Sunday, October 24, 2010

Happy holidaying

The highway running a few hundred yards from the first campsite is deceptive.
You’d think all those motorcycles rolling for their piece of the Blue Ridge Parkway would be interfering noise to would-be campers. But those who chance it, and cross the bridge over Soco Creek into Happy Holiday RV Village, don’t regret it,
The rushing rapids of Soco Creek easily drown out any noise from traffic on Wolfetown Road in Cherokee, N.C., leaving campers lulled to sleep by murmuring waters. If you’re not lucky enough to get a site backing onto the creek, where fishermen ply their hobby daily in search of trout a foot long or better, maybe your site backs onto the small man-made lake called home by countless Canada geese and mallard ducks.
The 365 sites of the campground, which has been open on Cherokee land since the late 1960s, will be open all winter this year for the first time. The Cherokee this year have taken over management of the facility, after letting a lease lapse with another management group. That means opening year round and bringing the facility, which currently doesn’t boast WiFi or reliable cable service, up to grade.
“They have a lot of poop,” says campground manager Vicki Cucumber of the pest known as Canada geese. “There’s a grape seed extract spray and the geese don’t like the smell. So we’re going to try that, spray it on the grass because it won’t hurt anything.”
Cucumber also asks if we, as Canadians, could just take the geese home with us. We share some of the universal complaints about the animals.
Nestled between hills of the Smoky Mountains, Cherokee and this campground are a jumping off point for any number of activities from touring Biltmore, the enormous Vanderbilt home near Asheville, to cruising the world-renowned parkway. There’s golf nearby at the Sequoyah National golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., grandson of golfer Bobby Jones, and native golfer Notah Begay III. You can see Santa year-round at a local amusement park or take a side trip to a working grist mill and pioneer village. And at this time of years, the deciduous trees covering the hillsides are dressed in their most colourful best.
All this activity means the average guest at Happy Holiday RV Village isn’t an overnight camper.
“The majority stay, I would say, four days to a week,” Cucumber says. “They come to see the mountains, and they come to see the Indians.”
The area, including the small store at the RV Village office, is flooded with native crafts.
The campground keeps campers comfortable for a longer stay by offering three large shower and washroom buildings, plus a games room topped by a room that can be used for any sort of meeting. It means larger groups, such as a recent gathering of fibreglass RV owners, can gather and play at the facility.
One recent gathering brought 70 or so motorcyclists, all making a fundraising ride to support one of their own, stricken with multiple sclerosis. They hope to pay for his CCSVI surgery, a new, as yet unproven treatment for the disease.
In the future, Masons will gather here.
Locals support the campground by leaving their RVs in the same site for the season, some living as close as 40 miles away. While their fees allow them hookups to power, water and sewer, they are not permitted to build anything in place, as happens in some other campgrounds.
Cucumber, and the Cherokee who own the campground, hope the winter brings more campers. Offering half-price camping will be an incentive for some.
And come March 31, they will start the high season yet again, gearing up for a couple of bluegrass festivals among other things.
And then the small town of Cherokee will be chock full of tourists, keeping the economy humming.

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