Other than the DVR my favorite aspect of our cable box is the "On Demand" feature. With one "click" of a button I can gain access to movies and my favorite TV shows that I missed. It also has a lot of shows I couldn't care less about.
Recently while Paula and I were searching the "On Demand" menu I saw the name of a program that caught my attention:
With my current interest in the Smokies, I was intrigued as to what the series was about. The 3 shows that were available to watch gave all had a synopsis that mentioned "ginseng"
I watched the first episode and discovered that this group of residents from the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina are divided up into 4 teams for the show.
They travel the peaks and valleys of the Smokies in search of the wild ginseng plant.
But it's not the plant that's their prize; it's the root;
which can be sold to a broker for as much as $1000 a pound.
They do their hunting on the ridge tops and in the "hollars" in places that are outside the boundaries of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. If they dug up stuff and took it out of the GSM National Park they could be arrested for poaching.
But that doesn't mean that it's a hunting free for all. Ginseng is a federally protected endangered species so even the legal hunting is strictly regulated. They have to follow a lot of rules and have permits allowing them to be on the land on which they are hunting.
Of course because it's a reality there is drama, conflict and "stressful tension."
Because it is a reality show, the producers have cut the episodes in a way that it makes it more dramatic than is actually is.
With that said, in the first episode I watched, which was the 2nd of it's premiere season, I saw a two member team get shot at for being too close to a hidden illegal moonshine still, and a guy almost fall off a cliff after walking across a waterfall in pursuit of the elusive root.
The "Sengers" have a healthy respect for the wilderness and mountains that they wander. The Smokies can be very dangerous and even life threatening. The natural conditions, lay of the land or unwise or accidental move could end in grave results. The mountains can swallow someone up in a heartbeat. The wildlife and human inhabitants can also be a threat to the anyone on the trails.
In addition to what I've already mentioned, in the 3 episodes I've watched an entire team get lost for 2 days, a woman fall and gets a concussion, a man get swept away by a stream's swift current, and there have been encounters with rattlesnakes and wild boars.
The Gensing hunting business is in no way a walk in the park. The pressure to "make hay while the sunshines" is immense. The ginseng hunting season lasts for just six weeks in September each year. It is highly competitive, takes both physical and mental skill, and can be volatile at times.
Because I currently have a fascination with the Smoky Mountains I have enjoyed watching these mountain folk doing what their families have been doing for generations. I like seeing people hike the Smokies in a way I cannot imagine doing or would even attempt.
I don't usually enjoy watching reality shows as a rule. I was totally caught off guard by this one.It is my newest TV guilty pleasure. I have to admit I am hooked. So make this my public confession.
First run episodes of "Smoky Mountain Money" can be seen Wednesdays at 10PM EST on the National Geographic channel. If anything I've written intrigues you I recommend you tune in or catch it On Demand.