Our last Friends of the Smokies hike was a big hit. It was short, easy to get to for Tennessee folks, and promised lots of artifacts. No wonder it attracted 26 people.
We walked the Old Sugarlands Trail to the cemetery and up a little way longer for a total of about five miles. The Old Sugarlands Trail starts opposite the parking area for the Parks Headquarters but we met at the Sugarlands Visitor Center. On the trail, an old road, we saw lots of signs of civilization, mostly in the form of stone walls and house sites.
At a turn, we saw the entrance to an old Civilian Conservation Corps site along with old metal artifacts. This is the “stuff” that always fascinates me, the tangible history of the park. We took a right turn on a well-maintained side road to the Sugarlands Cemetery. Holly Demuth, North Carolina Directory of Friends of the Smokies, took the opportunity to talk about the goods works of Friends.
About six Americorps members, belonging to Project Conserve, came on this hike. Part of their requirement is to visit other sites and these members decided to visit the Smokies and do this hike. Though Americorps is a national program, Project Conserve focuses on outdoor issues in Western North Carolina.
We had lunch at the periphery of the cemetery and headed back to see Cataract Falls in back of Sugarlands Visitor Center. Cataract Falls is skinny at this time of the year but flows at a faster rate in spring time.
Holly talked about the upgrade to the Visitor Center and natural history museum, funded by Friends. We encouraged our group to do some shopping at the Great Smoky Mountains Association bookstore. I finished my holiday shopping and even bought a couple of books for baby gifts.
So what was accomplished yesterday?
* Twenty-six people came into the park on a beautiful, sunny day. Yes, I took credit for the weather. Some had never been to the park. Most hikers had never walked the Old Sugarlands Trail, even though it’s one of the easiest, most accessible trails in the park.
* Several people became members of Friends of the Smokies. The more members, the more clout when it comes to showing our interest in the Smokies and in national parks in general.
* People bought gifts in the Smokies store, thereby donating more to the park.
* Everyone learned about our exciting new hikes for 2014. Next year, we’ll have hikes on the second Tuesday of the month, starting on Tuesday March 11, 2014. The hike schedule will soon be on the Friends website. But you can sign up right now with Brent, our own Americorps member. Contactvia email or 828-452-0720.