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2008 Great Mohican Gathering ...

 ... 'Twas Time for Yet Another ... 10 Years After [the First]!




All photos courtesy of Tammy Buckner & Stephanie Morrow




(“I come to you unarmed and in peace…”)


In the weeks before Gathering 2008, I had begun to question why I was doing this, should this be the last Gathering, had it runs its course? Would this be the last Gathering?  However, as the time drew nearer my anxiety faded and my excitement grew, and I couldn’t wait to see old friends and meet the new Gatherers. The “gathering” officially began for me Tuesday night, when Tammy and I began the set-up of the Ariel’s Auction and raffle room at the hotel. Her excitement and enthusiasm were contagious. Later, Nancy dropped by with nametags, and new Gatherers Woody and Joan arrived. What nice folks! It was such a pleasure to chat with them and hear about their trip down from Virginia on the parkway…. until Woody dropped a bombshell: the parkway was closed in the area around Green Knob Overlook, where we had planned another sunrise. He immediately began work on identifying the exact location of the closure, and Soldier #2 provided a diversion…. errrr, detour route for us. Thank you Woody and Eric for the assistance, it would have been awful to drive up there at 5am only to find “Road Closed” signs!

Soon we were joined by Lori, Ariel, and Kyle. It was so nice to finally meet these folks after hearing about them for so long. It was almost hard to believe that Ariel was with us, right here in Mohicanland!  Lori described her advenchas already in the area… she had been in town for a couple of days and had already taken the kids on some fun outings and learned her way around. Let me tell you, nothing stops this lady!

Oh, the traffic! Always a Gathering concern, and some Gatherers were stuck in traffic both eastbound and westbound on I-40. Sigh! Happens every year it seems, but they made it in time and joined us at Biltmore the following morning.

The Biltmore Estate entrance was the scene Wednesday morning of many happy reunions and introductions. So nice to see familiar faces like Donna, Sarah, Brian & Carolyn, Phil & Karen, John H., Jayne & Karen, and others.  New folks like Jill, the Boutettes, Joan & Woody, and Anna were welcomed.  Gathering flags were handed out by Jayne, and everyone received their welcome packets. Our Biltmore guide, Patricia, greeted us and led us to the ticket center, and from there we hiked through the woods to the scene of the burial ground. Seeing other Gatherers pitch in to help Lori with Ariel’s stroller over the rough spots on the trail confirmed to me that the Gathering truly is magic because of the people who come.

Group shot in front of the Bridge to Albany Enjoying lunch at Deerpark on the Biltmore Estate L-R: John, Nancy, Karen, Phil, Joan, Woody

Later we visited the Bass Pond Bridge, one of the

 most recognizable and highly sought after scenes from the movie. Then it was on to “Albany”. Patricia did a great job bringing these film locations to life for us, and sharing stories and even a call sheet from the filming (fiberglass log? say it ain’t so!). Finally it was lunchtime, and we were treated to a wonderful buffet lunch at Deerpark, after which we toured the House and Estate at our leisure. It was a good time to catch up with old friends and relax somewhat before the rigorous hikes that were to come later that week.

Oh did I mention the weather? Probably the best yet for a Gathering! Wednesday  morning when I left the house, it was only 47 degrees, almost unheard of in June. The Good Weather Gods stayed with us almost the whole week, with sunny skies and temps in the mid-70’s with lower humidity than usual. We only got rained on briefly at Dupont on Saturday, and by that time we were too tired to care! But I am getting ahead…

(“Ongewasgone, are you staying?”… “Yes…”)


Wednesday evening found us at an old gathering favorite for dinner, Spirits on the River. We were all pleased to be there because the restaurant has been for sale for a while and we weren’t sure it would still be open, but thank goodness it was. We enjoyed a great dinner and wonderful Gathering surprise. I looked up to see a group of Native Americans walk out onto the deck, and one of them introduced himself as Dennis Banks. Ongewasgone!!! I had heard he was in the area and had dined at SOTR the evening before, and I had even asked the owner of SOTR to ask Mr. Banks to sign an LOTM movie poster for the auction. He not only did that, but he dropped by to visit us and told us some of his own recollections from the filming. He was very nice and generous about signing autographs and describing some of his current and upcoming projects. Yep, the Gathering was still magic, and was off to a *fantastic* start. Could this be topped????

Dennis Banks "Ongewasgone" joins us at Spirits on the River




Thursday we headed to Chimney Rock, and stopped off at the Pavilion for announcements, more introductions and reunions, and of course the traditional group picture. Group at Chimney Rock Park: Front row L-R: Anna, Karen S., Elizabeth, Tammy (kneeling), Karen W., Nancy, Donna, Kay, Bill, Kim, Michael, Ariel, Lori, Kyle. Back row L-R: Jayne, Diana, Debbie, Phil, April, Conrad, Jill, Sarah, John, Patrick, Fitz On the Cliff Trail: L-R: Kim, Michael, Karen S., Sarah, John, Fitz, Patrick, Jill, Karen W., Donna, Jayne, Debbie, Tammy. Kneeling in front: Bill, Kay.The group grew to include Patrick, Diana, Elizabeth, Conrad, Fitz, and others. Once again the weather was beautiful, making this hike not as unbearable as some in the past. We walked the cliff trail and saw where much of the last portion of the movie was filmed, then enjoyed a picnic lunch at the top of the falls. A week after the Gathering I learned that the portion of the trail that is of most concern to us was closed due to an accident there several weeks before. Once again luck was with us and I am thankful the trail was open during our visit!

Thursday afternoon it was back to Asheville to the Manor Inn, the first official Gathering trip to Webb’s Headquarters. Eric Hurley, aka Soldier #2 joined us there and described some of the filming. It’s amazing how small the place really is! The blacksmith shop is actually someone’s front porch, and the person who lived there was quite interested to find that out. Eric also showed us where he was standing (cleaning his gun) when Duncan’s carriage pulls up, and then we went into the lobby for a glance at Webb’s office. Although much has changed at this location since the filming, it is still easy to think you see Magua lurking in the shadows in the back of the room.

Eric Hurley (aka Soldier #2) describes the blacksmith shop site in Albany at the Manor Inn  Soldier #2 shows where he stood when Duncan's carriage arrived Diana listens as Eric talks inside Webb's Headquarters

After that, since we were in the neighborhood, it was dinner at Spirits on the River again. Hey, why not, we may not be able to go back again in the future. Flip and Ann, thank you for your many years of hospitality to the Gatherings. I was asked more than once what surprise we would have that evening, but I didn’t have anything up my sleeve, at least not yet…


(“Should have gotten out of this long ago.”)


Friday…. Oh Friday. The long, tiring, day.Awesome!Waiting for the sunrise, Green Knob Overlook

 We followed the same format as established by Rich in previous Gatherings, sunrise to sunset. Via the detour, we pulled into Green Knob Overlook just in the nic of time for the sunrise. As usual, Phil kept us laughing. The sunrise was beautiful, then it was off to breakfast at Louise’s, another Gathering favorite. After breakfast, the drive up to Table Rock was one of the driest and dustiest ever, and at times we couldn’t see the car ahead at all. But the view from the top was worth it, and we were joined there by Sharon and some of the Hurley kids. One question I was asked repeatedly was, “Is Rich coming?” I didn’t know, and answered honestly. We all hoped he would!

Morning mist at Green Knob Overlook

After lunch back at Louise’s (during which Sarah, Jill and I already began discussing the “next” Gathering Program Guide plans), it was off to Linville Falls for the afternoon, then Lake James to talk about the Fort Scenes. Soldier #2 was generous with his time and personal recollections and described to us in detail the filming around that area. It was almost dark, and having been up since before 3am, I was about to drop when suddenly my phone beeped with a new message. It was confirmation that a Gathering surprise I had secretly been working on was going to work out!!! Soldier #1, Curtis Gaston, would be joining us the following day for the movie screening!! I had been unsure that he would be able to make it, but he said yes, and once again the Gathering magic, luck, or whatever you want to call it, was evident.

Top of the world: L-R standing: Donna, Sarah, Jill, Patrick, Nancy, Phil, Jayne, Karen S., Kim, Michael,Sharon, Eric. Seated L-R: Stephanie, Matthew, Andrew, Bear, John (kneeling), Sierra, Fitz, April, Conrad

Back up just a little, Donna, so you can get us all in the picture! No, wait... Linville Falls: The group listens intently as Eric (unseen in this photo) describes the intricate details of filming in this area On the George Road Eric talks about the Lake James scenes and how he got the role as Soldier #2. Is that Phil *yawning* over there?! Well, I never! Sunrise to sunset IS a long day though....  Our cars with red flags at Lake James

The long and tiring trip back up the mountain to Asheville was made much more tolerable by my traveling companions, without whom I would not have been able to stay awake. Nancy, Michael, and Kim…thanks for the laughs and fun times!



Group at top of Bridal Veil Falls: Standing L-R: Brian, Kim, Michael, April, John, Phil, Bill, Conrad, Kay, Jill, Diana, Elizabeth, Eric, & Chris, our fearless Dupont leader. Seated in front row: Karen S., Donna, Tammy, Carolyn, Sierra, Andrew, Fitz.

(“They will report or be pressed into service.”)

After a few winks of sleep, Saturday morning found us at Dupont, where we were greeted by Dupont volunteer Chris McDonnell, who handed out maps and secured a vehicle pass for us. This was a rare privilege, and we appreciated not having to leave anyone behind on the trail. After a short visit to Hooker Falls, we went to the Buck Forest parking area, where Soldier #2 lined us up in military formation, taught us some military steps, and marched us in to Bridal Veil Falls. Well, we only marched for a little while. It’s hard to march in a straight line when you’re giggling and cutting up!


Bridal Veil Falls can be a bit tricky to climb, even in the dry, and the decision was made that Ariel would wait for us at the bottom. Then ensued the fight over who was to stay with her. So many people wanted to stay with her that it was difficult to tear everyone away to get to the top of the falls. So we took turns… Eric, Kay, Nancy, me, others I may have forgotten to name… and I have to say that the time I spent with Ariel at the bottom of the falls is one of my favorite Gathering memories ever. Ariel charmed so many of us with her delightful personality and her songs. I realized I should have brushed up on children's songs before the Gathering, because my memory of them was not very good. If she didn’t like a song that was being sung, she would say “Different song! Different song!” and this became a running joke throughout the Gathering.  She corrected my lyrics a few times, and even laughed *hard* at me for messing up the lyrics. I learned so much from her and am amazed that it took a little girl without eyes to open mine in so many ways.

Hooker Falls Forming the ranks for the Dupont March Forward, MARCH! Cold, Fitz?


After Bridal Veil Falls, we began the walk to High Falls and Triple Falls. Upon arriving at Triple Falls, a loud clap of thunder was heard and we experienced our only rain of the Gathering. It was just a quick downpour, but it was enough to cancel our plans to climb the side of the falls and see the hand-holds carved into the rock. That can be dangerous and tricky when it’s wet.

(“What exactly did you see?”)

Blue Ridge Motion Pictures Studio: Merwin Gross shares his knowledge of the film industryBesides, we had to be in Asheville soon for a tour of Blue Ridge Motion Pictures Studio, where the cave scene and fake waterfall were filmed. Merwin Gross treated us to an informative tour of the movie studio, and later we enjoyed dinner there as well.

Then, finally, it was time for the movie, and our surprise guest. Curtis Gaston (Soldier #1) arrived and it was quite a treat to see Soldier #1 and Soldier #2 together after so many years. Both answered our many questions. Then it was time to watch the movie, and I was keeping my fingers crossed that it would be better than last time. It was! The screen in their screening room is HUGE, and with the brightness slightly adjusted, many of us saw things in the film we had never seen before. Add to that the running commentary from Soldiers 1 and 2, and it was really a great and informative viewing.  Soldier #1 also pointed out some inconsistencies (bloopers?) in the movie that most of us had not previously noticed.

Enjoying dinner at the movie studio Soldiers #1 & 2 patiently answer questions and sign autographs after watching the movie

I’m not sure which I enjoyed more, hearing their comments or hearing Lori gasp as she recognized the first few scenes in the film from visiting them earlier that week. Having a new Gatherer put the locations with the scenes is one of the most rewarding things about these Gatherings. This was one of the best viewings of this movie I’ve ever had, and that sentiment was echoed in some of the positive comments made by Gatherers afterward.

Special guests! Curtis Gaston (Soldier #1) and Eric Hurley (Soldier #2)



Sunday morning found us in Barnardsville, heading toward the Elk Hunt and tracking the war party. After walking through aTracking the war party in Pisgah National Forest L-R Conrad, Eric, Elizabeth (background), Patrick, Fitz field of poison ivy, we found the Elk Hunt’s rock, and Eric once again gave us some insights into the filming. Then we visited the rock that Chingachgook walks under when they are tracking the war party. Soon enough it was time to go to French Broad Rifles for our finale party, auctions, and raffles. Could it be almost over already?

Not quite! We still had some surprises waiting for us there. After a delicious BBQ lunch (thanks, honey!), we were joined by Robbie Gilbert, a reenactor and member of the French Broad Rifles who just so happened to have been an extra in some movie a few years back. Yep, he was a French soldier in LOTM, and told us which scene he could be found in, and shared some of his memories of his three weeks on the set back in 1991. Gilbert’s talk was yet another wonderful surprise, and one I had nothing to do with planning. Somehow some of these people just fell in with us almost as if by… sorry to use this word again… magic.

After that, local newspaper reporter Mike Conley gave us yet another perspective on the filming. Mike wrote several articles during the filming, and even interviewed Eric for a feature years ago. Mike brought along his press kit and copies of his articles, and talked about the movie from the press perspective, from “the outside looking in” but still a closer view than most of us saw at the time.

Some hardy souls dressed in period clothing, including Fitz, Robbie, Conrad, April, while Michael borrowed Soldier #2’s uniform for the afternoon. Ok, I think he was “forced into service”, but he looks great in the uniform and we always enjoy seeing it.

Eric and Ariel having funMatthew holds Ariel while she sleeps at the end of a long, tiring, and fun week.Finally it was time for the auction, during which we raised money to help with Ariel’s medical costs. Although we had a smaller number of people (some Gatherers had already left to travel home), we were able to raise $951.75 which was presented to the Boutette family. Many thanks to Patrick, Tammy, Jayne, Kay, and others who helped with this auction, as well as the many generous Gatherers who donated or bid on items. Finally, Kay led us in the raffles, which was so much fun and a nice way to wrap up the day. I still want to know what Bill did with that picture of Wes Studi he won!

I was afraid the French Broad Rifles folks were going to have to run us out. So many of us didn’t want to leave. It’s sad that we only get to see each other once every two years, and the time we had together was so special, we didn’t want it to end! So many great memories, from Dennis Banks’ visit, to seeing Michael, Eric, Nancy, Kay, and others pitch in to help with Ariel, to Lori’s never-say-die positive attitude, John Harkins helping Lori with her tire, Brian *finally* watching LOTM all the way through, laughing on the trails with April, someone (was it Phil? Or Brian? Asking Soldier #1 if he made more money than Soldier #2)… so many good memories and good times.

When all was said and done, I had the answer to the burning question about whether this would be the last Gathering. It would not be, it could not be. There was no way to let this die, and so many comments from other Gatherers affirmed that. Even Dennis Banks encouraged me to keep it going, and I will conclude with the words he used to sign my program guide:

“It is not so much that we spend 100 years on earth, as it is what we do in those 100 years. Keep up the dream, Steph, keep reminding us of the ‘good ole days.’" – Dennis Banks ‘Ongewasgone’ 



And so, for two more years, I will put away my Gathering t-shirts, my LOTM keychain, my Magua bracelet, knowing that sooner than we think I will take them out again to wear to Gathering 2010. Hope to see you there!


(“My decision is final…”)

... Stephanie McCulloch Morrow, Gathering Sachemess

April tracking the war party with her camera Dressed to kill at French Broad Rifle Park  L-R Fitz, Robbie Gilbert, April, Conrad, Michael Kay sells raffle tickets to Nancy Kyle fires off a shot Ariel's Auction team: Tammy, Ariel, Patrick Local newspaper reporter Mike Conley shares his press kit



Car flags by Jayne... what a welcome and helpful sight!





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