I spent Halloween in a cemetery. Brent, the Friends of the Smokies intern, and I scouted the Old Sugarlands Trail for the December 17 hike. Yes, the hike is on the Tennessee side of the park but Classic Hikes of North Carolina decided to venture out over the mountain. We chose this hike because it was simple, had lots of artifacts and will allow us to shop at the Sugarlands Visitor Center store.
The colors were at their peak–but I always say that. Sourwood trees showed off their best reds. Frazer magnolias had a perfect shade of yellow. We weren’t just looking at the colors; we were in the colors.
As we turned right off the main trail to find the cemetery, we bumped into a group of seventh graders from a Gatlinburg school, along with their teachers and leaders in Parks as Classroom program. This particular program is sponsored by Great Smoky Mountains Association. Teachers bring their classrooms to the park to do cultural or natural history studies. Today, they were speaking of burial customs in the park–very appropriate for Halloween.
Brent and I spoke to Judy, a teacher, about the students today. She said that many children living in Gatlinburg has never been to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The school has to take them. She also apologized for the noise.
“I’m delighted to have people on the trail–no problem,” I said.
“Do you have ancestors buried here?” Judy asked. Both Brent and I assured her that we didn’t.
But we did meet a man who found his great grandfather, A.F. McCarter (1887-1920). The visitors traveled from Northern Illinois and had never been to the Smokies before. He was ecstatic.
As I walked around and found a Parton relative, I mused on how the Smokies cemeteries differed from the ones I saw in France. I know that the French cemeteries are Catholic and here, we’re looking at Baptist and Methodist cemeteries. Can you guess which is which below?
Most of these children searching for clues on gravestones probably didn’t have a clue why we celebrate Halloween. It’s the day before All Saints Day, mostly again a Catholic holiday.
The next Friends of the Smokies hike will be on the Lake Shore Trail on Tuesday November 19. Sign up with Brent at 828-452-0720.