cloudy morning and we didn't see a sunrise. A real "pea-souper" as we say here in the South. As morning began to break though, you could begin to see the outline of the mountain ridges. With the low clouds and fog, it looked exactly the way it does in the movie. Once we realize we are not going to see a sunrise, we make our way back down the mountain. But first...a photo op...
As we descend, the clouds begin to lift and we are graced with a most scenic drive. We see deer, turkey, and grouse on our way down.

Everyone meets up at Louise's Famous Rock House Restaurant for breakfast. This is a very unique place. It sits on the exact spot where Burke, McDowell, and Avery Counties meet. They join right near the fireplace. The food is cooked in Avery County, but the waitresses pick it up in Burke County. Then they may have to go to Avery or McDowell County to serve their customers. Or maybe both---a few tables sit right on the county lines. One obvious question: what happens at tax time? Because most of the land, and the parking lot, are in McDowell County, the restaurant pays its taxes there. When you're done eating, it's only a few steps to the cash register--in Avery County--and back to your car--in McDowell County. Unless you park on the right side of the building. Then you're in Burke County. Told you it was unique and the food is good, too.

Scottie Willis has once again joined us along with his photos and stories. One shot I saw this morning that I missed Saturday night at the movie was one of Hawkeye all stretched out on the red beaches of Lake James. He looks like he's taking a break and catching a few Z's. Nice candid shot of him.
How would you like to walk up on that at the beach...or anywhere?

After we eat we load up and caravan to Table Rock. Once again, this is a very winding and uphill gravel road. Really dusty and a little scary. Finally reaching the parking lot area, we unload and prepare to make our way to the top. One of the Gatherers graciously loans me one of her walking sticks which was of great help. Get one of these if you come.

It's a nice little hike uphill. Once we're there, it is awesome. To be in this place, where such a moving part of the movie takes place is quite....well, moving. I can hear Chingachgook saying, "Great Spirit and Maker of all life...." The view is absolutely gorgeous. The elevation is about 4,000 feet. Many make pictures. There are those dressed in period clothing. We found the dreamcatcher that a Gatherer from last year placed in a tree in memory of a reenactor buddy of his. We stay up here for quite awhile. There's something about it that grabs you and says, "Don't go..stay for a while." I shall never forget this place. It is truly a place where you can just sit and meditate and just take it all in. And as Chingachgook says in the DVD version, "Once, we were here." It seems as though no one really wants to leave but we know we must because our day has just begun.

After we descend Table Rock and load up into our cars we once again head over to Louise's for lunch. This is a good time to sit and visit and relax before we travel...

"The George Road"

We arrive at Linville Falls parking lot and discover this is a popular place.There are a lot of people and families here. It's a beautiful Sunday afternoon and I suppose folks are simply out and enjoying the day.

Eric Hurley (Soldier #2) is our guide for this portion of the day. We walk along the "George Road" and he stops at the place where they had a dining area set up. He tells us the story of "play fighting" between natives and military. They were paired up and they battled with the same person throughout the ambush. He told us that all of the main characters of the movie were driven to this area with the exception of Daniel and Russel Means. They chose to walk along with everyone else.

He tells the story of Soldier #1 having to rescue Madeleine Stowe from two feet of water because the canoe tipped over. She was not happy at all about falling out and getting soaked. It was funny to hear him tell of her fear she was going to drown (in two feet of water for crying out loud!). He showed us where they set up the cushioned boxes for the actors/stunt doubles to land on when they were thrown down in the wooded area off to the side of the road.

He showed us where Hawkeye stood when he took Killdeer from his shoulder, twirled it around (in slow motion), and aimed it toward Magua when he realized Magua was about to open fire on the Munro sisters. And, of course, you cannot miss that tree that is jutting out from the side of the bank. When I see that, I've arrived!!

We continue along and come to the Falls. This is where you see the characters bring their canoes to a stop, get out, and then head for the waterfall cave. There has been very little rainfall and the falls are definitely not as full and rushing as I remember them from last year. Once again Eric tells his stories, including those that took place at Lake James. Remember the scene in the movie after Hawkeye says, "Head for the river!" you see Uncas jump into Duncan's canoe? Well the soldier that he swaps places with in that canoe is Eric Hurley. Eric tells us it took many tries to get this right. Michael Mann wanted to canoe to come by and pick Uncas up but the canoes were powered by trawling motors and they kept passing him. After it was evident that this was not going to work, they decided to let Uncas just be there beside the canoe and climb in.

We walk a little further along and around the trail and come to a great view of the Falls. We walk back from the direction we came and pass the entrance to the trail where you first see Magua guiding our group. The stump you see where Magua tells Duncan what he thinks of him, his ways, and his women is there although it has eroded a bit after ten years.

This is a beautiful and peaceful place. As I mentioned there are a lot of people here today. Some of our Gatherers are dressed in their period clothing and are stopped along the way for people, especially children, to ask questions and make pictures. It was a good day.

We make our way back to the hotel at Chimney Rock. Our last event of the day and Gathering is the auction/raffle we have to raise money for little Ariel Boutette. There are many items for bid and for sale. Some movie related, some not. Claude and I came away with some very unique items. Between us we brought home some LOTM notecards, jasmine bath salts, a shoulder pouch, moccasins, a Celtic trinket box, a necklace made of wampum and antique beads, and what else?....OH! I brought home a nice little mousepad that looks exactly like this:

After this part of our final day, everyone hangs around and visited with each other. We laughed and shared our stories and experiences of the past four days. Nobody wanted to leave but it was getting late in the night and tomorrow is a long way home.

We raised over $1200 for little Ariel.

This was so much fun. The country is beautiful and there's a definite tug for me to someday return.

So, as I said, "Another year passed". Many friends were there from last year, many were not, new friends were made. This place is beginning to feel like home and family. Everyone who comes is there because they love "Last of the Mohicans" and all that it offers in the way of location sites, cast members, memorabillia, etc. I truly hope that someday you will be able to make this "adventcha". You will never forget it. So, till next year....