The show begins with Joseph’s introduction of the show and his beer for the episode. He then goes into the sponsored message before describing the autumnal experience in the Smokies, and the leaves turning into their vibrant fall colors. He introduces special guest Vesna Plakanis, then asks Vesna when she began foraging. Her foraging beginnings started with her mother and her mother’s French background. This segways into the discussion of the different countries Vesna lived in throughout her life. Saudi Arabia, France, and Iran are just a few examples. They go further into Vesna’s life and her college days, the time when she met her husband, Eric. She elaborates on how they began dating and the immediate connection she had with him through their love of nature and the outdoors. Joseph asks when her love of the Smokies began, and she describes it as a “love at first sight” deal when she saw the fall colors of the Smokies.


The show returns with the recounting of Eric’s 10-day vision trip as he went backpacking for 10 days in the Smokies to discover himself. After coming back, Eric describes his vision of how he wanted to educate people on the Smokies and everything it has to offer. Vesna and Eric got together to make a business plan to take people on tour guides of the mountains. She depicts her first tour trip with just a singular customer to how her business grew into what it is today. Joseph asks her how she got from point A to point B with her business. “A family orientated vision and supportive staff” was all she needed. Joseph shifts the conversation into Vesna’s and Eric’s historian and survivalist side, and why they wanted to learn. Vesna explains that historical culture was very important to her and the survivalist tendencies naturally come from years of being outdoors. They get into Vesna’s love of storytelling, and she tells a Cherokee story of how the Appalachian mountains were made.


Coming back from the ad break, Joseph gets into bears and bears encounters. Vesna talks about a time when she was leading a group of backpackers, and a small bear came up and tried to eat their food. She managed to scare it away and protect the backpacks from the clutches of hungry bears. Vesna gets into the bear protection training she received as a safety precaution. The main thing she learned was that bears didn’t understand boundaries and to show boundaries to them, yelling, throwing objects, and, occasionally, setting off fireworks works like a charm. The conversation pivots to the Coronavirus and how it affected her business. She lost a major part of her customers which damaged the business but were able to limp along. Moving on, they get into Vesna’s experience with testifying in Congress as an advocate against factory pollutants. One day, Vesna and Eric experienced ozone-induced asthma attacks which helped her testify against TVA to get rid of their plants that were polluting the air. Joseph then asks Vesna about the awards she received, and she goes into Eric’s “Best Tour Guide” award as their crowning achievement. They begin to talk about the services her company provides before getting into the commercials.


Back after the final ad break, Joseph asks her what the customers’ favorite tours and car tours were. Waterfalls, mountain peaks, and caves are just a few her customers love. They also offer classes on wildlife, historical cultures, and general nature knowledge. She describes her favorite area to hike in that has everything anyone can ask for. Beautiful wildlife, lush forests, and rich history behind the area. To end everything off, Vesna talks about future products that will be offered by the company and where the audience can find her.


00:00:36.210 –> 00:00:39.810 Joseph McElroy: hey thanks for joining us on this week’s episode of

00:00:40.170 –> 00:00:50.250 Joseph McElroy: gateway to the smokies this podcast is about America’s most visited National Park, the great smoky mountain national park, and surrounding towns.

00:00:50.580 –> 00:00:59.430 Joseph McElroy: This area is filled with ancient natural beauty and deep storied history and rich mountain cultures that we explore with weekly episodes.

00:00:59.880 –> 00:01:12.990 Joseph McElroy: I am Joseph Franklyn McElroy a man of the world, but also with deep roots in these mountains my family’s lived in the great smoky mountain for over 200 years my business is in travel, but my heart is in culture.

00:01:13.620 –> 00:01:28.770 Joseph McElroy: today’s podcast is about breaking trails of the smokies today’s beer is by the Bronx new brewery now use can’t leave as a double IPA it’s just a second time I’ve done it on the show, but I liked it so.

00:01:31.980 –> 00:01:39.180 Joseph McElroy: I do it I’m going to North Carolina more next time we have a lot of great craft beers and the mountains of North Carolina.

00:01:41.010 –> 00:01:52.950 Joseph McElroy: But first, I want you to imagine a place evocative of motor courts of the past, yet modern and vibrant with a Chic Appalachian feel it please for adventure and for relaxation.

00:01:53.430 –> 00:02:03.840 Joseph McElroy: Imagine a place where you can fish and amount inheritance trout street grill the catch on fire and eat accompanied by fine wine or craft beers.

00:02:04.380 –> 00:02:20.190 Joseph McElroy: Imagine a place with all-time music and world cultural south, there is no other place like the Meadowlark motel and Maggie valley North Carolina your smoky mountain adventure starts with where you stay.

00:02:21.720 –> 00:02:32.730 Joseph McElroy: Now I will also when you want to find out information about the smokies you need to go to smokies that’s plural smoky singular adventure COM.

00:02:33.210 –> 00:02:43.050 Joseph McElroy: It has lots of information and lets listings about the smoking’s about hiking about guides for hiking about trail maps and outdoor resources.

00:02:43.320 –> 00:02:58.770 Joseph McElroy: The emphasis of smoky advanced smokers adventure is outdoor recreation outdoor life events like weddings and adventures, along with providing information and lodging family entertainment events conventions, I mean rooms and more.

00:02:59.790 –> 00:03:03.840 Joseph McElroy: Its goal is to become the leading information portal of the smoky mountain.

00:03:06.210 –> 00:03:17.880 Joseph McElroy: So Hello guys, how are you doing so, this is the peak, this is the big tourist season for the smoky mountains because now we’re getting into fall colors they’ve just started.

00:03:18.510 –> 00:03:28.890 Joseph McElroy: And then 2021 which we’re in now you want to be soaking in all the beautiful fall colors that you need, I think everyone should do at least once.

00:03:29.460 –> 00:03:39.600 Joseph McElroy: it’s worth the peace and tranquility of the views are worth the trip Now I will not, not to mention all the things that you do all the here because everybody’s opening everybody to do with it.

00:03:41.760 –> 00:03:46.380 Joseph McElroy: I just read the recent fall report about what’s happening right now.

00:03:47.580 –> 00:03:58.170 Joseph McElroy: And so we’re actually expecting the leaves turn to the cool girl gorgeous fall colors and higher elevations around mid-mid-October, but now.

00:03:58.860 –> 00:04:12.570 Joseph McElroy: continue in the lower elevations until mid-November, so the fall foliage is going to be most vibrant, while the temperatures are in the 70s during the day and dropping the 40s at night, which they are now starting to do.

00:04:13.140 –> 00:04:22.710 Joseph McElroy: So you really can think of, but I, you know I would say that you know, right now, at the motel we’re seeing like everybody booked up right now, this weekend next weekend.

00:04:23.040 –> 00:04:32.490 Joseph McElroy: But you know the last weekend of October and the first one, where we had a November there’s still lots of availability and I think that’s going to be the peak that’s what this is saying there’s going to be the peak.

00:04:32.790 –> 00:04:41.070 Joseph McElroy: So you know get out there and grab your place to come out and see something that’s just spectacular natural wonders of the world.

00:04:42.810 –> 00:04:47.580 Joseph McElroy: So our guest today is  Vesna Plakanis

00:04:49.410 –> 00:04:49.890 Joseph McElroy: How you doing.

00:04:51.120 –> 00:04:52.950 Vesna Plakanis: Great Thank you how are you doing.

00:04:53.400 –> 00:04:57.810 Joseph McElroy: Fine, so I forgot I forgot to read your bio let me do that real quick.

00:04:58.950 –> 00:05:09.660 Joseph McElroy: So you and your husband Eric are owners and operators of one of the oldest and most highly respected guides and tour services in the great smoky mountains, to call the walk in the woods.

00:05:10.020 –> 00:05:16.980 Joseph McElroy: And it’s located in Gatlinburg Tennessee now you are an award-winning company that was formed in 1998.

00:05:17.400 –> 00:05:28.620 Joseph McElroy: And you’ve been featured in multiple publications and on television networks, including among others outside backpacker National Geographic shaped women’s health and the discovery channel.

00:05:29.070 –> 00:05:45.510 Joseph McElroy: The travel channel and PBS you and your husband are both dedicated environmentalists along with your daughter and beloved pets who reside on a 98 or ECO camp in the mountains of East Tennessee so welcome back I’m glad to have you here.

00:05:45.930 –> 00:05:47.430 Vesna Plakanis: Thank you it’s great to be here.

00:05:48.780 –> 00:06:01.020 Joseph McElroy: So first off, I was doing a little research, I like to find out a little bit about the people coming on the show, so I read that you are a forger as a child was a common activity in your child in your family.

00:06:02.130 –> 00:06:16.050 Vesna Plakanis: um well my mother is French, and so we certainly you know went out the into the yard and to the good kind of local fields and was and pick mushrooms and herbs things like that, and then.

00:06:16.650 –> 00:06:31.620 Vesna Plakanis: my grandmother was a full-on I was depression era farmer, and you know back in those days you had to make do with everything and so she really taught me a lot about like what to do with weeds and.

00:06:32.760 –> 00:06:43.950 Vesna Plakanis: house and having you know dandelion fried dandelion and you know dandelion salad, and so you know learned about these things are a very, very young age.

00:06:44.370 –> 00:06:46.110 Joseph McElroy: Is that where you grew up in Iowa.

00:06:47.040 –> 00:06:50.670 Vesna Plakanis: No, I am what my husband calls an international met mutt.

00:06:52.710 –> 00:06:54.750 Vesna Plakanis: I grew up all over the world, actually.

00:06:55.110 –> 00:06:59.220 Joseph McElroy: Oh really well yeah give me some examples of where you live.

00:06:59.700 –> 00:07:07.860 Vesna Plakanis: Well, I was born in Germany, my mother’s French, so I spent some time in France lived in Iran and Saudi Arabia.

00:07:08.070 –> 00:07:09.300 Joseph McElroy: Oh, my gosh oh.

00:07:10.140 –> 00:07:11.400 Vesna Plakanis: This little bit of every place.

00:07:11.880 –> 00:07:13.500 Joseph McElroy: And when did you come to the United States.

00:07:13.950 –> 00:07:28.500 Vesna Plakanis: Well, on and off from the time I was too, so my dad is a midwesterner, and so we actually they lived in Minnesota when he was growing up and so Minnesota was kind of our landing pad and we’d come to go back and forth to Minneapolis area.

00:07:28.920 –> 00:07:35.250 Joseph McElroy: I see and during all this traveling around the world, and you get to do a lot of hiking and outdoor activities.

00:07:36.150 –> 00:07:43.590 Vesna Plakanis: um well when I lived in Saudi Arabia, I was actually in the girl scouts and we would camp out on sand dunes.

00:07:47.730 –> 00:07:48.210 Vesna Plakanis: Oh.

00:07:48.630 –> 00:07:51.090 Joseph McElroy: wow we know, I was.

00:07:52.320 –> 00:07:57.060 Joseph McElroy: You know, being in the content marketing business that Saudi Arabia is actually done this whole you know.

00:07:57.450 –> 00:08:08.460 Joseph McElroy: thing to try to be more tourist-friendly destination, and so they were approaching us about doing some content marketing for that and I got into researching them, and while there was a lot of problems with the I didn’t want to deal with at the end of it.

00:08:09.750 –> 00:08:23.520 Joseph McElroy: It really is a beautiful place for outdoor activity as a lot of amazing you know biking trails and our desert rallies and yeah so there’s a there’s quite an eye-opening and what, in which you can do.

00:08:24.480 –> 00:08:33.330 Joseph McElroy: So oh you’re so you’ve had a great journey so, but you, you went off to college you got a communications degree right and you had a career in television.

00:08:33.810 –> 00:08:42.000 Vesna Plakanis: I did yep marketing maybe you know just the whole nine yards, I was everything from advertising to copywriting to the producer.

00:08:43.140 –> 00:08:45.060 Vesna Plakanis: newscaster all of it.

00:08:45.600 –> 00:08:47.610 Joseph McElroy: wow where did you do that.

00:08:48.810 –> 00:08:50.280 Vesna Plakanis: in Illinois and Knoxville.

00:08:50.880 –> 00:08:51.600 Joseph McElroy: Okay cool.

00:08:52.080 –> 00:08:56.010 Vesna Plakanis: and actually Atlanta I worked for the Olympics in 96.

00:08:57.360 –> 00:09:01.260 Joseph McElroy: Well, that must have been an interesting time the bomb scare and every day right.

00:09:03.510 –> 00:09:17.490 Joseph McElroy: So your husband Eric is also had a different career he’s your partner right, so he was an accountant right and then, and then presumed a few fields, right here, but what did you guys meet.

00:09:18.510 –> 00:09:25.260 Vesna Plakanis: um well actually he was living in Atlanta, and I was living in Knoxville and he was dating a friend of mine.

00:09:29.190 –> 00:09:31.860 Joseph McElroy: Okay, now we get into the Peyton place to her.

00:09:36.270 –> 00:09:46.950 Vesna Plakanis: And I asked her if it was okay if I called um but we were instantly you know, there was a connection there as soon as we met so I didn’t steal him.

00:09:48.150 –> 00:09:48.780 Joseph McElroy: All right.

00:09:49.680 –> 00:09:55.080 Joseph McElroy: yeah that’s great well know the psychic connection yeah just created that was weird.

00:09:58.470 –> 00:10:09.720 Joseph McElroy: So, so do you remember you I mean you obviously developed some sort of a bond around nature, I think because you made a career right like instantly from the beginning.

00:10:11.130 –> 00:10:16.530 Vesna Plakanis: I think both of us just loved you know the natural world and when we met, it was just kind of a.

00:10:17.370 –> 00:10:29.550 Vesna Plakanis: kismet um but no I was growing up in Minnesota, even though I was in Minneapolis you know, we had woods in our backyard, I was at it in school at the time.

00:10:30.090 –> 00:10:47.430 Vesna Plakanis: Were they kind of had experimental things in you know in public high schools, and so we had a required outdoor education program and so from the time I was 12 years old, we had a climbing wall, we went camping when we were you know kids you know in sixth grade that was like required.

00:10:48.720 –> 00:10:55.260 Vesna Plakanis: And so I just really got into the natural world and moved around a lot, I was kind of a lonely kid.

00:10:56.070 –> 00:11:03.900 Vesna Plakanis: So it was very natural for me to just go out into the woods and find that solace and then Eric grew up in.

00:11:04.380 –> 00:11:08.790 Vesna Plakanis: New Jersey right on the New Jersey New York state line and ma.

00:11:09.240 –> 00:11:16.470 Vesna Plakanis: Which is right off the Appalachian trail, and so you know he played in the woods, this whole you know childhood to and so both of us just.

00:11:16.680 –> 00:11:24.570 Vesna Plakanis: Love nature and this is what we love to do, and then, when he and I got married we actually went backpacking and camping through Maui for two weeks.

00:11:24.810 –> 00:11:29.670 Joseph McElroy: wow so that’s so for the weekend go you started your bonding over that.

00:11:30.120 –> 00:11:39.120 Joseph McElroy: yeah so when did so you live in Knoxville imagined, and he was in Atlanta Atlanta so did you have your first experience of the smokies together or separately.

00:11:39.600 –> 00:11:48.990 Vesna Plakanis: know I lived in Knoxville for several years, so I worked at the TV station and we used to go up you know, to the park and you know to go camping and do picnics and go hiking and.

00:11:50.040 –> 00:11:58.140 Vesna Plakanis: So now I fell in love with the smoky mountains, when I was in college and my mom and my stepfather had lived in Knoxville.

00:11:58.740 –> 00:12:09.480 Vesna Plakanis: And it just moved down when I started college, so I came downfall break once and just I just remember falling in love coming over the Kentucky border.

00:12:10.140 –> 00:12:21.360 Vesna Plakanis: And it was fall and just the colors were so vibrant and magical and because I moved around so much, I never really felt at home anywhere instantly.

00:12:22.830 –> 00:12:25.380 Vesna Plakanis: Like it just got under my skin, I felt at home.

00:12:26.280 –> 00:12:36.690 Joseph McElroy: And then, according to your website your husband went on a 10-day vision quest in the smokies which then really sort of set you on a path right to have a shared passion.

00:12:37.290 –> 00:12:44.220 Vesna Plakanis: yeah we really Atlanta, and both in corporate America and we’re like oh God I don’t want to do the rest of my life and.

00:12:45.240 –> 00:12:53.430 Vesna Plakanis: So we were having these you know little picnics in downtown Atlanta we’re like you know, we really should do something like homestead and Alaska.

00:12:55.620 –> 00:12:59.070 Vesna Plakanis: sounds crazy and we’re vegetarian, so what would we eat and.

00:13:01.320 –> 00:13:11.070 Vesna Plakanis: One day we after one of these little picnics you know kind of vision, you know, like fantasy picnics we went into a coffee house and picked up a magazine.

00:13:11.490 –> 00:13:18.240 Vesna Plakanis: About a woman who left corporate America and started training under this naturalist school in North Georgia.

00:13:18.840 –> 00:13:29.490 Vesna Plakanis: And she actually left her job and went lived off the land were like this sounds really cool so we started taking classes from this guy in medicine bow and.

00:13:29.970 –> 00:13:41.460 Vesna Plakanis: that’s really sparked our interest in goddess kind of thinking about getting in this direction and then yeah Eric went on his 10-day backpacking vision quest and came down we picked him up and he’s like know what we’re gonna do.

00:13:43.440 –> 00:13:48.660 Joseph McElroy: There we go so we’re gonna take a break down and when we come back we’re going to talk about what you did.

00:16:04.230 –> 00:16:12.240 Joseph McElroy: howdy this is Joseph Franklyn McElroy back with a gateway to the smokies podcast my guest is Vesna Plakanis

00:16:12.720 –> 00:16:24.390 Joseph McElroy: So you were telling you that you had your husband come down from the mountain after 10 days vision quest and he had a vision of what you guys were going to do what was that vision, what do you guys do.

00:16:26.490 –> 00:16:32.010 Vesna Plakanis: Well, this is the most visited National Park in the country and a lot of people don’t go.

00:16:32.460 –> 00:16:44.310 Vesna Plakanis: More than half a mile you know from the parking lot and he really saw that kind of on his 10-day backpacking trips when you come out and to the parking areas and people would be like where did you just come from.

00:16:45.270 –> 00:16:56.700 Vesna Plakanis: His dirty mouth man, he was you know isn’t backpacking for days so when he came out of the woods after that 10-day backpacking trip, he said, you know I really feel like.

00:16:57.180 –> 00:17:05.820 Vesna Plakanis: People, we need to educate people, we need to get them out there and get them excited about what makes a split place I’m so very special.

00:17:07.020 –> 00:17:19.350 Vesna Plakanis: And so we started to kind of do a business plan on, you know how we would create a guide service, and you know how would we would be more education-oriented, so we didn’t want to take people from point A to Point B.

00:17:20.220 –> 00:17:25.440 Vesna Plakanis: You know, we really wanted people to be immersed and experience what makes the smokies.

00:17:25.890 –> 00:17:43.170 Vesna Plakanis: So very special but also you know, hoping that that would kind of filter out into the greater world so people could understand that you know we are part of this beautiful planet and that was kind of a lofty goal but that’s what we set out to do.

00:17:43.800 –> 00:17:48.060 Joseph McElroy: And how long did it take you when when when was that the vision quest.

00:17:48.690 –> 00:18:01.050 Vesna Plakanis: it was I guess in the summer of 96 so it took us a couple of years to sort of save money and figure out what you know the direction we wanted to take and exactly where we wanted to live.

00:18:01.980 –> 00:18:07.920 Joseph McElroy: And you started your business and what was your first, what do you make sure.

00:18:09.450 –> 00:18:18.630 Vesna Plakanis: So our first money it’s really actually funny because she came back last year um but you know we started out into like outfitters.

00:18:19.320 –> 00:18:32.100 Vesna Plakanis: You know, got to know, everybody that Chamber of Commerce, you know T-shirts, we thought we would walk through the streets of Gatlinburg with our brochures and T-shirts and people would magically stop this and go oh take us for a hike that didn’t happen.

00:18:34.620 –> 00:18:46.950 Vesna Plakanis: Through a very good friend of ours, who helped us with our website, and you know the Chamber of Commerce people eventually started finding us so our very first adventure was going up to Andrews bald.

00:18:47.310 –> 00:18:55.500 Vesna Plakanis: Which right now, by the way, his peak colors are gorgeous so bald is actually a high mountain meadow.

00:18:56.010 –> 00:19:12.660 Vesna Plakanis: Andrews bald is over 5000 feet in elevation and so you got this big wide open gorgeous natural space with you know just see after see you know of mountains and we took one woman both Eric and I.

00:19:14.760 –> 00:19:16.290 Vesna Plakanis: $14.

00:19:20.160 –> 00:19:23.370 Joseph McElroy: He made sure he had a good time for that $14

00:19:25.320 –> 00:19:33.420 Vesna Plakanis: The cute thing is she came back I think last year and hired us again she brought some friends and she said, you know I think I was your very first customer.

00:19:38.010 –> 00:19:39.990 Joseph McElroy: Two owners came along with theirs.

00:19:50.100 –> 00:19:50.670 Vesna Plakanis: From there.

00:19:51.600 –> 00:19:55.440 Joseph McElroy: Well that’s it, you know it’s impressive longevity I mean a small business.

00:19:56.490 –> 00:20:09.780 Joseph McElroy: yeah so it’s 98 yeah that’s what 23 years rightmost small businesses fail within the first five years right, so the IUCN you’re always I’m always looking for.

00:20:10.710 –> 00:20:21.390 Joseph McElroy: better ways to do things I took a look at your website and you have an incredible you know variety of things that you offer you also I looked at, so you have this incredible diversity of.

00:20:22.140 –> 00:20:39.420 Joseph McElroy: the roster of guys of all ages and genders, and all very clearly talented you have like history, you know people with history degrees and former park Rangers and things So what do you how did you build that roster of guys.

00:20:42.000 –> 00:20:47.460 Vesna Plakanis: just getting to know people were very we made friends with people in the park service.

00:20:48.330 –> 00:20:57.510 Vesna Plakanis: Our daughter actually between I think for junior and senior year interned at the park and that’s actually how we got one of our first.

00:20:57.870 –> 00:21:03.840 Vesna Plakanis: guides who’s been with us forever our historian Sam um and then we just built a reputation, you know.

00:21:04.140 –> 00:21:17.040 Vesna Plakanis: Gatlinburg is a very small town, even though we get so many people there are only 4000 people in Gatlinburg and so you pretty much know everybody, you know you bump into people all the time at the grocery store and so just by getting to know people.

00:21:17.640 –> 00:21:26.790 Vesna Plakanis: And I think we also have a reputation, as you know, family-oriented business, and that makes people very comfortable when they come to work for us, you know we’re very.

00:21:28.290 –> 00:21:40.440 Vesna Plakanis: Clear about mentoring and helping to expand our guides and so you know there are certain things that we want from our staff, they have to be wilderness first responders which we will pay for.

00:21:41.220 –> 00:21:50.790 Vesna Plakanis: We also promote you know outside larger you know, education if people want to become naturalist certified naturalist you know we help with that with scholarships.

00:21:51.360 –> 00:21:59.460 Vesna Plakanis: So we’re very supportive in that respect, and we also you know any given time in our office you might have.

00:21:59.970 –> 00:22:10.050 Vesna Plakanis: a toddler running around or five dogs, or you know, last week we even had a one-month-old baby, because one of our guides just had a baby or one of our staff.

00:22:10.530 –> 00:22:19.110 Vesna Plakanis: um you know, so I think we just try to be a very supportive kind of family environment, even though we now have 30 people on our staff we just we still have that core.

00:22:19.590 –> 00:22:25.110 Joseph McElroy: cool no I was, I was pleasantly surprised so, but you know.

00:22:25.170 –> 00:22:27.030 Joseph McElroy: You and your husband combined have.

00:22:27.720 –> 00:22:32.700 Joseph McElroy: Seven years of outdoor experience and you say most of that your husband Eric stuff.

00:22:39.990 –> 00:22:42.660 Vesna Plakanis: Just the two of us did biking and.

00:22:44.340 –> 00:22:55.200 Joseph McElroy: So, but you are also not only a hikers mature expert survivalist, and a historian, so you were in marketing, he was an accounting you had a vision quest came up here.

00:22:55.530 –> 00:23:04.350 Joseph McElroy: So, how did you learn about the different plants and tracking and you know survivalism and how did you go about becoming experts have back.

00:23:05.100 –> 00:23:12.870 Vesna Plakanis: um well, a lot of it was when we first started taking those classes from the naturalist school and in North Georgia.

00:23:13.380 –> 00:23:23.850 Vesna Plakanis: And that’s run by a man named mark Warren medicine bow and he teaches that kind of primitive skills but based on what the Cherokee used to teach and what the turkeys to use.

00:23:24.450 –> 00:23:31.410 Vesna Plakanis: And so, that was a natural way for us to really start learning about the local natives of the area and.

00:23:32.010 –> 00:23:42.630 Vesna Plakanis: I love history, you know, having traveled all over the world I’m very into cultures and understanding how you know people you know things move together, and you can have.

00:23:43.260 –> 00:23:52.800 Vesna Plakanis: You know people moving into an area without understanding the environmental, you know issues and what they’re dealing with and the Scotch Irish you came down here and.

00:23:53.190 –> 00:24:00.900 Vesna Plakanis: The fact that the Appalachian mountains are you know, part of a chain that goes, all the way to Scotland and so when people settled here it felt familiar.

00:24:01.290 –> 00:24:10.890 Vesna Plakanis: So I think it’s just a natural thing when you are a guide in this area, you know to sort of put all those pieces together and where we’re as rich.

00:24:11.640 –> 00:24:24.780 Vesna Plakanis: in human history, as we are in diversity, where the most biodiverse place in the world, north of the tropics we also have the largest collection of human artifacts in any national park in the country, so it all goes really hand in hand.

00:24:25.350 –> 00:24:25.980 wow.

00:24:27.330 –> 00:24:33.150 Joseph McElroy: yeah I was reading about you guy’s depth of knowledge and, of course, you know Bob Plott who’s.

00:24:33.840 –> 00:24:41.820 Joseph McElroy: Who helps me with this program is also a pretty fine historian and understanding the smoke as well just has high things to say about you guys.

00:24:42.420 –> 00:24:49.830 Joseph McElroy: But I also understand you’re really great storyteller so I’m looking forward to hearing some of your stories, so you know a lot about the Cherokee and.

00:24:51.000 –> 00:24:58.620 Joseph McElroy: And the European settlers they know how did you know is that something that’s important on your picking people out.

00:24:59.490 –> 00:25:07.710 Vesna Plakanis: Oh yeah We very much whenever and even as we’re mentoring and training, these new guides you know, one of the things we really try to emphasize is that.

00:25:08.010 –> 00:25:19.440 Vesna Plakanis: You know you’re not just going, and this is a tree, and this is that you know you’re really trying to weave something together, and I was an English major before I became kind of been.

00:25:20.400 –> 00:25:23.730 Vesna Plakanis: into communication which I guess is all part of the same thing.

00:25:24.540 –> 00:25:35.190 Vesna Plakanis: But I really look at being a guide as being a storyteller you know it’s an art it’s you know you’re introducing characters and you’re introducing a plot, and you know, then there’s drama.

00:25:35.550 –> 00:25:43.230 Vesna Plakanis: And then, at the end you know the you’re bringing it all together, and this is such a natural place to tell these wonderful stories.

00:25:43.830 –> 00:25:45.930 Joseph McElroy: what’s it what’s a favorite story you tell.

00:25:47.160 –> 00:25:47.460 Vesna Plakanis: Oh.

00:25:50.160 –> 00:25:51.960 Vesna Plakanis: got a lot of um.

00:25:53.100 –> 00:25:55.440 Joseph McElroy: Quick what we felt like.

00:25:57.300 –> 00:26:02.580 Vesna Plakanis: Well let’s see, let me so so what I love about this one, this is the Cherokee creation story.

00:26:03.300 –> 00:26:13.890 Vesna Plakanis: And what I love about that is that somehow they had this understanding of how these mountains were really created that you know we used to have an ocean here and the story goes that long ago.

00:26:14.430 –> 00:26:23.820 Vesna Plakanis: This with the earth was just this big blue globe and there was nothing but water and all the plants and animals lived in the sky vault and the animals were giant animals.

00:26:24.240 –> 00:26:36.390 Vesna Plakanis: And as time went on population expanded and there wasn’t a lot of room and so they looked down at this place, which was the late, great blue globe and they said, maybe we can move down there, but all they saw was water.

00:26:36.930 –> 00:26:42.900 Vesna Plakanis: And so they sent the little water beetle, who was a great swimmer down to explore, to see if he could find some land.

00:26:43.230 –> 00:26:54.540 Vesna Plakanis: And he went down this web that had been spun by a spider and he went down and he started to swim and look for the earth and he couldn’t find any so we don’t down and he found some mud he brought them.

00:26:54.840 –> 00:27:08.580 Vesna Plakanis: up and, as he brought it up, it expanded into our earth and it was too soft was money, so we went back up and he told everybody, and so the animal sent grandfather buzzard gigantic bird to look for dry land.

00:27:09.030 –> 00:27:26.670 Vesna Plakanis: And he was a big bird and he skipped flu and he flew in his wings were so gigantic but, after a long time he could only find that money got so tired and, as he flew and not more tired his giant wings hit the earth and made valleys and when he brought it back up they made mountains.

00:27:26.880 –> 00:27:36.060 Vesna Plakanis: And after a while, nothing but mountains and valleys and the animal said to come back and he did, and that is how he created the Appalachian mountains.

00:27:36.330 –> 00:27:38.130 Joseph McElroy: Oh, a great culture

00:27:40.470 –> 00:27:41.670 Vesna Plakanis: buzzard that’s right.

00:27:42.000 –> 00:27:59.640 Vesna Plakanis: And if I have time just finish it real quick the sun thought it was so beautiful that the sun took a trip she went from east to west and, as she went over she was so in love with this area, and she dried it all up and all the animals and plants were able to come down to the.

00:28:00.840 –> 00:28:12.030 Joseph McElroy: the fabulous day I love that story, so I want to talk more about stories and more about bears when we come back.

00:28:12.360 –> 00:28:12.720 Okay.

00:30:51.300 –> 00:31:01.320 Joseph McElroy: howdy this is Joseph Franklin McElroy back with the gateway to the smokies podcast my guest Vesna Plakanis

00:31:02.100 –> 00:31:09.480 Joseph McElroy: You know, when people come to visit the motel or talk to me up here, even up here in New York, about the smoky mountains ask

00:31:09.840 –> 00:31:15.600 Joseph McElroy: You know where to start asking a little bit about things they asked about wildlife and they always ask about two things now.

00:31:16.170 –> 00:31:22.890 Joseph McElroy: used to be always about the black bears, and now they talk about else, of course, as well because it’s become somewhat famous.

00:31:23.610 –> 00:31:34.080 Joseph McElroy: When you’re out there I’m sure you had some bear counters on the trails and you know men been what almost a quarter-century now do you have any interesting tour stories about that.

00:31:35.640 –> 00:31:47.220 Vesna Plakanis: um well you know I’ve always been run into them once in a while, especially different times of the year, I did have a group that I was taking out a four-day backpacking trip and.

00:31:47.910 –> 00:31:57.720 Vesna Plakanis: was hearing, I sound kind of you know, on the shelter around the shelter and you know, in the middle of the night kept getting up didn’t see anything.

00:31:58.830 –> 00:32:09.120 Vesna Plakanis: And then I heard a Jingle Jingle Jingle and ran out to the place where you hang your backpack so you know there’s a steel cable pulleys you hang your backpack.

00:32:09.510 –> 00:32:23.280 Vesna Plakanis: And there was this little yearling I’m not a very big bear that was trying very, very, very hard to shake and get our backpacks you know down off those hooks and I was able to you know kind of chase them away and.

00:32:25.020 –> 00:32:34.290 Vesna Plakanis: And, but apparently some of the Appalachian Trail thru-hikers I’m assuming it’s the same one later saw the same little bear.

00:32:35.250 –> 00:32:45.810 Vesna Plakanis: You know, actually trying to learn how to unhook it so he was trying very hard to kind of work on that hug so he can hook back up backpack so bears are incredibly smart.

00:32:46.110 –> 00:32:57.300 Joseph McElroy: wow wait no reason I ask is that I read that you got training with a bear expert, known as the bear whisper his name is Steve Sir all right.

00:32:58.440 –> 00:33:01.170 Joseph McElroy: And what was the What would it be training abilities.

00:33:01.800 –> 00:33:08.400 Vesna Plakanis: So actually Steve Cyril was on animal planet for a while, I think it was a show called the bear whisper.

00:33:10.380 –> 00:33:24.660 Vesna Plakanis: The park and the town of Gatlinburg of back in August around the year 2000 we’re really trying to understand you know how to operate as a gateway Community you know because bears don’t understand boundaries.

00:33:25.560 –> 00:33:30.840 Vesna Plakanis: And so, when you know when the smells are coming from you know the restaurants and.

00:33:31.320 –> 00:33:45.600 Vesna Plakanis: Food season is maybe not so great, you know master crop in the park is not so plentiful or is that in-between time before all the NUTS start falling you know the bears will kind of start coming out and they’ll get into trash will get into you know.

00:33:46.440 –> 00:33:56.550 Vesna Plakanis: they’ll go over to cabins restaurants and things like that so Gatlinburg hired this expert Steve to come and talk to.

00:33:57.060 –> 00:34:10.410 Vesna Plakanis: You know people who are working in the National Park, so we were part of sponsored by the American humane society, and we were part of a group that spent an entire weekend with Steve really learning how to live with bear and.

00:34:11.400 –> 00:34:23.430 Vesna Plakanis: There are basically it’s called a nonlethal bear version technique which includes noise Biggers hate noise, so you know you hear about wave your arms and yell.

00:34:24.030 –> 00:34:34.170 Vesna Plakanis: But there are other steps to that you know, throwing things because they don’t understand you know that that concept of something being thrown at them.

00:34:34.530 –> 00:34:46.890 Vesna Plakanis: and extreme cases, and of course you as a guide or you know, a person in the park can’t do this but I’m like if you have it around your House and our eco-camp, we set off fireworks and it’s.

00:34:48.390 –> 00:35:00.030 Vesna Plakanis: A coughing dog same thing and so it’s all these ways to teach bears that there is a separation and then, once they get to the place that they need to be.

00:35:00.570 –> 00:35:18.180 Vesna Plakanis: You give them silence so you’re really, really, really loud like that bear that you know I saw that was trying to work with that the backpack on the cables bunch of noise and scream and act like idiots and then as soon as they get to a location where it’s Okay, for them to be quiet.

00:35:18.840 –> 00:35:19.380 Vesna Plakanis: And then just.

00:35:19.590 –> 00:35:24.480 Vesna Plakanis: A dog, you know they’re like oh OK, I can be here, but I can’t be here and it’s.

00:35:26.580 –> 00:35:28.590 Joseph McElroy: So you train them that’s pretty cool.

00:35:30.630 –> 00:35:40.710 Joseph McElroy: So um you know you know this has been an interesting time with a pandemic, and you know, in the mountains I’ve had to experience that I put in a.

00:35:41.610 –> 00:35:54.930 Joseph McElroy: vaccine mandate has a little bit of trouble with that got written up in the papers about you know how I ended up having to clean rooms, how is it how’s the pandemic affected your your your business and how have you responded.

00:35:56.580 –> 00:36:09.750 Vesna Plakanis: Last year was a struggle, you know the park closed down for three months, with good reason, um so it was a shift, we lost a lot of our staff only because we didn’t know when we were going to open back up again.

00:36:10.620 –> 00:36:19.590 Vesna Plakanis: Our major client is rei and they’re about 7060 to 70% of our business that rei stopped operating last year.

00:36:19.620 –> 00:36:20.880 All together know.

00:36:22.200 –> 00:36:35.730 Vesna Plakanis: That we had no adventure programs so that really hurt, but you know we pivoted we I was lucky our daughter, who is now an adult living in Boston she was actually working with the.

00:36:37.050 –> 00:36:45.540 Vesna Plakanis: Center for global health and security at Harvard and so she was kind of able to give us a heads up and let us know what was happening.

00:36:46.290 –> 00:36:56.220 Vesna Plakanis: Before a lot of other people did, and so we started putting protocols in place and rewriting our handbook and all that and, and you know, we were able to limp along.

00:36:56.790 –> 00:37:07.350 Joseph McElroy: And now all your guides and all your programs are all very safe and for a cove and all that sort of stuff, which is, I think, important to let people know.

00:37:08.520 –> 00:37:18.060 Joseph McElroy: There is a way to make everything you know secure for people, I mean, like you, we mentioned offline the safety of the.

00:37:18.690 –> 00:37:32.820 Joseph McElroy: In hospitality is paramount right so and we both believe in that I think that’s great you know I’m also you know, I was reading, you know the Meadowlark motels were the only three pine rated.

00:37:33.930 –> 00:37:36.930 Joseph McElroy: Lodging facility west of Asheville.

00:37:38.310 –> 00:37:53.790 Joseph McElroy: it’s the state of North Carolina is ecological we know how high you are rated and things like that, so I see that you’re you are here you’re a superstar and environmental issues you survived testified before Congress or 2016, can you tell us about that.

00:37:56.430 –> 00:38:12.120 Vesna Plakanis: So it goes way back to actually the MID-2000s when both my husband and I had ohs what turned out to be ozone-induced asthma attacks, as we were hiking and leading groups and.

00:38:12.960 –> 00:38:30.270 Vesna Plakanis: The air quality was so bad that they were warning people not to go out into the mountains, and so you know we never had that before we didn’t understand what it was so we became came part of a class-action lawsuit against TBA.

00:38:31.530 –> 00:38:45.300 Vesna Plakanis: To you know help to have them add scrubbers and take a lot of their very old ancient polluting smokestacks offline so eventually they actually ended up closing.

00:38:46.650 –> 00:38:51.090 Vesna Plakanis: Power plants that were so bad, and they had been grandfathered in.

00:38:51.570 –> 00:38:58.950 Vesna Plakanis: And then you know we helped with a lot of other environmental groups to force tba to add scrubbers to all of their smokestacks.

00:38:59.220 –> 00:39:11.940 Vesna Plakanis: So the air quality and the plant life, as a result, went from you know being hazardous sometimes and only seeing you know, five, six miles 10 miles to now you’re seeing.

00:39:12.510 –> 00:39:26.040 Vesna Plakanis: On an average day you know 60 miles or more, and you know it’s not uncommon to have you know 200 mile visibility days, and so I when the EPA was looking at.

00:39:26.520 –> 00:39:39.060 Vesna Plakanis: You know, strengthening these you know regulations, I was invited to go to DC and was able to tell my story about what it was like to have an.

00:39:40.110 –> 00:39:40.980 Vesna Plakanis: asthma attack.

00:39:42.000 –> 00:39:55.440 Joseph McElroy: wow wow looks great so I really appreciate that work because I’m very adamant about, yeah we got to be preserving these, I mean the reason the smokies were created in the first place was because of.

00:39:56.340 –> 00:40:08.670 Joseph McElroy: You know, concerns for deforestation and the smoky so you know you know, ecology environmental issues are sort of the fundamental aspect of the founding of the smokies.

00:40:10.380 –> 00:40:19.950 Joseph McElroy: You live in out and speaking of eco you live in an acre piece of heaven knows the Eco camp that’s what I read on your website, but what does that mean.

00:40:21.270 –> 00:40:39.060 Vesna Plakanis: Well, we have a 90-acre piece of property that is surrounded by national park and we also have an eco-camp there, and so there are some off the grid, you know kitchen and bathrooms and you know 10 platforms and things like that, and so we’re very lucky it’s a beautiful piece of land.

00:40:39.390 –> 00:40:40.050 In cosby.

00:40:41.580 –> 00:40:43.260 Joseph McElroy: Is not clapping right it says.

00:40:45.000 –> 00:40:45.480 Joseph McElroy: Nothing.

00:40:45.660 –> 00:40:46.200 yeah.

00:40:48.930 –> 00:40:56.340 Joseph McElroy: So ECO-friendly Clamping everybody out there, we got the source for that right that’s cool that’s really cool.

00:40:57.660 –> 00:41:00.900 Joseph McElroy: Now you’ve won numerous awards, I saw that you’re in award-winning.

00:41:02.760 –> 00:41:05.340 Joseph McElroy: Current company what tell me about some of the words that you want.

00:41:06.870 –> 00:41:14.310 Vesna Plakanis: Well, the one we’re most proud of is in 2012 my husband one top guide for rei adventures for rei.

00:41:14.850 –> 00:41:25.950 Vesna Plakanis: And you know that’s against you know that’s a worldwide honor, and so we were actually able to go out to Seattle and there was a big ceremony, and he spent a whole week with other guides from around the world.

00:41:27.450 –> 00:41:29.160 Vesna Plakanis: And so that was pretty exciting.

00:41:30.210 –> 00:41:30.840 Joseph McElroy: Oh cool.

00:41:31.170 –> 00:41:31.920 Vesna Plakanis: yeah yeah.

00:41:32.550 –> 00:41:36.000 Vesna Plakanis: yeah we got up to guides that were rei top guides.

00:41:36.300 –> 00:41:36.750 I really.

00:41:38.160 –> 00:41:40.770 Joseph McElroy: So so So what are.

00:41:42.390 –> 00:41:46.080 Joseph McElroy: Some, what are the some, what are the some of the top tours and people can take with you.

00:41:47.640 –> 00:41:58.650 Vesna Plakanis: I well it really depends on the time of year like right now we have a fall color tour that’s obviously very popular and we’ll kind of chase the leaves and take people out to you know where the best spots are.

00:41:59.730 –> 00:42:00.930 Vesna Plakanis: we’re also.

00:42:02.010 –> 00:42:10.350 Vesna Plakanis: we’re very family-oriented so the kind of one that’s near and dear to my heart is our program called exploring nature with children.

00:42:10.860 –> 00:42:26.640 Vesna Plakanis: And you know kids are so overscheduled and there you know, on their phones and all that so it’s an opportunity to just get them out and get them dirty and playing in the mud, and looking for bugs and you know eating wild foods under supervision, of course.

00:42:27.810 –> 00:42:35.640 Vesna Plakanis: And you know it’s always such a hit so anything that’s kind of family-oriented where we can get the kids out there is near and dear to my heart.

00:42:36.630 –> 00:42:41.100 Joseph McElroy: That three-year-old twin toddler so you got something for them.

00:42:42.960 –> 00:42:46.620 Vesna Plakanis: Actually, exploring nature with children is perfect for them.

00:42:46.680 –> 00:42:47.340 They really.

00:42:48.600 –> 00:42:58.560 Vesna Plakanis: Oh yeah we’re looking for salamanders we’re playing in the streams, you know they’re just splashing around and they’re having a ball, yeah that’s that is a great height for kids.

00:42:58.680 –> 00:43:02.730 Joseph McElroy: All right, well then next time I bring him down, we have to set that upright.

00:43:04.860 –> 00:43:07.470 Joseph McElroy: Oh yeah cool so um.

00:43:08.520 –> 00:43:14.550 Joseph McElroy: What besides the kid’s tours, yeah I mean you’re driving towards things like that, but what I.

00:43:15.360 –> 00:43:24.930 Joseph McElroy: actually have to take a break now, but I want to talk about a little bit more of what you offer in terms of tours and what people interesting in the mountain smokies might find interesting to do.

00:45:30.510 –> 00:45:42.330 Joseph McElroy: howdy this is Joseph Franklin McElroy back with my guest Vesna Plakanis in the gateway to the smokies podcast so.

00:45:44.610 –> 00:45:51.060 Joseph McElroy: we’re talking about tours and things that do what are some of the favorite hikes that your customers long ago.

00:45:52.650 –> 00:45:54.300 Vesna Plakanis: Everybody wants to see a waterfall.

00:45:56.190 –> 00:46:00.930 Vesna Plakanis: Know we’re always doing waterfall Doers and we have some very waterfall tours we like to take people that.

00:46:01.680 –> 00:46:15.780 Vesna Plakanis: The less popular ones where there’s not you know gazillion other people um you know, to see the tops of the mountains, people are really into the history of the area, and so we have a lot of historic tours that are very popular.

00:46:16.800 –> 00:46:22.770 Vesna Plakanis: I actually just taught a class on wild edibles and medicinal plants, the other day, and those are always fun.

00:46:23.160 –> 00:46:33.330 Vesna Plakanis: And you know we have burgers on staff so kind of depends on what people are into, and also with the seasons, you know what what is the season ringing and right now the season is bringing colors.

00:46:33.630 –> 00:46:46.950 Vesna Plakanis: we’ve had a lot of rain, so any water hike is just gorgeous so you know opera elevations I think I mentioned Andrews bulb that’s one of my favorites, and this is the time to be there because it’s just everything’s peeking up there.

00:46:47.580 –> 00:46:52.860 Joseph McElroy: So do you leave for did end up doing the cooking or cooking classes things like that.

00:46:54.780 –> 00:46:56.460 Vesna Plakanis: I have in the past, yes.

00:46:57.480 –> 00:47:09.180 Vesna Plakanis: Oh, usually what I do is what you know we’ll have like a kind of a classroom setting where I’ll teach people how to identify plants and I usually bring a few things for people to try depending on what’s going on in the season.

00:47:09.630 –> 00:47:24.450 Joseph McElroy: I have an interest in talking about that because I’m putting in a camp kitchen at the Meadowlark and we want to do some interesting classes like that, so that could be a way to you know people come to get a taste and then go up in the mountains and actually find this stuff.

00:47:28.230 –> 00:47:28.800 Joseph McElroy: So.

00:47:30.390 –> 00:47:36.090 Joseph McElroy: So what this is always a good question I like to put a little competition into this now.

00:47:36.810 –> 00:47:51.480 Joseph McElroy: You have the Tennessee side of the smokies and the North Carolina the silence folkies what are your favorite what’s your favorite Pike and Tennessee side and which one’s your favorite icon North Carolina side and which one is better and I hit hit hit on the North Carolina.

00:47:55.170 –> 00:47:57.330 Vesna Plakanis: Okay that’s put me on the spot, but.

00:47:58.950 –> 00:48:06.120 Vesna Plakanis: I will preface this by saying you know the smokies, as I mentioned, are the most biodiverse place in the world in the temperate zone.

00:48:06.570 –> 00:48:17.100 Vesna Plakanis: And every season is different, every week is different and so really every hike is going to be different, but I have to say my personal favorite.

00:48:17.760 –> 00:48:28.410 Vesna Plakanis: In Tennessee is the Ramsey cascade and Ramsey is so special because it’s deep in the woods there’s not a lot of other trails back there.

00:48:28.770 –> 00:48:35.460 Vesna Plakanis: you’re hiking by this gorgeous gigantic body of water with lots of whitewater and little cascades.

00:48:35.910 –> 00:48:42.720 Vesna Plakanis: And you’re going through some old settlement areas because, as we mentioned people used to live in these mountains before it became a park.

00:48:43.170 –> 00:48:54.630 Vesna Plakanis: And then all of a sudden you get into this old-growth section of the park and one of the things that makes us so biodiverse, is that we contain so much old-growth forest and about.

00:48:55.470 –> 00:49:07.890 Vesna Plakanis: Two and a half miles and you start getting into these massive trees and lush mosses and during wildflower season you don’t shoot the entire health sides are painted and wildflowers.

00:49:08.370 –> 00:49:21.540 Vesna Plakanis: And you know you get in these trees that would take six to seven people to put their arms around I mean that you just can’t beat that’s an amazing variance to see that, and then it ends up at this gorgeous giant waterfall.

00:49:22.590 –> 00:49:27.510 Vesna Plakanis: So I really love that hike that’s actually the very first time I took my husband on when we were first dating.

00:49:28.560 –> 00:49:35.850 Vesna Plakanis: To get them excited about the smokies and then I’d have to say, probably in North Carolina I really love the Cataloochee area

00:49:36.420 –> 00:49:44.100 Vesna Plakanis: So there’s a lot of really neat especially this time of year, you know hiking up the pretty hollow gap and seeing some of the views.

00:49:44.640 –> 00:49:58.110 Vesna Plakanis: And in the springtime seeing all the wildflowers have held bald right now and it’s the all the gorgeous you know fall colors, but when makes Cataloochee so special is especially in October, you get to hear the elk bugling

00:49:58.800 –> 00:50:01.320 Vesna Plakanis: Yes, eating season so.

00:50:03.090 –> 00:50:16.500 Joseph McElroy: Experienced upfront and personal the wildlife that is so famous for the smokies yeah that’s cool people can do a hike you, you are also offered cartoonish right.

00:50:17.070 –> 00:50:19.230 Joseph McElroy: So what would you say, would you say, is the best.

00:50:19.290 –> 00:50:20.670 Joseph McElroy: And most popular cartoon.

00:50:22.500 –> 00:50:34.650 Vesna Plakanis: Well, everybody loves kids cove you know if they’ve never even been to the parking lot of times kids they go to kids cove could actually be its own national park it’s under 3 million visitors a year kids code is beautiful because it’s this.

00:50:35.040 –> 00:50:46.950 Vesna Plakanis: Big wide open area that is a giant sinkhole and so you have lots and lots of you know expansive views you’re surrounded by mountains and it’s also very historic so you get a lot of.

00:50:47.280 –> 00:51:00.330 Vesna Plakanis: The old cabins and barns and cemeteries and old mills thumb that show people what it used to be like when the European you know settlers lift here and then prior to that it’s got some Cherokee history.

00:51:01.110 –> 00:51:12.000 Vesna Plakanis: So that’s a super popular one we like to go to at certain times of the year because otherwise it gets very, very crowded and going on the weekend, unfortunately, gets to be a little prohibitive but that’s a popular one.

00:51:12.480 –> 00:51:18.930 Vesna Plakanis: And then we’ve got another one that we take them up into the upper elevations all the way up to Clemens Dome so they can kind of see.

00:51:19.170 –> 00:51:30.150 Vesna Plakanis: All the different ecozones from you know the lower elevation thick woods up until the upper elevations when you’re in a Canadian zone forest so it’s really fun to see that cool.

00:51:30.420 –> 00:51:43.500 Joseph McElroy: So you’ve worked with Bob developing the Meadowlark smoky mountain heritage Center tours, can you tell me what those and heights, can you tell me what those two additional products are, and I think they’re gonna be available, starting in November right.

00:51:44.160 –> 00:51:57.330 Vesna Plakanis: Yes, so we’re excited I love working with Bob he’s been wonderful um I think what we’re gonna do is we’re going to start with an upper elevation hike and we’re also going to be doing something that’s very historic in nature.

00:51:58.620 –> 00:52:11.190 Vesna Plakanis: In the smoke one area of the park and smoke month has a lot of layers in history it’s got a waterfall but it’s also got an old CCC camp it’s got.

00:52:11.580 –> 00:52:28.200 Vesna Plakanis: Some of that area was logged there were settlers living there you drive by the kind of lefty Visitor Center, which is a working farm and you also get to see the elk, and so I think that’ll be a really nice kind of you know introduction into that side of the mountain.

00:52:28.650 –> 00:52:37.050 Joseph McElroy: that’s fabulous so if people want to find out more about you and to book tours with you,  what where would they go what would they do.

00:52:38.040 –> 00:52:55.020 Vesna Plakanis: So our website is a and you can you know to see all of our tours we have a lot of North Carolina tours we have you know everything from short easy walks to multiple night backpacking trips, or they can just give us a call.

00:52:56.070 –> 00:53:04.770 Vesna Plakanis: You know so, either way, is fine with us, and probably want to look at our website, first because it’ll give you a whole variety get you to understand what we do.

00:53:05.370 –> 00:53:06.480 Joseph McElroy: Any social media.

00:53:07.500 –> 00:53:09.330 Vesna Plakanis: we’re on Facebook and Twitter.

00:53:10.440 –> 00:53:18.240 Joseph McElroy: All right, well, I really appreciate you being on our show today I’m glad to be doing some things with you too it’s gonna be wonderful.

00:53:19.680 –> 00:53:36.450 Joseph McElroy: I think there are lots of opportunities for people to experience the mountains, I love having both you know, the ability to be outdoors in a physical sense but also the ability to do something fairly quickly in a tour, so thank you so much has been terribly enlightening for me.

00:53:38.370 –> 00:53:46.470 Joseph McElroy: And then, so I want to mention that we are on the talkradio.NYC network.

00:53:47.580 –> 00:53:51.540 Joseph McElroy: Which is a network of a lot of live podcasts.

00:53:52.950 –> 00:53:58.890 Joseph McElroy: And I recommend it for anybody to listen, we have a wonderful show coming after us about New York.

00:54:00.030 –> 00:54:01.560 Joseph McElroy: And it’s.

00:54:03.000 –> 00:54:11.970 Joseph McElroy: Something that everybody should take an opportunity to listen to at the meadowlark you know like I mentioned before we’re having a.

00:54:13.170 –> 00:54:24.900 Joseph McElroy: looks like a late-season fall peak so we’re actually offering weekday get-away specials if you come in on Sunday or Monday and you stayed three days you get one night free.

00:54:26.310 –> 00:54:31.140 Joseph McElroy: So it’s a really wonderful way to get in to see the fall.

00:54:31.680 –> 00:54:43.050 Joseph McElroy: colors when there’s not a lot of people necessarily coming, and you know the and just book a room for three days starting on Monday or Sunday or Monday and you’ll get that special.

00:54:43.440 –> 00:54:53.190 Joseph McElroy: it’s been a pleasure being on this show with you and I look forward to seeing you next week, we always have our podcasts on gateway the

00:54:54.480 –> 00:55:12.870 Joseph McElroy:  live broadcasts are always on there, as well as on our Facebook page podcasts and next week, we will have from six to seven again another show and so it’ll be something that I look forward to seeing you, thank you very much.