What I Did on My Summer Vacation 2013 (Eagle’s Nest Mountain)

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Eagle’s Nest Mountain is beautiful. The views are spectacular.

One View From Eagle's Nest Mountain

One View From Eagle’s Nest Mountain

In 1900, S. C. Satterthwait built the Eagle Nest Hotel at an elevation of 5050 feet. The hotel was one of the two hay fever resorts in western North Carolina, and it had room for 100 guests (although tents could be used if the hotel filled up) and a view of Plott Balsam. “[A] good wagon road” reached the top of the mountain.


Today, Eagle’s Nest Mountain Road winds up the mountain, following much the same trail as the “wagon road” of yesteryear. It’s still a twisting, turning road that must be respected. If you read my story about having to snake our way up with police cars guarding front and back (https://colmel.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/a-truely-scary-story ), you know I have a healthy respect for that barely, two-lane byway.


Our home on Eagle’s Nest Mountain was a Lindal Cedar Home. It was built at an elevation of 5,150 ft. – not very far from the former location of the hotel. I have been desperately looking to see if I can find some of the photos of our home, but haven’t had any luck. Of course, this is one of my favorite topics, so I’ll (undoubtedly) revisit it soon.


There are many legends that involve Eagle’s Nest Mountain. One of the most persistent is that of Boojum. I told the story – as I’d always heard it – in an earlier post (https://colmel.wordpress.com/2011/09/12/another-appalachian-tale-%e2%80%93-boojum-the-mystery-on-eagle%e2%80%99s-nest-mountain/ ). I recently read a post from another blogger who had learned a slightly different story http://ashevilleoralhistoryproject.com/2012/11/02/boojum/


In his story, Boojum’s bride could be responsible for the burning of the grand hotel.


There have always been tales of strange things happening on Eagle’s Nest. There was a large outcropping of rocks known as “Boy Scout Rock.” Scouts used to regularly hike up the mountain and camp in the area. Many of them told stories of seeing and hearing strange things. Some were so frightened that they only went on one trip. Others say that they neither saw nor heard anything other than the wind and the animals that naturally inhabit the mountain.


Other stories involve people feeling as though they are being followed, but turning to see no one there. Some have reported hearing “parties” in the large meadow near the top only to find it empty. There are wild animals on the mountain, so that might explain some of the things people have seen or heard. The stories go back over a century – probably even before the first, non-native Americans arrived.


Party Here?

Party Here?


During our relatively short time on the mountain, there were numerous odd things happen, but – other than one terrifying, inexplicable occurrence – nothing that made me worry. That, of course, was until our house burned to the ground. The destruction was so complete, that there never was a definitive cause. One more mystery to add to legends of Eagle’s Nest Mountain.


On our recent trip, I was pleased to find that there is, once again, a home on the ground that once held our home. It’s a lovely home and the owners have landscaped the second lot beautifully. I wish I’d stopped and given them my card so that they could call me if they ever wanted to sell. (That would require me to win some form of lottery, though, I’m sure.) Their view (our view) is spectacular! From our deck we could see Maggie Valley, the “smoke” from Ghost Town in the Sky, and – on a very clear day – all the way to Mount LeConte near Gatlinburg, Tennessee.


New Home Where Ours Used To Be

New Home Where Ours Used To Be


Beautiful Landscaping

Beautiful Landscaping

On the way back down, I snapped a couple of photos of the meadow where the old hotel stood so many years ago. It took all my self-restraint to not hop out of the car and go running in the tall, wet grass. Every time I go back up the mountain, I feel more at home and get a stronger sense of that this is where I belong.


The "Meadow"

The “Meadow”


The "Meadow"

The “Meadow”




The "Pond" (Boojum's Bath?)

The “Pond” (Boojum’s Bath?)


Up Next: What I Did on My Summer Vacation 2013 (The Andon-Reid Bed & Breakfast)


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Working for a Legend

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Some people are lucky. They find a job/career they absolutely love. The luckiest are those who find it early in life. I think those who are the next luckiest are the ones who find that job they love after years and years of drudging away in jobs that just get them by. I count myself in the last group.

“Our” first 747-400 (N740CK)

My dad and my brother were always talking airplanes, so I grew up with an appreciation for aviation. Of course, the love of my life – my husband, Jim – has been in aviation his whole career. In 2008, I started working at Kalitta Air and began my own career in aviation. Better late than never! One of the main reasons I enjoy my job so much is that the owner of the company is a hands-on individual who surrounds himself with people who would walk through fire for him. Why? Because we all love him – that’s why. We know that Connie Kalitta is a stand-up guy who appreciates his people. We aren’t numbers to him – we’re people. That would be enough. There’s more to Connie Kalitta, though. He’s a bona fide legend.

Me with Connie “The Bounty Hunter” Kalitta

To give you some background, I’m going to paraphrase – and downright steal – from both the Kalitta Air and Kalitta Motorsports websites. Why reinvent the wheel when one already goes zero to 300 in less than 4 seconds? (I want to especially thank the exceedingly talented Todd Myers for writing such fabulous prose.)


Connie with Jeff Arend (after a win)

Connie “the Bounty Hunter” Kalitta has been an icon in the world of professional drag racing for over 50 years as a team owner. Kalitta, who has been involved in the sport as a driver, tuner, and as an owner, has dedicated an amazing amount of time and resources to building one of the most successful teams in the history of auto racing. Kalitta Motorsports has won five world championships. The first came in 1977 when he served as crew chief for Shirley Muldowney. He earned the next two, 1979 and 1982, when he drove to IHRA championships. The last two came as team owner of Kalitta Motorsports when his late son Scott drove to the NHRA titles in 1994 and 1995.


Connie’s experience in the airline industry goes back to 1967 when he began transporting parts for the automotive business with a twin engine Cessna 310 (purchased with his race winnings) that he piloted himself. Over the years, Kalitta grew from a one airplane operation into American International Airways, Inc. (AIA), that used B747, L1011, DC8, B727, DC9, Twin Beech and Learjet aircraft in worldwide airfreight, air ambulance and charter passenger operations. AIA supported the Desert Shield/Desert Storm operations with award-winning efforts.

Kalitta Air is Born

In 1997, AIA merged with Kitty Hawk, Inc. and Connie resigned from the company and the Board of Directors to pursue other interests. When Kitty Hawk International (the former AIA) ceased operations and filed Chapter 11, Connie fought to purchase the Aircraft Certificate and resurrect the airline. Kalitta Air received its DOT and FAA authority to begin operations in November 2000 and immediately began revenue service.


Connie quickly obtained the necessary approvals from the government and secured contracts with the USPS and the DOD. After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, when airports were closed and all flights were grounded, there was one plane in the sky that night that was not an F-16 fighter. It was a Kalitta Air 747 hauling relief supplies from the West coast to aid disaster workers. In 2003 Kalitta was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation for support of the Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom Operations and Kalitta continues to support the USPS with scheduled flights delivering mail and packages to the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.


To sum up how Connie feels about his two worlds…”I do what I love, and I love what I do, I’m very blessed.”



Connie & me at the Employee Appreciation event

This is the man I work for. Unlike so many who have large businesses, Connie is here, on-site, almost every day. He’ll always wave and smile when you see him walking through the hangar. Up close, he’s quick to say hello. I’ve never felt as appreciated nor known where I fit in the grand scheme of things as much as I do at Kalitta Air. When the man at the top is quick to show his appreciation with luncheons and family picnics, you know you are valued. Connie has been very generous. When things are going very well for the airline, paychecks have been known to reflect that fact. No wonder virtually every employee reveres the man. We know where we stand with him and he knows we’ll work our hardest and best for him.

Patron Funny Car

A great example of how Kalitta Air shows its appreciation is the party that was thrown in our hangar on October 12. They were racing the weekend that had been set-aside for the Kalitta picnic, so they cancelled it and brought the party to us. There were door prizes (including large, flat-screen televisions, Ipads, Ipod docking stations, and apparel from all the companies). Kalitta Motorsports also brought over one of the Funny Cars.

Jim & me with Patron Funny Car

Lest I make Connie sound like an angel, let me point out right away that he is a hard-nosed business man. He knows every inch of his aircraft (which he could also pilot in a pinch) and has his finger firmly on the pulse of his businesses. He has an expectation that things will be done right. If something isn’t done up to his standards, he’ll let you know – in no uncertain terms – and in the strongest possible language. No, Connie is no angel; but he’s one hell of a boss.


That is what it’s like to work for THIS legend!


This is the Patron show car. It was formerly (and could easily once again be) ready for the track.

Here’s a photo taken with Doug Kalitta. Doug drives the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster. Doug has earned 31 wins over his 12-year career.

Kalitta Charters (returning a hero)

Doug is Connie’s nephew. He also owns Kalitta Charters (a charter airline service). “Charters” does executive charters, air ambulance and cargo services. They carry anything from organs for transplant to Kentucky Derby horses. Kalitta Charters is honored to be the sole company that has a contract with the government to fly the remains of soldiers to their final resting places


Up Next: Why We Call it “Fall”


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Looking forward to “seeing” you here on Colmel’s Blog!

Another Appalachian Tale – Boojum: The Mystery on Eagle’s Nest Mountain

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Earlier I told you about my Aunt Jean who was raised in Waynesville, NC. Waynesville is the county seat for Haywood County. I know an awful lot about Waynesville because my family also owned a house there (until it burned to the ground in 1981 – but that’s another story). It was atop Eagle’s Nest Mountain (about 50 feet below 1 mile high). Eagle’s Nest overlooks Maggie Valley and is one of the most beautiful places in the entire world.

Eagle’s Nest is so beautiful that it was a destination back in the day (1880s). The more affluent from the Deep South and city folk from of the big northern cities would get on trains during the summers and head for the mountains. Vanderbilt built his mansion in nearby Asheville (not very far as the crow flies). During that time, a large hotel was built on top of Eagle’s Nest Mountain. The population in little Waynesville would soar. There was also an Inn built at the base of Eagle’s Nest that survived until the 1990s.

This is the tale of Boojum (as told to me by my Aunt Jean Hyatt Richardson).

Long before the masses found the beauty of Eagle’s Nest, a particularly strange manimal (half man/half animal) made his home on Eagle’s Nest. He was called Boojum. Boojum was an early “Bigfoot” type character who appeared to be as much bear as man. He was said to be furry and smelly. Boojum had a real fondness for the beautiful gemstones prevalent in the North Carolina mountains. As you may know, many precious and semi-precious stones are found in their raw state in the area. Among these are rubies, sapphires, garnets, aquamarines, smoky and rose quartzes, emeralds, tourmaline, and citrines. So many beautiful gemstones!

Boojum was said to wander all over the mountains to find these stones and bring them back to his home on Eagle’s Nest Mountain. No one knew exactly where he lived, but many tried to find his lair to find his stash of gems. Boojum was a clever creature, though, and hid them well out of sight.

It is also said that Boojum would occasionally frighten the female visitors to the inns by sneaking up on them as they bathed in the streams and bathing areas. It is also said that one young woman felt pity for the lonely creature and went off to join him. There are versions of the Boojum legend that has him “marrying” this girl, but the one I learned didn’t mention any alliance with any human.

To anyone’s knowledge, no one ever found Boojum or his stash of pretty rocks. They might be hidden in buckets or barrels with water in them to hide them. There are many openings, caves, crevasses, and hidden places still on Eagle’s Nest Mountain (even though it has been greatly developed since).

On a very personal note, my aunt told me once that she was told as a girl that she’d better behave or Boojum would get her. I guess he was used rather like the “boogey-man” or “bogey-man” of non-Western-Carolina upbringing. In the near future, I’ll tell y’all a true story of a night on Eagle’s Nest Mountain that I was almost certain Boojum was gonna get me.

The fancy inn on the top burned to the ground (not unlike our home) early in the 20th century. Let me just say this about the road to the top of Eagle’s Nest Mountain, it’s one of the most twisty, turny, difficult roads to travel. The grades are steep and the switchbacks are many. It was virtually impossible to get modern fire trucks to our house when it burned. I can’t imagine what it must have been like trying to get a horse-pulled water truck to the top in the olden days. The Piedmont Inn (the one near the base) has been pretty much razed for a golf community.

For those of you who enjoyed my Appalachian, folk tales, I found a book that includes these two stories and many, many more. The name of the book is “Mountain Ghost Stories – and curious tales of Western North Carolina.” It was compiled by Randy Russell and Janet Barnett. John Blair is the publisher. They seem to have delved deeply into the myths, legends and ghost stories of the area. I will probably share some of these (giving credit, naturally) in later blogs. If you enjoy these tales, though, I highly recommend this little book.


Up Next: Farmers’ Markets In the Fall (or maybe something else ;>)


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Appalachian Hummingbird Myth

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When I was a small child, we spent most of our summers in North Carolina. My “Aunt” Jean was one of my most favorite people in the whole world. She was from Waynesville, North Carolina. She was married to my mother’s
first cousin, “Uncle” Frank. She told me many stories about the Cherokee and the early fables of her home. Uncle Frank was with the Park Service, so they lived in some of the most beautiful areas of our country. Mostly we visited them in Elkin, NC and Gatlinburg, TN. Later, Waynesville became extremely important to me and I’ll recount that tale a little later.

This is the story that I believe led to my sweet “obsession” with hummingbirds.

Way back in time, the Cherokee believed that they and the animals could communicate. Indeed they believed that the animals and they were kin to each other, just in different forms.

Back then, they believed that tobacco was great medicine. There was only one tobacco plant, so there was great reverence for it. Great care was taken to assure that the plant grew and flourished. That was until the Great White Goose stole it for his own.

The Great White Goose took the tobacco to a land beyond the Hickory Gap. In the Hickory Gap lived evil spirits who hated the Cherokee. They were known to throw stones down on the Cherokee who tried to pass.

With the tobacco gone, many of the Cherokee elders became ill. There was great fear that they would die, so a young brave volunteered to go take the tobacco back from the Great White Goose. Sadly, the evil spirits saw the young brave and threw rocks down on him in the Hickory Gap. The animals stood by helplessly as the young man died, and went back to tell the humans of his loss.

As their friends, the humans, sickened, the animals said they would try to bring the tobacco back. The evil spirits didn’t hate the animals, so most of them got through Hickory Gap. However, the Great White Goose was wise to them. One after the other tried and failed. The Goose even killed the mole who tried to burrow underneath to get to the tobacco.

The humans despaired of ever getting the tobacco back. A revered old woman was on her death-bed and there was great sadness. An old man who had been praying and praying came forward and said that he felt that he knew a way to get the tobacco. He had asked the hummingbird for the secret of his quick flight. The hummingbird told the old magician his secret and a few of his feathers.

The next morning, after much praying, the old man rubbed himself with the feathers and turned himself into a hummingbird. He flew so swiftly and was so small that the evil spirits never noticed him. He flew forward and back, up and down, and darted here and there so that the Great White Goose never saw him. He took as much of the tobacco as he could carry and rushed back to the village.

It was too late for the old woman who had died during his flight. As glad as the villagers were to have some of the tobacco back, they were heartbroken at the death of the dear, old woman. The magician took some of the precious tobacco and smoked it and blew it into the woman’s nose. Miraculously, she came back to life. She begged the magician to use his magic one more time to bring the whole plant back and the body of the brave, young man who had died trying to help his people.

Once again, the old man prayed and sang to the Great Spirit to help him accomplish his mission. This time, he was transformed into a huge hummingbird. His wings were so loud and the wind so intense that the rocks fell in the Gap and frightened the evil spirits far into the caves and creases in the mountains – never to bother the humans again.

The Great White Goose was so startled by the giant hummingbird that he didn’t argue when the magician/ hummingbird took the tobacco plant. On the way home, the old man found the body of the young brave. He
prayed and prayed and blew tobacco into the nose of the lifeless youth. Another miracle occurred. The youth came back to life and helped carry the tobacco and the old man (who had turned back into a man from exhaustion from his hard work and use of magic) back to the village.

The villagers were so happy to see the old man, thrilled to have their tobacco plant back, and grateful for the return of the brave, young man, that they promised to care for the tobacco plant and share it with the animals and spread the seeds throughout the land.

I really enjoyed sharing this story with you. It goes way back in my memory to a wonderful time and a much-loved person in my life. Do you have stories of olden times that were recounted to you? I’d love for you to share them in a reply to this blog.

Up Next: We’ll see how this injury does. (It’s taken me a LONG time to get this down with the splint on.)

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