Friends of the Smokies – Sugarlands Exploration


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.

FOTSsugarlands-holly09A.jpgAt 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.

FOTSsugarlands-cataractfalls13A.jpgWe 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. Contact Brent via email or 828-452-0720.      

One thought on “Friends of the Smokies – Sugarlands Exploration

  1. Upcoming Program
    What Kephart Saw:
    Hazel Creek,
    Our Southern Highlanders,
    Appalachian Stereotypes
    Dr. Dan Pierce, Professor of History at UNC-Asheville, will present a program on Horace Kephart at the Western Office of the NC Department of Cultural Resources, 176 Riceville Road, Asheville, NC on May 6 at 6:30 p.m. After the program, visitors may view the exhibit, “Horace Kephart in the Great Smoky Mountains.” The exhibit was created by the Mountain Heritage Center at Western Carolina University in 2012 to mark the 150th anniversary of Kephart’s birth.
    Dr. Pierce will discuss the lasting impact of Kephart’s depictions of Appalachian life in the early 20th century, particularly those of his neighbors in the Hazel Creek area of Swain County. Kephart lived in Hazel Creek from 1904-1907 and wrote about the distinctive people of southern Appalachia in his books Camping and Woodcraft and Our Southern Highlanders.
    May 6, 6:30 p.m.
    Western Office
    of the NC Department
    of Cultural Resources
    176 Riceville Road
    Asheville, NC
    Program is free, however space is limited. To reserve a seat, please call
    (828) 296-7230 ext 221
    or email

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