Odds and Ends Throughout Parkdom
Not all the news surrounding national parks these days is bad news. In fact, there's some pretty good news out there if you look hard enough. For instance, the 217 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway that run north to south through Virginia have been designated as an All-American Road. That honor comes from the Federal Highway Administration, which bestows it on stretches of highway that have incredible scenic, historic, and recreational qualities.
Back in 1996, the portion of the Parkway that runs in North Carolina was among the first All-American Roads tabbed by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation. Now, with the Virginia section having been added, all 469 miles of the Parkway, which links Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains national parks, have gained the distinction.
Raise the Union Jack Over U.S. Soil
On other fronts, the British have once again surrendered their flag to the United States. This didn't happen as the result of a skirmish, though. Rather, the Brits have donated a brand new Union Jack for the San Juan Island National Historical Park's English Camp parade ground. The 12-by-25-foot flag, which will flutter from atop the site's 80-foot-tall flag pole from June through August each year when the English Camp visitor center is open, replaces a British flag that has flown over the site since 1994.
For park trivia fans, know that back in 1998 the Brits provided more than $12,000 to help install the flag pole at the park, which is off the coast of Washington state. More recently, the British flag that previously flew from the pole was retired earlier this summer.
In case you're not up to snuff on your parks history, the historical park commemorates the peaceful joint occupation of San Juan Island by American and British forces from 1859 to 1872 as the two nations bickered over the Northwest Boundary between the U.S. and Canada. Further more, the island was the site of the so-called "Pig War," which arose in 1859 when an American shot a pig belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company. Cooler heads led to a diplomatic, not military, solution to the flap.
Orchid Poachers Caught in Great Smoky Mountains NP
Not everyone knows that Great Smoky Mountains National Park harbors a pretty good selection of orchids. That fact was recently discovered by a group of unidentified immigrants, who found a thick growth of Downy rattlesnake plantains, a white-flowered orchid that grows in moist coniferous forests, often on moss.
Native Americans treasured the plant and used it to treat snakebites, hence its name. It also was used to treat toothaches, colds, and even burns.
Anyway, a tip led park rangers to a site on the North Carolina side of the park where the immigrants had pulled up more than 2,300 of the plants. The orchids were quickly replanted, and park botanists are watching to see if they'll survive.