If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I like to stay on the trail. Whether it’s on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail or in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I like blazes, and trails on maps.
So what was I doing scouting a hike which involves a lot of non-official trails and even private land?
All legal and above board, but even so–OMG. What was I doing on private land?
Anna Lee of Friends of the Smokies and I scouted our October Purchase Knob hike in the Smokies.
We started at the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center at Purchase Knob, located at 5,000 feet. As the name implies, the center hosts scientists and school children to work on science projects. Though there’s nothing to stop the public from parking up there to hike, it’s best to call ahead to make sure that the gate is open, if you’re not coming for a project.
We started down toward the Ferguson Cabin and then on the Cataloochee Divide Trail. Now we were on a trail, but not for long.
We weren’t interested in going to Hemphill Bald; that was this June’s hike. Instead, we explored the ins and out of Thunderbolt Mountain, meeting other hikers and horseback riders.
On the way back, we stopped at the Swag and walked their nature trail.
But first, we had to admire the view. Anna Lee did a series of cartwheels – see the first picture above. We didn’t have the dress to twirl to the The Hills are Alive to the Sound of Music but that would be the place to be Maria.
The Swag Nature Trail has several follies, structures that are chiefly decorative rather than serving any purpose. Dan’s Hideway and Deener Hideway, little comfortable areas to hide, have hammocks. I took a picture of Anna Lee “sleeping on the job” in a hammock but I’m not going to show that. Dan and Deener Matthews own The Swag.
We stopped at the lily pond, which might be a good place for lunch with the group. Then we walked back to Purchase Knob and our car.
Though there’s nothing secret about this hike, it might be a difficult hike to do on your own. That’s why we scout the hikes for you.
Intrigued? You know the drill by now. Contact Anna Lee Zanetti at email@example.com at Friends of the Smokies on 828.452.0720.