Spiritual Journey to Cherokee

Travels:  Nov 27 – 29, 2016

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This trip is about a personal journey to uncover missing information in the Cherokee ancestry of my friend Kate. Kate and her family have been researching this for a number of years and recently she’s done phenomenal work in connecting the many dots of her past.

On this journey we were hoping to get some deeper insights from research at the Cherokee Museum and from the legend Jerry Wolfe himself. We’re also hoping to have some fun along the way and meet some interesting folks. Read on to see how this adventure unfolds.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Spiritual Journey

My friend Kate and I headed down to Cherokee, North Carolina to do some research on Kate’s Native American ancestry. She has done quite a bit of research trying to discover as many connections as she could while filling out her family tree. We made a Monday morning appointment with Eastern Cherokee Elder and “Beloved Man” Jerry Wolfe, who is a legend of sorts in the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. He was the first man to be honored as “Beloved Man” in 200 years. We were hoping Jerry could provide some deeper information on the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and Kate’s family. We were also looking to perhaps meet with him again in the Spring 2017.

Our ten hour drive down was uneventful but fun. This was actually the longest road trip Kate and I have been on so far. Due to the weather, we opted to drive the car instead of taking the motorcycle and we enjoyed the scenery and our conversation throughout the journey. Fortunately the weather cooperated and we arrived in a blink of an eye. Okay, almost that fast.

By the time we arrived it was fairly late. We ate along the way at a roadside Waffle House and stopped to grab sandwiches later to keep moving. When we arrived at our hotel destination, the scenery was beautiful, although dark.

I looked forward to a warm shower and comfy bed after the drive. Monday should prove to be quite interesting. Lights out!

Cherokee Lodge – 1593 Acquoni Rd, Cherokee, NC

We booked this hotel as the price was right, it was centrally located and Native American owned. We were very happy with the hotel as it was in a nice location, it was clean and the staff was friendly and helpful.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Monday at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian

After a good night sleep, we got up fairly early, and asked about where to eat breakfast. As we walked back to the hotel room, we noticed some elk that were wandering around. The locals told us that it is normal to see the elk passing through for their breakfast, too.  We stopped and took some pictures, trying not to spook them.

We were in need of strong coffee and a healthy breakfast. With this in mind we decided to take the hotel clerk’s recommendation and go to Peter’s Pancakes. Peter’s wait staff and our hostess were friendly and inviting. The coffee was hot and strong and the breakfast was tasty and filling. Kate and I did some last minute planning over coffee then were off to the Museum of the Cherokee Indian.

When we arrived at the museum we were both feeling a bit intimidated. We were imagining our meeting with the authentic and very well respected (and revered) member of the Eastern Band of Cherokees. When we walked into the lobby,  Jerry Wolfe was sitting behind the museum desk as humble and unintimidating as you can imagine. After introducing ourselves we waited a few moments for the Most Beloved Man to join us in the lobby. He was very friendly as well and seemed excited to speak with us.

When Jerry came to us he looked at me and the first thing he said was, “You know Cherokee women come first.” I thought about this for a short while and was certain I’d be hearing it again at some later point, lol. I was actually in complete agreement. He then waited for Kate to sit then sat next to her. After some pleasantries the two of them exchanged information about Kate’s ancestry. Jerry was a soft spoken, peaceful and respectful man who spoke with purpose. He produced a handwritten list with a variety of Cherokee names that Kate could review. After about 30 minutes it was clear that our time with Jerry was over as he became interested in some other people that had walked in. We did not want to keep him any longer than he was able.  Before leaving I asked if I could get a photo of Kate and Jerry together which would be a very special memento for us.

Before leaving the museum we went to the gift shop to find some Christmas gifts. We found many interesting things to buy and some research materials for Kate. After leaving we decided to hit a nearby coop artist gift shop for additional items and we weren’t disappointed. Qualla Arts & Crafts sells the artwork and jewelry from over 350 local Cherokee tribal artists and offered some beautiful works. As it is a Coop, proceeds from sales benefit the artists as well as the community. Of course Kate and I bought a variety of gifts here including some special mementos.

After this gift shop we were ready for another hearty meal. We drove to the nearby Wize Guyz Cafe. We both found it to be clean, friendly and a nice place for lunch. We asked the owner about where we should go next. He gave us directions to two local waterfalls to visit after lunch, Mingo and Soco Waterfalls. Mingo falls has a long wooden staircase to climb to gain access to the falls. This was a great way for us to burn off some of our tasty lunch and no problem climbing for two fit people like us. The setting at Mingo was very beautiful. We spent a little time here taking pictures from the small bridge. After making our way back down we were off towards Soco Falls.

On our way, after seeing sign after sign along the road that said “boiled peanuts,” and “indian owned,” and “native crafts,” we happened by a roadside location call Bear Meats Indian Den. Judging from the name we weren’t sure what to expect but it sure looked good from the outside. Once we went in we were greeted by the friendly owner offering us to taste some freshly boiled peanuts. Now I had never tasted boiled peanuts before but have to admit they were quite good. Kate thought so too so we added them to our tally of take-home goodies. After buying some more authentic Indian wares we were off to the falls. After a short and twisty drive we came upon Soco Falls. After a short hike down a steep dirt path we were at a wooden deck overlooking the falls. I’d admit that even though it was a bit dark by now these falls were not nearly as interesting as Mingo, but still beautiful. After a short stop, we headed back to our hotel.

After taking a moment to consider our dinner choices, we decided to hit Paul’s Restaurant to enjoy our final dinner in Cherokee. Dinner was very interesting, and we wished we were more hungry because Paul’s offered traditional native meals, like frog legs, fry bread, and a number of other dishes. We voted together to go for the fry bread, and since it was quite sweet the waitress suggested we start with that as an appetizer. It was delicious.  The rest of our meal was light, and consisted of soup and salad.  Next time, we noted that we definitely want to go back there when we are really hungry.  The service had some questionable ratings, and that was one of the reasons we chose not to go there earlier. We want to express our delight with a wonderful waitress, home cooked food, and an awareness that it is not fast food, because it is prepared to order. The reviews were either not correct or created by some very impatient people, in our opinion.  After a nice meal and conversation we were headed back to the hotel to pack, shower and call it a day.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Long Return Home

The time had come to return home. Kate had accomplished much of what she came for and we both had some fun too, and some great food. My goals simply were to support Kate in her search for information, be a good companion and to drive. It was a great time and I do look forward to returning in the Spring.

After our last breakfast at Peter’s Pancakes we were off and running. As we headed home I thought a lot about this journey especially being the longest road trip Kate and I had been on together. I had enjoyed the time and felt we were good “car” travel companions as we had been on a few motorcycle trips previously. As we made our way towards home we stopped at an out-of-the-way Goodwill thrift store to check things out. Now I’ll admit that I’d never shopped at Goodwill before but was amazed at the deals I walked away with. Two pairs of nice jeans for $4.00 each and a few shirts. Kate also was able to find some deals. I had to openly admit to her that I may become a Goodwill shopper from now on ;-).

As I recall the rest of our trip home was fairly uneventful. About 10 hours of driving we pulled into home at about 10PM. It felt good to arrive. After a little talk-time we were drifting towards dreamland with the next road trip dancing in our heads.

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Blue Ridge Parkway
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Our elk friend

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