Hiking With Boogerman

Yes, it’s yet another post in the series “Remembrance of Hikes Past.”  It’s been a pleasant distraction of late to browse through the photos of the little home vacation (popularly known as “stay-cation) that we took back in November, 2010.  This time, we went to Cataloochee Valley which is now a part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  A century ago, however, Cataloochee was a thriving community (which you can read about here.)

One of the main attractions of Cataloochee now are the elk, which were reintroduced to the park in 2001.  We enjoyed watching the young bucks playfight in the fields–I loved the clacking sound their antlers made as they played. I also loved the endearing furry butts of a mother and child elk we saw.  Another attraction there are the historic structures that remain from the settlement, including barns, houses, and two churches.  We found Palmer Chapel to be especially striking in the slanted light of late afternoon.

But my favorite part of our trip was, without a doubt, our seven-and-a-half mile hike on Boogerman Trail (including a bit of the lovely, if muddy, Caldwell Fork trail).  And, yes, it really was called the Boogerman Trail after Mr. Robert Palmer, who previously lived partway up the trail and owned the gorgeous forest there.  He was a shy and quiet man who acquired the moniker “Boogerman” as a child when on his first day of school , the teacher asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up.  “A boogerman!” he answered.  And he was known as Boogerman for the rest of his life.  As an adult, his long, rough beard and brusque manner often frightened children and made his nickname seem even more appropriate.

When I heard that story, I felt a deep kinship with Boogerman.  I was also a very shy and quiet child in a family who was quite the opposite.  In fact, I felt so unlike the rest of my family that I used to wonder if my parents had actually adopted me  rather than my oldest brother and sister (who actually were adopted).  And let’s face it–people who are outgoing are always viewed more positively than those that aren’t. Especially here in the U.S., I think.  When’s the last time you heard someone say, “I just love her—she’s so quiet and contemplative!”  Nope. It’s “I just love her—she’s never met a stranger!”

Anyway, maybe I was just projecting, but somehow I felt like I understood Boogerman.  So I was eager to hike the Boogerman Trail and to see where he lived in happy seclusion amongst the huge poplars that he never allowed anyone to cut.  I was hoping for (and got) a quiet and peaceful walk in that gorgeous old-growth forest, but I never expected to actually feel Boogerman’s presence.

But I did.  As we walked in the same forest he once walked, dwarfed by the towering poplars, I felt Boogerman’s presence so strongly that I was a little unnerved.  After all, I’d heard that people, in general, were not welcome on his property—-he loved animals and trees, but humans…not so much.  But, as crazy as it sounds, I really did feel as though he somehow knew who I was—someone not so different from him except for the fact that I still think people are worth the effort. Mostly.  But I still feel most comfortable with trees and birds and wildflowers that bloom in quiet, hidden forest glades.

I’ve taken hundreds of hikes in my life, but this is one that will always stand out for me.  For many reasons.  For one, because it was one of the last long hikes we took before Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man’s knee injury.  We’ve both missed our long hikes keenly.  For another, as I look at the pictures of that day, I see how much the troubles of the past year and a half have aged me.  I had hair back then!  And it was brown!  Much of what’s left of my once-thick but now sparse hair has turned gray.  But that, of course, is not what I’ll remember most.  No, I’ll remember the hike on Boogerman trail for the presence of Boogerman himself—how he walked with us a little ways under the towering poplar trees.  No, I never saw him, but I know he was there.

We were quiet that day at the end of the hike.  I think we both were contemplating what we’d seen and felt.  As I walked across Caldwell Fork creek, I paused to listen to the sound of the water flowing over the moss-covered boulders shaded by great thickets of rhododendron as the creek made its way through the lovely green forest.  I took a moment to thank Mr. Palmer (who no longer seemed like much of a boogerman to me) for protecting those grand old trees from the loggers ax so that we could enjoy them all these years later.  So that we could look up at them and know just how small we really are in this big, beautiful, wonderful world.


32 Responses to “Hiking With Boogerman”

  1. betsyfromtennessee Says:

    Oh what a neat post, Beth… We love Cataloochie also… It’s more rustic and remote than Cades Cove. That makes it even more special I think. We didn’t take any hikes –but we did check out Palmer Chapel and many of the other old dwellings there… We went back this past Fall–but only to see the elks… Love that place!!!

    Great set of photos..Hope you two can hike again sometime. We don’t take long hikes much anymore –but that is okay also.


    • blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

      Cataloochee IS a very special place, Betsy. I felt the presence of other folks who once lived and loved there, too, while I was there—it was very strong. By the way, I remember still the wonderful photos you’ve had in your posts on Cataloochee, especially of the elks. Wonderful!

  2. Bikbik & Roro Says:

    how very beautiful, so peaceful and full of life. yes, thank you Robert Palmer and people like him everywhere who help care for and preserve the wonders of our natural world! (for a moment I’d thought you meant the English pop singer, but I really don’t think so lol). hm, for some reason I’ve suddenly thought of the book Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer — have you read it? you might like it, as I did.

    trust you’ve been having a peaceful, blessed week so far 🙂

    • blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

      It WAS very peaceful there, Janice—and full of not only the life now there, but the spirits of those who once lived there.

      Haha…no, definitely not the English pop singer! I had to smile wondering what Robert “Boogerman” Palmer might think of the singer. 🙂

      I haven’t read the book, but I found the movie remarkable and heartbreaking. In fact, thank you for the reminder. The movie made me want to read the book, and that had slipped my mind for a while. I feel sure I’ll like the book.

  3. birdsandbenjamin Says:

    Thank you so much for what you did. There are hard times you suffered through with me, and then there is the recovery which took so long, and took very much energy. I look at you, and how you maintain your cheerfulness throughout, and I want to be like you. Thankfully, I’ve got the genes already!! And now the actions are in synergy (thank you Prozac, too)

    • blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

      Benjamin, you wouldn’t be where you are now without your own hard work of recovery. And the grace of God. Thank you for teaching me, too. It has indeed been very, very hard, but I think we’ve both grown. And I’m grateful for that…and for you.

      I love you…always.

  4. Plowing Through Life Says:

    A beautiful post, Beth. One of my favourite things to do is go hiking. Nature is a huge passion of mine. I find my peace and my balance there. I can so relate to you and all the things you write about. I was also a very shy and quiet child, and continue to be a quiet and contemplative adult. As such, I am not noticed; I remain in the shadows. People like us are introverts, so we’re not in the spotlight very often. Personally, I like it this way, but find that at times we can be misjudged unfairly. Recently a book came out that is all about people like you and me. It’s called “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking ” I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve reserved it at my local library. Sometimes I find the world a difficult place to navigate, mostly because I am very sensitive to certain things. But I still think it’s worth being a part of. There is far too much beauty on this planet for me to give up on it. And as far as someone saying “I just love her—she’s so quiet and contemplative!”, I am on that team. I do enjoy the company of outgoing people now and again, but am much more at home with my own type.

    • blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

      What a wonderful comment, Martha…and further evidence that you and I are very, very much alike. I am also very sensitive to certain things. I was often told, growing up, that I was TOO sensitive. I hated hearing that—a suggestion that sensitivity is a negative thing, something to be overcome. I vowed to never say that to my children…and of course, I haven’t. Thank you for the book recommendation—I love that title. 🙂

      And, yes, I’m on that team, too. I like outgoing folks just fine, but love being in the company of friends and family who are comfortable with companionable silence. Talking isn’t the only way to feel connected.

  5. Clair Z. Says:

    Beth, I was thinking about how this post of yours would stay with me today; how I would take out bits of it in memory and examine them, one by one. Then I read the comments so far, only to see how your writing affected each person in a totally different way, and brought forth a totally different response. That is something else for me to contemplate today, and something for you to realize: Just how very glad we all are to know you and how your voice is heard a little differently by each of us.

    • blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

      Thank you, Clair. I certainly appreciate all my readers, but I’m especially grateful for those of you that do take the time to tell me how something I’ve written makes you feel. Writing is a bit difficult for me these days, but when I hear that even just one person has been touched or blessed in some way, it makes it all worthwhile. And I, too, find it fascinating how differently folks interpret things I write.

      And I am very, very glad to know you, too.

  6. afitme Says:

    Nature can be very refreshing. Thank you for posting this.

    Anita @ Blue Country Magic (I hate my WordPress account.)

    • blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

      Thanks for reading, Anita.

      Sorry about the WordPress difficulties—I can relate. I’m not sure why they’ve changed the commenting process, but I don’t care for the change.

  7. Darla Says:

    Beautiful story of your experience… After reading what you write in your blog, I always feel close to you and want to give you a hug — so hope you don’t mind but… (((BIGHUG)))

    • blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

      Awww…thanks, Darla…that felt wonderful! I feel that way,too, when I read your blog. I think we have a lot in common. I can tell from reading your blog that you feel the same connection to nature that I do.

  8. Rider Says:

    Yours is another wonderful posting, Ms. Blue.

    Your other followers and I have come to expect that all your writing and all your pictures will be wonderful. But there’s more to your posting this time. It’s the “more” that makes it truly extraordinary, even by your usual high standards.

    First, there’s Benjamin’s loving comment above. Second, there’s your beautiful picture, the first you’ve ever posted.

    • blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

      Rider, you’re not going to believe this, but I was just about to delete that picture when your comment came in. You’re right…I’ve never posted a picture ’til now, other than one of me at sixteen, but since Benjamin and I have been discussing a lot the importance of loving and accepting yourself for who you are, I felt like I needed to walk the talk by saying, “Yep, here I am.” I think maybe you could grasp just how hard that was for me. Thank you so much for your kind words—I needed that. And, thanks to you, I decided to leave “little me in the big tree” up—for better or for worse. 🙂

      And, yes, Benjamin’s comment made writing this post worthwhile a million times over.

      • Rider Says:

        Yes, I think I understand just how hard it was for you to post your picture.

        I remember your saying that you worry about your writing. You said you write and you rewrite for days, trying to perfect every word. If it’s difficult for you to post what you write, then how much more difficult must it be for you to post your picture? Much, much more so, I’m sure.

        Those of us who’ve grown to know you through your blog also know how special you are. We know that your striving to make your writing perfect makes your writing wonderful. We know that your shyness about posting your picture makes the picture valuable.

        I just want to say I’m glad to know you, Ms. Blue.

      • blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

        Thank you, Rider. I appreciate your kind words very much. I’m very grateful for the readers who have stuck with me as I’ve written about our troubles—it means a lot to me.

        I’m glad to know you, too. Even though you don’t have a blog I can read, I feel like I know you through your comments.

  9. vickilane Says:

    A lovely post, Beth. I expect the Boogerman enjoyed your company.

  10. Kay G. Says:

    What a beautiful post. Did you see my last post on Stone Mountain? I am posing with a tree with almost the same hole in the trunk (my tree was big, but yours must be older,since it is even larger!)
    Love your feelings of the Boogerman with you as you walked. Just as you feel an affinity with him, so I feel the same with you!

    • blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

      Thank you, Kay. Yes, I did see your post…amazing how much “our” trees look alike! I love how you always seem to see something different on your trips to Stone Mountain. It really is a lovely place.

      And I feel an afffinity for you, too, Kay…I think we are a lot alike.

  11. Debi Kelly Van Cleave Says:

    I think YOU are beautiful.

    • blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

      Thank you, Debi. You have no idea just how much I need to hear that. I’m not a vain person, but I am a little stunned sometimes just how much the troubles of the past couple of years have aged me. I can tell old friends who haven’t seen me for a while are surprised. I just keep reminding myself that it’s what’s inside that counts…

  12. Jeff Says:

    What a wonderful post, Beth! I have some large poplars on my property, but none anywhere near as big as the ones you show in your picture! They must be close to 4′ in diameter at breast height, though I know they get even bigger than that. Is that a poplar that you are standing inside of? I’m so glad that you shared a picture of yourself – you are quite attractive and you have lots of hair! And it isn’t gray, either! I need to go hike in Cataloochee, too – I’d love to see those big poplars! I’m quite the tree hugger, as you know. I had a lady friend once who, upon being put on the spot by an ardent church-goer, told her inquisitor that her church was the forest. There is much to be said for meditating in the woods … One day soon, you and Tom will go back and hike again and it will be even better than it was last time.

    • blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

      Thank you, Jeff…you are very kind. Yes, I did have hair as recently as a year and a half ago when this picture was taken, and it was brown. Looking at this picture was a bit startling to me, as it made me realize how much hair I’ve lost in the past months. But looking at the pictures of these magnificent trees and remembering this hike puts that in perspective. How I look is pretty small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

      Still, I wish I had my hair back. 🙂

      Yes, I believe that tree was a yellow poplar, which lots of folks call a tulip tree (because the lovely flowers it produces look a bit like tulips). You really should take a trip to Cataloochee—it is such a special place. I would recommend, though, that you go during the week. It’s much more crowded on weekends. Tom and I, like you and your lady friend, worship best in nature. Somehow, God just seems closer there. Perhaps we should start a new church—The Society of Treehugger Pilgrims? 🙂

  13. Ariel Says:

    What pretty light Boogerman’s forest is imbued with, and what pretty photos. And what a beautiful lady. Like Rider, I’m proud of you for putting your photo up. You are truly lovely (and you always will be, thick hair or thin hair or no hair!). I know that it will mean a lot to all your readers to be able to connect your face to your writing.

    Sometimes I think I’d rather like becoming a Boogerwoman myself, and I think Cameron would make a pretty good Boogerhusband. However, I don’t know if a Boogerperson who wants to live with another Boogerperson is a legitimate misanthrope.

    Also, on a stupid note, after seeing your post yesterday, Cameron shared this with me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ql3-VMBJSvA Boogerman is a Sega Genesis era booger-flinging superhero!

    • blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

      Hahaha…I definitely never heard of that particular Boogerman. I couldn’t help but think when I watched that video that you and Benjamin would have loved that game when you were little! Heck, you’d probably like it now. 🙂 I also couldn’t help but think how disappointed someone doing a search for the video Boogerman would be to come upon this post, haha.

      You and Cameron are much too cheerful to be legitimate misanthropes. For that matter, I guess I am, too.

      Thanks for commenting, babygirl. It was so good to see you last week. I love you.

  14. Jayne Says:

    What a wonderful, magical place! And, I love that photo of you sweet friend! :c)

    • blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

      Hello, my dear friend. I’m a bit late in responding, but wanted to say thank you for your comment. And thank you for your kind, encouraging, and altogether wonderful presence in my life. I feel so blessed to know you and to call you my friend.

  15. Rider Says:

    There are moments of time and beauty that can awe a Blue Ridge hiker, Ms. Blue. Interlocking tree branches and lengthening afternoon shadows can make a cathedral. Silence, except for a wind’s whisper, can make it holy. Tall trees and mountains can shrink everything human into insignificance.

    I feel that same awe when reading your posting, Ms. Blue. When looking at your pictures. When reading your readers’ comments, including Benjamin’s and Ariel’s. When reading your replies.

    Everything works together to make your posting perfect.

    Thank you for it.

    • blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

      That’s very kind, Rider…thank you. And, if I may say so, the writing in your comment is quite lovely, too! Please do leave a link if you ever decide to start your own blog—I’d love to read it.

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